President Barack Obama’s special counsel for ethics and government regulation Thursday afternoon gave an American Bar Association crowd an insider’s perspective into the administration’s thought path as it first embarked on, and now continues to pursue, lobbying reform in Washington. But his remarks did not go unchallenged.

Many thought Obama’s promise of reform was just empty campaign rhetoric, said Norman Eisen, but the president in fact has “a deeply held personal view that political systems are susceptible to special interests” and he “speaks of it often.” “The president will hold every government servant to the highest standard of fidelity to the public interest,” Eisen told a crowd of about 40 at the ABA Administrative Law Conference luncheon. “We think it is no accident that we have had one of the most scandal-free starts of any administration in modern history.”

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