Roberta Jacobson Shows Bad Judgment (Again)

Friday, June 19, 2015
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Roberta Jacobson, is surely a good person -- with good intentions -- but she continues showing bad judgment time and again.

Jacobson, who is the Obama Administration's key negotiator with the Castro regime, has recently been nominated to become U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.

We're all familiar with her past deceptive statements regarding the Venezuelan opposition and the families of Americans murdered by the Castro regime.

Moreover, her negotiations with the Castro regime will play a central role in her Senate confirmation process, particularly if she accepts restrictions -- unprecedented in the Western Hemisphere -- on U.S. diplomats or on the operations of a potential U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Thus, someone in such a high-profile position should exercise extra caution, particularly as she'll soon face the scrutiny of an already controversial confirmation process.

Instead, yesterday, The New York Times reported that Jacobson attended the launch of a new lobbying group, which was created for the express purpose of lobbying on behalf of pending legislation before the U.S. Congress.

The same lobbying group later sent out pictures of Jacobson at the event (below), as part of its publicity campaign.

The head of Castro's Interests Section is Washington, Jose Ramon Cabañas, was also in attendance -- but that's just plain distasteful.

The Congressional sponsors of the pending legislation the group lobbies for, were also present -- namely U.S. Senators Jeff Flake, Patrick Leahy and Amy Klobuchar.

Of course, Jacobson is free to lobby Flake, Leahy, Klobuchar and any other Member of Congress personally at their office -- whenever she sees fit.

But her attendance at this lobbying event raises potential legal questions -- though mainly judgment ones.

The Anti-Lobbying Act ("Act") is a federal statute that prohibits the use of appropriated funds for activities that directly or indirectly are "intended or designed to influence in any manner a Member of Congress, to favor or oppose... any legislation or appropriation by Congress..."

The General Accounting Office (GAO), which is tasked with enforcing the Act, has interpreted it to prohibit Executive Branch employees from engaging in lobbying campaigns or participating in events designed to support or oppose pending legislation.

Of course, the context of what is said and the context of the activity are important in determining whether any violation has taken place. Plus, throughout the years, a handful of exemptions to the prohibitions have been created.

So surely, Jacobson got clearance to participate in this event from the State Department's Legal Counsel -- or so we hope.

It would certainly be a fair question for the Senate to ask -- and to review -- during her confirmation for Ambassador to Mexico.

As a question of judgment.