Lobbying, NASA

Examining Bolden’s lobbying career

One of the issues that has come up in the consideration of former astronaut Charles Bolden as a potential NASA administrator was his work as a lobbyist for ATK. “It’s something that should be aired and discussed. I don’t know if it is a detraction or not, but it’s something the public should be aware of,” Victoria Sampson of the Secure World Foundation told the Huntsville Times earlier this week. Similarly, ScienceInsider, the science policy blog run by the AAAS, suggested yesterday that “Bolden’s past as a lobbyist for ATK… is raising concerns about a possible conflict with Obama’s ethics policy.”

So what is Bolden’s past as a lobbyist? It’s pretty short and uneventful, as it turns out. According to Congress’s lobbying database, Bolden registered as a lobbyist for ATK effective June 1, 2005, although the document wasn’t filed with the Senate until July 29. According to a mid-year report filed with the Senate on September 1, Bolden had received less than $10,000 of income for that work through the end of June. According to the original registration statement, Bolden was hired to assist ATK in an “Education Campaign on the design considerations of the next generation NASA launch vehicles, in particular the Shuttle-Derived concepts” by meeting with members of Congress.

A final document from ATK indicates that Bolden terminated his contract with ATK on September 15, 2005 and asked that Bolden be removed from the Congressional lobbying list, although it wasn’t filed with the Senate until nearly a year later. More interesting is the letter attached on the second page of that final filing from Bolden. “I was employed as a consultant to ATK for several months in 2005 and they improperly reported me as a lobbyist for them,” he states. “They subsequently sent a letter to the Senate Office of Public records [sic] requesting that I be removed from the Congressional lobbying list (enclosure).”

So Bolden was a registered lobbyist for ATK for a few months, recorded less than $10,000 in income, and eventually stated that the lobbyist registration was a mistake. Should this be an obstacle to a potential NASA administrator nomination? It does not run afoul of the White House’s executive order issued just after President Obama took office, which has only a two-year statue of limitations on lobbying activity. (It also, strictly speaking, refers only to “appointees”, not “nominees” for positions that require Senate confirmation.) If there are reasons why Bolden should not be NASA administrator, this, it seems, should not be one of them.

8 comments to Examining Bolden’s lobbying career

  • sc220

    This shouldn’t be of a concern from an ethics standpoint. But it may still be an issue regarding impartiality toward the current architecture and Ares development. This is an important aspect of Augustine-prime and complying with its recommendations. This is a direction that the Administration needs to probe.

    That being said, it almost sounds like there may be a little ill will between Bolden and ATK. The relationship was pretty brief, and it appeared that ATK was eager to get him off the payroll. Perhaps this is a sign that Bolden would not be a running dog of ESAS, and may be eager to challenge the whole thing.

    Interesting that this is the attitude held by George Abbey.

  • This is heartening news. He still has the GenCorp boardsmanship issue to deal with, but as sc220 said this almost sounds like his stint at ATK wasn’t that great. Well, anyway we’ll see what we really get in the end. I’m still setting my expectations pretty low, but this gives a glimmer of hope.

    ~Jon

  • Major Tom

    “This is heartening news. He still has the GenCorp boardsmanship issue to deal with, but as sc220 said this almost sounds like his stint at ATK wasn’t that great. Well, anyway we’ll see what we really get in the end. I’m still setting my expectations pretty low, but this gives a glimmer of hope.”

    Regardless of his ATK and GenCorp connections, Bolden is going to be very beholden to Sen. Nelson for sponsoring his nomination, and Nelson has a strong interest in continued Ares I/Orion work in Florida. Absent an Augustine recommendation or unredeemable program meltdown, I doubt Bolden will redirect Ares I/Orion (if he becomes Administrator).

    That said, as Mr. Foust pointed out in another post, Nelson was supportive of COTS-D in a recent hearing (no doubt because Nelson also has a strong interest in continued Falcon 9/Dragon work in Florida), which could bode well for Bolden’s support for the program (if he becomes Administrator).

    FWIW…

  • Sc220, you’re stretching things quite a bit here. I’ll believe Bolden’s version of events, that his understanding was that he was a consultant, not a lobbyist.

    And I think we can all be very sure that Bolden has been vetted, that the Administration is well aware of Bolden’s activities.

    The only person trying to kick-up dust on the Bolden nomination is Mikulski, so far without much effect, because she’d like to see a drop in manned space and an increase in her space funding.

  • [...] At least one issue came up during his vetting process which was later cleared and that is his lobbying efforts. You can read more about Bolden’s lobbying career here. [...]

  • E.P. Grondine

    Given the problems with Ares 1, it will be nice to have someone who’s taken several rides when Augustine and colleagues report on the Direct/Ares 1 choice. Garver would appear to support Direct, and since she’s going to be assisting Bolden, it looks good to me.

    In general, pilots are no bs people, as you’re either in the air or in the ground, and astronauts pilots are the best of the best.

    The key issue coming up is going to be international planetary defense from comet and asteroid impact, and Garver has some familiarity with the problem.

  • [...] being the contractor for the first stage of the Ares launchers. But his activity in that regard was in the past and seems to have been minimal.  If anything, there may even be a bad relationship between [...]

  • [...] linked to Bolden’s brief time as a registered lobbyist for ATK; as noted here back in May, he was registered for only a brief time, recorded no income, and later claimed it was a mistake in the first [...]

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