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Special Report

More Lobbyists in the Obama Administration?

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Food Critic

The Washington Times reports that two top contenders for a high-level food safety post in the Department of Agriculture lobbied USDA officials on food safety matters and would therefore need a waiver to win the job. That's because President Obama signed an order banning lobbyists from working in his administration on matters they'd previously lobbied on.

The president said that executive agency appointees cannot work in areas in which they'd been registered lobbyists within a year of the appointment. Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor told the Times the issue is "hypothetical at this point."

So far waivers have been granted for top positions in the administration including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's chief of staff and the White House director of intergovernmental affairs.

Taxing Error

A normally confidential tax filing by a charity started by Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch was mistakenly released by the IRS last year.

The tax form, obtained by the Washington Times, shows that five pharmaceutical companies and the industry's main lobbying group gave $172,000 in donations in 2007 to the Utah Families Foundation — which far exceeds what they could publicly give to Hatch's campaigns.

The Utah Families Foundation disclosure brings to light transparency gaps that allow large sums of money to go to lawmakers' favorite causes without telling the public. Melanie Sloan, who heads the political watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, says "This could be more common than we know... It's another way to curry favor with a member of Congress."

The Republican senator maintains there was no blurring of ethical lines with the charity.

Silence Is Golden

Outspoken Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is complaining that his doctor is trying to silence him. Chavez, whose speeches often last over five hours, said over the weekend that his doctor wanted him to stay quiet for three days to take care of his sore throat.

But a little hoarseness couldn't stop the leftist leader from lashing out at President Obama about a U.S. report criticizing his country's role in the drug trade. According to the AFP, Chavez said in a speech (disobeying his doctor's orders), "(Obama) said that Venezuela and I, even citing my name, do not cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking... Obama, you take care of your business and I'll take care of mine. Don't mess with me, Mr. Obama."

First Things First

And finally, a word to the un-wise. If you're interested in a career in law enforcement, you might want take care of any outstanding warrants for your arrest first.

In San Diego, a man wanted for a Kmart robbery and grand theft was arrested after he showed up at the police station to take the police department entrance exam.

As he was being taken into custody, he asked if he'd still be able to take the police exam. The police said no. He then asked whether he could reapply and take the test at a later date.

— FOX News Channel's Zachary Kenworthy contributed to this report.