WASHINGTON—President-elect Barack Obama pivoted quickly to begin filling out his new administration yesterday, selecting hard-charging Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff, while aides stepped up the pace of transition work that had been cloaked in pre-election secrecy.
Several Democrats confirmed that Emanuel had been offered the job. While it was not clear he had accepted, a rejection would amount to an unlikely public snub of the new president-elect within hours of an electoral college landslide.
The official campaign Web site said no political appointees would be permitted to work on "regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration."
But almost exactly one year ago, on Nov. 3, 2007, candidate Obama went considerably further than that while campaigning in South Carolina. "I don't take a dime of their money, and when I am president, they won't find a job in my White House," he said of lobbyists at the time.
Because they often have prior experience in government or politics, lobbyists figure as potential appointees for presidents of both parties.
On the morning after making history, the man elected the first black president had breakfast with his wife and two daughters at their Chicago home, went to a gym and visited his downtown offices.
Aides said he planned no public appearances until later in the week, when he has promised to hold a news conference.
As president-elect, he begins receiving classified briefings from top intelligence officials today.
In offering the post of White House chief of staff to Emanuel, Obama turned to a fellow Chicago politician with a far different style from his own, a man known for his bluntness as well as his single-minded determination.
Emanuel was a political and policy aide in President Bill Clinton's White House. Leaving that, he turned to investment banking, then won a Chicago-area House seat six years ago. In Congress, he moved quickly into the leadership. As chairman of the Democratic campaign committee in 2006, he played an instrumental role in restoring his party to power after 12 years in the minority.
Emanuel maintained neutrality during the long primary battle between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, not surprising given his long-standing ties to the former first lady and his Illinois connections with Obama.
The day after the election there already was jockeying for Cabinet appointments.
Several Democrats said Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who won a new six-year term on Tuesday, was angling for secretary of state. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss any private conversations.
Kerry's spokeswoman, Brigid O'Rourke, disputed the reports. "It's not true. It's ridiculous," she said in an interview.
Announcement of the transition team came in a written statement from the Obama camp.
The group is headed by John Podesta, who served as chief of staff under former President Clinton; Pete Rouse, who has been Obama's chief of staff in the Senate; and Valerie Jarrett, a friend of the president-elect and campaign adviser.
Several Democrats described a sprawling operation well under way. Officials had kept deliberations under wraps to avoid the appearance of overconfidence in the weeks leading to Tuesday's election.
They said the group was stocked with longtime associates of Obama, as well as veterans of Clinton's White House.