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Kelly, center, at a campaing event (MikeKellyForCongress.com) Kelly, center, at a campaing event (MikeKellyForCongress.com)

Kelly, center, at a campaing event (MikeKellyForCongress.com)

By Mark Dent March 14, 2017

Western PA congressman backs off ‘strange’ Obama shadow government claim

Republican Congressman Mike Kelly was talking to a crowd in his district of Northwestern Pennsylvania earlier this month when he dropped a serious accusation against Barack Obama. He noted the former president had decided to stay in Washington, and not for the reasons Obama has given.

"He’s only there for one purpose and one purpose only," Kelly said, "and that is to run a shadow government that is gonna totally upset the new agenda."  

Is that really what Obama stayed in Washington, D.C. to do?

Obama announced late in 2016 he’d be sticking around in Washington for at least two years so his daughter Sasha could finish high school. He has office space paid for by the General Services Administration, a perk granted to all former presidents. According to the Chicago Sun Times, Obama is the first president since Woodrow Wilson to stay at a primary residence in Washington, D.C. after his tenure ended.

Obama will be assisting former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a Congressional redistricting effort, work Holder has described as a "going into the states" strategy. Holder also said Obama would be fundraising and interacting with state legislators.   

No reports or intelligence has been released linking these post-presidency activities of Obama to a shadow government. And Kelly did not provide any evidence. A shadow government is commonly defined as a conflicting, secondary government led by members of the private sector that wields similar influence to the actual government.

Kelly later withdrew his comments after they made national news. His spokesperson Tom Qualtere said, "Because of the extraordinary interest in Rep. Kelly’s remarks, it is worth clarifying that Rep. Kelly does not believe that President Obama is personally operating a shadow government." In another statement, Qualtere said, "he was sharing the frustration of everyone in the room over how they believe certain Obama administration holdovers within the federal bureaucracy are attempting to upset President Trump’s agenda."

Kelly’s comments and his ensuing walkback landed in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Hill and MSNBC. Aaron Blake, for the Post, wrote "while the conspiracy theory is strange enough, the explanations offered by Kelly's office are something to behold."

A spokesperson for Obama did not respond to a request for comment.

Our Ruling

Congressman Mike Kelly accused President Barack Obama of operating a shadow government, saying he was only staying in Washington, D.C. for that "one purpose and one purpose only." Yet there is no evidence Obama is running a shadow government, and Obama has provided another purpose for why he’s staying in Washington: so his daughter Sasha can finish high school. Kelly’s spokesperson later walked back the Congressman’s statement, saying "Rep. Kelly does not believe that President Obama is personally operating a shadow government."  

We rule the claim Pants On Fire.

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Pants on Fire
"He’s only there for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to run a shadow government that is gonna totally upset the new agenda."
Mike Kelly
PA Congressman
Northwestern PA
Saturday, March 4, 2017
03/04/2017

Our Sources

News article, "GOP Congressman claims Obama stayed in Washington to run ‘a shadow government,’" Huffington Post, March 10, 2017.  

News article, "Holder launches Democratic redistricting initiative," Politico, January 12, 2017.

News article, "GOP Congressman offers strange Obama conspiracy theory -- and even stranger explanations," Washington Post, March 11, 2017.

News article, "Sweet: Obama’s post-presidential perks," Chicago Sun-Times, December 12, 2016.

Email interview, Tom Qualtere, Mike Kelly spokesperson.

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Western PA congressman backs off ‘strange’ Obama shadow government claim

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