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Obama Expands Lobbying Ban

By Philip Rucker
The White House announced this afternoon it is bolstering its restriction on lobbying for stimulus funds by expanding the ban on communications with administration officials to include not only federally registered lobbyists but also consultants and other individuals who seek to exert influence over the spending process.

The changes would ban oral communications between the administration and any individual trying to influence the federal agencies tasked with awarding money from the government's $787 billion economic recovery program. Instead, communications must be in writing and will be posted on the Internet, according to a White House memorandum released this afternoon.

The administration's restriction will target the period after competitive grant applications are submitted and before awards are made, with the goal of ensuring that competition for stimulus funds is based on merit alone.

"It will, for the first time, break down the barrier, which everybody complains about, between registered lobbyists and non-registered lobbyists," said Norm Eisen, the White House ethics counsel, who authored the memorandum. "You're going to be reaching not just the lobbyists, but the influencers. It is a step forward in the president's commitment to pursue the public interest over the special interest."

Under the administration's prior rules, only federally registered lobbyists were banned from communicating with administration officials. Some companies sidestepped the restrictions by enlisting consultants, lawyers or other company officials who are not registered as lobbyists to try to pitch federal officials.

"Our concern was you're not going to let a lobbyist talk but you're going to have the corporate vice president talk?" said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group that worked with the White House to develop the new rules. "This changes that to apply the rules in a more even-handed fashion."

Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, also applauded the administration's expanded restrictions. David Arkush, director of the group's Congress Watch division, said the policy would "ensure that the massive infusion of government funds to stimulate the economy is spent openly, by the books and with the public's interest in mind."

By Web Politics Editor  |  May 29, 2009; 6:49 PM ET
Categories:  The Green Zone  
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Mr. President-- right on!

Posted by: Victoria5 | May 31, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

This is progress, but for the most part it is more illusory than substantive. If you really want to put the cabosh on lobbying, rewrite that memo and include all members of Congress, and their appointed staff members.

But of course, that won't happen.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | May 30, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

well, if obama was actually expanding the lobbying ban his new appointee to NASA would be withdrawn. He both worked for the industry and was a lobbyest.

obama, the hypocrite

Posted by: newagent99 | May 30, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Personal to Mr. Eisen:

What are the ethics of the continuing federal enablement of a nationwide vigilante citizen army that uses covertly planted GPS tracking devices to "community stalk" unjustly targeted Americans who have been labeled by witch-hunting security/intel operatives as "dissidents" or "undesirables"?

And in the process, destroying their livelihoods and degrading their health?

Please discuss this article with Atty. Gen. Holder, Mssrs. Axelrod and Emanuel, and POTUS:

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled):

Posted by: scrivener50 | May 29, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: rooster54 | May 29, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

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