The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008



From the White House, a Fresh Push on Lobbyists

By Dan Eggen
The White House announced Wednesday that it will push to keep registered lobbyists from sitting on federal advisory boards and commissions, although it stopped short of proclaiming an all-out ban.

Norm Eisen, President Obama's ethics advisor, said the White House has informed executive branch agencies that "it is our aspiration that federally-registered lobbyists not be appointed to agency advisory boards and commissions." Eisen billed the directive as "the next step in the President's efforts to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington."

The new policy is aimed at an apparent loophole in Obama's anti-lobbying efforts. An executive order banning many lobbyists from presidentially-appointed jobs does not apply to advisory boards and other agency panels, where members are often chosen by department heads or other means.

"While the letter of the President's Executive Order on Ethics does not apply to federally-registered lobbyists appointed by agency or department heads, the spirit does and we have conveyed that to the agencies who are responsible for these appointments," Eisen said in a statement posted on the White House website.

Obama, who campaigned on promises to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington, has issued a series of tough lobbying restrictions this year that have angered both corporate firms on K Street and liberal public-interest groups whose activists are also covered by the limits. The administration has retreated in some areas to mollify lobbyists' concerns, and has also come under criticism for disclosing relatively few lobbying contacts related to the $787 billion stimulus package.

Eisen said that while the administration will continue to "make adjustments as necessary," the White House views its lobbying rules as a centerpiece of Obama's reform agenda.

"The President made a commitment to the American people to reduce the influence of lobbyists in Washington out of a belief that lobbyists have too often in the past achieved disproportionate impact on government decision makers at the expense of broader voices from the public at large," Eisen wrote. "If we are going to change the way business is done in Washington, we need to make sure we are not simply continuing the practices of the past."

Posted at 6:47 PM ET on Sep 23, 2009  | Category:  Ethics
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Lobbying should be made illegal plain and simple. They do not represent those that don't have the time nor the understanding of the many bills that happen in congress. They DO NOT represent the American people, they represent money. Government is there to serve the people not big interest groups. STOP ALL LOBBYING!!

Posted by: bigfrog1 | September 25, 2009 2:43 PM

President Obama is doing what he said he would do. No, he has not been perfect on lobbyists, but he did not get into office and throw everything he said away the way Bush did. President Obama is working hard to benefit America and I am very happy with all his efforts. We are very fortunate to have this fine man serving as the President.

Posted by: equalon | September 24, 2009 11:27 PM

One step at a time. Obama is trying to accomplish some of the things he promised in spite of the obstructionists. I have to laugh at Republicans who are claiming he is neglecting foreign policy because he is devoting too much time to Healthcare reform. Guess it's hard to get over a President who can't chew gum and walk at the same time.

Posted by: MaggiePi | September 24, 2009 11:15 PM

Yah right. If you believe this one I have a bridge I'll sell you!

Posted by: Jimbo77 | September 24, 2009 2:34 PM

As Obama just appointed AFL-CIO lobbyist to the be on the Board of the NY Fed, one has to wonder who is a lobbyist and who isn't.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | September 24, 2009 2:12 PM

Lobbyists represent large groups of Americans (many of whom don't have the time to track every single policy change) and have just as much right to influence national policies as anyone else. It's a silly and naive move to prohibit lobbyist involvement since not only do they represent millions of Americans from across the political spectrum, but also often have the greatest knowledge of the details and histories of each issue. But if you're going to ignore all of that and plow forward anyway, why have the waivers? It reminds me of all the PAYGO waivers that float through Congress - regardless of the merits of your policy decision, at least be willing to fully own it.

Posted by: Pedalada | September 24, 2009 1:49 PM

The problem with this policy is that it does not separate lobbyists who are hired by companies because of their relationships to "people in power" from regular company officers who also lobby. The former, I can see wanting to keep out. But if you are going to have an advisory committee to seek advice from representatives of the private sector, it is highly likely that the people giving you advice on a regular basis will have to register as lobbyists. You can't give advice to the government without registering as a lobbyist, but if you register you can't be on the committee?Might as well do away with the advisory committees instead.

Posted by: CowboyGirl1 | September 24, 2009 1:43 PM

AMEN! Now, let's go farther. Real Campaign Finance Reform would, if written properly, ELIMINATE the influence of special interest groups on our elected representatives.

However, as long as winning an election requires obscene amounts of money, congressmen/women will never do this willingly.

We, the People, are going to have to get off our butts and DEMAND IT. If reform doesn't happen, we have no one to blame but ourselves. That's the beauty and responsibility of being an American.

Posted by: curtnevan | September 24, 2009 1:43 PM

Odd how this article doesn't mention all the lobbyists who have gotten waivers to serve in the Obama Administration.

Obama Health Care Czar made $8 million last year lobbying for health care groups. When does the Washington Post actually report the truth, and not push propaganda?

Posted by: Cornell1984 | September 24, 2009 11:27 AM

Oh no!!! How will all those laws and regulations get made without the input of sharp and informed lobbyists concerned about the peoples welfare get done??

Posted by: tloro | September 24, 2009 11:25 AM

Yes, Mr. Obama campaigned on the issue and make no bones about it-- as most think of all the 'drama' around healthcare reform, the influence of lobbyists is ever present in our minds.

Certainly, voters are keeping track. If "Change" must come to Washington, loop holes as is mentioned in this article, must be addressed.

Posted by: Victoria5 | September 24, 2009 9:53 AM

I just hope that the Administration actually means "no lobbyists" at all rather than "no lobbyists" from interests that disagree with us!

It is time to disclose what impact lobbyists exerted in the stimulus bill.

Posted by: mwhoke | September 24, 2009 8:57 AM

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