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
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