Bauer to assume ethics, transparency responsibilities
White House Counsel Robert Bauer will assume responsibilities for lobbying, transparency, government reform and a host of other government operations issues once White House ethics adviser Norman Eisen departs for his new role as ambassador to the Czech Republic, senior administration officials confirmed Friday.
The move essentially returns things to the way they were during previous administrations, when the president's top lawyer handled such matters. But sources stressed that Bauer's assumption of the portfolio should give it more prominence thanks to his regular face time with President Obama.
In addition to Bauer's new role, Steven P. Croley, who consulted the Obama-Biden transition team on ethics and regulatory reform matters, will join the Domestic Policy Council and work with a team of six lawyers in the counsel's office, sources said. Croley currently serves as a professor of political science at the University of Michigan. Sources described him as the architect of the team Eisen currently leads.
The new six-member legal team will focus on enforcing and reviewing several legal issues, including lobbying reforms, campaign finance, federal whistleblower issues and transparency programs, sources said. It also will work on new initiatives related to regulatory reform, personnel accountability measures and the disclosure of government performance data, sources said.
Eisen's unique role as ethics czar earned him the nicknames "Mr. No" or "The Fun Sponge" for his strict adherence to federal ethics rules. He earned the ire of many in the lobbying and legal community for overseeing the controversial ban on lobbyists serving in the Obama government.
The transition will not take effect until the Senate confirms Eisen as America's top diplomat to Prague. He was not among the dozens of other nominees confirmed this week.
A coalition of good-government organizations voiced support for the transition plan in a letter to the White House:
"No president has placed such emphasis on ethics, transparency and accountability," the groups wrote. "But as you know, there is still much work to be done. For this reason, we hope Mr. Bauer and Mr. Croley bring a level of commitment to reform, an ability to promote and coordinate policy implementation, and a willingness to engage with our community as Mr. Eisen did."
This post has been updated since it was first published.
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| August 6, 2010; 4:44 PM ET
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