White House Moves to Limit Lobbyists on Federal Advisory Committees

The White House announced Sept. 23 that it informed executive branch agencies and departments that federally registered lobbyists are not to be appointed to federal agency advisory boards and commissions. This is the latest attempt at removing the influence of federally registered lobbyists within the executive branch.

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Forged Letter Scandal Highlights Need for Greater Disclosure

In June, Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) received a letter that was supposedly authored by Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit group in his district. The letter urged him to oppose the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a bill designed to combat climate change. Perriello's office also received similar letters on letterhead from the local NAACP chapter. These letters turned out to be fake; they were sent by a lobbying firm hired by a trade group representing coal producers and power companies. Government ethics and transparency watchdog organizations responded, saying that using forged letters as part of a lobbying campaign is outrageous misconduct that harms the legislative process and highlights the need for increased disclosure.

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Agencies Reporting Communications with Federally Registered Lobbyists

Updated April 20, 2010

President Barack Obama's March 20 memo restricts communications between federally registered lobbyists and executive branch employees on use of Recovery Act funds and requires disclosure of written communications. A closer examination of the summaries of lobbyist contacts with federal agencies shows that there are few online postings of those communications; some agencies have not posted any contacts at all.

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Disclosure of Recovery Act Lobbying Far from Comprehensive

President Barack Obama's March 20 memo restricts communications between federally registered lobbyists and executive branch employees on use of Recovery Act funds and requires disclosure of written communications. A closer examination of the summaries of lobbyist contacts with federal agencies shows that there are few online postings of those communications; some agencies have not posted any contacts at all. According to a review of the 29 agencies receiving stimulus money, only 110 contacts had been disclosed as of May 18.

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Lobbying Restrictions Generate More Criticism

It appears that the Obama administration’s restrictions on lobbying are drawing criticism even as the administration defends the policies. The controversy surrounds two policy documents: one addresses restrictions on hiring lobbyists and others as political appointees, and the other focuses on communications by lobbyists about use of Recovery Act funds.

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Lobbying for Recovery Act Funding Restricted

On April 7, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued interim guidance on how to comply with President Barack Obama’s March 20 memorandum that restricts contact between registered lobbyists and executive branch officials regarding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

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Recovery Act Memo May Restrict Free Speech Rights

On March 20, President Barack Obama issued a memorandum stating that federally registered lobbyists cannot verbally communicate with executive branch officials regarding specific projects to be funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Instead, lobbyists must submit their views in writing. The goal of preventing stimulus funds from being spent based on influence or "on the basis of factors other than the merits" is widely seen as laudable. However, many are charging that the rules are a violation of lobbyists' First Amendment right to petition the government.

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Lobbying and Ethics Reform Takes Center Stage at the White House

On Jan. 21, President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel. The order details new restrictions for political appointees that work in the Obama administration. It limits the role lobbyists can play in the executive branch and attempts to reduce the influence of powerful special interests by addressing the revolving door — when government officials move to and from private sector jobs.

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Bill Improving Inspectors General Independence Passes Congress

Congress recently passed legislation that reforms the functions of federal agencies' inspectors general to increase their independence and insulate them from political interference. The passage comes after more than a year of negotiations in Congress and between the legislative and executive branches. President Bush is expected sign the bill.

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House and Senate Release Updated Lobbying Disclosure Guidance

On July 16, the House Clerk and Secretary of the Senate released updated guidance that applies to any organization that registers as a lobbyist under the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), as updated by the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA). House and Senate leaders directed the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House to rewrite the guidelines in response to complaints about the original guidance.

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