Posts Tagged ‘Norm Eisen’

Nominee’s confirmation stalls in Senate

Monday, October 25th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Amid allegations of misrepresentation to Congress, White House ethics czar Norm Eisen’s nomination for ambassador to the Czech Republic, which was announced in June, has yet to be confirmed.

Foreign Policy reports that several congressmen are concerned about misrepresentations committed by the Obama administration during the June 2009 firing of Gerald Walpin, the Inspector General for the Corporation of National and Community Service. Eisen defended the actions of the White House, maintaining that Walpin was unfit for the position. There are reports that Eisen’s claims in defense of the White House were not founded in real evidence.

Though the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the appointment Sept. 21, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IO) vehemently opposed the nomination due to his role in the Walpin firing, which sparked a similar response from several others.

Eisen is one of four nominees whose appointments are likely stalled until early 2011, including Frank Ricciardone (nominated to serve as ambassador to Turkey), Robert Ford (Syria), and Matthew Bryzza (Azerbaijan).

In his role at the White House, Eisen has been the President’s point man on lobbying and open government initiatives. He successfully became the bane of lobbyists’ existence with his very first act after joining the White House: leading the charge for an executive order banning lobbyists from serving in the administration (which Obama signed on his first day in office). Eisen has followed that up with successfully convincing the President and his administration to bar lobbyists from federal advisory boards, and making thousands of White House visitor names public.

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

Friday, October 15th, 2010 by Vbhotla

DC insiders are just not sure of the chances of campaign finance reform these days. With the failure of votes of DISCLOSE, Congress seems reluctant to address the issue again. They have a lot of work to accomplish in their post-mid-term lame duck session, and campaign finance reform seems to be lacking a true champion in the Senate – especially with Harry Reid’s political future in play.

Another clip from December’s upcoming “Casino Jack” feature film on Jack Abramoff has surfaced. This time, it features Kevin Spacey as Abramoff and Barry Pepper as Michael Scanlon.

A look from Roll Call at the connection between the “natural gas lobby” and Democratic allies… and where they’re going from here.

Sen. Chuck Grassley’s hold on Norm Eisen’s nomination is profiled at Foreign Policy. Sen. Grassley is unhappy with Eisen’s handling of the firing of Gerald Walpin as Inspector General for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). (H/T Eric Brown at Political Activity Law). UPDATED: Rick Hasen has confirmed that Norm Eisen is still at the White House:

Quote of the Week:

“Campaigns will typically try to go as far as they think they can get away with… [but] the hazard is if you don’t pay your vendors, it’s hard to get anybody new.” Unnamed source on unpaid campaign debts, Roll Call, October 14.

White House Weighed Funding for Ethics Website

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 by Vbhotla

The Hill reports that the Obama Administration did attempt to fulfill its campaign pledge to house all government ethics related content at a single URL, to be known as The campaign promise in question, according to The Hill, was Obama’s website pledge to “create a centralized Internet database of lobbying reports, ethics records and campaign finance filings in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format.”

Public interest groups have been calling for the introduction of the website in order to aggregate data from campaign finance, lobbying and other types of ethics disclosures, currently spread out among the various agencies’ websites. The newspaper reported that the administration had been working on finding funding for the project, but have hit walls in the actual implementation.

The Sunlight Foundation’s John Wonderlich told The Hill that  “There is definitely a big distance from President Obama’s campaign promise and what they have done so far… They are failing to live up to their promise, but their promise was aimed very high.” This comes after disappointment from some groups earlier this year when Norm Eisen’s post as White House special counsel for ethics was not refilled at the same level; Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, among other groups, saw this as a step backwards for ethics efforts.

After the exit of Norm Eisen as the administration’s ethics chief, the focus on ethics seems to have gone mostly to pushing for passage of the DISCLOSE Act, and little else. The White House blog, once Eisen’s favorite format for announcements, now has posts in the “Ethics” category from Dan Pfeiffer and Jesse Lee, both high-level staffers in the White House communications department.

The Hill article is here: “Watchdog group waiting for Obama to fulfill ethics pledge for online hub.”

Bauer Takes Over White House Ethics

Monday, August 23rd, 2010 by Vbhotla

Norm Eisen, who has been a thorn in the flesh of some Washington lobbyists, is heading to Prague as President Obama’s ambassador to the European nation. The administration’s “ethics portfolio” will be split, with the White House Counsel, Robert Bauer, taking the lead.

According to the Washington Post, “responsibilities for lobbying, transparency, government reform and a host of other government operations issues” will be transferred to the former head of Perkins Coie’s political law practice. Bauer has served as President Obama’s personal attorney, as well as holding positions at Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee.

Steven P. Croley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, will head a six-member legal team to cover ethics, government reform, whistle-blower protections, lobbying reform, and other issues.

Several groups have pointed to this as a “step back” for the administration, which started out with a strong emphasis on ethics. The Sunlight Foundation wrote that “instead of having single touch point within the Administration we will now be working with one person who already has more than a full-time job, and an academic with no government experience.”

And Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (which Eisen co-founded), was also not enthusiastic. “In our view, taking the full-time responsibilities of a high-level White House official and divvying them up suggests ethics, transparency and government reform will get substantially less attention, not more.” But others see this as a potential for good – Fred Wertheimer, who heads Democracy 21, said in the New York Times that “I hate to see Eisen leave because he’s done a phenomenal job … but I believe the pieces are there to continue with the commitment this administration has said it would make in this area.”

New York Times article is here. Sunlight Foundation and CREW statements are here and here. A Washington Independent article is here.

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

Friday, August 13th, 2010 by Vbhotla

Weekly newsAs Norm Eisen departs for Prague, the White House announces his replacement: nobody. Well, technically, Bob Bauer will take over Eisen’s “portfolio” at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, and Steven Croley will also join the ethics team. Article at the Washington Post. Also: the Sunlight Foundation doesn’t take kindly to the announcement, listing several ethics promises on which they have yet to see follow-through from the Obama Administration. CREW (which Eisen co-founded) is also not enthused.

Some lawyers think Paul Magliocchetti’s indictment may truly mark the end of the PMA pay-to-play scandal.

Federal Judge Ellen Huvelle refused to throw out charges against accused Jack Abramoff associate Kevin Ring this week. Ring’s attorneys had asked Huvelle to vacate the charges after the Supreme Court’s decisions in three recent cases diminished the power of the honest services fraud statute, one of the statutes under which Ring was charged.

Rep. Maxine Watersethics charges were revealed – and she plans to fight back. Most of the charge appears to focus on the actions of Rep. Waters’ chief of staff, Mikael Moore, in trying to secure federal funding for OneUnited Bank, an entity in which Rep. Waters’ husband held financial stake. This case, in which Waters is being reprimanded for the actions of her staff, bears some resemblance to Rep. Charlie Rangel’s getting in trouble for his staff’s knowledge about the infamous trip to the Caribbean.

Speaking of Charlie Rangel, if you haven’t seen the rambling 30-minute House floor speech that he gave earlier this week, it’s time for a little Friday afternoon work-break.

Are you a corporation planning to use the Citizens United case to spend massive amounts of money in federal elections? Let what happened to Target Corp. in Minnesota be a lesson to you.

GOP Reps. Mike Castle (Dela.) and Bob Platts (Pa.) have teamed up to offer more power to the Office of Congressional Ethics. A new bill by the two Congressmen, titled the Accountability and Transparency in Ethics Act, would give subpoena powers to the mostly investigative body.  Read more at Roll Call, “Castle, Platts Propose Tougher Ethics Measures.”

Interesting little tid-bit from K Street Cafe: How and why does Congress use Twitter (video).

Quote(s) of the Week:

“With Mr. Eisen headed to Europe as an ambassador, his move from the White House ‘is the biggest lobbying success we’ve had all year,'” – Tony Podesta, Washington Post, Aug. 6

“Violations of campaign finance laws are clear cut and lend themselves to easy proof beyond a reasonable doubt… It sounds like this is both the beginning and possibly the end of the PMA matter in terms of prosecution.” – Jan Baran, on the Paul Magliocchetti indictment, Roll Call, Aug. 9

Ethics Czar Moving on to Tamer, but Lovelier Pursuits

Thursday, July 1st, 2010 by Vbhotla

Federal lobbyists can now officially raise their glasses to the White House nomination of Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, as ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Eisen successfully became the bane of lobbyists’ existence with his very first act after joining the White House: leading the charge for an executive order banning lobbyists from serving in the administration (which Obama signed on his first day in office). Eisen has followed that up with successfully convincing the President and his administration to bar lobbyists from federal advisory boards, and  making thousands of White House visitor names public. (He also posts fairly prolifically on the White House blog about ethics).

Lobbyists have since criticized the Eisen-led Obama policy of shutting out lobbyists as causing “de-registrations,” or even just discouraging registration in the first place, and fostering underground lobbying. Prague’s gain is a potential loss for watchdog groups, who fear Eisen may not be replaced.  Already, the NY Times story about White House staffers meeting lobbyists in coffee shops to keep things off the record (see Drew’s post on that here) has groups like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics  in Washington (which Eisen co-founded) losing plenty of sleep.

As for Eisen, he’s probably too busy dreaming of the largest ancient castle in the world right now to worry about bickering lobbyists and hawk-eyed ethics groups!

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

Friday, June 18th, 2010 by Vbhotla

DISCLOSE Drama. Will they or won’t they? I’m not sure anyone knows what’s going on with the DISCLOSE Act these days. A Politico story with full background is here. (Eric Brown does an excellent round-up of news reports, here).

C St. Scandal: OCE drops it like it’s hot. According to Roll Call, OCE will drop an investigation into a potential violation of the gift rules. News reports around several member scandals indicated that a house on C Street in Washington DC was owned by a private organization called “The Fellowship” and was providing housing for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, under-cost – a potential violation of the gift rules.

Hey lobbyists! LD-203 NOT optional. Yes, we already posted on the LDA guidance update, but we don’t want you to forget. Scan the changes, study the PDF, just just read our post!

Norm Eisen: scary individual. Did we get your attention? We’re just kidding, Norm Eisen seems like a nice guy, and he is an excellent “ethics czar.” But some watchdog groups fear for the future of his office if he is confirmed for an ambassadorship to the Czech Republic.

Patton Boggs’ Nick Allard does a Bulletproof Blog video interview on lobbying, and says the American public does not understand lobbying.

Take a number. The FCC wants lobbyists and others with an interest in shaping FCC processes to sign up for meeting time slots online. The Hill has the story.

Quote(s) of the Week:

“We investigative specific allegations. We do not conduct fishing expeditions.” OCE spokesman Jon Steinman, Roll Call June 14

“The “wink-wink-nod-nod” game we have all known to exist with regard to earmarks and campaign contributions is well-documented, and the ethics committee’s definition of “financial interest” needs to be updated to reflect these findings.” – Jeff Flake, Roll Call, June 17

“Is the NRA exception ideal, or pretty? No. Is it likely to complicate the defense of the DISCLOSE Act when it is challenged? Yes. But, is it worth dropping support of the legislation altogether? No.” – Scott Thomas, Of Counsel, Dickstein Shapiro, National Journal’s Under the Influence Experts Blog, June 16