Posts Tagged ‘Office of Management and Budget’

White House Reverses Lobbying Ban

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 by Linnae O'Flahavan

THE WHITE HOUSE HAS REVERSED part of its ban preventing registered lobbyists from serving on advisory panels. Lobbyists may now sit on advisory panels “so long as they’re examples of evaluation essays acting on behalf of a corporation, trade association or industry group and not as private citizens or representatives of the government,” reports POLITICO.

The original ban was put in place in 2010, but has been challenged in court by 6 lobbyists who, as a result of the ban, were kicked off advisory panels. Those lobbyists include Erik Autor, Nate Herman, Cass Johnson, Stephen Lamar, Bill Reinsch, and Andrew Zamoyski. The courts ruled against the White House by refusing to dismiss the case, and as a result, the Office of Management and Budget has eased up on restrictions by publishing the new rule in the Federal Register.

There appears to be significant criticism of the Obama administration for easing up on promised ethics reforms regarding K Street’s influence, although it is important to note that the reversal in policy is coming after court decisions going against the ban. Bloomberg quotes OMB’s Communications Director Melanie Roussell, who defends the ban, clarifying that “the purpose of the prohibition is ‘to restrict the undue influence of lobbyists on the federal government’ and was ‘not designed to prevent lobbyists or others from petitioning their government.’” Nonetheless, many lobbyists are up in arms about the ban, claiming constitutional rights violations, and are glad to see the White House reversing part of the ban.

It remains unclear exactly how far the White House will retreat on this issue since the administration is admitting defeat by reversing even part of the ban. In addition, POLITICO reports that the Obama administration has hired over 70 previously registered lobbyists including Broderick Johnson, Melody Barnes, James Kohlenberger, and Sean Kennedy. President Obama ran for office on a platform vowing to keep K Street influence out of the White House, but his plans seem to be failing, regardless of his intentions. It’s hard to say what Obama truly intended to accomplish, but quite easy to say that his ethics reforms aiming to minimize special interest influence on government policy are not really working.

For Their Eyes Only: CIA Lobbying Disclosures Under Wraps

Friday, September 20th, 2013 by Vbhotla

WITH GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY very much in the spotlight in recent months, it’s no surprise that agencies’ lobbying disclosure is under scrutiny. As LobbyBlog wrote back in July, six different government agencies, including the NSA, FBI, and CIA, rebuffed requests for lobbying disclosure forms, instead advising POLITICO to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, which can sometimes take years to be answered.

Now, POLITICO reports that the CIA is flatly refusing to disclose lobbying reports by its contractors. They do so on the grounds that the reports, the “existence or nonexistence” of which the agency would not confirm, may or may not contain classified information.

In addition to the standard lobbying disclosures that must be filed with the Senate or House, there is a supplemental form that must also be submitted by any company that has received money from the federal government. Despite the fact that this form is filed with the Office of Management and Budget, the OMB claims that it doesn’t collect information from the forms:

OMB does not collect information from the public through the SF-LLL; for details about the use of information collected with a specific form, OMB would refer you to the relevant agency issuing the form…

Of course, as the CIA makes clear, there is little accountability and no transparency for these agencies, and the only way to obtain lobbying disclosure information is through cumbersome and expensive FOIA requests. As Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation notes, “this is one of these strange things where the federal government has laws on the books that they don’t follow themselves….”

It would seem the only way to turn government opacity into transparency is through specific legislation prohibiting the loopholes and gray areas that federal agencies are using to hide lobbying disclosures. But even then, it’s likely that agencies will continue to flaunt the law. In other words, if you’re hoping to find out how money changes hands between contractors and the government, don’t hold your breath.

OMB Releases Final Guidelines on Lobbyist Ban

Friday, October 7th, 2011 by Vbhotla

The Office of Management and Budget has issued final guidance on the June 2010 White House directive which banned lobbyists from serving on executive branch advisory boards and commissions.  The guidance, which will go into effect Nov. 4, impacts only active federally-registered lobbyists, not those who have terminated their registrations or lobby only at the state and local levels.  Also excluded from the ban: individuals employed by organizations that lobby but who are not actually registered themselves.

Lobbyists appointed prior to June 18, 2010 will be permitted to serve out the remainder of their terms on commissions and advisory boards, but agencies will have to request resignation from any individual who registered as a lobbyist June 19, 2010 or after.  No waivers will be granted.

“Special interests exert this disproportionate influence, in part, by relying on lobbyists who have special access that is not available to all citizens,” President Obama said in the memorandum.

American League of Lobbyists President Howard Marlowe calls the move “shameful,” saying “It’s clear that the president has begun his reelection campaign by resurrecting Pokies professional lobbyists as his punching bag.”

“Although lobbyists can sometimes play a constructive role by communicating information to the government, their service in privileged positions within the executive branch can perpetuate the culture of special interest access that I am committed to changing,” Obama said in the statement.

Marlowe contends, “[The president’s] actions reflect a disdain for open government based on transparency and the free flow of information.  It is political hypocrisy to say that those lobbyists who are not registered are welcome within the inner circle, while anyone who for whatever reason has registered as a lobbyist is shut out.”

OMB spokeswoman Meg Reilly told Politico Influence “The president has taken steps from the start to close the revolving door between the federal government and special interests, to end the culture of powerful lobbying influence, and to dramatically expand the level of transparency in government. This guidance is an important step in those efforts, but we will continue to identify new ways to expand transparency and accountability and look forward to working with the public on this.”