The Hill reports that several major federal agencies are poised to fully ban lobbyists from serving.
Norm Eisen, White House ethics adviser, sent out an e-mail two weeks ago recommending that agencies no longer appoint lobbyists to committees and advisory boards. He stopped short, however, of fully banning them from serving. Of the 20 Cabinet-level agencies contacted by The Hill, 12 returned phone calls and reported that they planned to follow Eisen's guidelines.
"We fully intend to abide by the new White House guidance but are still in the process of evaluating it and assessing its impact," said Geoff Morrell, press secretary for the Pentagon, in response to questions from The Hill.
The effort to remove lobbyists from serving on boards and committees is aimed at closing an apparent loophole in President Obama's executive order that bans lobbyists from receiving presidentially-appointed positions.
From the Washington Post:
"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."vising Defense Secretary Robert Gates could be affected by the lobbyist ban if the Department of Defense in fact follows through, according to the Hill.
Many lobbyists make up the ranks of the more than 1,000 federal advisory committees that report to the General Services Administration under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Concern has been expressed that the move will backfire and cause many lobbyists to de-register in order to serve on committees.
Doug Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council, said the White House position is "absurd" and the administration does not understand how private-sector expertise can help the federal government. He said lobbyists are bound to de-register as lobbyists while continuing to help their companies.