BUSINESS
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Critics Charge Lobbyist Ban Will Hurt Trade

Critics of the White House's effort to keep lobbyists from serving on federal-level advisory boards say the ban could ultimately hurt the United States in trade negotiations.

Former U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, who served from 2006 to 2009, called lobbyists "invaluable" for the information they provide to public officials.

"I find it very worrisome and quite foolish. Why deny yourself input?"

Earlier this week business lobbyists and advocates wrote a letter to the president, advising that the removal of lobbyists from panels and committees "will severely undermine the utility" of boards who advise on trade deals, according to Politico.

But White House ethics adviser Norm Eisen fired back in a letter, saying "Lobbyists traffic in relationships... to bend legislation and policies on behalf of their clients."

"We believe the committees will benefit from an influx of businesspeople, consumers and other concerned Americans who can bring fresh perspectives and new insights to the work of government."

Eisen sent an e-mail to heads of federal agencies last month, urging them to not appoint registered lobbyists to federal advisory boards and commissions. Eisen stopped short, however, of totally banning lobbyists.

Several Cabinet-level departments, including the Department of Defense, have indicated that they intend to remove lobbyists from commission appointments. 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.

Last month, the Washington Post reported:

"While the letter of the President's Executive Order on Ethics does not apply to federally-registered lobbyists appointed by agency or department heads, the spirit does and we have conveyed that to the agencies who are responsible for these appointments," Eisen said in a statement posted on the White House website.