The Washington Post

Lobbyists object to Obama proposal that would tighten rules for federal workers

Lobbyists are arguing against an Obama administration proposal that would tighten rules governing what executive branch employees may accept from companies and trade associations that try to influence government policy.

The rules would ban executive branch employees from accepting gifts of any value from a lobbyist or an organization that employs lobbyists. The rules also would end a policy that allows lawmakers and government workers to accept free admission to “widely attended gatherings” held by lobbyists or companies and trade associations that are registered to lobby.

Under the new rules, government employees would still be able to register for training courses using a government discount, but they could not accept free registration at conferences unless they had a speaking role.

The American League of Lobbyists issued a statement Monday saying that the regulations would result in the “dumbing-down of government” and would not serve the public interest.

“If it is not withdrawn, this rule will prevent government workers from having even casual social contact with registered lobbyists,” wrote Howard Marlowe, president of the lobbying group. “The Administration has offered no reports of even a single abuse of its current regulations to warrant the severe restrictions it has proposed on the mutual flow of information and expertise between lobbyists, their employers, and Federal workers.”

When it requested public comment on the proposed rules, the Office of Government Ethics noted that the “widely attended” exemption had become a large loophole.

“Some of the exceptions may have been used on occasion to permit gifts, such as attendance at certain events, where the nexus to the purpose of the exception is attenuated at best,” the agency wrote. “When such gifts are offered by persons who are paid to influence government action, the concerns obviously are magnified.”

Good-government groups have praised the proposed regulations.

“They are long overdue,” said Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center. “Lobbyists are indeed paid to influence government action — that’s their job — so it is appropriate to have some restrictions aimed at lobbyists.”

Other exemptions will be maintained, including those for gifts from journalists or friends and gifts in connection with some political work.

The rules stem from an executive order that President Obama issued on his first full day in office. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The comment period for the rules will end next month.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
This isn't your daddy's gun club
A look inside the world of Candomblé
It's in the details: Five ways to enhance your kitchen makeover
Play Videos
A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky
The rise and fall of baseball cards
Is fencing the answer to brain health?
Play Videos
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
How to prevent 'e-barrassment'
The art of tortilla-making
Play Videos
Circus nuns: These sisters are no act
How hackers can control your car from miles away
How the new credit card chip makes purchases more secure

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.