Monday, May 22, 2017

Got lobbyists?


They are one pest the Orkin Man can't reliably get rid of for you. There are however various laws and rules that restrain lobbyists from working in government until the taint of their previous employer has worn off. But to keep the persons who may be of value, there are also waivers from these laws and rules. In the Trump administration, these waivers have been given out like beads at Mardi Gras. As might be expected, the Office of Government Ethic is curious to see the many waivers in all the government agencies.
The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose any ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists who now work in the White House or federal agencies.

The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.

Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.

Mr. Shaub, who is in the final year of a five-year term after being appointed by President Barack Obama, said he had no intention of backing down. “It is an extraordinary thing,” Mr. Shaub said of the White House request. “I have never seen anything like it.”

Marilyn L. Glynn, who served as general counsel and acting director of the agency during the George W. Bush administration, called the move by the Trump White House “unprecedented and extremely troubling.”

“It challenges the very authority of the director of the agency and his ability to carry out the functions of the office,” she said.

In a statement issued Sunday evening, the Office of Management and Budget rejected the criticism and instead blamed Mr. Shaub, saying his call for the information, issued in late April, was motivated by politics. The office said it remained committed to upholding ethical standards in the federal government.

“This request, in both its expansive scope and breathless timetable, demanded that we seek further legal guidance,” the statement said. “The very fact that this internal discussion was leaked implies that the data being sought is not being collected to satisfy our mutual high standard of ethics.”

President Trump signed an executive order in late January — echoing language first endorsed by Mr. Obama — that prohibited lobbyists and lawyers hired as political appointees from working for two years on “particular” government matters that involved their former clients. In the case of former lobbyists, they could not work on the same regulatory issues they had been involved in.

Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama reserved the right to issue waivers to this ban. Mr. Obama, unlike Mr. Trump, automatically made any such waivers public, offering detailed explanations. The exceptions were typically granted for people with special skills, or when the overlap between the new federal work and a prior job was minor.

Ms. Glynn, who worked in the office of government ethics for nearly two decades, said she had never heard of a move by any previous White House to block a request like Mr. Shaub’s. She recalled how the Bush White House had intervened with a federal agency during her tenure to get information that she needed.
No doubt about it, the Trump administration has a lot to hide and the determination to keep it hidden.

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