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Why We Bar Lobbyists from Agency Advisory Boards and Commissions

Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, explains the policy in response to a letter from a group of lobbyists.

In the interest of transparency, we are posting a letter we received from lobbyists and others about the Administration’s move to bar federally-registered lobbyists from federal boards and commissions.  We are also publishing our response, which explains the reasoning behind this decision.

It all started with a blog post where we announced the new steps the Administration was taking to reduce lobbyist influence on these important boards and commissions:

The White House has informed executive agencies and departments that it is our aspiration that federally-registered lobbyists not be appointed to agency advisory boards and commissions. These appointees to boards and commissions, which are made by agencies and not the President, advise the federal government on a variety of policy areas. Keeping these advisory boards free of individuals who currently are registered federal lobbyists represents a dramatic change in the way business is done in Washington.

On October 19, we received this letter from a group of lobbyists (pdf) and others who serve on industry boards and commissions, expressing concern about our decision.

While we recognize the contributions some of those who will be affected have made to these committees, it is an indisputable fact that in recent years, lobbyists for major special interests have wielded extraordinary power in Washington DC, resulting in a national agenda too often skewed in favor of the interests that can afford their services.  It is that problem that the President has promised to change, and this is a major step in implementing that change.

We make that point, along with others in our response (pdf).

Norm Eisen is special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform