So much for the Obama administration’s effort to curb the power of big-time lobbyists.
On Friday, the White House dropped a ban on federal lobbyists verbally contacting government agency officials to discuss projects that are part of the $787 billion fiscal stimulus package.
The prohibition against oral communication with lobbyists now is in place only for competitively bid applications for stimulus package projects. The ban is also now directed at non-lobbyists too, according to a white House blog written by ethics official Norm Eisen and cited on Roll Call News
Only written communication is permitted from the time a competitive bid is filed until the grant is awarded.
The blog repeated the Obama administration’s rule for “immediate Internet disclosure” of all lobbyist contacts with agency officials.
The policy was adjusted after a 60-day review period. During that time the White House received complaints from watchdog groups and lobbyists alike, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American League of Lobbyists and the AFL-CIO.
“Following OMB’s [Office of Management and Budget’s] review, the Administration has decided to make a number of changes to the rules that we think make them even tougher on special interests and more focused on merits-based decision making,” Eisen wrote on the blog.
During the 2008 presidential campaign Obama made great fanfare about how he would curtail the power of big-time lobbyists. Upon inauguration the president barred former lobbyists from working for agencies they had lobbied within the past two years.
Within days, he violated the pledge.
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