The White House is challenging the authority of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) in its bid to quash the watchdog's inquiry into just how many ex-lobbyists are on the administration's payroll, The New York Times reported.
In a letter sent by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Mick Mulvaney, the Trump administration directly asked OGE head Walter Shaub to withdraw his request that every federal agency report how many waivers were issued to allow ex-lobbyists to work in those agencies or the White House itself, The Times reported.
In the letter dated May 17 obtained by The Times, Mulvaney writes that Shaub's request "appears to raise legal questions regarding the scope of OGE's authorities."
Federal law gives OGE the authority to make exactly that kind of request; Shaub in April had issued a memo asking every federal agency to give him a report on waivers by June 1.
"It is an extraordinary thing," Shaub told The Times. "I have never seen anything like it."
That was echoed by Marilyn Glynn, who served as acting director of OGE during the George W. Bush administration, who told The Times the White House's stance is "unprecedented and extremely troubling."
Every administration issues waivers to allow lobbyists to work in the executive office or in the federal agencies, but previous ones have announced the waivers with explanations and intervened if agencies refused to divulge such information to OGE, The Times reported.
That is, the White House historically has acted as the enforcer for OGE to get its agencies to comply with requests from the ethics watchdog.
And while the OGE has the authority to seek "data calls" like this, it lacks the power of enforcement.
"The agency is more or less dependent on the good graces of the party that is in power," Glynn told The Times.
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