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How We Have "Already Changed" Washington
December 04, 2009
10:25 AM EDT
The Congressional Research Service has released a report concluding that President Obama's historic reforms to the culture of lobbying in Washington have "already changed the relationship between lobbyists and covered executive branch officials." We're pleased that CRS recognized a fact that is apparent every day to those of us who work in government: the President's historic restrictions on lobbying are having a significant impact in making sure that the government serves the public interest and not special interests. We hear constantly from public servants across the executive branch how appreciative they are that the President's high standards and tough rules allow them to do their jobs. That represents the change that the President promised and that CRS recognizes he has delivered.
The report details the numerous steps the Obama Administration has taken since Day One to change the way business is done in Washington, including:
- On January 21, 2009, the President signed an Executive Order imposing stricter ethics standards on this Administration than any in history. The Order restricts anyone who has been a registered federal lobbyist within the past two years from being appointed to an agency they lobbied or from working as an appointee on particular matters or specific issue areas on which they lobbied. The Order also prohibits all appointees from lobbying the Obama Administration after leaving government service.
- On March 20, 2009, the President issued a memorandum imposing restrictions on lobbyists' abilities to communicate with federal officials regarding Recovery Act funding. Those restrictions were expanded on July 24, 2009.
- On September 10, 2009, the Treasury Department announced that similar rules would apply to communications regarding Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) funds. (PDF)
- On September 23, 2009, the White House announced a goal of no longer appointing or reappointed federally registered lobbyists to agency advisory boards and commissions and federal agencies have implemented policies to achieve that goal.
Finally, we'd like to point out one other important initiative that affects lobbyists but was outside the scope of the CRS report: on September 10, 2009 we announced we would post White House visitoir records, including for registered lobbyists, as well as unregistered lobbyists and everyone else who comes here.
All of these initiatives are intended to change Washington by putting the public interest ahead of the special interests, and we are very pleased the word is getting out.
Norm Eisen is special counsel to the President for ethics and government reform