In the spirit of transparency, Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, asked us to pass along this update on the President’s restrictions on lobbyist contacts regarding the Recovery Act.
President Obama has made historic commitments to putting the public interest first and to cracking down on special interests and, in particular, lobbying abuses. To accomplish that, he has put forward the toughest rules in history closing the revolving door between K Street and the Executive Branch and putting contacts with lobbyists regarding projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on the internet for all Americans to see.
We know some people think the Administration has been too tough in keeping lobbyists out of government jobs, and too tough in making lobbyist contacts about Recovery Act projects fully transparent. We don’t think so. We think our restrictions are correct to promote the public interest ahead of special interests. As the President has noted, one of the hallmarks of being tough is that you not only talk to the people you agree with—you talk to the ones you disagree with. So we want to hear from everyone affected during the 60-day initial evaluation period for the stimulus lobbying restrictions. We have heard from those that support these rules. On Friday, we met with several groups who disagree with the rules. These groups included Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American League of Lobbyists (ALL). Present at the meeting were the following, each representing the entity noted:
Michael W. Macleod-Ball, Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); Melanie Sloan, Executive Director, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); Adam Rappaport, Senior Counsel, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); David Wenhold, President, American League of Lobbyists (ALL); Kenneth A. Gross, Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom (representing ALL);
Norman Eisen, Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform; Preeta Bansal, General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Management and Budget; Michael Mongan, Deputy Counsel to the Vice President; and members of their staffs.
We told them we believed the restrictions were tough but fair to make sure that lobbyist communications are as transparent as possible, and that stimulus decisions are based on the merits. They agreed with our objectives -- any differences we have are over the best means to achieve those goals. They took exception to some of the specifics of the restrictions and we had an honest exchange about our differences. We noted that others, including in the reform community, strongly support the restrictions and we have heard from them too as part of the 60 day evaluation period mandated by the President's Memorandum.