A new executive order restricting the lobbying efforts of political appointees is unlikely to deter lobbyists from joining the administration, according to government affairs recruiter Ivan Adler.
By Megan Wilson | January 30, 2017
Lobbyists are coming to grips with a new executive order from President Trump that weakens many of the restrictions that were imposed on their industry by the Obama administration.
The order, signed by Trump over the weekend, allows lobbyists to serve in the administration but restricts what they can do if and when they return to the private sector.
Political appointees who serve in the Trump administration will be restricted from assisted in lobbying efforts before their former agency for five years after they leave. They will also be prohibited from ever representing a foreign government, which is a cottage industry in Washington.
Those coming into government, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday, should know that they will be “serving the country and not yourself.”
The order is unlikely to deter lobbyists from joining the administration, several individuals told The Hill.
“I have talked to a number of people who are seeking advice on whether or not to join the administration, and the ethical obligations have not been a determining factor,” said Ivan Adler, a headhunter at The McCormick Group.
During a fiery campaign speech three weeks before the election, Trump made a promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington, unveiling a sweeping ethics plan that included banning former officials from becoming lobbyists for five years and cracking down on foreign lobbying.
While some of the ideas in his ethics plan were enacted via executive order, others would require action from Congress, include loosening the definition of a lobbyist and expanding the “cooling off” period for lawmakers who leave for K Street.
It remains to be seen whether Trump will push Congress to pass those reforms. Watchdog groups are skeptical.
“Trump is just skimming the surface of the swamp, as he remains silent on his campaign pledge to push Congress to adopt their own five-year ban,” said Trevor Potter, the president of the Campaign Legal Center, in a statement.
Ethics watchdog organizations have taken a careful look at the executive order and say it appears to weaken the ban on communications between former officials and the executive branch.
Former President Barack Obama’s executive order banned former officials from communicating with employees of their agency for two years. Trump’s drops that requirement down to one year.
“While it’s weaker, it’s not just lip service. It does make actual reforms,” said Joshua Ian Rosenstein, a partner at Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock, specializing in political law and lobbying compliance. “Of course, it’s different than what Trump promised, which is that you won’t be a lobbyist [for five years] — period.”
The executive order supersedes Obama’s version yet keeps some of his restrictions in place, such as broadly banning administration officials from accepting gifts from lobbyists and requiring appointees to refrain for two years from getting involved in issues they dealt with in the private sector.
The two-year prohibition is stronger than the initial ethics agreements signed by Trump’s Cabinet nominees over the last month, in which they agree to refrain from any matters involving any previous investments or employers for one year. Federal law only requires a one-year recusal.
The White House and the Office of Government Ethics did not respond to inquiries about whether the ethics agreements for Cabinet were being amended.
There is also concern that Trump’s ethics order nixes language that had required the federal government to issue annual reports detailing how the administration is complying with ethics standards, as first reported by The Washington Post […]
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