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White House Formalizes Lobbying Regulations

The White House on Friday evening released its formal guidance for lobbying the executive branch on stimulus-related issues, a reiteration of changes first announced on a White House blog posting on May 29.Those changes significantly relaxed earlier restrictions, which had banned lobbyists outright from any oral communication, via telephone or in person, with executive branch officials about stimulus funding.The blog entry, and Friday’s memo from the Office of Management and Budget, narrowed the ban on oral communication to “after competitive grant applications are submitted and before awards are made.” It also applied the ban during that period to non-lobbyists as well.Ethics experts were pleased that the formal guidance had finally arrived.”What’s important is that even though the government’s policy changed on May 29th, when the blog was originally issued, the message didn’t seem to get out from the administration,” ethics lawyer Ken Gross said. The memorandum, he said, “will speak louder than a blog and be better understood and it will be communicated among people in the administration that they can now deal with lobbyists except during a narrow time period.”Gross said many agency officials had simply refused to meet with lobbyists even during times when it was permissible. “We were receiving regular reports from various lobbyists of all stripes who were not getting their phone calls returned or were excluded from meetings contrary to the blog [posting.]”The 11-page document is available on the OMB Web site.