Lobby League Pressures White House on Advisory Boards

Posted October 28, 2009 at 6:05pm

Updated: Oct. 28, 9:20 p.m.

American League of Lobbyists President David Wenhold wrote a letter Wednesday to President Barack Obama pushing back against the recent announcement by White House Ethics Adviser Norm Eisen that lobbyists would no longer be welcome on federal advisory boards.

If the White House refuses to change its policy, ALL argued that it should delay the implementation of the policy so that current members of the formal advisory groups can review whether they can terminate their lobbying status.

The letter follows a blog post by Eisen in late September that relayed the White House’s new position of not encouraging registered lobbyists to be members of the advisory groups. Sixteen chairmen of different Industry Trade Advisory Committees have also written the White House raising concerns about the new policy and how it is being implemented.

Last week, the ALL board voted unanimously to “express our organization’s concern with Mr. Eisen’s pronouncement that your administration will be better served by precluding industry experts from serving on Federal advisory groups simply because they are legally required to comply with provisions contained in the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995,— Wenhold wrote.

ALL believes that Eisen is demonizing the lobbying profession and will limit public officials from industry experts’ opinions, according to the letter.

Further, Wenhold takes issue with Eisen’s written response to Industry Trade Advisory Committees chairmen that lobbyists “traffic in relationships, working both the Congress and the federal agencies to bend legislation and policies on behalf of their clients.—

Wenhold said that most of the chairmen do not represent specific clients and are instead trade association officials who “cannot afford to employ one person who is solely responsible for representing industry interests before Congress and another who is responsible for ITAC participation.—

The White House defended its position Wednesday evening on its blog.

Eisen wrote that the administration believes in lobbyists’ rights to petition government, but not from within government entities like the federal advisory boards.

“The system of lobbyists holding privileged government positions needs to be changed,— Eisen wrote. “Lobbyists who represent the views of special interests should not do so from within government.—