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Lobbyists Blast Plan to Bar Them From Federal Boards

Final guidelines that spell out the specifics of President Barack Obama’s plan to keep lobbyists off government advisory boards have once again riled K Street.

“It’s almost like they are saying if you are a registered lobbyist that you have the plague and we don’t want to take advantage of your expertise — stay away,” American League of Lobbyists president Howard Marlowe said.

Released today by the Office of Management and Budget, the final guidance directs executive departments and agency heads to refrain from tapping registered lobbyists to sit on federal boards and commissions.

Obama proposed the guidelines in 2009, prompting objections not just from lobbyists, but also from the chairmen of more than a dozen industry trade advisory committees. The ITAC chairmen warned that the restriction would rob government advisory boards of valuable knowledge and expertise.

“You don’t put a lobbyist on there because of his or her clients,” Marlowe said. “You put a lobbyist on there because of his or her knowledge of an area.”

Administration officials have countered that the advisory board restrictions further the administration’s larger goal of reducing the influence of powerful special interests. The OMB guidelines are the latest in a long list of Obama administration lobbying restrictions, from the executive branch revolving door rules that took effect as soon as Obama took office, to more recent proposed rules to expand the lobbyist gift ban from political appointees to all government workers.

Marlowe’s group argues that such restrictions have the unintended effect of encouraging lobbyists to de-register, reducing transparency. The American League of Lobbyists is coming up with its own lobbying reform package, aimed in part at expanding disclosure rules to require more advocacy professionals to register. That plan is now slated for release early next year, Marlowe said.

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