Re: Lobbyists pushed off advisory panels
- From: barchdan@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Sat, 28 Nov 2009 00:51:49 -0800 (PST)
On Nov 27, 6:58 pm, "RichL" <rpleav...@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
RickH <passp...@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
On Nov 27, 12:16 pm, Alt <altguitara...@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Lobbyists pushed off advisory panels
White House initiative to limit influence could affect thousands
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 27, 2009
Hundreds, if not thousands, of lobbyists are likely to be ejected
from federal advisory panels as part of a little-noticed initiative
by the Obama administration to curb K Street's influence in
Washington, according to White House officials and lobbying experts.
The new policy -- issued with little fanfare this fall by the White
House ethics counsel -- may turn out to be the most far-reaching
lobbying rule change so far from President Obama, who also has sought
to restrict the ability of lobbyists to get jobs in his
administration and to negotiate over stimulus contracts.
The initiative is aimed at a system of advisory committees so vast
that federal officials don't have exact numbers for its size; the
most recent estimates tally nearly 1,000 panels with total membership
exceeding 60,000 people.
Under the policy, which is being phased in over the coming months,
none of the more than 13,000 lobbyists in Washington would be able to
hold seats on the committees, which advise agencies on trade rules,
troop levels, environmental regulations, consumer protections and
thousands of other government policies.
"Some folks have developed a comfortable Beltway perch sitting on
these boards while at the same time working as lobbyists to influence
the government," said White House ethics counsel Norm Eisen, who
disclosed the policy in a September blog posting on the White House
Web site. "That is just the kind of special interest access that the
president objects to."
But lobbyists and many of the businesses they represent say K Street
is being unfairly demonized by a White House intent on scoring
political points with scandal-weary voters. They warn that the latest
policy will severely handicap federal regulators, who rely heavily on
advisory boards for technical advice and to serve as liaisons between
government and industry.
"It's taken me years to learn what the General Agreement on Tariffs
and Trade is," said Robert Vastine, a lobbyist for the Coalition of
Service Industries who also serves as chairman of a trade advisory
board. "It's a whole different and specialized world. It is not
easily obtained knowledge, and they are crippling themselves
terribly by ruling out all registered lobbyists."
Vastine is deeply familiar with the system because he helped create
it as a top Senate Republican staffer during the early 1970s, when
Congress approved the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The result, as
Vastine puts it, is a "bureaucratic labyrinth" that has expanded to
include virtually every aspect of the sprawling federal government,
from the 179-member National Petroleum Council, which closely advises
the Department of Energy, to the influential Defense Policy Board,
which wielded enormous clout in the decision to go to war in Iraq.
According to the most recent estimates from the General Services
Administration, 52 government agencies use 915 advisory committees
organized under the law, with a total membership of more than 60,000.
Other estimates put the figure at about 1,000 panels. Federal
officials say they do not know how many panel members are lobbyists.
Most committee members receive no pay for their participation. They
often are urged to take part by companies, trade groups or advocacy
organizations that hope to sway government decisions to their
advantage. While their operations vary, the panels tend to hold open
meetings and issue reports and recommendations, and they often wield
significant influence with policymakers because of their expertise in
arcane subjects, from nuclear plant safety to wild burro management.
Administration lawyers determined that they couldn't ban lobbyists
from advisory committees directly because most of the panels are
overseen by individual agencies rather than the White House; so Eisen
encouraged -- rather than ordered -- the prohibition. Nonetheless,
administration officials said, most Cabinet secretaries have
implemented the recommendation, usually by barring renewals or new
appointments for lobbyists.
Lobbyists up in arms
The reaction from the lobbying community has been swift and
overwhelmingly negative. Some of the loudest criticism has come from
the Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs), a collection of more
than a dozen panels that provide policy advice and technical
assistance to the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade
Representative. The ITACs, whose roughly 400 members include at least
130 lobbyists, officials say, have taken the lead in attacking the
White House policy as misguided and harmful to U.S. business
interests; a letter to Obama from committee chairs last month
included executives from Boeing, IBM, Harley-Davidson and
"This action will severely undermine the utility of the advisory
committee process," the letter read. ". . . The characteristics that
make many Advisors valuable to the Administration [are] the same
characteristics that are being used to artificially disqualify them
from participation in the Committee system."
The panel on automotive equipment and capital goods, for example,
stands to lose at least seven of its two dozen members, including
lobbyists for the National Association of Manufacturers and the auto
supplier Delphi, when the committee is reconstituted early next year.
Critics note that the removals come as domestic automakers struggle
to survive and the Obama administration attempts to jump-start trade
talks with South Korea and other nations.
"At least for a year and maybe longer, I think we will completely
neuter the voice of American business in these negotiations," said
panel Chairman Brian T. Petty, senior vice president for government
affairs at the International Association of Drilling Contractors.
"You are clearing out some of the most competent people."
One lobbyist, William C. Lane, has served on that panel for 20 years
while working as the chief Washington representative for Caterpillar,
the equipment manufacturer.
"We tend to focus on issues of competitiveness and opening up
markets, which is good for everybody," Lane said of the advisory
committee. "It's good for communities; it's good for our suppliers."
Administration officials remain sanguine, saying the criticism is
overblown and arguing that top corporate officers are free to sit on
advisory panels as long as they aren't lobbyists. Eisen, in a
response letter to the ITAC leaders last month, wrote that
"arguments that only lobbyists can bring requisite experience to
provide wise counsel . . . are unconvincing on their face."
"If the result of this new approach is that business owners join the
conversation in D.C. about issues affecting them, that's fine," Eisen
said in an interview. "It's healthy to move away from the
professional advocates for the special interests and let some new
voices be heard."
And though lobbyists are unhappy, some good-government advocates say
the policy is sound.
"You may lose a lot of expertise, but these people are also paid to
have a point of view; they have an agenda," said Mary Boyle, a vice
president at Common Cause. "We support what the administration is
doing to get deep-seated special interests out of the business of
running our government, so this seems like a step in the right
Ha Ha Ha! I wouldn't bet on this, they will do what every other pol
does and simply choose to listen only to the lobbyists that give them
money or votes. Will the teachers union, teamsters and service unions
not be allowed to lobby this admin also?
You're not reading what the article said. The lobbyist ban applies
specifically only to panels created under the Federal Advisory Committee
Act. *All* lobbyists. It eliminates that particular conflict of
interest, no others. Lobbyists are still free to meet with Congress,
White House staff, etc.- Hide quoted text -
- Show quoted text -
You will get communists, crazed internationalist academics, and union
toadys not registered as lobbists on the advisory panels now.
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