White House Expands Recovery Act Lobbying Ban To Non-Lobbyists
Reforms To Lobby Restrictions Are A Welcomed First Step, Says ACLU.
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration today modified lobbying restrictions that banned registered lobbyists from speaking with federal agency officials about requests for Recovery Act funds to everyone. The welcomed White House announcement amends the president’s Memorandum on Ensuring Responsible Spending of Recovery Act Funds, dated March 20, 2009, by eliminating the distinction between registered lobbyists and all other interested parties and shortening the period when the restrictions apply. The new rules require written communications with agency officials about competitive grants once the grant applications have been filed with the federal government.
“Today the White House took a welcomed first step in reforming its lobbying restrictions,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, ACLU Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel. “It is disconcerting that there must be any ban on oral communications.”
The ACLU has opposed the Recovery Act lobbying ban as an unlawful restriction on free speech rights. Another problem with the original restrictions was that they only applied to registered lobbyists and left out others with direct interests in stimulus funds to communicate orally with administration officials without restriction. This change does away with that distinction between registered lobbyists and all other interested parties.
Macleod-Ball added, “We are disappointed that the disclosure obligations remain imposed solely on registered lobbyists. While this does not present the same First Amendment issue as the oral communication ban, it is unfortunate that the public will remain in the dark about meetings between administration officials and an entire class of individuals who may have far greater personal interests in stimulus funding than even the most-seasoned registered lobbyists.”
The White House policy change narrows the circumstances when the oral communications ban applies – just during the time after a specific application is filed and before the decision is made. Anything that lessens the restriction on oral communications is a step in the right direction.
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