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More Waivers for Lobbyists Released, Raising Questions

June 7, 2017

More Waivers for Lobbyists Released, Raising Questions

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: The Office of Government Ethics today released a list of federal agency officials who have been exempted from restrictions on lobbying for issues related to their pre-administration work.

The newly released ethics waivers don’t say much about the Trump administration’s ethics policy or practice. Unlike the wave of unjustified and even undated waivers for White House personnel readily granted by the White House counsel, the agency waivers released today and approved by ethics officers outside the White House include relatively untroubling matters, with a few possible exceptions.

We don’t know whether other waivers should have been granted, or if the vast number of conflicted officials in the administration are following recusal standards that avoid the need for waivers, or if the administration just hasn’t gotten around to doing enough actual work to require waivers.

What we do know is that conflicts of interest and revolving door problems are pervasive in the thinly staffed administration, from the corporate Cabinet to second- and third-tier positions, up to and including Tuesday’s nomination of a lawyer who represented BP in the Gulf disaster to head the U.S. Department of Justice’s environment division.

Indeed, for the Trump administration, conflicts of interest seem to be qualifications for a position. The administration affirmatively aims to put the fox in charge of the henhouse – that is, to have representatives and lawyers from regulated corporations in charge of making regulatory, enforcement and policy decisions related to those businesses.