White House Changes Course On Key Piece Of Lobbyist Ban

More than four years after prohibiting lobbyists from serving on some federal agency boards, the White House appears to be changing course.

Politico reported Tuesday that registered lobbyists will now be able to serve on more than 1,000 industry boards, panels and commissions -- as long as they are advising a client. The changes will be reflected in new guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, which is set to go live Wednesday on the Federal Register.

"OMB is now issuing revised guidance regarding the prohibition against appointing or re-appointing federally registered lobbyists to clarify that the ban applies to persons serving on advisory committees, boards, and commissions in their individual capacity and does not apply if they are specifically appointed to represent the interests of a nongovernmental entity, a recognizable group of persons or nongovernmental entities (an industry sector, labor unions, environmental groups, etc.), or state or local governments," the notice reads.

In 2010, a memorandum from President Barack Obama warned that the advisory panels should be free from lobbyists' influence because of their role in working with the private sector:

My Administration is committed to reducing the undue influence of special interests that for too long has shaped the national agenda and drowned out the voices of ordinary Americans. Special interests exert this disproportionate influence, in part, by relying on lobbyists who have special access that is not available to all citizens. Although lobbyists can sometimes play a constructive role by communicating information to the government, their service in privileged positions within the executive branch can perpetuate the culture of special interest access that I am committed to changing.

The current change comes months after a federal judge's January 2014 decision that ruled in favor of six lobbyists fighting the ban in their quest to serve on a trade advisory committee. As the National Law Journal noted Monday, D.C. Circuit Court Judge David Tatel argued in Autor v. Pritzker that the lobbyists "pled a viable First Amendment unconstitutional conditions claim."

Charles Rothfeld, a lawyer who represented the lobbyists, told The Hill on Tuesday that the decision "vindicates the First Amendment rights of these individuals, while also allowing trade agencies to benefit from their technical expertise."

Last month, as part of its "Drinking & Talking" series, HuffPost sat down with some lobbyists to learn how they make and scare friends in Washington. Watch the clip above, or see more here.



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