A new way of doing business

A NEW WAY OF DOING BUSINESS…. Nearly all of this work is done below the radar, but dozens of government agencies hear from hundreds of official advisory committees, featuring tens of thousands of unpaid members. In general, the panels are made up of people with a certain expertise in obscure areas of public policy, representing companies, trade groups, or advocacy organizations.

It’s a fairly standard practice for these advisory committees to include plenty of lobbyists. It’s a practice the Obama administration is changing.

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. […]

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.

Norm Eisen, the White House ethics counsel, recently explained, “Some folks have developed a comfortable Beltway perch sitting on these boards while at the same time working as lobbyists to influence the government. That is just the kind of special interest access that the president objects to.”

As one might imagine, this isn’t going over well on K Street, but good-government advocates seem pleased. Common Cause’ Mary Boyle added, “You may lose a lot of expertise, but these people are also paid to have a point of view; they have an agenda. 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 direction.”