Leading Washington, D.C., trade association executives remain so irate over the Obama administration's new draft ethics rules for government employees that they've asked White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley for a meeting.
"We believe that policies restricting knowledge-sharing between the government and trade associations are counterproductive to the administration's stated aspirations to work in partnership with the business community to create jobs and grow the economy," wrote 40 members of the American Society of Association Executives in an Oct. 12 letter to Daley.
Those signing the letter sit on the ASAE's Key Industry Associations Committee and represent such diverse trade groups as the National Retail Federation; the Grocery Manufacturers Association; the National Automobile Dealers Association; and the Edison Electric Institute.
The Office of Government Ethics triggered a lobbyist backlash last month when it released draft rules to implement an Obama administration proposal to expand the executive branch lobbyist gift ban from political appointees to all government workers. That ban includes free attendance by government workers at widely attended gatherings.
"We think there's a lot to be learned at a number of [association] programs, trade shows," said Jim Clarke, ASAE's senior vice president for public policy. He added that "federal employee[s] ought to be able to see what's happening" in the retail, grocery, contractors, automobile dealers and other key American industries.
ASAE members particularly object to an exemption in the proposed OGE rules that would allow federal workers to accept free invitations to gatherings hosted by 501(c)3 nonprofits, higher-education institutions, scientific organizations and learned societies. Trade association events "offer the same benefits to government employees and should qualify for the same exclusion" as those educational and other groups, read the ASAE letter to Daley.
The association will submit public comments along similar lines to the OGE next week, Clarke said. Additionally, as many as two-dozen trade associations from around the country are preparing their own comments to OGE, noted Clarke. He said association executives are "very upset" about the proposed rules. ASAE executives have also sought a meeting with OGE officials, so far without success.
Administration officials have said that the government worker and other ethics restrictions are consistent with the administration's larger good-government and lobbying-reform objectives.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, along with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, right, and Annette Tilleman-Dick, left, wife for former Rep. Tom Lanots, D-Calif. Clinton was honored with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize during a ceremony last week at the Cannon House Office Building. Previous winners include the Dalai Lama and Elie Wiesel.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.