White House Lifts Ban on Stimulus Contacts

Posted May 29, 2009 at 5:55pm

The White House moved Friday evening to loosen lobbying restrictions related to stimulus funds, lifting the ban on federal lobbyists communicating with agency officials on specific projects for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Funds.The ban on oral communication now applies only to competitively bid applications on the stimulus package and it applies equally to lobbyists as well as non-lobbyists, according to a White House blog post written by ethics official Norm Eisen. From the time a competitively bid application is filed until the grant is awarded, the only communication both lobbyists and non-lobbyists can have is through writing.The White House reiterated its requirement of “immediate Internet disclosure— of all lobbyist contacts with agency officials. The decision to change the policy follows the 60-day review period that the Obama administration set for the Office of Management and Budget to review the new lobbying rules. Several watchdog groups and lobbying entities, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American League of Lobbyists and the AFL-CIO, raised concern over the recently imposed rules.“Following OMB’s review, the Administration has decided to make a number of changes to the rules that we think make them even tougher on special interests and more focused on merits-based decision making,— Eisen wrote on the White House’s blog.Opponents of the original restrictions see the lifting of the ban as a big victory. American League of Lobbyists President David Wenhold cheered the White House’s decision.“The bottom line is that lobbyists and their clients are allowed back in the conversation,— Wenhold said. “At that point and time, hopefully the chilling effect won’t be there anymore.—