White House Discloses All Agency Waivers

Posted September 4, 2009 at 5:07pm

The White House publicly disclosed Friday on its blog all of the ethics waivers that the administration has granted for federal agencies besides the White House.Three of the 10 waivers were granted to individuals in the Justice Department regarding the internal inquiry into the government’s case against former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).Attorney General Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer were given waivers to be able to review the materials and be involved in the decision-making process for how the department will resolve the internal inquiry.After dismissing the charges against Stevens, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Emmet Sullivan appointed a special counsel to investigate and prosecute six DOJ lawyers who handled the U.S. v. Stevens case. A conflict arose because the law firms where the three previously worked are representing DOJ lawyers under investigation by the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility. Holder and Breuer formerly worked at Covington & Burling. Ogden previously worked at WilmerHale. DOJ Designated Agency Ethics Official Lee Lofthus wrote that the three would need to be familiar with the individual cases in this circumstance in order to come to an adequate resolution.“This is highly unusual, and raises jurisdictional issues, and questions concerning the authority of the special counsel and the proper relationship between OPR’s investigation and that of special counsel,— Lofthus wrote in Holder’s waiver. “In order for you to be fully advised on the issues and facts as they arise, to enable you to make the legal, policy and strategic decisions necessary for the Department, you must be able to participate and freely receive information and advice on any and all of the individual investigations.— The White House’s move comes after it was lobbied by public interest groups to provide information in a central clearing house. Waivers were also given for, among others, Naomi Walker, associate deputy secretary at the Department of Labor, to work on matters involving her former employee, the AFL-CIO; and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ashton Carter to deal with Textron Inc., to which Carter had previously provided strategic consulting advice.The administration has been careful to limit the number of lobbying waivers after it received criticism for granting a waiver to William Lynn. Appointed to the No. 2 post at the Pentagon, Lynn was formerly senior vice president for government operations and strategy at defense contractor Raytheon Co. and was a registered lobbyist until July 2008.