Trump Executive Order on Lobbying Gives with One Hand And Takes Away with the Other
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has signed an executive order mandating a five-year lobbying ban for anyone who leaves the executive branch in the Trump administration to work in the private sector. The order maintains many, but not all, of the improvements made in 2009 by the Obama administration executive order. Importantly, Trump is not continuing the policy preventing those former administration officials who are not registered lobbyists from contacting and attempting to influence their former colleagues for two years after leaving government.
“Slowing the revolving door moving from government to the private sector and eliminating lobbying on behalf of foreign entities are both necessary reforms,” said Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center. “The order breaks new ground preventing administration officials from becoming registered foreign agents." However, what Trump has created is a system that incentivizes shadow lobbyists because former government employees who did not become registered lobbyists previously still had a two-year waiting period to communicate with employees of their former agency which they no longer do.”
Potter added: "One of today's great Washington scams is former government officials running lobbying operations and attempting to affect official policy while claiming they do not technically qualify as 'lobbyists.' Such conduct remains unaddressed. Trump is just skimming the surface of the swamp - as he remains silent on his campaign pledge to push Congress to adopt their own five-year ban."
Widely-exploited loopholes in the Lobbying Disclosure Act allow former administration officials to become advisors or consultants, which invites them to evade this executive order by lobbying without registering as a lobbyist. The executive order also does not appear to continue Obama's policy of restricting lobbyists from entering the administration. Trump is aware of those loopholes: in October, his campaign released a five-point ethics reform plan that included a plan to close those lobbyist registration loopholes, as well as ban senior executive branch officials from lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.
Amending the outdated Lobbying Disclosure Act is long overdue, but today's order gives no indication the Trump Administration supports this reform.