President Obama Friday quietly issued a major new policy that will vastly limit the influence lobbyists – and the industries they represent – have with his administration.
In what businesses are sure to see as the latest salvo in a burgeoning White House war against them, the president banned lobbyists from all administration advisory boards and commissions. Some business leaders are already chafing under what they see as an anti-business approach by a White House that regularly excoriates corporations, raises taxes, and slaps on new regulations.
But government reform advocates will view the policy as a major victory.
In a memo to Cabinet Secretaries and other agency chiefs blandly titled “Lobbyists on Agency Boards and Commissions,” Obama wrote:
Although lobbyists can sometimes play a constructive role by communicating information to the government, their service in privileged positions within the executive branch can perpetuate the culture of special interest access that I am committed to changing . . . I hereby direct the heads of executive departments and agencies not to make any new appointments or reappointments of federally registered lobbyists to advisory committees and other boards and commissions.
Businesses view these panels as a key avenue for exercising their right to petition the government and make their views known. Many business officials believe their Washington lobbyists – who are already feeling frozen out by Obama – best understand how their interests are affected by administration policies. The new directive will further weaken companies’ ability to understand and influence what the White House does, they say.
But for the White House, this is exactly the idea. Obama believes lobbyists corrupt the process in Washington, and he promised during the campaign to limit their influence. Supporters of his policy say business officials had far too much sway during the eight years of the Bush administration.
According to one of the leading business officials in Washington, who spoke on condition he not be named, the new policy will add to concern about that the administration has an anti-business stance.
“What kind of advice are you getting if your not going to get it from people who who have the highest expertise,” he said of the lobbyists who work the issues in Washington. And he added that Obama also doesn’t seem to like CEOs – who are not lobbyists and whom he does meet with – summoning them to the White House for a good jawboning when he doesn’t like what they’re doing.
“He’s beaten the shit out of them, whether their from the oil, auto, health care, or banking sectors,” this source said.