September 20, 2011 •
Exceptions to be Precluded
Most of the proposed rules deal with limiting, for lobbyists, the exceptions of the ban on gifts. For example, executive branch employees would not be permitted to accept invitations extended by lobbyists for free attendance at widely attended gatherings that would normally fall under the gift ban exception. Non-profit professional associations, scientific organizations, and learned societies, which are also sometimes registered lobbyists, would still be afforded the exception. The O.G.E. based much of its reasoning on the notion “the cultivation of familiarity and access that a lobbyist [gains]” may be used in the future by lobbyists to obtain more sympathetic hearings for clients.
Another change would preclude lobbyists from the gift ban exception of social invitations, such as invitations to cocktail parties and movie screenings, if the invitations were extended because of the employee’s official position, even if the lobbyist is not a prohibited source. The O.G.E. argues in its proposal that “the lobbyist could use social events as a way to build general good will with a class of employees in case access is needed for a future issue or client.”
The proposed rules arise because an earlier Presidential Executive Order regarding gifts to non-career political appointees, which had called for the O.G.E. “to apply the lobbyist gift ban set forth [in the order] to all executive branch employees.” Written comments about the rule must be received by the O.G.E. before November 14, 2011
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