Lobby group objects to new regulation banning gifts to all federal employees

The American League of Lobbyists on Monday called for the withdrawal of a new ethics regulation that would prohibit all government employees from accepting gifts from lobbyists.

The regulation, proposed two weeks ago by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), follows a tough executive order issued by President Obama in the early days of his administration banning political appointees from accepting gifts from lobbyists. The proposed rule expands the ban to career employees.

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“The administration has offered no reports of even a single abuse of its current regulations to warrant the severe restrictions it has proposed on the mutual flow of information and expertise between lobbyists, their employers, and federal workers,” said Howard Marlowe, the lobbyists’ group president, in a statement. “If it is not withdrawn, this rule will prevent government workers from having even casual social contact with registered lobbyists. Does that mean if they find themselves at a luncheon table at a professional conference that they have to ask the others to raise hands if they are a lobbyist?”

Watchdog groups are pushing for the proposed rule to be stronger, but several lobbyists believe the regulation could hinder communication between K Street and the executive branch. Trade associations have begun to worry that federal workers will no longer be able to attend their trade shows and conferences.

“Lobbyists and their employers have knowledge that federal employees can use and they have knowledge that we want to tap. Federal workers develop policies and regulations that affect every aspect of our society. To prevent interaction of almost any kind between lobbyists and federal employees is not in the public interest. It will result in the dumbing-down of government at a time when public trust is at an all-time low,” said Marlowe, also president of lobby firm Marlowe & Co.

OGE is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until Nov. 14.


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