Obama administration extends review of lobbyist gift ban

The Obama administration is extending the review of a proposed rule that would prohibit federal workers from receiving gifts from lobbyists. 

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has extended the normally 60-day comment period by 30 days, making the new deadline for comments Dec. 14, an OGE source told The Hill.

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The extension, which will be published Tuesday in the Federal Register, draws out the battle over a controversial regulation that has riled K Street. More than 66 comments have already been submitted to OGE on the proposed rule, many of them critical. 

Lobbyists have voiced concerns about the ban, arguing that it would hurt the administration’s ability to learn about issues or create relationships.

Trade groups say federal officials will be less likely to come to their trade shows or other events because the proposed rule would require the groups to charge federal employees unless they are a guest speaker.

Certain groups would be exempt from the ban, including 501c(3) non-profit organizations, news media companies, higher learning institutions or other groups that train individuals for jobs.

OGE and government watchdogs have defended the proposal, arguing it will limit outside influence on government. 

The comment period extension does not necessarily indicate that the administration is having second thoughts about the proposed rule. Comment period extensions are relatively common and can occur due to the public requesting additional time, among other reasons.

The administration has pushed to restrict the influence of lobbyists in Washington by taking steps to exclude registered lobbyists from the work of government. 

But Obama’s commitment to taking on K Street was questioned last month when his 2012 campaign added Broderick Johnson, a former registered lobbyist, as a senior advisor.

Kevin Bogardus contributed.