Lobbyists awaiting guidance from Treasury Department

Two months have passed since the Treasury Department said it would unveil lobbying rules for firms receiving federal bailout money, yet the department has not issued actual regulations.

Washington lobbyists and campaign finance watchdogs say they continue to ask the department for clarification but haven’t heard anything specific.

“We asked for a meeting with Treasury to see what they were talking about and it’s two months later and there has been no word,” said Dave Wenhold, president of the American League of Lobbyists and co-founder of Miller/Wenhold Capital Strategies.

The effort, announced by President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Jan. 27, was meant to apply to firms receiving money under the $700 billion financial rescue program known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

“We keep asking them, and they keep saying two weeks,” said a financial industry source.

Treasury did not respond to requests for comment.

More than 500 banks have already received equity capital from the TARP, according to an analysis by Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, an investment and market research firm. General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC and AIG have also received tens of billions of dollars of federal money under the effort.

The White House unveiled new lobbying restrictions on Friday for the $787 billion fiscal stimulus package, including a requirement that lobbyists must post their communication with administration officials on a public website. Those rules provoked widespread concern in the lobbying community, and it is unclear whether they will be similar to restrictions on other federal bailout programs, including TARP.

“I am surprised it has taken this long. I thought they had come out and I had just not seen the details,” said Meredith McGehee, of the Campaign Legal Center.

“That being said, they just came out with the details of their bank plan. I’d rather them take some time than just run out there. But they do need to do something quickly so people know the rules of the road.”