CBO formalizes new conflict of interest rules

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) formalized a policy on Monday to protect against conflicts of interests with their outside advisers.

The powerful office has two panels of advisers — one dealing with economic issues, the other focused on healthcare. The panels consist of experts in the field who offer guidance to officials at CBO, a budget scorekeeper whose reports sometimes influence the fate of legislation in Congress.

{mosads}Under the new policy, the advisers must file annual reports disclosing any “substantial political activity and significant financial interests.”

Potential advisers will also have to file an initial disclosure form before becoming an official adviser, according to the policy.

“The specific positions taken are irrelevant; rather, the potential harm to CBO’s reputation for objectivity comes from association with political activity or public advocacy,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote in a blog post published Monday announcing the formalized policy.

The advisers must publicly report wages and other compensation, including gifts; negotiations for future employment with a political campaign or the federal government; research agreements with foreign governments; research agreements specifically to provide advice for public policy development; and financial investments.

CBO advisers have come under intense scrutiny in recent months. MIT professor Jonathan Gruber served on the CBO’s health advisory panel in 2009 and 2010 while also having a contract with President Obama’s administration.

Gruber’s came under fire after the emergence videos of him saying that the Affordable Care Act became law because of the “stupidity of the American voter.”

Gruber resigned from the Massachusetts health exchange in February.


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