In response to a lawsuit filed by a group of lobbyists, the White House has reversed course and changed its policy prohibiting registered lobbyists from serving on federal advisory committees. Although not yet decided by the courts, the group asserts that the ban unconstitutionally limited their first amendment right to petition the government.

The rule change still does not allow lobbyists to serve on all federal committees. They will be allowed to serve on committees where they represent a specific organization, but not where they would serve in an “individual capacity,” exercising their personal beliefs and judgments.

Jeff Holmstead, current lobbyist and former Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation praised the change, saying that the old rule “eliminated a lot of the best qualified people” from advising on policy issues. On the other hand, Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, called the change “disheartening,” saying it will increase the power of special interests.

 


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