At the White House, Lobbyists Complain of Restrictions
By Dan Eggen
A group of lobbyists were invited into the White House Friday, where they aired complaints about new restrictions on registered lobbyists attempting to land stimulus money for their clients.
Under rules announced by President Obama last month, lobbyists are banned from making phone calls to government agencies about specific stimulus projects and must put all such communications in writing. Lobbyists may speak to government officials about general policy issues, the rules say, but all communications will be logged and posted on a government-run website focused on the stimulus plan.
An unusual alliance of groups, including the American League of Lobbyists, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), complain that the restrictions are unfair and impinge on First Amendment rights to petition the government . . . the Obama officials “seemed comfortable with their position.”
Yeah, me too. Obama officials are comfortable, because clarity and transparency are the hallmark of comfort.
Sigh. The right to petition one’s government is hardly ‘impinged’ by transparency, but it is sure as hell hindered by reining in the opportunities to negotiate back room and under-the-table deals to divvy up federal money. Now, because they apparently feel that the ever-widening definition of free speech is still too narrow to drive a truckload of special interests through, even the ACLU is on alert.
Alert. Hmmm . . . is it possible that even the venerable ACLU is blinded by the yard-light that prevents chicken theft from the public barn?