Clinton lifts lobbying restrictions on appointees

Nearly eight years after issuing ethics rules severely limiting the ability of top political appointees to lobby the government after leaving office, President Clinton has revoked the executive order behind the restrictions. In a Dec. 28 statement, Clinton revoked Executive Order 12834, which placed a variety of post-employment lobbying restrictions on senior political appointees. Under the executive order, top officials were prohibited from lobbying their former colleagues for five years and faced a lifetime ban on lobbying on behalf of foreign governments. Clinton appointees will still be subject to a one-year ban on lobbying their former agencies under a 1978 law. "The President believes that the executive order has served its purpose," said White House Counsel Beth Nolan in a statement explaining Clinton's action. "It has been in force throughout this administration and has applied to thousands of senior appointees." The order was intended to keep Clinton administration appointees from accepting positions with an eye toward their post-government careers. Since Republicans have taken control of the White House, however, Clinton appointees will have little opportunity to influence their old agencies, according to Nolan. "The main policies underlying the executive order no longer apply when there is a change of parties at the White House," Nolan said. But lifting the order will sweeten the job prospects of outgoing Clinton appointees, said Brookings institution scholar Paul Light. "There was a very real sense on the part of some Clinton appointees that they were going to have some trouble finding work," Light said. Clinton's decision to revoke the order overturns a pledge made during his 1992 campaign and comes after current and former administration officials downplayed the likelihood of any revision to the order this summer. In July, White House chief of staff John Podesta indicated that the ethics order was not high on the list of things the President hoped to change before leaving office. Former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor added that revoking the order would be inconsistent with Clinton's 1992 campaign pledge. "It would cast some doubt on the sincerity of what he did, and I don't think it would be in the interest of those who serve in government," Kantor said in July. Kantor was unavailable for comment on Friday. Revoking the order became more urgent after the defeat of Vice President Al Gore in the presidential election, according to Light. "There was a lot of pressure on Podesta and others to get rid of the ban [on lobbying]," Light said. While Light and other experts on federal operations have criticized the executive order as too onerous, Light had advocated amending the executive order so it applied to Clinton officials but not to the appointees of future administrations. "I always thought it should be revoked for the next administration," Light said. "We should let each administration decide what burdens it wants to place on its appointees." But the decision to exempt Clinton appointees from the executive order now struck Light as a cynical gesture. "I cannot tell you how dramatic and visible the order was [back in 1993]. It was the very first thing [Clinton] did as President, and he did it in a way that sent a strong signal to the public that he meant business on ethical conduct." In her statement, Nolan noted that groups such as the Presidential Appointee Initiative, a Brookings Institution project to which Light is a senior advisor, had called for a review of the executive order. Light said the Presidential Appointee Initiative had no official position on the lifting of the executive order and had not urged its revocation. The revocation of the executive order will take effect on Jan. 20 at noon, when the Clinton administration ends.
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