Registered Lobbyists No Longer Banned from Government Advisory Boards

Government Relations Associations Now November/December 2014 By: Chris Vest, CAE

The White House reversed course on a long-standing ban under the Obama administration that barred registered lobbyists from serving on the roughly 1,000 government advisory boards.

The association community received some encouraging news in August when the Obama administration reversed a long-standing ban on registered lobbyists serving on government advisory boards. The ban, in place since 2009, was part of President Obama's attempt to limit the influence of lobbyists on his administration.

Appointees to roughly 1,000 boards and commissions advise the federal government on a wide range of policy areas such as international trade, the housing industry, AIDS prevention, and illegal drugs. The advisory-board ban applied only to registered lobbyists, and many lobbyists canceled their registrations in order to continue to serve in an advisory capacity.

The revised rule issued by the Office of Management and Budget states that registered lobbyists can serve on advisory boards as long as they are representing a corporation or trade group and not acting on their own behalf.

The policy change came about after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the administration's call to dismiss a lawsuit filed by six lobbyists who claimed the ban violated their First Amendment right to petition the government.

Many associations, including ASAE, criticized the rule when it was implemented. ASAE urged the White House to reconsider the ban, pointing out that many association government relations professionals serve on agency advisory boards because they have expertise in a subject area that can lead to the development of informed, effective policies.

The reversal of the ban should allow the administration to take advantage of the years of experience and expertise that industry lobbyists possess.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "A Win for Lobbyists."]

Chris Vest, CAE

Chris Vest, CAE, is director of public policy at ASAE.