Case

Critics worry that conflict-of-interest restrictions on lobbying aren’t tough enough

In 1 on February 3, 2009 at 2:03 am

Even by Washington standards, Aurene Martin's spin through the revolving door was a quick one. On Sept. 10 of last year, the former acting head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs stepped down to become a partner in the Indian law group of Holland & Knight. Within weeks, according to Senate disclosure forms, she was lobbying her former agency on behalf of the Lower Lake Rancheria, a landless, 53-member tribe seeking to build a controversial casino in Oakland, Calif. She also began lobbying Congress on behalf of the National Indian Gaming Association.

Ethics laws ban senior-level government officials from directly lobbying their former agencies for one year. But Martin benefited from a special exemption: Since the 1970s, ex-BIA officials have been able to represent tribes before their former agency without waiting out the one-year cooling-off period. "People on the outside have the perception that it's a huge influence game," says Martin. "[But] I think you have to believe in the good of most people."

The revolving door is swinging as fast as ever: From 1997 to 2004 the 20 largest federal contractors alone hired 224 former high-ranking government officials to serve as lobbyists, board members, or executives, according to a report by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.

There are ethical controls in place aimed at restricting the ability of those officials to lobby their former agencies on behalf of industries and special interests. But Martin's move is one of many examples of ways around those controls. And, critics complain, the ones that are in place are largely toothless…
 
Legal Times: Jason McLure – Source

Posted via email from HKLaw Investigation

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