Money & Business

Court Upholds Ban on Lobbyists on Federal Advisory Boards

By / Sep 28, 2012 (TMG archive photo)

A federal judge rejected claims by six lobbyists who argued that the Obama administration rule denied them a “valuable government benefit.”

A federal judge Sept. 26 upheld a three-year-old Obama administration ban on lobbyists serving on federal advisory panels.

The White House directed agencies not to appoint federally registered lobbyists to advisory boards because it wanted to reduce the influence of lobbyists on policymaking.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit brought by six lobbyists who argued that they were being denied a “valuable government benefit” simply because they had exercised their First Amendment right to petition the government.

Berman ruledin Autor v. Blank that serving on a federal advisory board is not a legal entitlement.

“The value of that opportunity is not easily equated to the obvious worth of the governmental benefits that have been recognized by the Supreme Court,” Berman wrote. “The loss of the ability to feature [advisory board] service on a resume does not come close to imposing the type of burden involved in losing one’s job, unemployment benefits, or tax exemptions.”

The White House in 2009 directed agencies not to appoint federally registered lobbyists to advisory boards because it wanted to reduce the influence of lobbyists on policymaking. The policy change came after the administration also banned executive branch officials from speaking or meeting with lobbyists on specific Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects.

ASAE opposed the ban, pointing out in a letter to the White House that many association professionals serve on agency advisory boards because they have expertise in a subject area that can lead to the development of informed, effective policies.

“It is alarming that the identification of an individual as a registered lobbyist automatically leads to their dismissal from policy discussions within this administration,” ASAE said in the letter. “This stubborn stance also limits the administration’s access to the well of good ideas.”

Update (Nov. 30): The lobbyist plaintiffs in this case are appealing the ruling dismissing their lawsuit. They filed a notice of appeal November 26 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, asking the court to reverse the lower court ruling.

Chris Vest, CAE

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

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