October 30, 2014
Lobbyists, Bearing Gifts, Pursue Attorneys General
The New York Times reports:
When the executives who distribute 5-Hour Energy, the popular caffeinated drinks, learned that attorneys general in more than 30 states were investigating allegations of deceptive advertising — a serious financial threat to the company — they moved quickly to shut the investigations down, one state at a time.
But success did not come in court or at a negotiating table.
Instead, it came at the opulent Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in California, with its panoramic ocean views, where more than a dozen state attorneys general had gathered last year for cocktails, dinners and fund-raisers organized by the Democratic Attorneys General Association. A lawyer for 5-Hour Energy roamed the event, setting her sights on Attorney General Chris Koster of Missouri, whose office was one of those investigating the company.
The quick reversal, confirmed by Mr. Koster and Ms. Kalani, was part of a pattern of successful lobbying of Mr. Koster by the law firm on behalf of clients like Pfizer and AT&T — and evidence of a largely hidden dynamic at work in state attorneys general offices across the country.
Attorneys general are now the object of aggressive pursuit by lobbyists and lawyers who use campaign contributions, personal appeals at lavish corporate-sponsored conferences and other means to push them to drop investigations, change policies, negotiate favorable settlements or pressure federal regulators, an investigation by The New York Times has found.
A robust industry of lobbyists and lawyers has blossomed as attorneys general have joined to conduct multistate investigations and pushed into areas as diverse as securities fraud and Internet crimes.
But unlike the lobbying rules covering other elected officials, there are few revolving-door restrictions or disclosure requirements governing state attorneys general, who serve as “the people’s lawyers” by protecting consumers and individual citizens.
January 03, 2014
SEC’s Revolving Door To Turn A Little Slower
Some senior employees of the Securities and Exchange Commission who leave for the private sector soon will be subject to the same restrictions that have long applied to most ex-SEC senior staff on lobbying their former agency.
The new regulation, which takes effect in April 2014, eliminates agency-requested exemptions for certain staff litigators from rules that bar them for a year once they’ve left federal employment from “knowingly making, with the intent to influence, any communication to or appearance before an employee of the department or agency in which he served in any capacity.” The rule applies to senior employees earning 86.5 percent of the rate of basic pay payable for level II of the Executive Schedule.
The Office of Government Ethics published the final rule in the Federal Register on Thursday.
December 04, 2013
SEC Delays Revolving Door Restriction
Months ago, over concern about regulators who leave government and then work their former colleagues on behalf of industry, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it was tightening restrictions on the revolving door. Specifically, the SEC decided to close a loophole in the ethics rules that allowed some “senior” SEC personnel to lobby the agency immediately after leaving instead of staying on the sidelines for a year or more, as employees at other federal agencies must do.
However, a notice published in the November 25 edition of the Federal Register said that the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) was withdrawing the new rule at “the request of the SEC” so that the agency could have more time to “effectively educate affected employees before the exemption revocation takes effect.”
The rule, which was published as “final” on October 3, had been scheduled to take effect on January 2.
October 24, 2013
DOD's Revolving Door in Full Swing
Politco.com reports: Hundreds of Defense Department officials requested ethics opinions from the government over the past two years as they retired from the military and sought jobs with private companies or organizations.
The ethics opinions are required for certain current and recently retired officials, including those involved in procurement decisions, before they’re allowed to take new jobs with defense companies.
The Defense Department released a database of the ethics opinions to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which had sued the department after a public records request was denied. CREW provided an early copy of the database exclusively to POLITICO.
Many officials leave the department with specific landing spots in mind. From January 2012 to May 2013, 379 current or recently retired officials requested ethics opinions, which are mandated under a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008.
March 19, 2012
Commodity Futures Trading Commission Post-Employment Statements
As part of its efforts to identify and expose revolving door abuses, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has begun making Freedom of Information Act requests for post employment statements, then making them publicly availalbe on the Internet. A Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) database is available. A POGO website entry has more information.
February 05, 2012
Possible Conflict for Medicare/Medicaid Nominee?
Thanks to Wayne Johnson for alerting us to a Washington Times story summarized as follows:
President Obama’s nominee, Marilyn Tavenner, to run the nation’s Medicare and Medicaid agency can count on receiving more than $160,000 a year in retirement pay for the rest of her life from the country’s largest private hospital chain, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). Ms. Tavenner is a former executive of HCA.
February 04, 2012
POGO on Senior Military Officers Joining Contractors
Here's an excerpt from a recent Project on Government Oversight posting:
The revolving door that carried former Department of Defense honcho William Lynn III to a well-paying job with an Italian defense contractor keeps on spinning – now Gen. James Cartwright, who retired as the nation’s second-highest ranking military officer in August, is following Lynn into the private sector.
Cartwright is joining the Board of Directors at Raytheon, a major U.S. defense contractor. Earlier in the week, DRS Technologies named Lynn as its chief executive officer. (Coincidently, before Lynn was tapped as deputy defense secretary, he was a top lobbyist for Raytheon.)
January 05, 2012
DOJ to Private Law Firm
BLT (the Blog of Legal Times) reports that the assistant chief of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act unit has joined the Washington office of Jones Day as a partner in the corporate criminal investigations practice. A Jones Day lawyer offered a justification for the revolving door hiring:
“Hank Walther brings a wealth of experience and insight from his years in government,” Greg Shumaker, the partner-in-charge of Jones Day's Washington Office, said in a written statement. “The unique perspective he has gained from prosecuting hundreds of health care fraud and FCPA cases on behalf of the federal government will add tremendously to our corporate criminal investigations practice.”
January 03, 2012
Interior Official Abjures Revolving Door
The Hill reports on one senior official's method for stopping revolving door problems: Just say no.
December 15, 2011
GAO sustain protest against Army (PGE conflict?)
GAO sustained VSE Corporation protest on Army's termination of a contract awarded. The Army terminated the contract based on the contracting officer's (CO) finding that the award was tainted by the protester's hiring of a former government employee as a consultant and that individual's participation in the preparation of the protester's proposal created at least an appearance of impropriety. VSE contends that the CO's determination was unreasonable because it was based on assumptions and not facts.
B-404833.4, VSE Corporation (see http://www.gao.gov/products/B-404833.4)
November 26, 2011
USA Today Editorial on Lessons from Abramoff
The USA Today Editorial Board believes that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff can teach us about needed reforms. www.usatoday.com. USA Today suggests that the revolving door is still one of the major problems:
The 2007 [ethics reform] law did almost nothing to thwart one of Abramoff's most appalling tricks, which was to woo people in power by offering them lucrative lobbying jobs whenever they wanted to leave public service. In an interview with 60 Minutes this month, Abramoff said that once he dangled a job, not only did he get what he wanted, but congressional offices would call him to suggest additional favors they could do.
Under current law, House members and senior staffers must wait one year after leaving their jobs on Capitol Hill before they can lobby their former colleagues. That was not changed in the 2007 law. For senators and their staffers, the "cooling-off" period was increased from one to two years.
Neither of these prohibitions seems sufficiently long, and neither has sufficient teeth. In both cases, the ban is only on making personal contact with key people on Capitol Hill, so a former member or staffer can instantly take a senior position at a lobbying firm or trade association where he or she directs strategy.
October 04, 2011
SEC Defenders Mostly Revolving Door Veterans
POGO notes that most of the 52 lawyers who signed a public letter defending an ex-SEC General Counsel are former SEC senior officers or staff and observes:
The Hill reports that some Congressional staffers were less than impressed with the letter:
However, some on Capitol Hill are unimpressed and offended, both by the lawyers’ defense and the fact they are mounting it in the first place.
“This effort only raises more questions about Becker having too cozy a relationship with those the SEC is supposed to regulate,” said a GOP congressional source. “It’s appalling they’re dismissing concerns about a conflict of interest and defending money he received out of the Madoff scandal on the grounds that he could have made much more in the private sector.”
Edited Oct. 5 to remove redundant material.
August 29, 2011
POGO Questions NRC Revolving Door
The Project on Government Oversight notes that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Office of Inspector General found no violation of law when a former Commissioner went to work for a company that owned nuclear power plants shortly after leaving the NRC. This did not necessarily satisfy POGO:
As the OIG points out, current law (18 United States Code, section 207, to be precise) "is not intended to prevent private sector employment after an individual terminates Federal service." The memo continues: "Instead, it restricts an individual from engaging in representational activities before NRC after the individual has terminated Federal service."
But are there sufficient controls in place to ensure that NRC Commissioners are acting with the public's best interest in the waning days of their regulatory careers? That's certainly a question worth asking, especially in light of some of the recent criticism about the NRC's excessive coziness with the industry it's tasked with overseeing.
August 27, 2011
FAA Restricts "Revolving Door" For Inspectors
Under a new FAA rule published on Monday, certain aviation safety inspectors who work for the agency must wait two years before they can be offered a job from air carriers and other certificate holders. "The flying public can rest assured that our aviation safety inspectors will remain focused on protecting the flying public without any conflicts of interest," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The new rule aims to address concerns raised by Congress and the DOT Inspector General in 2008 about the FAA's oversight of Southwest Airlines. An analysis by the inspector general's office found that FAA staffers overseeing Southwest had developed an "overly close relationship" with the airline, the FAA said.