dschreiber29/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — President-elect Donald Trump and his advisers are promising to keep lobbyists off his transition team and prohibit any future administration officials from lobbying for five years after they leave the government — but some experts say the proposed rules may not be effectual.
The move comes after questions were raised about the first incarnation of the Trump transition team, which included several lobbyists, although Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who took over the transition from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has vowed to remove them.
“The focus on this is to ensure that service to the nation is first,” Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said on a press call Thursday morning.
Spicer first rolled out the lobbying limits in a conference call with reporters Wednesday night, the first in a series of daily calls with reporters.
“By signing below, I certify that I am not currently registered and reporting as a federal lobbyist as defined by the Lobbying Disclosure Act as amended or a compensated as a state lobbyist in any state,” Spicer said, reading from a form. “If I was listed as a lobbyist on the most recent lobbying disclosure form, a report required to be filed by federal or state law, I hereby notify the president-elect and transition team that I have filed the necessary form with the appropriate government agencies to terminate my status as a registered lobbyist. I will provide the presidential-elect transition team with written evidence of my federal state lobbyist termination as soon as possible.”
Spicer also “another major aspect of this is that there will be a lifetime ban on representing any foreign government.”
Washington lobbying professionals and ethics experts say the Trump proposals are promising, but question their effectiveness. They also believe the rules could even discourage potential candidates from seeking jobs in the administration.
“You want people filtering in and out of government, and when you stop that you’re going to get people who aren’t that qualified,” said Paul Miller, of the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics, a lobbying association.
Trump’s team also announced that incoming transition team members and administration officials cannot be registered state or federal lobbyists.
“What is the goal? If the goal is to stop influence from coming into the government, then this doesn’t do that, because you can lobby until the day you enter the government,” said Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center.
A top Trump transition source tells ABC News the new lobbying rules were inspired by the plan outlined by GOP operative Peter Schweizer — the author of “Clinton Cash” — in another one of his books, “Extortion.”
Schweizer, who is a close and frequent collaborator with incoming White House Chief Strategist and former Breitbart chief Stephen Bannon, crafted a five-point plan that, among other proposals, would ban members of Congress from fundraising while in session and prohibit leadership political actions committees.
Eight years ago as a presidential candidate, then-Sen. Barack Obama vowed to close the “revolving door” between the government and the private sector, and criticized Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign for ties to government lobbyists.
In the first days of his administration, Obama signed an executive order preventing former lobbyists from working in areas of government they had previously lobbied.
But waivers and exceptions were granted for some officials, including William Lynn, a former Raytheon executive and registered lobbyist who served as a deputy defense secretary, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, a lobbyist for Merrill Lynch, and Cecilia Munoz, who now serves as the director of the White House Policy Council. She was the former senior vice president for the National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy organization.
Norm Eisen, who served as Obama’s special counsel from January 2009 to January 2011, and helped write Obama’s ethics orders, drafted a series of proposals for the Trump transition team -– but hasn’t dealt with the operation since Pence’s team assumed control of the transition committee.
“I’m ready to work with them,” he told ABC News in an interview.
Eisen said he believes Trump’s new proposals do little to deal with existing “loopholes” in the system, such as “shadow lobbying,” conducted by advocates who try to shape government policy without being registered as lobbyists.
“Whether those loopholes are addressed or not will shape whether these are serious proposals or window dressing,” he said.
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