New White House lobbying rules around stimulus spending will benefit public

Common Cause on Monday commended the Obama Administration for its new rules governing the communication between lobbyists and government officials about the use of economic stimulus money authorized by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. The new rules came as an update to the “Memorandum on Ensuring Responsible Spending of Recovery Act Funds,” issued in March, which limited oral communications between federally registered lobbyists and government officials concerning the Recovery Act.

“The Administration has done itself a favor by pushing back on the special interests and creating a process where decisions can be made on the merits of the projects being proposed, rather than on how well-connected the contractors are,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “For the stimulus package to be successful, the American public needs to be confident that stimulus dollars are being spent wisely.”

The new rules expand the restriction on oral communications concerning possible use of stimulus money to cover all persons, not just federally registered lobbyists. The new rules limit these restrictions to the period after competitive grant applications are submitted and before awards are made. Although this is a narrower time period than the original rules, it is still effective at limiting the influence of lobbyists and promoting a merit-based approach. The new rules continue to require immediate internet disclosure of all other communications with registered lobbyists.