The White House is looking to block an effort from the government’s top ethics office to disclose the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the federal government, according to a new report.
The New York Times reports that the White House sent a letter to the head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) challenging its legal authority to request that information.
The New York Times added:
“Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.”
“It is an extraordinary thing,” Walter Shaub Jr., the director of the ethics office, told the Times. “I have never seen anything like it.”
Marilyn L. Glynn, who served as general counsel and acting director of the agency during the George W. Bush administration, called the move by the Trump White House “unprecedented and extremely troubling.”
“It challenges the very authority of the director of the agency and his ability to carry out the functions of the office,” she said.
“This data call appears to raise legal questions regarding the scope of OGE’s authorities,” the letter reads. “I therefore request that you stay the data call until these questions are resolved.”
Trump signed an executive order in January that enacted a two-year ban on lobbyists being hired for federal government positions in “particular” agencies as part of a broader “ethics pledge.”
Trump campaigned on a frequent pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, but reports surfaced in April that the Trump administration was issuing secret waivers for appointees to circumvent ethics rules. The Times and ProPublica found at least two of Trump’s White House appointees may have violated ethics rules. The White House offered a brief statement after the report was published.
“The White House takes its ethics pledge and federal conflict of interest rules very seriously. The White House requires all of its employees to work closely with ethics counsel to ensure compliance and has aggressively required employees to recuse or divest where the law requires,” the statement read.