As described in a previous Caplin & Drysdale Political Activity Law Alert, a March 20, 2009 Memorandum from President Obama imposed various restrictions on the interactions between lobbyists and the executive branch of the federal government, including: (1) barring registered lobbyists from having oral communications with government officials about specific American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (“ARRA”) projects or applications and (2) requiring online disclosure of communications between registered lobbyists and government officials regarding any ARRA policy.
After a review resulting from numerous objections, the Obama Administration has decided to revise the Memorandum’s restriction on oral communications, such that this restriction will now apply to all persons, and not just federally registered lobbyists. In addition, the oral-communications ban will now apply only to a narrower window of time—after competitive grant applications are submitted and before awards are made. Thus, comments made by any person during this specified period (unless initiated by an agency official) must be in writing and disclosed online.
The Administration will continue to require immediate internet disclosure of communications between government officials and registered lobbyists. The Office of Management and Budget will soon publish detailed guidance on these revisions to the March 20th Memorandum.