The White House recently brought on Alethea Predeoux, a former lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees, and Charanya Krishnaswami, who lobbied for Amnesty International.
The moves come after President Biden signed an executive order placing restrictions on all former registered lobbyists working in the administration.
“Switching between working for a public interest organization and for the government doesn't involve switching teams, it just involves switching offices. Your North Star remains the same — trying to vindicate your view of what is broadly right or wrong,” commented Jeff Hauser, Revolving Door Project executive director.
“Lobbying generally is constitutionally protected and is not the problem with government; corporate lobbying is,” he declared.
Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said: “Public interest lobbyists are generally not an issue. The issue is corporate lobbyists who could, with one exemption in the tax code or one alteration to regulation, skew hundreds of billions of dollars to their former industry.”
Biden’s executive order in January decided that any former registered lobbyists working in the administration can’t participate in issues on which they previously lobbied, a stipulation that required waivers for Predeoux and Krishnaswami.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the waivers.
Other watchdog groups claim there see no conflict of interest with such exceptions, while arguing there would be if the former lobbyists came from a corporate background.
“Government service should be predicated on being free from conflicts of interest and having genuine expertise to bring to bear. We are comfortable with former public interest lobbyists serving if they receive clear transparent waivers. We are not for corporate lobbyists or those that bring conflicted revolving door history to their new post,” stated Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president at the left-leaning group Public Citizen.
Public Citizen alongside more than 30 other groups sent Biden a letter during the transition urging him to “reject the influence” of corporations by committing to exclude Big Tech executives and lobbyists.
Biden’s executive order also required all political appointees to sign an ethics pledge that includes a ban on certain lobbying for two years after they leave the administration.
“I am not surprised, nor disappointed that the Biden Administration has brought in a few lobbyists,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a group that advocates for campaign finance reform.
“First, there is a procedure in place to issue lobbying waivers and it appears the procedure has been followed. Second, in the two cases so far, the individuals who received the waivers worked for nonprofits unassociated with an industry and have expertise in their area of responsibility,” she concluded.