President Trump signed an executive order in late January — echoing language first endorsed by Mr. Obama — ostensibly prohibiting lobbyists and lawyers hired as political appointees from working for two years on “particular” government matters that involved their former clients. In the case of former lobbyists, they could not work on the same regulatory issues they had been involved in. He very publicly touted this as a headline initiative to “drain the swamp.”
Mr. Trump reserved the right to issue waivers to this ban. Mr. Obama made any such waivers public. The exceptions were typically granted for people with special skills, or when the overlap between the new federal work and a prior job was minor. Mr. Trump offers no such transparency.
Ethics watchdogs, as well as Democrats in Congress, have expressed concern at the number of former lobbyists taking high-ranking political jobs in the Trump administration. In many cases, they appear to be working on the exact topics they had previously handled on behalf of private-sector clients — including oil and gas companies and Wall Street banks — as recently as January.
The Office of Government Ethics, through its head Walter Shaub, issued requests to each federal agency asking each to identify the specifics of each waiver granted. The White House, in a letter from OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, has stepped in to block the disclosure of this information. A senior OGE executive said she had never heard of a move by any previous White House to block a request like Mr. Shaub’s. She recalled how the Bush White House had intervened with a federal agency during her tenure to get information that she needed.
Mr. Shaub returned a scalding, 10-page response to the White House late Monday, unlike just about any correspondence in the history of the office. “O.G.E. declines your request to suspend its ethics inquiry and reiterates its expectation that agencies will fully comply with its directive,” Mr. Shaub wrote in a letter he also sent to every federal agency ethics officer and certain members of Congress. “Public confidence in the integrity of government decision making demands no less.”
Here is a link to Mr. Shaub’s letter. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/22/us/politics/document-OMB-Director-Mulvaney-Letter-to-Office-of.html