Executive Order on Ethics Harms NGO Advocacy
CLPI's report highlights the negative impact of the president's Executive Order on Ethics and calls on the Obama Administration to revisit the lobbyist label. The executive order does not distinguish between public interest and private interest lobbyists causing a decline in nonprofit advocacy.

October 25, 2011

The Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest released a report sponsored by OSPC on the effects of the Obama Administration’s Executive Order on Ethics. The report examines the views of more than 65 leading public-interest advocates at charities and social welfare organizations concerning restrictions by the current administration on who can serve in the executive branch and on federal advisory commissions. By effectively restricting public service based solely on whether an individual is registered to be a lobbyist under the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), the report finds that the restrictions have inadvertently chilled nonprofit advocacy and undermined good government. The Administration’s restrictions have transformed attitudes toward the LDA from “when in doubt, report” to “don’t report unless clearly required.” By nearly 2 to 1, respondents said the restrictions influenced organizational decisions to deregister under the LDA in 2009.

Among the findings:

  • Nearly 80% of survey respondents stated that the Administration’s restrictions have been “harmful to the public interest.”
  • When asked to supply an adjective to describe the Administration’s public service restrictions, surveyed nonprofit leaders used terms such as “misguided,” “ill-conceived,” “silencing,” “insidious,” and “counterproductive.”
  • Public service restrictions have chilled public-interest advocacy and made it more difficult to recruit, hire and retain public policy staff and interns.

The report concludes that the Administration must distinguish the functional purposes behind public and private interest lobbying in order to increase public confidence in the government and solve our economic and political challenges.

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