Lawmakers Seek to Tighten DOD Lobbying Rules

June 22, 2023

The House and Senate are working to draft a Department of Defense authorization bill for Fiscal 2024 this week, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) are reportedly working to include language that would extend the cooling off period for former DOD officials to work for military contractors.

Warren’s bill would also restrict lobbying by former DOD officials for foreign governments. Warren told CQ Roll Call this week that her bill would help root out corruption, rein in foreign influence and ensure greater transparency over defense contractors’ interactions with the government. In most cases, current law requires former Defense Department officials to wait one to two years before lobbying for or representing a company.

Congress has long taken interest in limiting the influence-peddling culture of Washington politics. The Obama administration prohibited those who have been registered lobbyists in the past two years from working at an agency they had lobbied or on an issue they had worked on, and prohibited former administration officials from lobbying for the duration of President Obama’s time in office. The new rules led to a significant drop in lobbying registrations, though many former Obama officials still left to take lucrative private sector positions and more than 70 Obama appointees had served as lobbyists at some point in their careers and many returned to lobbying after leaving.

The National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics (NILE) issued a statement this week voicing support for safeguards against corruption but opposing attempts by lawmakers to prevent anyone from serving as a registered lobbyist. “It is the only profession here Congress routinely attempts to prevent people from performing functions protected by the U.S. Constitution,” NILE said in its statement. “If it’s legally done, it’s not the role of Congress to tell people who they can and cannot represent.”

ASAE stands strongly in support of the Constitutional right to lobby as an essential function of American democracy. ASAE’s Pillars and Purpose of American Associations states, “All voices should have opportunities to be heard in the political process. Associations help ensure their industry or profession carries a collective voice and that lawmakers fully understand the issues and communities they govern. Associations are repositories of industry or profession-specific expertise and knowledge and serve as a vital resource for policymakers who craft legislation or regulatory policy. This function benefits the public interest to help ensure that public policy is directionally correct and beneficial to the American economy and society at large.” Read more at the ASAE Board Approved Position Statements.

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