President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team on Wednesday announced that it will require incoming officials to terminate their lobbying registrations, and agree not to lobby again for five years after leaving the administration.
Anyone joining the transition or the administration will have to sign the following pledge: “By signing below I hereby certify that I am not currently registered and reporting as a federal lobbyist as defined by the Lobbying Disclosure Act as amended or as a compensated lobbyist at the state level in any state. If I was listed as lobbyist in the most recent lobbying disclosure forms or reported to be filed by federal or state law, I hereby notify the president-elect’s transition team that I have filed the necessary forms to the appropriate government agency to terminate my [lobbying registration]. I will provide the transition team with written evidence of my federal or state lobbyist termination as soon as possible.”
“The key thing for this administration is going to be that people going out of government won’t be able to use that service to enrich themselves,” Republican National Committee chief strategist Sean Spicer said during a conference call. After the call, he rejected a suggestion that the post-employment ban could hinder the transition team’s ability to recruit qualified applicants.
But the sweeping post-employment restrictions could make it difficult for Trump, whose transition team has struggled to get off the ground, to attract experienced professionals in policy circles where lobbying is a common revenue stream.
The policy is in some ways far more rigid than President Barack Obama’s groundbreaking lobbyist ban.
The Obama transition team’s policy restricted hires who lobbied for one year prior, as did an earlier code of ethics for the Trump transition obtained by POLITICO. Trump’s new policy appears to be more lenient on the front end in that it allows new hires to have been registered to lobby on the issues they’re advising the transition on right up until they come aboard, provided the incoming transition aides show proof that they terminated their lobbying registration.
Several lobbyists on the transition were caught off guard by the announcement and said they were not aware of the new policy. They will have to terminate their registrations to come into compliance, according to a transition team official. “It’s about what you do, not what you did,” the official said.
Spicer said the same rule would apply to people joining the administration. Obama’s ban applied to the previous year, but his team waived the policy for many new hires.
In addition, officials in the Trump administration will be banned from lobbying for five years after leaving government. That sounds extremely sweeping, but it’s unclear how it will be enforced.
Obama forbade his officials from contacting their former agency for two years, although they were free to lobby other parts of the government. Senior officials could not lobby their former colleagues for the duration of the administration. Spicer didn’t specify whether Trump’s rule will use a similar standard or rely on the more porous definition in the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
The Trump transition announced the changes on a conference call Wednesday night, organized on short notice and plagued by technical difficulties including unmuted phones and incessant dinging as hundreds of callers joined — an unmistakable analogy for a chaotic organization that is struggling to take back control of its own narrative.
Also on Thursday, the transition will also name the people handling the handoff for the departments of Justice, State and Defense and the National Security Council. The names of officials running the transition for economic agencies will come next week, followed by the teams for domestic policy and independent agencies.
In addition, Spicer and fellow spokesman Jason Miller said Trump will meet Thursday with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Oracle CEO Safra Catz.
Also in the line-up: Gen. Jack Keane (who used to be a Clinton adviser), NSA chief Adm. Mike Rogers, former Cincinnati mayor and Family Research Council fellow Ken Blackwell, FedEx CEO Fred Smith and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump met with people he is considering for Cabinet-level positions: Reps. Tom Price and Mike Pompeo, Sen. Jeff Sessions, Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, and Cerberus Capital Management CEO Steve Feinberg.
The transition will start holding calls every weekday morning to update reporters. Spicer and Miller did not take questions Wednesday but said they would in the future.