The White House is looking to block an investigation by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) into waivers they issued to allow former lobbyists to work in the Trump administration.
Last week, Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, sent a letter to OGE asking that they withdraw their request for copies of the waivers. Mulvaney went as far as to challenge the legal authority of the OGE to demand such information.
OGE Director Walter M. Shaub Jr., responded with a 10-page rejection of Mulvaney’s request: “OGE declines your request to suspend its ethics inquiry and reiterates its expectation that agencies will fully comply with its directive…Public confidence in the integrity of government decision making demands no less.” Shaub also sent the letter to the six members of Congress who oversee government operations, inspector generals across the government, and every federal agency’s ethics officer. If the waivers are not made public it will be impossible to determine if any Trump appointees are in violation of federal ethics rules.
The need for waivers to be issued in the first place stems from President Trump’s continuation of the Obama administration’s two-year ban on lobbyists working in the executive branch. Over the course of his eight years in office, then-President Obama issued 66 waivers to allow former lobbyists to work in his administration. The White House ordered these waivers to be shared with OGE in part due to pressure from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for the Obama administration to “live up to its word” by being “open, transparent and accountable.” When reached for comment on the current situation, Sen. Grassley’s office broke with the White House stating that the Senator, “stands by his letter from 2009 calling for greater government transparency of ethics waivers, and is grateful to see that, eight years later, the Office of Government Ethics now explicitly agrees with his assessment of its authority.”
The White House must comply with the OGE request or decline in writing by June 1.