By Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama is loosening restrictions on lobbyists who want to serve on federal advisory boards, a White House official said on Tuesday, a setback to the president’s efforts to tamp down special interest influence in Washington.
Obama came to office pledging to curtail the sway of lobbyists and banned lobbyists from serving on such panels, which guide government policy on a range of topics ranging from cancer to towing safety.
The president said he was doing so because the voices of paid representatives of interest groups were drowning out the views of ordinary citizens.
But many lobbyists felt they were being unfairly tarred by Obama’s campaign to keep them out of public service. A lawsuit challenging the ban was initially dismissed, but a District of Columbia Circuit Court in January reinstated it.
A spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget said the administration was revising its earlier guidance on lobbyists serving on federal advisory panels to clarify that lobbyists may now serve on such panels when they are representing the views of a particular group.
There are more than 1,000 federal advisory committees.
(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
[Image: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the situation in Iraq from his vacation home at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts August 11, 2014. By Kevin Lamarque for Reuters]