Ethics Waivers Cover More Former Lobbyists

Jun 8, 2017
Originally published on June 8, 2017 12:27 pm
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Trump administration granted some waivers yesterday to nearly a dozen officials working across several federal agencies. The Office of Government Ethics had been demanding disclosure of the waivers from the White House. Here's NPR's Jackie Northam.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: The waivers shed light on why and how some administration officials can continue to work on issues they covered before joining government. Many of those granted waivers are lobbyists and corporate executives. Take Lance Leggitt. He was the head of health policy at a law firm in Washington, D.C. and lobbied the Department of Health and Human Services.

Now he's chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services. The Trump administration gave Leggitt a waiver because it said he brought, quote, "a unique blend of substantive health care expertise." Mr. Leggitt did not immediately respond to an email asking for comment.

Robert Weissman, the president of the government watchdog group Public Citizen, says Leggitt's details stood out amongst the other waivers released.

ROBERT WEISSMAN: Most of the waivers are not especially troublesome. They seem fairly perfunctory and don't really speak to their pervasive conflict of interest problems in the administration. It may be in part because the administration has been so slow to fill positions, and many of the people who are going to bring conflicts inside have not yet been confirmed.

NORTHAM: Weissman says Wednesday's documents are in stark contrast to the ethics waivers of White House staff released a week ago. They showed presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway was allowed to communicate about broad policy matters with clients from her former consulting firm. And Chief Strategist Steve Bannon may meet privately with Breitbart News - the media company he formerly headed. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.

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