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Eight years ago, President Bill Clinton swept into power promising to endWashington’s favor-trading, back-scratching ways. On his first day in office, fulfilling a campaign promise, he signed an executive order banning top political appointees from lobbying their agencies for five years. Now, as Clinton’s time in the White House comes to a close and hundreds ofhigh-ranking administration officials contemplate lucrative jobs in theprivate sector, the White House has discussed loosening the strictures ofthe ban. That’s a change many in Washington would welcome. Among the former officialsthe ban has few supporters. The lobbying ban has cut down on some of the most outrageous examples ofinfluence peddling. But it hasn’t stopped big-name former officials fromtrading on their government experience. Nor has it stopped the revolvingdoor between government and private practice: Hundreds of members ofWashington’s “permanent government” are gainfully employed after leaving theClinton White House. Instead, the ban has been more of a speed bump. It has limited the optionsfor many of the more anonymous political appointees the general counsel, theundersecretaries, the policy specialists. Many say the ban has limited theirability to use their expertise in the private sector.”The executive order is now seen in hindsight as way too expansive,” said William Canfield, a partner at D.C. lobby shop Williams & Jensen. “It’scatching way too many people for too long. The ability of those people toleave the government and get a job is directly related to the contacts theyhave.” When Clinton signed his executive order instituting the ban on Jan. 20,1993, he made it a condition of employment that all of his senior-levelappointees sign a pledge not to lobby. Clinton did not sign the ban himself. Even before the five-year ban, many government employees were already boundby conflict-of-interest rules and laws that mandate “cooling off” periodsfollowing government service. Many former officials are barred from lobbyingtheir agency for one year, from working on any issue that fell under theirofficial responsibilities for two years, and from having any involvementwith a matter they specifically worked on while in government service for alifetime. Members of Congress and some staffers face similar restrictions. The Clinton pledge was a significant addition for high-level politicalappointees: a five-year ban on lobbying their previous agency; a five-yearban on representing foreign organizations in trade negotiations; and alifetime prohibition on lobbying for foreign countries. The ban applies to more than 1,000 positions in the administration,according to White House estimates. It includes the secretaries, deputysecretaries, and undersecretaries of all the departments and agencies. Administrators, commissioners, and general counsel also come under the ban,as do a number of top-level White House advisers. The chairs of boards andcommissions, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the National LaborRelations Board, must also abide by the order. On the one hand, the ban has had the greatest impact on limiting what manyin government were calling gross violations of public trust — high-levelgovernment officials who then used their connections on behalf of foreigncountries. Before Clinton’s election, officials who had taken that route were comingunder increased scrutiny and criticism. A 1990 report by the Center forPublic Integrity, a nonprofit group that does investigative journalism onethics issues, reported that half of the White House trade officials between1975 and 1990 had subsequently gone to work for foreign entities. A 1992 GAOreport documented 82 high-level officials who had registered as foreignagents. The Clinton administration executive order banned that option for asignificant number of executive officials. But in other areas, the lobbying restrictions have not crimped lobbyingcareers. Officials cannot personally represent clients before their former agency.And they can personally put their expertise to use lobbying any otheragency, as well as Congress. Responsibility for enforcing the five-year ban is scattered among severalentities. Individual agencies and the Justice Department’s Civil Division have a role.Through internal hearings, an agency can make a determination that a formerofficial violated the ban and subsequently bar them from lobbying thatagency for another five years. Alternatively, the Justice Department canbring a civil lawsuit against violators and a monetary penalty. But it’s not clear that anyone has ever been disciplined for violating thefive-year ban. Although no figures or statistics are available, governmentofficials could not recall a single case. By contrast, the Justice Department’s Office of Public Integrity isresponsible for prosecuting violations of the one-year cooling-off period. While serious, such cases are relatively rare. In 1997 and 1998, the JusticeDepartment prosecuted one case involving the one-year regulation, accordingto a report compiled by the Office of Government Ethics. SLOWING THE REVOLVING DOOR “This isn’t about whether lobbying is good or bad,” said Don Simon, generalcounsel for Common Cause and a partner at D.C.’s Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse &Endreson. “This is about whether high government officials go through therevolving door and have favored access to their former colleagues.” Indeed, some of the more famous members of the Clinton administrationhaven’t suffered from a lack of employment opportunities.Private companies and foundations are quick to snatch up formerCabinet-level secretaries, such as former Secretary of Housing and UrbanDevelopment Henry Cisneros, now chief operating officer at Spanish-languagetelevision network Univision Communications Inc., and one-time TreasurySecretary Robert Rubin, who is co-chairman of Citigroup Inc. Many othershave found lucrative ways to use their skills and contacts without runningafoul of the ban’s stipulations. One of those is Mickey Kantor, the former U.S. trade representative and nowa partner in the D.C. office of Chicago’s Mayer, Brown & Platt. Kantor, who said he supports the ban, can’t lobby the Office of the U.S.Trade Representative. But that hasn’t stopped him from using his tradeexpertise in other ways. He now works for private companies, helping themset up operations in foreign countries. And he was a very visible andforceful lobbyist on trade issues in Congress just recently, pushing infavor of establishing permanent normalized trade relations with China. “You can lobby other agencies that you had no direct involvement with,” saidKantor. “That is not exactly a burden.” Other stars from the Clinton administration doing a brisk business inWashington include Jack Quinn, a former White House counsel who now has hisown lobbying and consulting group. Quinn Gillespie & Associates represents anumber of powerful clients, including the Bell Atlantic Corp.,DaimlerChrysler Corp., and Viacom International Inc. Those who are most affected by the ban are lower-level employees or thosewho want to continue practicing law after government service. “I assiduously adhered to the ban,” said Mike Espy, the former secretary ofAgriculture, who ran into his own conflict-of-interest and lobbying problemswhile in office. Espy, who is now a partner at Jackson, Miss.’ Butler, Snow,O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada, was acquitted by a jury in 1998 after anindependent counsel probe of allegations that he had accepted illegal gifts. “There is no question [the ban] was painful,” Espy said. “I have a career asa private lawyer, and part of that could have related to clients’ interestsbefore the USDA and I could not do that. My legal practice has suffered.” Other high-profile former officials say the ban has had its greatest impacton the lower-level political appointees. “If I were still working in my law field, it would stop me from prosecutingany patent or trademark law case for five years,” said Bruce Lehman, formerhead of the Patent and Trademark Office, who now works for a public policygroup. “The pool of people looking for patent and trademark positions arepatent and trademark lawyers. They might agree to a one-year ban, but not afive-year ban,” Lehman adds. And many say the five-year ban seems unduly harsh for anyone leaving officenow since the personnel in the White House is about to turn over. “Within two or three years, everyone you know in your agency is gone or hasmoved on to another job,” said Reed Hundt, former chairman of the FederalCommunications Commission, who now works at an international consultingfirm. “There is no real question of you having undue influence.” Reporter Sam Loewenberg contributed to this article.

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