Obama lawyers defend lobbyist restriction

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 24, 2012 4:53 PM
Obama lawyers defend lobbyist restriction

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has the authority to bar lobbyists from serving on government boards because doing so reduces "special interest influence," lawyers for his administration said on Friday.

The Obama administration announced the ban in September 2009 and six lobbyists are testing it in a federal lawsuit.

Five of the lobbyists used to serve on trade advisory boards, representing industries such as retail and textiles, according to their complaint. The sixth wants to serve on a board but expects he will be turned down.

The lobbyists allege that the ban violates the U.S. Constitution by punishing them for exercising their right to petition their government for redress of grievances.

In a court filing, administration lawyers said that the industries still have access to the trade boards and that the ban serves an important goal.

"It effectively serves the president's compelling interest in promoting public confidence in the government and reducing special interest influence in policymaking," they said.

The Obama administration has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, and a ruling on the motion could come at any time.

(Reporting By David Ingram; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh)