By Pete Schroeder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House will comply with a request from the U.S. government's ethics agency to provide information on which former lobbyists are working in the administration, an administration official said on Friday.
Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said in a letter that the administration was not seeking to impede efforts by the Office of Government Ethics to obtain that information, despite earlier protests from Walter Shaub, the director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE).
"OMB shares the belief that the executive branch must uphold the highest ethical standards in accordance with the law," Mulvaney wrote. "Our concern was, and is, protecting the process related to the data call."
Shaub, an appointee under President Barack Obama in the final year of five-year term, had requested in April copies of waivers the administration of President Donald Trump granted to former lobbyists now appointed to positions in the government. Those requests were sent to agencies across the administration, seeking waivers that would allow former lobbyists to work on issues they had been involved with as paid advocates.
But OMB requested a stay of that request, prompting a fierce response from Shaub. He called the request "highly unusual" and said his agency has the authority to take "corrective action proceedings" against agencies that refuse its requests.
In his Friday response, Mulvaney said the requested stay was not an attempt to stifle OGE efforts but rather to provide more time to "ensure sufficient consideration was given to legal questions."
"OMB has never sought to impede OGE," he wrote.
Mulvaney closed the letter by saying the OMB did not grant any lobbyist waivers itself.
Shortly after taking office in January, Trump signed an executive order barring lobbyists who joined the administration from working on issues related to their prior work. But the administration has the power to grant waivers to particular hires, exempting them from that restriction.
(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Bill Trott)