I believe that the best solution to the problem of having lobbyists and others seeking special
benefits from the government sitting on government
advisory boards is to get rid of these advisory boards.
Conflicts involving these boards are important because, although they are "merely
advisory," their recommendations are often accepted, and their
members are often selected (or seen to be selected) in order to reach a particular
conclusion. The membership of such boards is difficult for well-meaning officials to balance
so that the board's recommendations do not reflect the
self-serving views of one side or one industry, usually one that has
a financial interest in the outcome. Equally as serious, it appears
to the public that the recommendations of these boards is biased.
That is not a good basis for government decision-making.
In 2010, the Obama administration tried to solve this government ethics
problem by prohibiting registered lobbyists from sitting on federal
government advisory boards. The 130 lobbyists who sat on the 16
Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITAC), which make
recommendations concerning U.S. trade policy, filed a suit to have
this prohibition declared unconstitutional. Their suit was dismissed
by a federal district court, and the lobbyists appealed.
The appellate court decision in the case of Autor
(attached; see below) came out in January and, in response, this week the
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) made a change in the policy
(attached; see below) that will allow lobbyists to sit on advisory
boards in their representative capacity (like employees for
companies), but not in their individual capacity (as individuals who
happen to be lobbyists).