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Ex-Time executive gets ethics waiver to communicate with press

Richard Stengel now media strategist

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The Obama administration is waiving its ethics rules for former Time magazine managing editor turned State Department official Richard Stengel, one of a half dozen officials at Foggy Bottom who have received special exemptions from provisions aimed at cracking down on the revolving door between special interests and government.

Mr. Stengel becomes the third former media executive now advising Secretary of State John Kerry to require a waiver that lets him communicate with journalists he'd otherwise be barred from contacting.

The waiver, released by the Office of Government Ethics last week, allows the former Time managing editor to "engage in regular decisions and discussions" with more than 200 subsidiaries of Time Warner Inc.

The four-page waiver portrays Mr. Stengel, the new undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, as part media gatekeeper and strategist.

"Mr. Stengel may be asked to weigh in on high-level strategic decisions about which media outlets are best suited for certain access or interviews with Department officials, and on how best to frame news coverage of Department policies, operations, and activities," the waiver reads.

The waiver doesn't extend to Time magazine or Time Warner itself, but covers Mr. Stengel's ability to communicate with journalists at any of more than 200 other Time Warner subsidiaries.

"Many of these subsidiaries are regularly engaged in covering the department's activities and require the Under Secretary to be able to weigh in on decisions that might impact individual outlets' news coverage," Richard Visek, deputy legal adviser at the State Department, wrote in a letter justifying the waiver for Mr. Stengel.

A State Department declined to comment on the waiver Tuesday.

Two other former journalists turned State Department officials received similar waivers during the past year.

Doug Frantz, assistant secretary at the Bureau of Public Affairs, used to work as national security editor at The Washington Post. His waiver allows him to communicate with reports and editors at The Post.

Glen Johnson, a former Boston Globe online politics editor turned senior adviser to Mr. Kerry, required a similar waiver.

In November, The Washington Times reported on Mr. Stengel's financial disclosure forms, which showed he received a more than quarter-million dollar bonus around the same time he oversaw layoffs at Time magazine.

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