- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Midway between Christmas and New Year's Day, President Clinton revoked his executive order that barred his top aides from lobbying for five years.

Mr. Clinton had signed the order in his first official act as president to establish what he called the strictest ethical requirements of any administration.

He revoked the order Thursday in a press release with no such fanfare.

The order required senior aides to pledge that they would not lobby any agency they served for five years after leaving the government and that they would never lobby for any foreign government.

White House aides say the order is unnecessary now that Republican George W. Bush will take office as president Jan. 20.

"The main policies underlying the executive order no longer apply when there is a change of parties at the White House," White House Counsel Beth Nolan said. "Because special access is no longer a concern, the special measures contained in the executive order are no longer necessary."

White House spokesman Jake Siewert said Mr. Clinton decided "there isn't much of a question about whether former Clinton appointees would have undue influence with the members of a Bush administration."

But good-government groups do not buy the argument.

"Now he's repealed it just in time for all these guys to cash in," said Meredith McGehee, senior vice president of Common Cause, the Washington watchdog group.

"Anyone who's followed this issue of the revolving door has to be disappointed that Clinton has decided to repeal the cooling-off period," Mrs. McGehee said.

"If there's one thing this town has shown, it's that access and influence peddling don't necessarily follow party line," she said.

"It's appalling, and it makes my blood boil," added Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity.

Clinton aides assisting in the transition will get to know the new Bush appointees and could use the contacts in lobbying, Mr. Lewis told the Associated Press.

"For him to set a higher standard and then quietly remove it at the end of his administration is not just appalling, it's almost breathtaking," Mr. Lewis said.

Federal law bars most employees from lobbying their former agencies for a year. The additional restriction applied only to Mr. Clinton's aides.

Mr. Siewert said the Bush administration can decide whether to reinstate the restrictions.

"We are declining comment, but we will take a look at the executive orders after the 20th," said Juleanna Glover Weiss, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bush.

In the 1992 campaign, Mr. Clinton railed against "high-priced lobbyists and influence peddlers."

"I want to send a signal that we are going to change politics as usual," Mr. Clinton said in Little Rock, Ark., shortly after he was elected president in 1992.

Mr. Siewert said think tanks "on both sides of the aisle" believed the order too broad and "prevented former Clinton administration officials from calling up and asking the very simplest of questions."

"The president believes that the executive order has served its purpose," said Mrs. Nolan, the White House counsel.

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