Updated at 5:07 p.m.
Former House members, who are now lobbyists, on Wednesday took aim at President Barack Obama's efforts to curb the power of government affairs professionals in Washington, saying they provide a valuable service to policymakers.
Speaking at an American League of Lobbyists forum, former Reps. James Walsh (R-N.Y.), a K&L Gates government affairs counselor; Philip English (R-Pa.), an Arent Fox senior government relations adviser; and Bruce Morrison (D-Conn.), chairman of Morrison Public Affairs Group, said they do more than just seek influence, they also give policymakers insights that help them do their jobs more effectively.
English said Obama’s decision to place restrictions on federal lobbyists “had a lot of unintended consequences.” In one of his first actions as president, Obama signed an executive order that puts constraints on the activities of executive branch officials who have been federal lobbyists, as well as appointees leaving the government to lobby.
“The fact is people in positions of power need the best advice and need institutional memory,” English said. “So I think there has to be a way of improving maybe the practices, as well as the reputation of government relations in Washington, to make it possible again for those relationships, for that input to be there. I think this is a huge issue for any future administration.”
Morrison said problems related to money in politics exist. But the president’s actions against lobbyists aren’t righting the wrongs, he said.
The former House member, however, said he isn’t sure how the lobbying community can fight back.
“We’re basically taking it and hoping it will pass,” he said.