Politics Biden administration grants ethics waivers to former labor lobbyists

10:15  09 may  2021
10:15  09 may  2021 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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President Joe Biden's administration has staffed former labor union officials in senior positions after relaxing rules preventing them from communicating with the large unions they used to work for, it has been revealed.

The Biden administration granted waivers to two former union officials in February and March and has argued that the waivers were necessary and 'in the public interest' for them to carry out their job functions.

The two officials who received the waivers are Alethea Predeoux and Celeste Drake, Axios revealed.

The move has been slammed as hypocritical by critics who claim that the 'union boss appointments have resulted in anti-worker policies,' the outlet reported.

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The waivers also come after former President Donald Trump in his final weeks in office had rescinded a policy that included a five-year ban on former government officials lobbying their former agencies, opening the door in reverse.

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Predeoux, a senior official in the Office of Personnel Management, had been the top lobbyist for the American Federation of Government Employees which is a union representing 700,000 federal workers.

A March 15 memorandum on the waiver from the office's general counsel Lynn Eisenberg reads: 'Ms. Predeoux has been a registered lobbyist for AFGE for six years. Prior to joining AFGE, she served for approximately five years as a registered lobbyist for Paralyzed Veterans of America.'

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'While she has lobbied the Hill on OPM-related issues, she has not directly lobbied OPM,' the memorandum reads.

If Predeoux had not been granted the waiver then Biden's ethics pledge would have barred her from working on issues on which she lobbied.

The Biden administration then issued a similar waiver for Celeste Drake, the head of the White House's new Made In America Office, in April, Axios revealed.

'You are expected to advise and counsel the President, the Director of OMB, and other Federal Agencies on international trade, federal procurement, manufacturing, and other matters of national and international importance,' the memorandum for Drake reads.

'Absent this waiver, you would be restricted for two years following your appointment from communicating with your former employers, the Director's Guild of America and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, except if those organizations took part in a public event.'

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Without a waiver, Drake would also be prohibited from working on issues for which she lobbied in the two years before her appointment.

'Without this waiver, the adjustments that would be necessary to maintain your recusal would result in serious limitations in your ability to perform the essential duties of your position,' the memorandum reads.

Alfredo Ortiz, president of the Job Creators Network, has slammed the waiver in a statement made to Axios.

'It's no surprise that President Biden's union boss appointments have resulted in anti-worker policies like the PRO Act and the $15 minimum wage,' Ortiz said.

Katharine Cooksey, the spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, blasted it as 'corruption' in a statement to Fox News.

'The pattern of corruption between Democrats and big union bosses is obvious – just follow the money and follow the staff,' she said.

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Last week, it was revealed that a powerful teachers union allegedly pressured the Biden administration to put the brakes on schools reopening.

The American Federation of Teachers sent emails to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before it issued guidance on re-opening schools to in-person teaching, New York Post reported. White House officials were copied on them.

The union lobbied the CDC to tone down language about returning students to classroom regardless of community spread of COVID, and also to allow teachers the right to work from home.

'Since the very first day of the Biden administration, every single Democrat has echoed the same union-approved talking points to keep schools closed and to jam a radical, job-killing agenda through Congress,' Cooksey told Fox News.

'While Republicans are working to get kids back in the classrooms and the economy moving again, Democrats are taking orders from their bosses at the unions to keep schools closed and stifle job opportunities.'

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Trump, in one of his final acts as president, released then-current and former members of his administration from the terms of their ethics pledge. He signed the one-page revocation of the ethics order just hours before his term ended.

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Trump's ethic policy also had large loopholes that allowed many to skirt the rules. The administration also avoided enforcing it, government watchdog groups said.

'The first rule of ethics enforcement is you need to have strong standards. Then you need to back them up with intense transparency. And you also need to reinforce the whole thing with tone from the top,' Norm Eisen, Obama's former ethics czar, said in January.

Eisen said Trump did the opposite on all three and 'made a mockery of it by having a corrupt tone at the top.'

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Like his predecessors, Biden also signed an ethics executive order instituting an ethics pledge on the day of his inauguration.

The ethics pledge includes the provision for which Predeoux and Drake received their waivers as well as reinstating the policy preventing outgoing officials from lobbying the government for a period of just two years after leaving their position.

Another provision prohibits incoming administration officials from accepting 'golden parachute' payments from their former employers for taking a government job.

Yet another restricts former senior level staffers not just from lobbying the administration for at least two years, but also prohibits for a period of one year working behind the scenes to materially assist others who lobby the executive branch - a practice often referred to as 'shadow lobbying.'

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