Defying Ban, Lobbyists De-Register to Serve on Advisory Committees

Posted 21 February 2012 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC 

A 2009 order by the Obama administration meant to ban registered lobbyists from serving on federal advisory committees-including those used by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide it with expert opinions-has instead caused to those same lobbyists to cancel their lobbying registrations in order to continue to serve on the advisory committees, reports The Hill.

At least 22 current federal advisory committee members serving on Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs) were found by The Hill to have cancelled their lobbying registrations after the Obama administration enacted the policy. Thirty-six other advisory committee members were registered to lobby at some point prior to serving on the advisory committees.

Any individual who spends more than 20% of his or her time conducting lobbying activities is required to register with the Senate under the terms of the Lobbying Disclosure Act, notes The Hill.

While The Hill only investigated the memberships of the 16 ITACs-groups convened by the International Trade Administration to give it advice-the behavior could extend to other federal advisory committees as well. There are approximately 1,000 advisory committees, including approximately 50 used by FDA.

The agency is not unfamiliar with conflicts of interest. A report by The Wall Street Journal on 11 January created an uproar after it revealed that a panel assessing birth control pills included members that had ties to Bayer, whose products were under review by the panel.

FDA responded to the controversy a week later. In a FDA Voice blog posting, Acting Associate Commissioner for Special Medical Programs Jill Hartzler said that FDA "did not identify any financial interests that would have precluded their participation," adding that regulations barred them from disclosing any information not requiring a conflict of interest waiver.

Requests for comment were not returned by FDA by the time of this article's publication.



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