At Least K Street Event Ban Will Help Bureaucrats Lose Weight

Ban on attending trade events means less free snacks

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Washington lobbyists are mad the Obama administration is eliminating one of their favorite ways for them to lobby government officials -- conferences put on by trade groups. Bureaucrats are currently allowed to go to "widely-attended events" hosted by trade associations like, say, the Chamber of Commerce, but the Office of Government Ethics plans to nix that, Politico's Anna Palmer reports. "This came out of the blue," Jim Clarke of ASAE, an association of trade association executives, told Palmer. "It seems like it goes out of the way to target trade associations." The new rules are meant to further the White House's push to distance officials from lobbyists, but they could have another potentially positive impact -- smaller waistlines.

One of the perks of being wooed by lobbyists is free snacks. When Rep. Aaron Schock revealed his chiseled abs on the cover of Men's Health, he said that he had to run five miles a day, weight train, and do the exercise program P90X to make up for being force-fed treats by lobbyists. ("You have a drink and a few hors d'oeuvres and you've just downed hundreds of calories.") The House of Representatives banned allowing lobbyists to buy members of Congress meals in 2007, but they're still allowed to offer food that can be eaten standing up. Schock later went on Top Chef so contestants could compete to make the best food that followed this "toothpick rule."

Ben Murray, who worked for Missouri state representatives and a congressman, says that post-toothpick rule, it was harder to avoid paying for food:

"It definitely takes more planning in D.C. Like (and again, this is relative to the times I was around) in D.C. you would have to watch the invites and word would go around on the [congressional staffers] listserv about where the good food was. And then you would have to be fast. In Jefferson City, I never gave it a second thought -- breakfast, lunch, dinner."
Will the bureaucrats be pissed about this lost snack opportunity? "Of course. Way more than K Street," he says. The rules covering legislators and government officials are not the same, but similar. Palmer explains that government employees will only be able to attend the events if they're invited to give a speech, which is not considered a gift.

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