Waiver Madness II; Friday the 13th Edition

Waiver Madness II; Friday the 13th Edition

  • October 13, 2023

The Spooky Month is doubly creepy this year, because October has its very own Friday the 13th. Talk about bad luck! To mark the inauspicious occasion, Protect the Public’s Trust plumbed the depths of its Waiver Tracker to find some of the most twisted ethics waiver rationales ever to escape the federal dungeon. 

Oh, you won’t find waivers for Jason Voorhees or Crystal Lake. These waivers are terrifying because they’re real …  

These are the monstrous machinations that allow Biden appointees to join “the most ethical administration in history.” Here you’ll find the macabre “lobbyist lobotomies” that force career ethics officials to twist and contort into pretzels. You’ll meet logic-torturing revolving door keepers, and nefarious necromancers whose acronym-laced incantations can conjure bureaucrats from thin activist orgs and transform adversarial litigants into fawning functionaries.   

The whole terrible tableau of Waiver Madness is too horrifying to reveal all at once. Just five at a time are all most people can handle and cling to their sanity. There is no peril to you, dear reader. Just don’t look in a mirror and say “recusal” three times …. and don’t break the mirror, either. That would be bad luck!

Note: All emphasis by us.

“You’ve got three years to use your position to grow those shares.”

Name: Mina Hsiang

Agency/Title: Office of Personnel Management, Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service (USDS)

Potential conflict: Investments in tech companies through the hedge fund MFN Partners

Notable excerpt(s): “To allow Mina Hsiang to serve as Administrator of USDS, the Office of Management and Budget is granting her a temporary waiver as she divests of her interest in MFN Partners over the next three and a half years.”

“Repeat after me: ‘None of this is real … My husband was not involved …’”

Name: Wendy Sherman

Agency/Title: Department of State, Deputy Secretary

Potential Conflict: Ms. Sherman’s husband worked for the German Marshall Fund when she was invited to speak at a GMF event.

Notable excerpt: “Your spouse’s work for the German Marshall Fund is unrelated to this event. He has not been involved in this event in any way and was not involved in any decision to invite you to speak.”

“It’s really more of a gorgeous mosaic of recusals …”

Name: Marienne Engleman-Lado

Agency/Title: Environmental Protection Agency, Deputy General Counsel for Environmental Initiatives

Potential Conflict: Worked for the Natural Resources and Defense Council (NRDC)

Notable excerpt: “Consequently, there is an overlap of recusals that is impinging the ability of the Office of General Counsel to interact with its political leadership on certain nationally significant issues related to public health and the environment that are important priorities of the Administration.”

“And it’s been such a smashing success!”

Name: Leidy Perez-Davis

Agency/Title: White House Domestic Policy Council, Special Assistant to the President for Immigration

Potential Conflict: Lobbied on immigration issues for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)

Notable excerpts: ”Ms. Perez-Davis will support the Administration in helping to drive immigration policy…Absent a waiver…because she lobbied on immigration-related legislation while at the AILA, she would not be able to work on those critically important issues in her role at the White House. In addition, managing an ongoing recusal for Ms. Perez-Davis would negatively impact the Administration’s important mission of addressing significant immigration policy issues.”

“I’m not losing an arm trying to stop this revolving door!”

Name: Adena Leibman

Agency/Title: Department of Commerce, Senior Advisor, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Conflict: Lobbied on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), including on NOAA appropriations and other agency matters, as well as “on comment letters and communications with NOAA”

Notable excerpt: “Your experience in ocean policy and science, your work with federal lawmakers and agencies, such as NOAA, and your advanced degrees in Marine Science and Environmental Law make you uniquely suited to advise NOAA on these issues and to help represent the agency before policymakers.”