Waiver Madness! No Exemption is Too Horrifying for Biden Appointees

Waiver Madness! No Exemption is Too Horrifying for Biden Appointees

  • October 2, 2023

October is the Spooky Season, so Protect the Public’s Trust went deep into its Waiver Tracker to find some of the most twisted ethics waiver rationales ever to escape the federal dungeon.

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. So, we’ll visit with five each week this month. There is no peril to you, dear reader. Just don’t say the word “recusal” three times ….

Note: emphasis added, unless otherwise indicated.

“You are; therefore, we waive.”

Appointee: Elizabeth Prelogar
Agency/Title: Department of Justice, Solicitor General
Potential conflict: Supreme Court case involving her former employer, Harvard
Notable excerpt: “You have unique qualifications to meet the government’s need in this particular matter. First, your title is itself a qualification that no other person possesses.”

“We’re the Office of Ethics, man, not the Office of Bumming People Out.”

Appointee: Charanya Krishnaswami
Title/Agency: Department of Homeland Security, Senior Counselor to the Secretary for Immigration
Potential conflict: Lobbied on behalf of Amnesty International.
Notable excerpt: “Managing an ongoing recusal for Ms. Krishnaswami will impact several of the Department’s important missions … Without this waiver, the adjustments that would be necessary to maintain Ms. Krishnaswami’s recusal are anticipated to result in serious limitations and inefficiencies in the Department.”

“Revolving door? What's that? Oh, it’s this.”

Appointee: Lee Satterfield
Agency/Title: Department of State, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs
Potential Conflict: She previously worked at the Meridian Center which is a “key partner of Education and Cultural affairs (ECA)” and one of one of ECA’s core grantees.
Notable excerpt:Absent this waiver, Assistant Secretary Satterfield would be restricted for two years following her appointment from participation in any particular…related to the Meridian International Center. This entity is a strategic partner…Absent this waiver, the recusal would result in serious limitations and inefficiencies.”

“Hey, we’ve been paying you anyway.”

Appointee: Elizabeth Van Schaak
Agency/Title: Department of State, Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice
Potential Conflict: Previous work at the Center for Justice & Accountability, which receives funding from the Office of Global Criminal Justice, Ms. Van Schaak’s office.
Notable excerpt: “The significant public interest in the ability of the Office of Global Criminal Justice to accomplish its mission requires that Ambassador at Large Van Schaack participate in a range of matters involving The Center for Justice & Accountability, which is a strategic partner and grant recipient, and that she be able to communicate with The Center for Justice & Accountability’s leadership.”


“C’mon, it’s not like she lobbied for them for eight consecutive years.”

Appointee: Jessica Ennis
Agency/Title: White House Council on Environmental Quality, Director of Public Engagement
Potential Conflict: Was registered as a lobbyist for EarthJustice, a nonprofit environmental group, from the fourth quarter of 2012 through the third quarter of 2020, with a break from the fourth quarter of 2015 to the fourth quarter of 2016.
Notable excerpts: “Further, Ms. Ennis’s very limited lobbying activity on behalf of a non-profit organization is not the type of business-oriented, prior client relationship that the Executive Order intended to reach in protecting the public trust.”

Yeah, she wasn’t one of those icky private sector lobbyists.