TARP Lobbying Rules Being Finalized; Watchdog Says No Undue Influence on Program So Far

Article excerpt

Byline: Sean Lengell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Treasury Department has yet to establish rules on lobbying for its $700 billion Wall Street bailout, although the head of the program's independent watchdog says he has found no undue outside influence that has affected the program.

An audit released Thursday by Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), says the Treasury Department is in the final stages of drafting rules on lobbying for bailout money - more than 10 months into the program.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, when he took office in January, called for new rules to increase transparency and curtail potential lobbyist influence over the TARP decision-making process.

But the effort to increase transparency and control over lobbyists took a back seat because other issues had consumed Treasury's time and [had] taken precedence over completing the guidance, the report said.

The pending lobbying rules, which are awaiting White House approval, are similar to those governing the $787 billion economic stimulus program, the audit says.

The new policy will prohibit Treasury employees from talking to lobbyists or members of Congress, with one exception - instances of overarching policy discussions, the report states.

But the report also found little indication that external inquiries on [TARP] applications had affected the decision-making process on how bailout money was doled out. …