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Biden speaks at a campaign stop at Pittsburgh Union Station Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden's presidential transition office will allow lobbyists to help shape his potential administration, but it will require them to receive a waiver to participate if they registered as lobbyists or engaged in lobbying activity in the last 12 months.

Why it matters: Presidential transition teams are instrumental in establishing a new administration, and the rules that govern them are often a template for the ethics guidelines that the new administration imposes after the inauguration.

  • Some of Biden's longtime allies were divided on whether to let former lobbyists join his transition team.
  • Biden opted for a middle path, stopping short of a blanket ban but requiring written waivers, therefore allowing his potential government to draw on years of expertise that some lobbyists could bring to the table.
  • "We have granted a handful of authorizations, including for individuals with expertise in pandemic response who recently advocated on behalf of their public interest, non-profit employers," a transition official said.
  • "This plan is much less stringent than good government observers were hoping for from the candidate running to fix the mess Trump's incomprehensible corruption has created," said Jeff Hauser, the director of the Revolving Door Project. "This document is discouraging."

With concern about President Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power and both sides preparing for post-election lawsuits challenging the result of the election, this year's transition planning is taking on new urgency.

  • On Oct. 2, David Marchick at the Center for Presidential Transition will host a conference with five former White House chiefs of staff and others to discuss the challenges associated with a transition.

The big picture: Months before an election, campaigns begin a formal process of staffing transition teams to facilitate a smooth transfer of power after the election.

  • Team members are granted special access to the agencies and departments as they work to set policy and fill some 1,250 high-level positions across the federal government, from Cabinet secretaries to ambassadors to U.S. attorneys.
  • Biden's rules will prevent anyone on the team from lobbying for 12 months after they leave their roles.
  • Team members will also have to pledge not to trade any individual stocks without approval from the general counsel.

The other side: Although Trump announced restrictions on lobbying activity, he has installed a record number of former lobbyists at the highest levels, bringing in a total of 281 lobbyists to his administration at the halfway point, according to an analysis by ProPublica and Columbia Journalism Investigations.

  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt were both registered lobbyists on the very issues that they now regulate as Cabinet members.
  • Barack Obama tried to curtail the role of lobbyists in his administration, but he made an immediate exception to his own rules by installing a registered lobbyist for Raytheon, William Lynn III, as his deputy defense secretary.

The bottom line: Lobbyists would be allowed to serve on Biden's transition and potentially his administration, but Biden's team will try to limit their numbers.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from a transition official and new details throughout.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Updated Jan 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Pelosi threatens second impeachment if Trump does not resign

Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to members Friday that Congress will move forward with impeaching President Trump for a second time if he does not leave office "imminently and willingly."

Driving the news: House Democrats had a caucus call at noon to discuss the topic of impeachment. Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) told CNN that Democrats could bring articles of impeachment to the House floor as soon as "mid-next week" if Vice President Pence and Cabinet members do not invoke the 25th Amendment.

Stephen Breyer formally announces retirement from Supreme Court

Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Justice Stephen Breyer on Thursday sent a letter to President Biden formally announcing his retirement from the Supreme Court.

What he's saying: "I enormously appreciate the privilege of serving as part of the federal judicial system ... I have found the work challenging and meaningful," Breyer said.

COVID created an epic U.S. trade gap

Chart: Axios Visuals. Data: Census Bureau/Bureau of Economic Analysis

The details of the blockbuster fourth quarter GDP report released Thursday morning tell a vivid story of how the underpinnings of the world economy have been reshaped by the pandemic.

One example: In the arithmetic around U.S. economic output, trade acted as a more severe drag last year than it has in a generation.