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Senior counselor to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Charanya Krishnaswami. Photo: Alli Jarrar / Amnesty International

The Biden administration has waived ethics rules to allow a top Department of Homeland Security official to make policy in areas on which she lobbied for her former employer, Amnesty International.

Why it matters: The waiver is the first granted under Biden's new ethics pledge, which allows the White House to shelve restrictions on former lobbyists in the administration if doing so is deemed in the national interest.

What's new: A memo from the White House Office of Management and Budget, dated Feb. 9 and released publicly on Friday, spelled out the rationale for waiving those rules for Charanya Krishnaswami, the senior counselor to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

  • The waiver applied to the portion of Biden's ethics pledge governing former lobbyists' work on specific policy issues. Krishnaswami will still be barred from participating in matters that could financially impact Amnesty itself.
  • "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," acting OMB director Robert Fairweather wrote.

Background: Krishnaswami was a registered lobbyist for Amnesty prior to joining the administration.

  • She directed the organization's advocacy programs for the Americas, and, along with a team of in-house lobbyists, reported working on numerous federal policy issues and pieces of legislation.
  • Under the terms of Biden's ethics pledge, Krishnaswami would normally be barred from participating in any policymaking decisions relating to issues on which she'd lobbied, making a host of policy areas in DHS's portfolio effectively off-limits.
  • "Here, these factors demonstrate that it is in the public interest to grant a limited waiver to Ms. Krishnaswami," Fairweather wrote.

Between the lines: The language of Biden's ethics pledge suggested that waiver requests will be given more weight for officials who worked for nonprofits than other private sector enterprises.

Go deeper

Instagram's boss faces Congress' questions on harm to teens

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED

The head of Instagram will find himself in Congress' crosshairs for the first time Wednesday in the one area lawmakers have shown they are willing to pass tech regulations — protecting youngsters online.

Why it matters: Republicans and Democrats have found common ground in grilling tech companies on how their products harm children, especially after revelations in The Wall Street Journal about Instagram's potential harm to the mental health of teen girls.

Jan. 6 committee to start contempt proceedings against Meadows

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 select committee plans to move forward with contempt proceedings against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for his refusal to comply with the panel's subpoena.

Why it matters: The committee has used the threat of contempt — and the associated financial and reputational costs — to try to ensure evasive witnesses sit for their depositions.

Complaint to FTC: Amazon search results full of potentially deceiving ads

Photo: Nigel Kirby/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Amazon does not sufficiently distinguish between its search results and paid ads, potentially "deceiving millions of consumers," according to a complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Joan Moriarty, research director for the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions that filed the complaint, told the Washington Post the group is "very hopeful" that the FTC will investigate the complaint because Lina Khan (D), a known Amazon critic, is now chair.