An ethics group is raising questions about whether a former trial lawyer turned government official is making policy decisions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will serve his future financial interests.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is asking the USDA general counsel to investigate after learning J. Dudley Butler, the administrator of USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), has boasted about putting in place regulations that make it easier to sue meat and poultry companies. Before joining USDA, Butler’s legal practice involved suing the companies he now regulates.

“When he took office, President Obama issued an order closing the revolving door that allowed departing executive branch officials to cash in on their government service. While the new policy was aimed at those who lobby after leaving office, the same rationale applies here. Mr. Butler stands to benefit financially once he leaves the government by exploiting a loophole he helped create,” says Melanie Sloan, CREW executive director.

“Whether or not this meets the legal standard of a conflict of interest, it seems wrong. The Department of Agriculture should bar Mr. Butler from continued work on these regulations and the department should consider reissuing them for further public comment,” she says.

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