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Ethics waiver for State Dept. adviser over Boston Globe, New York Times ties

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Glen Johnson, the former online politics editor of the Boston Globe who now serves as senior adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry, required a special waiver so he wouldn’t run afoul of ethics rules by communicating with reporters from his old newspaper and the New York Times.

The State Department granted the wavier back in February, but the decision wasn’t added to a public list of such waivers maintained by the Office of Government Ethics until last week.

Under ethics rules that aimed to close the revolving door between government and special interests, President Obama has barred political appointees from working on particular matters “directly or substantially” related to their previous employer for two years while in the government.

In a copy of the waiver decision posted on the Office of Government Ethics site, Richard Visek, deputy legal adviser for the State Department, noted that Johnson’s job as senior adviser includes serving as an important link between media outlets and the State Department.

The waiver applied to Johnson’s communications with the New York Times because it owns the Globe, although The Times recently announced plans to sell the newspaper.

“I have determined that this waiver is appropriate as a policy matter because it is in the public interest of Americans to have access to information about the Secretary of State’s work, and many Americans receive news through media outlets owned or controlled by The Boston Globe or the New York Times Company,” Visek wrote.

“Without this waiver, Mr. Johnson would be limited in his ability to communicate with the Boston Globe or the New York Times company, and Americans’ access to news about the activities of the Department of State would potentially be impaired.”

The paperwork said Johnson owned a de minimus amount of stock in the New York Times Company, though he said he is planning to sell his holdings.

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