Fed hiring veteran lobbyist: source

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Reserve is on track to hire a veteran lobbyist to help manage its relations with Congress at a time of heightened attention to its role in national affairs, a source familiar with the situation said on Friday.

The Fed plans to hire Linda Robertson, who previously worked for now-defunct energy company Enron, as well as the Clinton administration.

She is currently head of government, community and public relations at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the hiring process was not complete.

The Fed believes it will be useful to add to its resources at a time when there is great public and congressional interest in the institution, the source said.

The U.S. central bank has been at the forefront of government actions to limit damage from the financial crisis that began in August 2007 and the impact of the deep recession that began in December of that year.

Members of Congress have chafed at the Fed’s bold use of its emergency powers and in particular its multibillion-dollar bailouts of investment bank Bear Stearns and insurer American International Group.

Critics also bristle at the Fed’s practice of maintaining the confidentiality of the companies that borrow directly from the central bank on the grounds that divulging their names would risk runs on those institutions.

Many lawmakers and private analysts also fault the Fed for failing to stop risky lending and flawed market practices that laid the groundwork for the crisis.

A non-binding budget bill approved by Congress in April opened the door for lawmakers to seek disclosure of the names of firms that receive emergency Fed loans and paves the way for a possible study of the Federal Reserve System’s structure of 12 regional banks and a Washington-based board.

Some officials believe lawmakers would like to go so far as to demand that the presidents of these regional banks -- or at least the head of the powerful New York Fed -- be subject to congressional approval. Currently, directors at these regional banks pick their presidents, subject to the approval of the Fed’s Washington board.

Robertson was vice president for government affairs at now-defunct energy company Enron Corp from November 2000 until she closed its Washington office in early 2002. Enron collapsed in scandal in 2001 and her work there may raise some eyebrows.

Before that, she was an assistant Treasury secretary for legislative and public affairs under then-President Bill Clinton.

Dennis O’Shea, a spokesman for Johns Hopkins, said Robertson was not available to comment.

Editing by Dan Grebler