CRS report via FAS – Ethics Pledges and Other Executive Branch Appointee Restrictions Since 1993: Historical Perspective, Current Practices, and Options for Change, Jacob R. Straus, Specialist on the Congress. September 29, 2017.
“On January 28, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order (E.O.)13770 on ethics and lobbying. E.O. 13770 created an ethics pledge for executive branch appointees, provided for the administration and enforcement of the pledge, and revoked President Barack Obama’s executive order ethics pledge that covered his Administration (E.O. 13490). President Trump’s executive order shares some features with President Obama’s executive order and a previous executive order issued by President Bill Clinton. Executive order ethics pledges are one of several tools, along with laws and administrative guidance, available to influence the interactions and relationships between the public and the executive branch. The ability of private citizens to contact government officials is protected by the Constitution. As such, the restrictions placed by executive order ethics pledges, laws, and administrative guidance are designed to provide transparency and address enforcement of existing “revolving door” (when federal employees leave government for employment in the private sector) and lobbying laws. The report begins with an overview of the relationship between the public and the executive branch, including the use of laws, executive orders, and other guidance and Administration policy to regulate interactions. A brief summary of recent executive orders is then provided, including a side-by-side analysis of ethics pledges from the Clinton, Obama, and Trump Administrations. This analysis is followed by observations about the similarities and differences among the three pledges.
These observations focus on
- the revolving door restrictions (18 U.S.C. §207),
- the definition of lobbying used in ethics pledges, and
- the representation of foreign principals by former executive branch officials.
In the context of observations drawn from the ethics pledges, Congress has many options available to potentially address the relationship and contact between the private sector and
government employees. These include
- options to amend revolving door restrictions,
- amend the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, and
- codify the ethics pledge to make executive order additions to existing laws permanent.
Additionally, Congress could take no immediate action and maintain current standards.”