United States Office of Government Ethics
The United States Office of Government Ethics (OGE) is an independent agency within the executive branch of the U.S. Federal Government which is responsible for directing executive branch policies relating to the prevention of conflicts of interest on the part of Federal executive branch officers and employees. Under the Ethics in Government Act, this agency was originally part of the Office of Personnel Management from 1978 until it separated in 1989.
The main duties of OGE include the following:
- Establishing the standards of conduct for the executive branch;
- Issuing rules and regulations interpreting the criminal conflict of interest restrictions;
- Establishing the framework for the public and confidential financial disclosure systems for executive branch employees;
- Developing training and education programs for use by executive branch ethics officials and employees;
- Ensuring that individual agency ethics programs are functioning properly by setting the requirements for them, supporting them, and reviewing them.
Government ethics concerns in the United States were first addressed by Congress in 1853. The act, entitled "An Act to prevent Frauds upon the Treasury of the United States," made it a misdemeanor for "any officer of the United States" or "any Senator or Representative in Congress" to assist in or prosecute "any claim against the United States."
Ethics concerns continued to obtain during the Civil War. Theodore Roosevelt, prior to becoming Vice-President, served as United States Civil Service Commissioner under President Benjamin Harrison. He drew on this experience to help create the modern merit system (now exemplified by the United States Merit Systems Protection Board) for federal employees, as President. This, in turn, led to further developments, including the focus on ethics in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1933 inaugural speech.
Office of Director
The Director of OGE is appointed by the President after confirmation by the U.S. Senate. The Director of OGE serves a five-year term, thereby overlapping presidential terms, and is subject to no term limit. The rest of the OGE employees are career civil servants. Created by the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, OGE separated from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in 1989 pursuant to reform legislation.[self-published source]
Issues involving President Trump
A series of tweets on 30 November 2016 from the office's official Twitter account praised President-elect Donald Trump for planning to divest his business holdings in order to resolve potential conflicts of interest, following an announcement where Trump reaffirmed his intent to take himself out of business operations, despite him having made no firm commitment to a divestment like selling his businesses or a blind trust. A number of observers speculated that the office's account might have been hacked, a suggestion it later denied. The New York Times suggested that the apparent misunderstanding behind the postings were deliberately intended to reveal the independent agency had advised Trump's legal counsel that a divestment was the only adequate remedy for resolving any conflict, and, by extension, pressure Trump into doing so. A Freedom of Information Act request by news organization The Daily Dot revealed that OGE Director Walter M. Shaub personally ordered officials within the agency to post the nine tweets.
Under the Trump Administration, the Office reversed its own internal policy prohibiting anonymous donations from lobbyists to White House staffers who have legal defense funds.
OGE certification of Ethics Agreement Compliance Form
List of directors of the OGE
- J. Jackson Walter, 1979–1982
- David H. Martin, 1983–1987
- Frank Q. Nebeker, 1987–1989
- Stephen D. Potts, 1990–2000
- Amy Comstock, 2000–2003
- Robert Cusick, 2006−2011
- Walter Shaub, 2013–2017
- David J. Apol, 2017–2018 (acting)
- Emory A. Rounds III, 2018–
- Davies, Mark; Leventhal, Steven; Mullaney, Thomas (Fall 2003). "An Abbreviated History of Government Ethics Laws—Part II" (PDF). Municipal Lawyer. New York State Bar Association. 27 (3). Retrieved 3 March 2021.
- "An Act to prevent Frauds upon the Treasury of the United States". Act No. 10 Stat. 170 (1853) of 26 February 1853 (PDF). United States Congress.
- Pan, Jock (2010). The United States Outer executive Departments and Independent Federal Agencies. Xlibris Corporation. pp. 346–7. ISBN 9781450086752. Retrieved 1 December 2016.[self-published source]
- "Emory A. Rounds, III, sworn into office as Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics". United States Office of Government Ethics. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
- Selyukh, Alina (30 November 2016). "Trump's Conflict of Interest Gets Twitter Response From Government Watchdog : The Two-Way : NPR". NPR. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
- Shear, Michael D.; Lipton, Eric (November 30, 2016). "Ethics Office Praises Donald Trump for a Move He Hasn't Committed To". New York Times. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
- "Government Ethics director ordered controversial tweets praising Trump, email reveals". The Daily Dot. 2016-12-30. Retrieved 2016-12-30.
- Darren Samuelsohn (September 13, 2017). "Trump ethics watchdog moves to allow anonymous gifts to legal defense funds". Politico.com. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
- "Federal Ethics Office Wants To Know If Trump Appointees Are Keeping Their Promises : NPR". NPR. 11 May 2017. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
- Bernstein, Adam (July 24, 2008). "J. Jackson Walter; Ethics Watchdog, Preservationist". Retrieved January 10, 2018 – via www.WashingtonPost.com.
- Langer, Emily (April 10, 2014). "David H. Martin, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, dies at 74". Retrieved January 10, 2018 – via www.WashingtonPost.com.
- "PN611 - Nomination of Frank Q. Nebeker for Office of Personnel Management, 100th Congress (1987-1988)". www.Congress.gov. November 20, 1987. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
- "President Nominates Washington Lawyer To Be Ethics Director". The New York Times. June 19, 1990. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
- “Director’s Column”, Government Ethics Newsgram, U.S. Office of Government Ethics (Summer 2000).
- Lee, Christopher (December 5, 2003). "Ethics Agency's Director Resigns". Retrieved January 8, 2018 – via www.WashingtonPost.com.
- “The Passing of the Honorable Robert I. ‘RIC’ Cusick, former Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, U.S. Office of Government Ethics (November 26, 2014).
- "Ethics Office Director Walter Shaub Resigns, Saying Rules Need To Be Tougher". NPR.org. July 6, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
- "President Trump Designates David J. Apol as OGE Acting Director". United States Office of Government Ethics. 21 July 2017. Retrieved 12 January 2019.