Executive Order -- Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel

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In one of his first acts after his January 2009 inauguration, U.S. President Barack Obama made an Executive Order, "Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel." [1]

The order in full states:

Section 1. Ethics Pledge. Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2009, shall sign, and upon signing shall be contractually committed to, the following pledge upon becoming an appointee:
"As a condition, and in consideration, of my employment in the United States Government in a position invested with the public trust, I commit myself to the following obligations, which I understand are binding on me and are enforceable under law:
"1. Lobbyist Gift Ban. I will not accept gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations for the duration of my service as an appointee.
"2. Revolving Door Ban All Appointees Entering Government. I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.
"3. Revolving Door Ban Lobbyists Entering Government. If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 2, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment:
(a) participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment;
(b) participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls; or
(c) seek or accept employment with any executive agency that I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment.
"4. Revolving Door Ban Appointees Leaving Government. If, upon my departure from the Government, I am covered by the post employment restrictions on communicating with employees of my former executive agency set forth in section 207(c) of title 18, United States Code, I agree that I will abide by those restrictions for a period of 2 years following the end of my appointment.
"5. Revolving Door Ban Appointees Leaving Government to Lobby. In addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 4, I also agree, upon leaving Government service, not to lobby any covered executive branch official or non career Senior Executive Service appointee for the remainder of the Administration.
"6. Employment Qualification Commitment. I agree that any hiring or other employment decisions I make will be based on the candidate's qualifications, competence, and experience.
"7. Assent to Enforcement. I acknowledge that the Executive Order entitled 'Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel,' issued by the President on January 21, 2009, which I have read before signing this document, defines certain of the terms applicable to the foregoing obligations and sets forth the methods for enforcing them. I expressly accept the provisions of that Executive Order as a part of this agreement and as binding on me. I understand that the terms of this pledge are in addition to any statutory or other legal restrictions applicable to me by virtue of Federal Government service."[2]

The order requires executive agency appointees to not accept gifts from lobbyists, to avoid working on issues "directly and substantially related" to former employers or former clients for two years, and to not lobby former colleagues for two years, after leaving their government position. There are additional restrictions on lobbyists entering the government, and appointees leaving the government to lobby are banned from lobbying their former colleagues in the executive branch for the remainder of the Obama administration.

"The lobbying limitations also appear to be considerably broader than those other presidents imposed," according to the Washington Post. In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton "barred senior appointees from leaving and then, at any time in the next five years, lobbying former colleagues in the agency where they had worked. He reversed the order a month before leaving office, as aides complained of difficulty finding jobs." [3]


The rules don't "prohibit lobbyists from working in the Obama administration," don't place restrictions on people who "influence votes on Capitol Hill or administration action" without registering as lobbyists, and don't "ban former government officials from lobbying Capitol Hill, which is where the bulk of legislative advocacy happens," reported Politico.com. [4]

Lynn controversy

The Project on Government Oversight, among others, noted that the Executive Order on Ethics required the administration to waive the new restrictions for Deputy Secretary of Defense nominee William J. Lynn III, who lobbied for military contractor Raytheon as recently as 2008. [5] For Raytheon, Lynn lobbied on "a wide range of defense issues, including acquisitions policy, force protection, space and intelligence, command and control, simulation and training, missile defense, sensors and radars, and munitions and artillery," meaning he could not avoid addressing these issues while serving as Deputy Secretary of Defense. However, some argued that Lynn may be "grandfathered in" under the old rules, as he accepted the nomination weeks before the Executive Order on Ethics was signed. [6]

Articles and resources

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External resources

External articles


  1. President Barack Obama, "Executive Order -- Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel", White House website, January 21, 2009.
  2. President Barack Obama, "Executive Order -- Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel", White House website, January 21, 2009.
  3. Dan Eggen and R. Jeffrey Smith, "Lobbying Rules Surpass Those of Previous Presidents, Experts Say," Washington Post, January 22, 2009.
  4. Jeanne Cummings, "Lobbying reforms leave daylight," Politico.com, January 22, 2009.
  5. Press release, "White House Waiver For DoD Appointee Lynn Undermines White House Ethics Standards And Sends Wrong Message," Project on Government Oversight, January 22, 2009.
  6. Frank James, "Obama lobbying ban hits DC reality," "The Swamp" blog by Tribune's Washington DC bureau, January 22, 2009.