Walter Shaub’s Ethics Recommendations for the Government

• Require the federal government’s 4,000 or so political appointees to prepare formal ethics agreements with their agencies that detail in writing what they cannot do without a conflict of interest, such as taking an action that might benefit a former employer or a company to which they have financial ties.

• Require that these employees sign statements that they have taken the necessary steps to comply with the ethics agreements, and then publicly post those statements, along with the original ethics agreements, on a government website. Currently, only about 1,100 federal employees must negotiate ethics agreements and sign statements of compliance.

A Little More Difficult

• Grant the ethics office limited subpoena power to ensure that federal agencies and employees are honoring ethics requirements. Make it easier for the office to recommend discipline for employees who have violated rules. (Mr. Shaub is not asking for broad powers for the office to conduct investigations by interviewing witnesses or to formally punish violators.)

• Allow the agency to propose its budget and legislative changes directly to Congress, in addition to sending them to the Office of Management and Budget, through which such proposals must currently be cleared.

• Require that federal employees, including the president, disclose business liabilities and debts in entities that they control. Currently, they are only required to disclose debts for which they are personally responsible.

• Require that federal employees disclose assets that are placed in so-called discretionary trusts, investment vehicles that hold property they may benefit from but are not currently controlling.

A Much Harder Sell

• Require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns to the Federal Election Commission and file them with the Office of Government Ethics, as they must currently do with more limited financial information.

• Create a new conflict of interest standard that applies to the president and vice president. It would be more flexible than the one governing all other federal employees.

This standard would prevent the president from holding an interest in a privately held company or a controlling interest in a publicly held company that does business with the federal government. A limit might also be imposed on compensation to the president for the use of his or her name while in office.

Such a requirement would prompt a negotiation between the president and the ethics office similar to those currently conducted with the president’s appointees. Under the proposal, the ethics office would not have enforcement authority, and there would be no explicit penalty for violating the standard. But Congress could take action if the president did not comply.

Continue reading the main storySource: New York Times – Politics

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