My either/or mind exerts a preference for contrast while it’s in decision-making mode. I’m frustrated with not being able to find much ethics information at the White House website. Let’s review a refreshing memo from Day #1 of the current Administration.
Seems like YESTERDAY –
January 20, 2001
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Standards of Official Conduct
Everyone who enters into public service for the United States has a duty to the American people to maintain the highest standards of integrity in Government. I ask you to ensure that all personnel within your departments and agencies are familiar with, and faithfully observe, applicable ethics laws and regulations, including the following general principles from the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch:
(1) Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.
(2) Employees shall not hold financial interests that conflict with the conscientious performance of duty. (
3) Employees shall not engage in financial transactions using nonpublic Government information or allow the improper use of such information to further any private interest.
(4) An employee shall not, except as permitted by applicable law or regulation, solicit or accept any gift or other item of monetary value from any person or entity seeking official action from, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by the employee’s agency, or whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee’s duties.
(5) Employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.
(6) Employees shall not knowingly make unauthorized commitments or promises of any kind purporting to bind the Government.
(7) Employees shall not use public office for private gain.
(8) Employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individual.
(9) Employees shall protect and conserve Federal property and shall not use it for other than authorized activities.
(10) Employees shall not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or negotiating for employment, that conflict with official Government duties and responsibilities.
(11) Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities.
(12) Employees shall satisfy in good faith their obligations as citizens, including all just financial obligations, especially those — such as Federal, State, or local taxes — that are imposed by law.
(13) Employees shall adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicap.
(14) Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating applicable law or the ethical standards in applicable regulations. Executive branch employees should also be fully aware that their post-employment activities with respect to lobbying and other forms of representation will be bound by the restrictions of 18 U.S.C. 207.
Please thank the personnel of your departments and agencies for their commitment to maintain the highest standards of integrity in Government as we serve the American people.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Contrast to one candidate’s recognition of TODAY’s ethical challenges –
A Chance To Change The Game
By Barack Obama
Thursday, January 4, 2007; A17 The Washington Post
This past Election Day, the American people sent a clear message to Washington: Clean up your act.
After a year in which too many scandals revealed the influence special interests wield over Washington, it’s no surprise that so many incumbents were defeated and that polls said “corruption” was the grievance cited most frequently by the voters.
It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that this message was intended for only one party or politician. The votes hadn’t even been counted in November before we heard reports that corporations were already recruiting lobbyists with Democratic connections to carry their water in the next Congress.
That’s why it’s not enough to just change the players. We have to change the game.
Americans put their faith in Democrats because they want us to restore their faith in government — and that means more than window dressing when it comes to ethics reform.
Last year, I was hopeful that scandals would finally shame Congress into meaningful ethics legislation. But after the headlines faded, so did the enthusiasm for reform. In the end, I found myself voting against the final ethics bill because it was too weak and unresponsive to the obvious need for comprehensive reform.This time around, we must do more.
We must stop any and all practices that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a public servant has become indebted to a lobbyist. That means a full ban on gifts and meals. It means no free travel or subsidized travel on private jets. And it means closing the revolving door to ensure that Capitol Hill service — whether as a member of Congress or as a staffer — isn’t all about lining up a high-paying lobbying job. We should no longer tolerate a House committee chairman shepherding the Medicare prescription drug bill through Congress at the same time he’s negotiating for a job as the pharmaceutical industry’s top lobbyist.
But real reform also means real enforcement. We need to finally take the politics and the partisanship out of ethics investigations. Whether or not the House ethics committee has been covering for its colleagues, the secrecy with which its members have operated has led people to question why legislators who are serving jail time were not caught and stopped by the committee in the first place. It’s led people to wonder why Congress cannot seem to police itself.
I have long proposed a nonpartisan, independent ethics commission that would act as the American people’s public watchdog over Congress. The commission would be staffed with former judges and former members of Congress from both parties, and it would allow any citizen to report possible ethics violations by lawmakers, staff members or lobbyists. Once a potential violation is reported, the commission would have the authority to conduct investigations, issue subpoenas, gather records, call witnesses, and provide a report to the Justice Department or the House and Senate ethics committees that — unlike current ethics committee reports — is available for all citizens to read.
This would improve the current process in two ways. First, it would take politics out of the fact-finding phase of ethics investigations. Second, it would exert greater public pressure on Congress to punish wrongdoing quickly and severely. Others have proposed similar good ideas on enforcement, and I am open to all options. We must restore the American people’s confidence in the ethics process by ensuring that political self-interest can no longer prevent politicians from enforcing ethics rules.
The truth is, we cannot change the way Washington works unless we first change the way Congress works. On Nov. 7, voters gave Democrats the chance to do this. But if we miss this opportunity to clean up our act and restore this country’s faith in government, the American people might not give us another one.
The writer is a Democratic senator from Illinois. (Emphasis is mine, not the author’s.)
Important point to ponder while we work toward TOMORROW –
United States of America’s Presidential Oath of Office:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
If ETHICS is first, is ABILITY second on the Presidential core competency list? Some might say, “that depends on what the definition of IS is.”