New mandate revokes Obama’s order and borrows similar language, while adding a lengthy revolving-door sentence for his appointees. 

Takeaways

  • Trump’s Executive Order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees supersedes and revokes Obama’s Executive Order.
  • It requires appointees to sign a similar Ethics Pledge relating to receipt of gifts from lobbyists and lobbying organizations as well as revolving-door restrictions.

WHAT DOES THIS ORDER DO?

  • Generally, it requires appointees to commit not to accept gifts or gratuities from lobbyists or lobbying organizations (Registrants). It also broadens the revolving-door rules. The order requires appointees to sign an Ethics Pledge that they will abide by these rules.

TO WHICH OFFICIALS DOES THIS ORDER APPLY?

  • Every executive agency political appointee appointed on or after January 20, 2017.
  • Individuals appointed to a career position are not required to sign the Ethics Pledge.

LOBBYIST GIFT BAN: PLEDGE

GIFT BAN: An appointee may not accept gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations for the duration of his or her service as an appointee.

DO ANY OF THE OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS (“OGE”) RULES REGULATING GIFTS REMAIN FOR APPOINTEES?

  • The Order adopts the definition of “gift” from the current OGE rules. The term specifically excludes the following (not an exhaustive list):
    • Modest items of food and non-alcoholic refreshments, such as soft drinks, coffee, and donuts, offered other than as part of a meal;
    • Greeting cards and items with little intrinsic value, such as plaques, certificates, and trophies, which are intended solely for presentation;
    • Opportunities and benefits, including favorable rates and commercial discounts, available to the public or to a class consisting of all Government employees or all uniformed military personnel, whether or not restricted on the basis of geographic considerations.
  • In addition, the following relevant OGE exceptions to the “gift ban” still apply:
    • Personal friendship;
    • Discounts and similar benefits (may accept reduced membership fees in a professional organization if the discount is offered to all government employees with the appropriate professional qualifications);
    • Benefits resulting from outside business/employment of spouse;
    • Benefits customarily provided by a prospective employer in connection with bona fide employment discussions;
    • Gifts accepted under specific statutory authority;
    • Gifts authorized by supplemental agency regulations.

Therefore, gifts that fall within these exceptions may still be accepted by Ethics Pledge signatories.

HOW DOES THE ORDER FURTHER RESTRICT THE OGE GIFTS RULES?

Like Obama’s Order, Trump’s Order eliminates some very old exceptions.

  • Appointees may not accept:
    • Gifts provided subject to the $20/$50 exception (gifts with a value of $20 or less per source per occasion, not to exceed $50 per year per source);
    • Free attendance at “widely attended gatherings”;
    • Food and entertainment when on duty or official travel in a foreign area;
    • Gifts provided as part of a bona fide “award or honorary degree”;
    • Social invitations, including food, refreshments and entertainment, even if the invitation is from a person who is not a prohibited source;
    • Gifts in connection with political activities permitted by the Hatch Act Reform Amendments;
    • Benefits resulting from the appointee’s own outside business or employment activities.