On Wednesday, as one of his first official acts, President Obama issued an Executive Order imposing new ethics commitments on Executive Branch agency appointees who take office on or after January 20, 2009. Each appointee must sign an ethics pledge and agree to restrictions that (1) prohibit appointees from accepting gifts from lobbyists and lobbying organizations; (2) impose a 2-year ban prohibiting appointees from working on matters in the Administration that are directly and substantially related to their former employer or clients, or that they lobbied on during their prior employment; and (3) extend the scope of the current "revolving door" restrictions that apply to appointees, particularly by prohibiting appointees who leave the Administration from lobbying "covered" Executive Branch officials and non-career SES appointees for the remainder of the Administration.

The "lobbyist gift ban" included in the Executive Order eliminates the exceptions that previously allowed Executive Branch employees to accept gifts valued at $20 or less per occasion up to an annual aggregate limit of $50 and to attend widely-attended gatherings. However, Executive Branch appointees subject to the new rules are still permitted to accept from lobbyists and lobbying organizations light refreshments, items with little intrinsic value intended for presentation, gifts from personal friends, certain gifts based on outside business or employment relationships, certain discounts and benefits offered to all Government employees or unrelated to Government service, and gifts accepted under specific statutory authority such as free attendance at training sessions or meetings provided by charities or accepted as a gift to a government agency. While the lobbyist gift ban only applies to agency appointees as of January 21st, the Executive Order directs the Office of Government Ethics ("OGE") to adopt new rules applying the lobbyist gift ban to all Executive Branch employees.

In addition to having responsibility for implementing the new ethics rules, OGE is tasked with examining and making recommendations about the existing laws and procedures governing disclosure of Executive Branch procurement lobbying and whether those laws and procedures can be expanded. OGE's charge indicates that the Obama Administration may take action to impose greater disclosure requirements on federal government contractors.

The full text of the Executive Order is available here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/ExecutiveOrder-EthicsCommitments/.