Shortly after his inauguration, President George H. W. Bush counseled freshly minted White House appointees that, “It’s not really very complicated. It’s a question of knowing right from wrong, avoiding conflicts of interest, bending over backwards to see that there’s not even a perception of conflict of interest.
.. By holding themselves to the same exacting standards as the rest of the executive branch, they sent a clear message to those serving under them.
.. This tradition came to an abrupt stop with President Trump. By continuing to hold onto his businesses and effectively advertising them through frequent visits to his properties, our leader creates the appearance of profiting from the presidency. As things stand, we can’t know whether policy aims or personal financial interests motivate his decisions as president. Whatever his intentions may be, the resulting uncertainty casts a pall of doubt over governmental decision-making.
.. Every past administration actively supported O.G.E.’s work and respected it for taking stands when necessary. That White House support provided the office with the leverage it needed to fulfill its mission.
.. The Office of Government Ethics has been performing the same service it has always provided with respect to the current administration’s nominees. In fact, I have succeeded in moving President Trump’s nominees on average almost a week (six days to be exact) faster than I moved President Obama’s nominees during the last presidential transition, without compromising O.G.E.’s high standards. I am particularly proud of this accomplishment because this administration’s nominees generally hold far more complex financial interests than the last administration’s nominees, a circumstance that would normally be expected to slow O.G.E.’s work.
A White House lawyer made the extraordinary assertion that “many regulations promulgated by the Office of Government Ethics (‘OGE’) do not apply to employees of the Executive Office of the President.”
Appearing to echo this view, the Office of Management and Budget challenged O.G.E.’s authority to collect routine ethics records.
Even some presidential nominees have pushed back against ethics processes with uncommon intensity.
.. the very official charged with responsibility for White House ethics, the counsel to the president. His office recently ginned up ten unsigned, undated waivers, many of which seem intended to have retroactive effect, raising the specter of a possible effort to paper over ethics violations. Worse, the counsel appears to be both issuer and recipient of two waivers.
.. Defenders of the status quo also seem unwilling to acknowledge the existence of a problem absent clear evidence of significant violations. This argument risks legitimizing an approach of bare minimum legal compliance. The existence or absence of identified violations is not the only measure of an ethics program — no program can detect every violation and those detected are often hard to prove.
.. Those systems depend on adherence to ethical norms.
.. Recent experiences have convinced me that the existing mechanism is insufficient. The Office of Government Ethics needs greater authority to obtain information from the executive branch, including the White House. The White House and agencies lacking inspectors general need investigative oversight, which should be coordinated with O.G.E.
.. Because we can no longer rely on presidents to comply voluntarily with ethical norms, we need new laws to address their conflicts of interest, their receipt of compensation for the use of their names while in office, nepotism and the release of tax forms.
.. Disclosure requirements can be refined and the revolving door tightened.
The provision, part of a last-minute amendment, lets states obtain waivers from certain Affordable Care Act insurance regulations. Insurers in states that obtain the waivers could be freed from a regulation mandating that they cover 10 particular types of health services, among them maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health treatment and hospitalization... Under the House bill, large employers could choose the benefit requirements from any state—including those that are allowed to lower their benchmarks under a waiver, health analysts said. By choosing a waiver state, employers looking to lower their costs could impose lifetime limits and eliminate the out-of-pocket cost cap from their plans under the GOP legislation.A company wouldn’t have to do business in a state to choose that state’s benefits level, analysts said. The company could just choose a state to match no matter where it is based.
President Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.
.. In at least two cases, the appointments may have already led to violations of the administration’s own ethics rules. But evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules.
Michael Catanzaro .. was working as a lobbyist for major industry clients such as Devon Energy of Oklahoma, an oil and gas company, and Talen Energy of Pennsylvania, a coal-burning electric utility, as they fought Obama-era environmental regulations, including the landmark Clean Power Plan.
.. Chad Wolf, who spent the past several years lobbying to secure funding for the Transportation Security Administration to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new carry-on luggage screening device.
two officials joined the agency from the K Street lobbying corridor .. where they fought some of the Obama administration’s signature labor rules, including a policy requiring financial advisers to act in a client’s best interest
.. the president eliminated an ethics provision that prohibits lobbyists from joining agencies they lobbied in the prior two years.
.. Mr. Trump’s appointees are also far wealthier and have more complex financial holdings and private-sector ties
.. comply with federal ethics laws, such as a prohibition on using a government post to personally profit.
.. made it easier for former lobbyists in the government to get waivers that would let them take up matters that could benefit former clients.
.. sharing them is no longer required.
.. D. J. Gribbin, the council’s infrastructure specialist, previously worked for Macquarie, a bank that specializes in infrastructure deals
.. Shakira Knight .. as a lobbyist for Fidelity
.. she was registered to work on retirement issues, including the so-called fiduciary rule
.. under Mr. Trump’s executive order, Ms. Knight should probably be barred for two years from participating in decisions that would affect the fiduciary rule.
Geoffrey Burr .. who was a lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors, which pressed the agency on its overtime pay rule, wage requirements for government contracts and an additional half-dozen or so other regulations
.. Mr. Burr would probably not have been able to join the Labor Department.
.. Such potential conflicts are showing up across the federal government.
.. Executives at Anagogic Corp .. CT scans, which are already used broadly in the medical field and on checked baggage. The company now wants the T.S.A. to use them in the nation’s 2,400 airport checkpoint security lanes, a move that could be worth at least $500 million in equipment sales.
.. Mr. Wolf’s Twitter account on Friday still identified him as a lobbyist and displayed posts from last year urging the T.S.A. to buy the devices.
.. A T.S.A. spokesman agreed to arrange an interview with Mr. Wolf — who worked at the agency during the Bush administration before becoming a lobbyist — but canceled it when told about the topic in detail.
.. Lance Leggitt, who serves as chief of staff to Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, worked last year as a lobbyist for 10 different health care companies
treatments .. carry list prices of more than $250,000 a year.
.. We know people coming in who have conflicts, and we cannot see what restrictions they are under, if any.”
.. Even if the rules are enforced, so many senior officials will be required to recuse themselves that “they will have a hard time getting their job done.”