USDA, The Ethics Pledge – Post Employment Restrictions

USDA, The Ethics Pledge – Post Employment Restrictions


Hello and welcome, to one of several presentations about the ethics rules that apply to all Federal employees. My name is Don Lobeda and I am an ethics advisor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Ethics. In this video I will once again discuss the ethics pledge. As you may know on January 28th 2017 President Trump signed an executive order requiring all full-time political appointees to sign an ethics pledge that obligates them to obey certain ethical standards of conduct. This is the USDA Office of Ethics second video about the ethics pledge. This video will discuss whether the ethics pledge applies to you and what current appointees who sign the pledge need to know about its post government employment restrictions. It is important to get a grasp of these rules before you as an appointee began looking for a job outside of government. As explained in our other video on the ethics pledge the provisions of the ethics pledge apply to every political appointee and every executive agency appointed on or after January 20 2017. If you are politically appointed to your federal position whether or not you were confirmed by the senate, you are probably required to sign the ethics pledge and obey it. Next, I’ll turn to the ethics pledge rules that become relevant when you decide to leave Federal service. After leaving government there are three basic pledge restrictions you should be aware of; they are, number one: restrictions on certain lobbying activities. Number two: a one-year prohibition against contact with an employee of your former federal agency, and number three: a prohibition on engaging in certain activities on behalf of a foreign government or foreign political entity. First the current pledge prohibits you from engaging in lobbying activities with respect to your former agency for five years after the termination of your employment as an appointee. The ethics pledge establishes a similar ban on lobbying activities by former appointees directed at most senior government officials and political appointees in any agency or department for the remainder of the current administration. These are important rules to keep in mind if you plan to leave Federal service before the end of this administration. It is important to also understand what is meant by the term lobbying activities when considering the pledges lobbying ban. For purposes of the pledge the definition of lobbying activities includes both engaging and lobbying contacts and lobbying support. A lobbying contact would involve an oral or written communication to agency employees and appointees. Lobbying support consists of behind the scenes preparation for lobbying contacts The pledges lobbying band provisions can get fairly complicated and the Lobbying Disclosure Act which the pledge relies on to define key terms has 19 Exceptions to activities that do not constitute lobbying. Additionally, The Office of Government Ethics issues legal advisories on the ethics pledge so it is best to contact the US Department of Agriculture’s Offices of Ethics as soon as you think you might leave your appointed position. After hearing your fact-specific situation we will help you navigate these post-employment lobbying waters. The current pledge also reinforces the cooling-off period for senior employees found at 18 USC Section 207 C. This cooling-off rule prohibits senior officials from representing back to the agency with an intent to influence pending programs or actions. This Rules’ discussed in another video and includes an explanation of the term senior personnel or senior employee. For now you should know that this criminal statute and portion of the pledge is quite broad because it applies to contacts with any employee of the former agency. It’s okay if you don’t remember the statute. Just be sure to contact the Office of Ethics if you are thinking of communicating back to the USDA after starting a new job outside the government. Lastly, there is a ban in the current pledge that prevents you as a former appointee from acting as an agent of a foreign principle in a political or quasi political capacity. This is a lifetime ban that prohibits former political appointees from representing a foreign entity that seeks to influence us public opinion, policy and/or laws. There are many post government employment restrictions that political appointees need to deal with after leaving Federal service. Ethics advice on the post government employment restrictions is available to you free of charge even after your work and public service has concluded. So keep our contact information available. The current ethics pledge requires a lot of consideration and this video does not cover all of the potential ethical issues that could arise Please do not hesitate to contact the Office of Ethics whenever you have a question or when you are planning for a future career outside of the government. Thanks for tuning in and remember to stay ethical my friends.

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