Ethics

Quote of the Day

“It’s hard for the United States to pursue international anticorruption and ethics initiatives when we’re not even keeping our own side of the street clean. It affects our credibility. I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.”

— Outgoing government ethics chief Walter Shaub, quoted by the New York Times.

Government Ethics Chief Quits

Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub told NPR he is turning in his resignation.

“The move follows months of clashes with the White House over issues such as President Trump’s refusal to divest his businesses and the administration’s delay in disclosing ethics waivers for appointees.”

Said Schaub: “The current situation has made it clear that the ethics program needs to be stronger than it is.”

Ethics Office Will Challenge Unsigned Waivers

“The Office of Government Ethics plans to press the White House to clarify when it issued a slew of ethics waivers giving its staffers permission to interact with their former employers or clients, an indication that the exemptions might not have been properly granted,” the Washington Post reports.

“Ten of the 14 waivers publicly disclosed this week by the White House are undated and unsigned, raising questions about when they were put in place.”

Price’s Foreign Lobbying Helped His Portfolio

“Before he was named Trump’s health secretary, Tom Price took a congressional trip to Australia and pressed officials to extend protections for drug companies in an international trade agreement,” ProPublica reports.

“Price’s lobbying abroad, which has not previously been reported, is another example of how his work in Congress could have benefitted his investment portfolio. He traded hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of shares in health-related companies while taking action on legislation and regulations affecting the industry. ProPublica previously reported that Price’s stock trades are said to be under investigation by federal prosecutors.”

White House Grants Ethics Waivers to 17 Appointees

“The White House disclosed Wednesday evening that it has granted ethics waivers to 17 appointees who work for President Trump and Vice President Pence, including four former lobbyists,” the Washington Post reports.

“The waivers exempt the appointees from certain portions of ethics rules aimed at barring potential conflicts of interest. In letters posted on the White House website, the White House counsel’s office wrote that the waivers were in the public interest because the administration had a need for the appointees’ expertise on certain issues.”

“The rate at which the Trump White House has handed out waivers is far faster than that of the Obama administration, which issued 17 exemptions for White House appointees over eight years.”

Mueller Cleared to Lead Russia Probe

“Justice Department ethics experts have concluded that newly appointed special counsel Robert Mueller can oversee the investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election — even though his former law firm represents several people who could be caught up in the matter,” the Washington Post reports.

White House Rejects Ethics Inquiry Into Ex-Lobbyists

“The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the White House or federal agencies,” the New York Times reports.

“The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.”

“Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.”

GOP Lawmaker Under Ethics Investigation

“Congressional ethics investigators are probing Rep. Chris Collins’ (R-NY) role in attracting investors to an Australian biotech company,” the Buffalo News reports.

“They are looking into any potential role played by Collins, the firm’s largest shareholder, in persuading investors to buy stock in the company.”

Earlier this year reporters overheard Collins in a cellphone conversation just off the House floor, bragging about “how many millionaires I’ve made in Buffalo the past few months.”

GOP Lawmaker Invested In Company He Tried to Help

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) purchased $2.2 million worth of stock in Innate Immunotherapeutics as part of its initial public offering in late 2013, the Daily Beast reports.

“The IPO prospectus said Innate would seek FDA approval of its drug to treat multiple sclerosis. More than a year later, Collins wrote into a bill language to expedite the FDA’s approval process for such drugs. Four months before the bill was signed into law, Collins again purchased stock in Innate, this time as much as $1 million.”

Kushner and Trump Can’t Escape Conflict of Interest Laws

New York Times: “The husband-and-wife team of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, now both senior federal government officials, has been alongside President Trump as the White House has hosted dozens of chief executives and a handful of world leaders in recent weeks.”

“But the financial disclosure report released late Friday for Mr. Kushner, which shows that he and his wife still benefit financially from a real estate and investment empire worth as much as $740 million, makes clear that this most powerful Washington couple is walking on perilous legal and ethical ground.”

“Unlike Mr. Trump, who is exempt from conflict of interest laws, both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump — who took a formal White House position this past week — are forbidden under federal criminal and civil law to take any action that might benefit their particular financial holdings.”

Trump’s Team Skipped Ethics Course

President Trump’s team “rejected a course for senior White House staff, cabinet nominees and other political appointees that would have provided training on leadership, ethics and management,” according to documents obtained by Politico.

“The documents suggest the program could have better prepared officials for working within existing laws and executive orders, and provided guidance on how to navigate Senate confirmation for nominees and political appointees, how to deal with congressional and media scrutiny, and how to work with Congress and collaborate with agencies — some of the same issues that have become major stumbling blocks in the early days of the administration.”