Civic groups, academics urge Congress to support the Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act

Hearings are continuing on H.R. 1, the landmark elections and ethics bill. One part of the bill that deserves more attention is what it would do to slow the revolving door. Learn more about this issue and how we can address it by reading this letter that we recently sent to the U.S. Senate.


Dear Senators:

We, the undersigned groups and individuals, write in support of the Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act sponsored by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), a key section in Title VIII of the sweeping reform legislation, H.R. 1. This legislative proposal would slow the revolving door both into, and out of, the federal government and dramatically rein in the capture of regulatory agencies by corporations and special interests these agencies oversee.

The revolving door has long been a pernicious problem, in which corporations and special interests seek to exercise undue influence over public policy through two key strategies. First, by getting like-minded corporate executives and lobbyists appointed to governmental agencies that regulate them in the public sector; and, second, by securing an insider connection with these same agencies by hiring government officials leaving public service as executives and lobbyists for the corporations and special interests in the private sector.

Today the revolving door is spinning at alarming speed, with more lobbyists filling the ranks of cabinet offices and regulatory agencies than seen in decades, and at the same time former government officials and procurement officers freely moving into lucrative private-sector jobs with the same companies they had previously overseen. This well-oiled revolving door raises the very real concern among the public of whose interests are being represented by our government.

The Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act tackles the revolving door head-on, both into and out of government. Among other things, the Act would:

  • Outlaw Bonuses for Government Work (Golden Parachute): The legislation prohibits government employees from accepting bonuses from their former private-sector employers for entering government service – a golden parachute that may endear or obligate incoming officials to their former employers.
  • Expand Cooling-Off Periods and Tighten Lobbying Rules:The legislation increases the prohibition on former government officials lobbying the federal government from one to two years. Even more importantly, it bans former regulators from even providing “strategic consulting” on behalf of lobbying campaigns for two years – a frequently-used means to evade today’s revolving door restrictions. It also prohibits procurement officers in the federal government from working for companies that received contracts overseen by the procurement officers during their last two years in government service.
  • Reduce Conflicts of Interest:The legislation requires senior government regulators to recuse themselves from any official actions that directly or substantially benefit their former employers or clients for whom they worked in the previous two years before joining public service.

Importantly, the Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act would not eliminate cooperation between the government and industry, nor would it prevent agencies from hiring employees with private-sector expertise. It is designed to mitigate the worst effects of the revolving door and protect the integrity of governmental service.

The Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act would establish clearer boundaries between the government and those who seek self-serving interests from the government, and will help affirm that governmental agencies serve the public’s interest.

For these reasons, we strongly encourage you to support and co-sponsor the Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act.

Sincerely,

American Oversight
Campaign for Accountability
Center for Biological Diversity
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Coalition to Preserve, Protect & Defend
Common Cause
Corporate Accountability
Democracy 21
End Citizens United Action Fund
Equal Justice Society
Norman J. Ornstein
People Demanding Action
Prof. James A. Thurber
Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
Protect Democracy
Public Citizen
Stand Up America
Sunlight Foundation
Take On Wall Street
Voices for Progress