Presidential Candidates Should Conduct Transition Work in Accordance With Democratic Principles

April 29, 2016

Presidential Candidates Should Conduct Transition Work in Accordance With Democratic Principles

First-in-a-Series Paper Recommends That Presidential Candidates Disclose Ethics Policies and Records of Meetings Relating to Transition

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The unpredictable state of the presidential campaign coupled with the impending end to President Barack Obama’s tenure has evoked multiple appeals for careful planning by the candidates to ensure an orderly transition. A white paper (PDF) published today argues that transition planning should be conducted in accordance with good governance values.

The paper, “A Recommendation for Presidential Transition Transparency,” was written by Heath Brown, assistant professor of public policy at the City University of New York and an expert on presidential transitions. It is the first in a series of publications to be coordinated by Brown and Public Citizen.

“The policies that presidential candidates adopt for their transitions provide a window into their commitment to the principles of openness to the public and democratic deliberation,” said Brown. “A candidate who hopes to avoid the appearance of corruption should embrace transparency and ethics guidelines as a part of his or her pre-election transition planning.”

The paper makes five recommendations that would apply both to candidates making plans prior to the election and to the eventual president-elect. These recommendations take into account that transition planning must occur prior to the election and, likely, before the parties’ official selection of nominees. The paper recommends that:

1. The leading candidates identify and disclose to the public the ethical principles and policies they intend to implement in their administration and agree to apply each to their transition planning.

2. Within a week of the final primaries of June 7, any candidates still contesting their party’s nomination should announce whom they have tasked – or intend to task – with transition planning work.

3. As soon as candidates begin transition planning, they should disclose who has provided funding for their transition work and/or how they intend to finance pre-election transition planning.

4. Candidates should post information on a public website describing all transition-related meetings held with individuals and organizations outside the campaign or transition team.

5. Each candidate should archive documents from his or her transition and announce when those documents will be made public.

“The transition is arguably the most important stage in an entire presidency because it sets the course for the administration,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “Candidates seeking the White House should adopt a level of transparency similar to what will be required of them if they are elected president, to demonstrate their commitment to an ethical and open administration.”

Read the paper (PDF).