Barack Obama's Executive Order on Ethics

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In one of his first acts after his January 2009 inauguration, U.S. President Barack Obama made an Executive Order, "Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel." [1]

The order requires executive agency appointees to not accept gifts from lobbyists, to avoid working on issues "directly and substantially related" to former employers or former clients for two years, and to not lobby former colleagues for two years, after leaving their government position. There are additional restrictions on lobbyists entering the government, and appointees leaving the government to lobby are banned from lobbying their former colleagues in the executive branch for the remainder of the Obama administration. [1]

"The lobbying limitations also appear to be considerably broader than those other presidents imposed," according to the Washington Post. In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton "barred senior appointees from leaving and then, at any time in the next five years, lobbying former colleagues in the agency where they had worked. He reversed the order a month before leaving office, as aides complained of difficulty finding jobs." [2]


The rules don't "prohibit lobbyists from working in the Obama administration," don't place restrictions on people who "influence votes on Capitol Hill or administration action" without registering as lobbyists, and don't "ban former government officials from lobbying Capitol Hill, which is where the bulk of legislative advocacy happens," reported [3]

Lynn controversy

The Project on Government Oversight, among others, noted that the Executive Order on Ethics required the administration to waive the new restrictions for Deputy Secretary of Defense nominee William J. Lynn III, who lobbied for military contractor Raytheon as recently as 2008. [4] For Raytheon, Lynn lobbied on "a wide range of defense issues, including acquisitions policy, force protection, space and intelligence, command and control, simulation and training, missile defense, sensors and radars, and munitions and artillery," meaning he could not avoid addressing these issues while serving as Deputy Secretary of Defense. However, some argued that Lynn may be "grandfathered in" under the old rules, as he accepted the nomination weeks before the Executive Order on Ethics was signed. [5]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 President Barack Obama, "Executive Order -- Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel", White House website, January 21, 2009.
  2. Dan Eggen and R. Jeffrey Smith, "Lobbying Rules Surpass Those of Previous Presidents, Experts Say," Washington Post, January 22, 2009.
  3. Jeanne Cummings, "Lobbying reforms leave daylight,", January 22, 2009.
  4. Press release, "White House Waiver For DoD Appointee Lynn Undermines White House Ethics Standards And Sends Wrong Message," Project on Government Oversight, January 22, 2009.
  5. Frank James, "Obama lobbying ban hits DC reality," "The Swamp" blog by Tribune's Washington DC bureau, January 22, 2009.

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