Statement of Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn
The American people expect and deserve the restoration of strong ethical standards at the White House in the wake of the abuses of the Trump presidency. President-elect Biden promised reform on the campaign trail, and Common Cause, along with our allies, urged the incoming administration to take make a strong commitment to ethics and democracy reforms.
We are encouraged to hear reports now indicating that one of Joe Biden’s first acts as President will be to issue an Executive Order to enact strong ethical standards within his administration. According to reporting, incoming senior staff will sign a pledge committing to acting in the public interest and avoiding any appearance they used government service for private gain. Such a change is welcome and necessary after President Trump received millions in taxpayer payments to his businesses, Coronavirus Task Force members reportedly held stock in vaccine companies, and clients of Trump-connected lobbyists received billions in government COVID response spending, while the hardships of the pandemic has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and fell disproportionately on Black and Brown communities.
The order will also prohibit incoming officials from receiving compensation from their previous employer for taking a government job – a practice that in the past has led to large payouts and, at a minimum, very troubling appearances. The order is also said to address those departing the Biden White House, banning them from lobbying the administration for the duration of the term and a one-year prohibition on assisting with lobbying efforts. President Biden will also: reimpose a ban on lobbyists working for agencies they have recently lobbied unless they are granted a waiver; registered foreign agents will face restrictions on joining the administration; and departing staff will be prohibited from working as registered foreign agents soon after leaving government. And following the Trump administration’s politicization of the Justice Department, appointees will be asked to uphold the independence of law enforcement and avoid any improper influence with law enforcement officials.
A strong commitment to ethics is essential to help restore Americans’ faith in our government after the flagrant abuses of power undertaken by President Trump and members of his administration. Common Cause is encouraged by this early commitment to ethics reform, and we will work with the Biden administration to pass the For the People Act (HR 1/S 1) to help codify transformative ethics and democracy reforms into law so future administrations cannot reverse this executive order. We will continue to work to hold the Biden administration, and any future administration, to the highest ethical standards. Public service is a high calling and Americans deserve public servants who prioritize the well-being of all Americans and the nation above all else.