Campaign Promises

Other/Miscellaneous -> Transparency in Government -> Ethics

ItemTransparency in Government
The Promise: "No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Status:A few examples where the first part of this promise was broken:

(1) William J. Lynn III was a Raytheon lobbyist for six years, lobbying extensively on a broad range of defense-related issues. He was appointed to be Deputy Secretary of Defense on 02/11/09, with final authority on a number of contract, program and budget decisions.

(2) Jocelyn Frye is now Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Director of Policy and Projects in the Office of the First Lady. She previously lobbied for National Partnership for Women and Families from 2001 to 2008.

(3) Cecilia Munoz was appointed on 11/28/08 as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Executive Office of the President. She lobbied for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization, between 1998 and 2008.

(4) Ashton Carter, Defense Acquisition Chief, former consultant to Textron. On 5/11/09, the DoD Inspector General ruled that in his judgment, the nature of Carter's previous consulting arrangement with Textron should not prevent Carter from objectively making decisions involving the company.

(5) Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, was a registered lobbyist for the National Education Association (NEA) until 03/31/08. However, since he was reportedly not directly involved in nutrition or agriculture-related matters, he was considered not to have a conflict of interest problem, this despite the fact that the NEA has nutrition programs as part of its agenda to rewrite the "No Child Left Behind" legislation.

(6) Mark Patterson, Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the Treasury, was a lobbyist for Goldman Sachs until 04/11/08.

(7) William Corr, Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, lobbied as executive director of the "Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids" until 09/08.

President Obama's 01/21/09 Executive Order 13490 banning lobbyists from working in an agency they previously lobbied was either directly violated early in his first term in office, or former lobbyists were given a pass based on very broad interpretations of the executive order.

This promise was not fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will issue an executive order asking all new hires at the agencies to sign a form affirming that no political appointee offered them the job solely on the basis of political affiliation or contribution."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Status:On 01/21/09, President Obama signed Executive Order 13490 entitled "Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel." This order requires that appointees sign forms saying that they were not hired because of political affiliations or contributions.

This promise was fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will issue an executive order banning registered lobbyists or lobbying firms from giving gifts in any amount or any form to executive branch employees."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Stop Wasteful Spending and Curb Influence of Special Interests so Government Can Tackle our Great Challenges" dated 09/22/08.
Status:On 01/21/09, President Obama signed Executive Order 13490 entitled "Executive Order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel." The Executive Order bans registered lobbyists from giving gifts to executive branch personnel.

This promise has been fulfilled.
The Promise: "Obama will use the power of the presidency to fight for an independent watchdog agency to oversee the investigation of congressional ethics violations so that the public can be assured that ethics complaints will be investigated."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan for America entitled: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Status:The House is being policed by its Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) that came into existence in CY2008 before President Obama assumed the Presidency. Over the objections of the Congressional Black Caucus, the 112th Congress majority House Republicans decided to retain the OCE as part of an over-arching House ethics adherence process.

In 11/10, as a direct result of the OCE's work, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct found Congressman Charles Rangle (D-NY) guilty of 11 ethics violations.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) was accused of three ethics violations/allegations of impropriety in 08/10. Deliberations by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct concluded on 09/21/12 that Congresswoman Waters would not be further investigated for allegedly steering $12M in bailout funds to a bank in which her husband owned stock.

The Senate has its own Ethics Committee to investigate its members suspected of ethics violations. In 05/11, Senator John Ensign (R-NV) was investigated for breaking federal laws while trying to cover up an extramarital affair.

On 07/05/12, The Senate Ethics Committee announced that it would investigate Congresswoman Shelley Blake (D-NV) for advocating for continued support of a kidney transplant facility where her husband had a contract.

The Executive Branch of government has no constitutional power/leverage over ethics investigations the House and Senate undertake on their members. Further, the U.S. Constitution contains a "speech or debate" clause which is interpreted as protecting legislative matters from executive branch interference if what a Congressional member did was part of his/her official duties. The invocation of this clause has served to kill at least seven Congressional investigations since President Obama came into office.

Regardless, there is no record that President Obama has used the power of his office to influence the creation of a "independent watchdog agency."

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will create a "contracts and influence" database that will disclose how much federal contractors spend on lobbying, and what contracts they are getting and how well they complete them."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Status:Asked about this promise on 05/21/09, Vivek Kundra, the Federal Chief Information Officer, stated that the Government "is hard at work bringing those online, and are tackling some of the more difficult logistics challenges, like creating unique identifiers that tie disparate bits of data together."

The new government database "" has a "Lobbying Disclosure Reports" section, but this section does not reflect the promised data, four years after Mr. Kundra's 'we're working on it' statement.

Another independent website,, did an excellent job in tracking some aspects of this promise, indicating that the data was available if one wanted to do serious digging. Unfortunately, this web site was no longer available when checked in early-CY2013. Was political pressure applied for its removal? We'll check on it periodically.

As of the start of President Obama's second term in office, no specific "contracts and influence" database exists, despite the availability of "" as a potential vehicle for such a database.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
The Promise: "...will create a centralized Internet database of lobbying reports, ethics records, and campaign finance filings."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Status:Promise TE-5 is closely related.

The new government database "" reflects some but not all of the promised data elements.

The "" web site does an OK job of depicting Federal Election Commission (FEC) data related to contributors and their contributions and searchable lobbying data, but falls short of providing the ethics records promised.

While progress was been made in the creation and fielding of the promised database, more work is needed for that database to fully satisfy this promise as stated.

As of early-CY2013, this promise has not been fulfilled.