Campaign Promises

Other/Miscellaneous -> Transparency in Government -> Ethics


ItemTransparency in Government
EthicsGrade
TE-1
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.
Source: https://my.ofa.us/page/-/Action%20Center/ObamaBlueprintForChange.pdf
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 served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Director of Policy and Projects in the Office of the First Lady from CY2009 to CY2013. From CY1994 to her appointment in CY2009, she lobbied for the National Partnership for Women and Families.

(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.
0.00
TE-2
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.
Source: https://my.ofa.us/page/-/Action%20Center/ObamaBlueprintForChange.pdf
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.
1.00
TE-3
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.
Source: http://obama.3cdn.net/0080cc578614b42284_2a0mvyxpz.pdf
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 was fulfilled.
1.00
TE-4
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.
Source: https://my.ofa.us/page/-/Action%20Center/ObamaBlueprintForChange.pdf
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.

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.

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 served to kill numerous congressional investigations during the Obama Administration.

As of end-CY2016, there was no record that President Obama used the power of his office to influence the creation of an "independent watchdog agency" for Congress.

This promise was not fulfilled.
0.00
TE-5
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.
Source: https://my.ofa.us/page/-/Action%20Center/ObamaBlueprintForChange.pdf
Status:The government database "data.gov" has a "Lobbying Disclosure Reports" section, but this section does not reflect the promised data. The majority of reports found therein pertain to city and state lobbying data, not federal.

An independent website, OpenSecrets.org, does an excellent job of tracking some aspects of this promise, indicating that the data is available if one is dedicated to doing some serious digging.

Another excellent resource for data related to this promise is pogo.org. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

As of end-CY2016, no specific federal "contracts and influence" database existed, despite the existence of "data.gov" as a potential vehicle for such a database.

This promise was not fulfilled.
0.00
TE-6
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.
Source: https://my.ofa.us/page/-/Action%20Center/ObamaBlueprintForChange.pdf
Status:Throughout President Obama's two terms in office, he emphasized that government is more accountable when it is transparent, and that's a principle that he worked to make a reality in his administration. Ethics.gov was created to fulfill this promise.

When it existed, anyone could search through the records of seven different datasets:
- White House visitor records;
- Office of Government Ethics travel reports;
- Lobbying Disclosure Act data;
- Department of Justice Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) data;
- Federal Election Commission individual contribution reports;
- Federal Election Commission candidate reports; and
- Federal Election Commission committee reports

When President Obama left office, the ethics.gov website ceased to exist.

Nonetheless, the promised database was created during President Obama's tenure.

This promise was fulfilled.
1.00