President Obama signed Executive Order 13490 on January 21, 2009, requiring every full-time, political appointee appointed on or after January 20, 2009, to sign an ethics pledge upon accepting the political appointment. In general, appointees commit to:

  • not accepting gifts or gratuities from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations (subject to a limited number of the exceptions provided in the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Standards of Ethical Conduct, as well as other exceptions that OGE may authorize in the future for situations that do not implicate the purpose of the gift ban);
  • recuse for two years from any particular matter involving specific parties in which a former employer or client is or represents a party, if the appointee served that employer or client during the two years prior to the appointment;
  • if the appointee was a registered lobbyist during the prior two years,
    • recused, for two years after appointment, from any particular matter on which he or she lobbied during the two years prior to appointment (or any particular matter that falls within the same specific issue area)
    • not seek or accept employment with an agency or department that he or she lobbied during the prior two years
  • if the appointee is subject to the senior employee post-employment restriction in 18 USC § 207(c), to abide by such restriction for two years after termination of the appointment;
  • not to lobby any covered executive branch official (as described in the Lobbying Disclosure Act) or any noncareer SES appointee for as long as President Obama is in office;
  • agree that any hiring or other employment decisions will be based on the candidate's qualifications, competence and experience.

Section 3 of the Executive Order provides a waiver mechanism for any of the restrictions contained in the Pledge. The waiver must come from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (or designee), in consultation with the White House Counsel (or designee). The Executive Order also provides for enforcement of the Pledge through civil action by the Attorney General. Moreover, the Order provides for agency debarment proceedings against former appointees found to have violated the Pledge, pursuant to debarment procedures established by each agency in consultation with OGE.

The Departmental Ethics Office works closely with the Department's political appointees to review the pledge, obtain the appointee's signature, and advise the appointees on how the pledge may affect their official duties.