Ethics Office Rejects WH Attempt To Block Disclosure Of Ethics Waivers

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney pauses while speaking to the media during the daily press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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May 23, 2017 8:56 a.m.
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In a scathing letter issued late Monday, the Office of Government Ethics rejected a request from the Office of Management and Budget that OGE suspend its request that federal agencies turn over copies of ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists hired under the Trump administration.

“The unusual nature of your letter highlights OGE’s responsibility to lead the executive branch ethics program with independence, free from political pressure. Accordingly, OGE declines your request to suspend its ethics inquiry and reiterates its expectation that agencies will fully comply with its directive by June 1, 2017. Public confidence in the integrity of government decisionmaking demands no less,” OGE Director Walter Shaub Jr. wrote in a letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney had asked Shaub to suspend his directive to agencies to disclose the ethics waivers, questioning whether OGE had the legal authority to demand the documents.

In his letter to Mulvaney, Shaub argued that his office does have the legal authority to view the documents and generally oversee the executive branch’s ethics practices. He also noted that Congress supports giving OGE access to the waivers, citing a 2009 letter from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) urging the Obama administration to disclose to the public waivers granted to former lobbyists. Shaub wrote in his letter that Grassley’s call for the waivers to be disclosed in 2009 prompted OGE to begin the practice of posting the waivers on its website for the public to view.

“OGE is exercising its authority and independence appropriately. OGE’s April 28, 2017, directive is supported by ample legal authority and compliant with applicable procedures,” Shaub wrote at the end of his lengthy Monday letter to Mulvaney. “I want to assure you that a request from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget is not something that I decline lightly.”

Read Shaub’s letter:

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