Geological survey of the United States
In a column this week, I recently criticized the pardons of former President Donald Trump, including others convicted of various forms of political corruption. For a person committed to “draining the swamp,” his pardons show an unprecedented sense of sympathy (and grace) for those who have benefited in public office. These pardons, however, pale in comparison to the contradiction in one of Trump’s final acts as president: lifting his ban on current and former members of his administration from not lobbying their respective agencies for five years.
The order required its political representatives to agree to the prohibition of lobbying as a condition of their positions and to undertake not to undertake any work that would require them to register as a “foreign agent” after leaving the government. It was one of the few actual steps taken to strengthen government ethics in the administration. I have criticized the government for openly embracing nepotism and tolerating violations of the Hatch Act.
Signing the unilateral revocation of the Code of Ethics the Tuesday before his departure was the ultimate act of cynicism. President Bill Clinton signed a similar order on the way to the door. What is so striking is how such politicians openly acknowledge that their previous ethical positions were nothing more than a political ploy.
Biden is expected to issue a new rule for banned former aides from lobbying the White House or executive agencies while in office. Thus, it would have the same time coverage as the Trump rule, which was lifted at the end of his term in office. However, Biden is expected to include a provision prohibiting those leaving near the end of his term from lobbying the White House for at least two years. Trump just lifted the rule entirely.
Of course, Trump isn’t the first to promise to drain the swamp just to expand its corrupt ecosystem. The move, however, shows how voters are being fooled around with these pledges of government ethics in Washington.