Obama Sets New Ethics Rules

Posted January 21, 2009 at 1:06pm

President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a sweeping set of executive orders and directives he said would usher in “a new era of openness,” freezing the salaries of senior aides and taking a number of steps to reduce the role of lobbyists in his administration.

Appearing at the White House, Obama announced a ban on gifts to members of the administration and said those who serve under him will be barred from “attempting to influence your colleagues” for two years after leaving. Lobbyists who take jobs in the administration will not be able to work on the areas in which they lobbied or for the agency they lobbied for the past two years, and after leaving government will be prevented from lobbying the administration for as long as Obama remains president.

Administration officials will also be required to receive a new “ethics briefing” — starting with Obama, who received the briefing last week.

Obama said he was taking steps to allow the easier release of information.

“Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known,” he said.

Obama promised that when he or a former president wants to prevent the release of information, he will have to run it by the attorney general and the White House counsel.

Obama added, though, that issues of national security and personal privacy “must be treated with the care that they demand.”

Obama spoke at an event during which the senior White House staff was sworn in by Vice President Joseph Biden. Biden apparently did not remember that he had to swear in the Cabinet and the senior White House staff separately.

“My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts’,” Biden quipped.

The event announcing the new openness was closed to all reporters except the handful who are in the White House pool. The event was televised, though.