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OGE Issues First Memo on Obama Ethics Order

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The first executive order filed by President Obama (Executive Order 13490) imposed strict new rules restricting lobbyists from entering the administration, officials from leaving to become lobbyists, and lobbyist gifts to executive branch officials. The order also required the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) to issue memorandum on the various new rules imposed on executive branch officials. Last week, OGE released the first of such memorandum explaining the lobbyist gift ban.

The memorandum explains that officials are forbidden from receiving gifts from registered lobbyists (defined as those registered under the Lobbyist Disclosure Act and accessible through online databases) and any organization that is registered under the Lobbyist Disclosure Act. This means that a company that employs an in-house lobbyist cannot provide any gift to an executive branch official, even if the gift is provided to the official by an employee who is not a registered lobbyist. Companies and organizations that are not registered but hire outside lobbyists are not subject to the lobbyist gift ban.

OGE makes note that the guidance issued in this memorandum relates only to "full-time, non-career appointees" and not to career employees. For career employees, the memorandum says, "While the Executive Order directs OGE to adopt rules and procedures to apply the lobbyist gift ban to all executive branch employees, any such rules or procedures will be developed in due course, with ample consideration of the situation of career employees."