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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Post-Employment, “Revolving Door,” Laws for Federal Personnel

Jack Maskell
Legislative Attorney

Federal personnel may be subject to certain conflict of interest restrictions on private employment activities even after they leave U.S. government service. These restrictions, applicable when one enters private employment after having left government service, are often referred to as revolving door laws. For the most part, other than the narrow restrictions specific to procurement officials, these laws restrict only certain "representational" types of employment activities such as lobbying or advocacy directed to, and which attempts to influence, current federal officials. 

Under federal conflict of interest law, at 18 U.S.C. § 207, federal employees in the executive branch of government are restricted in performing certain post-employment "representational" activities for private parties, including (1) a lifetime ban on "switching sides," that is, representing a private party on the same "particular matter" involving identified parties on which the former executive branch employee had worked personally and substantially for the government; (2) a two-year ban on "switching sides" on a somewhat broader range of matters which were under the employee's official responsibility; (3) a one-year restriction on assisting others on certain trade or treaty negotiations; (4) a one-year "cooling off" period for certain "senior" officials barring representational communications to and attempts to influence persons in their former departments or agencies; (5) a new two-year "cooling off" period for "very senior" officials barring representational communications to and attempts to influence certain other high ranking officials in the entire executive branch of government; and (6) a one-year ban on certain former high-level officials performing certain representational or advisory activities for foreign governments or foreign political parties. This law also applies the one-year "cooling off" periods, and the restrictions on representations on behalf of official foreign entities and assistance in trade negotiations, in the legislative branch to Members of the House and to senior legislative staff, and applies the two-year "cooling off" period to former U.S. Senators lobbying the Congress. 

Under the provisions of an executive order issued by President Obama on January 21, 2009, fulltime, non-career presidential and vice-presidential appointees in the executive branch, including non-career appointees in the Senior Executive Service, and excepted service confidential, policymaking appointees, will be subject to more extensive post-government-employment "lobbying" restrictions. All such appointees will be barred from "lobbying" any executive branch official "covered" by the Lobbying Disclosure Act (2 U.S.C. § 1602(3)), or any non-career SES appointee, for the remainder of the current Administration. Additionally, all such appointees who are "senior" officials subject to the current one-year "cooling off" period on lobbying and advocacy communications to their former agency, must now abide by such "cooling off" period for two years. 

Further limitations are placed upon post-government private employment activities of "procurement personnel" in federal agencies. These restrictions go beyond the prohibitions on merely representational, lobbying, or advocacy activities on behalf of private entities before the government after leaving government service, and extend also to any compensated employment for or on behalf of certain private contractors for a period of time after a former procurement official had been responsible for procurement action on certain large contracts for the government.

Date of Report: May 12, 2010
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: 97-875
Price: $29.95

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