October 26, 2020
The Presidential Election: The Ethics Community is Prepared and Ready
On this day in 1978, President Carter signed the Ethics in Government Act, which created the United States Office of Government Ethics (OGE) and the public financial disclosure system for the United States Government. OGE and the system have grown to be essential elements in the transition between and within Presidential administrations. Indeed, OGE and the executive branch ethics community are right now making final preparations for the Presidential election and the post-election period.
Historically, the period following a Presidential election, whether or not there is a change in administration, results in significant turnover in senior leadership positions. Vacancies in these leadership positions can leave our nation vulnerable to national security threats, natural disasters, and other unforeseen challenges that require senior government leadership.
The ethics community plays an important role in ensuring that executive branch vacancies are filled quickly and that incoming leaders are fully able to assume their duties while avoiding conflicts of interest and other ethics problems. It is one of our community’s most important responsibilities.
For more than a year, the executive branch ethics community has been preparing for this post-election period. OGE has hosted multiple training events, including a virtual summit to help prepare ethics officials to vet incoming leaders; discussions with experts on Presidential transitions to help the community know what to expect; and practical workshops to help ensure agency ethics programs are in top form to assist in the post-election period. OGE has updated and published numerous tools and documents to help new leaders understand their ethics responsibilities. We’ve also been working with our government colleagues to ensure that preparations are coordinated across the executive branch. Our community and the executive branch are ready.
The period following a Presidential election is always challenging – the COVID-19 pandemic adds a layer of complexity to the election itself, as well as to OGE’s work afterward. Should determining the outcome of the election take longer than usual, the available time between the election being decided and inauguration would be shortened. OGE and the ethics community are prepared for this possibility, and OGE will be ready to “hit the ground running” as soon as the election is decided, to ensure continuity of leadership in the executive branch.
Assisting with changes in leadership after a Presidential election is one of the most important tasks of the executive branch ethics community. We take it seriously, and we are fully prepared and stand ready to ensure that leadership positions may be quickly filled, to help keep our country safe and secure.