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The Ethics in Government Act Turns 45

October 23, 2023

Shelley Finlayson, Acting Director

Thursday, October 26th will mark the 45th anniversary the Ethics in Government Act being signed into law, creating the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and the ethics program it oversees designed to prevent conflicts of interest. For more than 16,436 days since, the ethics program has been growing and improving, adapting and evolving with the aim of better protecting the public trust by ensuring government decisions are made in the public interest.

A lot has happened over those many days. Some specific days were turning points for ethics in the executive branch. For example, on November 3, 1988, OGE became independent from the Office of Personnel Management, the first separate ethics agency in the executive branch. On April 12, 1989, the executive order was signed that led to the Standards of Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, the first uniform branch-wide code of conduct. On December 18, 1996, OGE issued its first rules interpreting and implementing the primary financial criminal conflict of interest statute. And, on April 14, 2012, the Stop Training on Congressional Knowledge Act was signed into law, requiring the reporting of certain financial transactions and mandating OGE create an electronic public financial disclosure filing system: Integrity.

But these inflection points, and other milestones like them, are not the full story of ethics in the executive branch. The real story of those past 16,436 days is written in the service of millions of civil servants who signed up, came to work, served and protected our country, all while maintaining the highest standards of ethical service. The story is told in thousands of ethics officials and support staff, working at more than 100 agencies. Ethics officials who dedicated years, decades, and careers to promoting honorable public service.

The story is written in the lives of OGE employees who have fully dedicated themselves over those 16,436 days to advancing the ethics program. To make sure the executive branch is doing all it can to protect the trust of the American people.

The story of those 16,436 days is written in the people and lives of the public servants who turned the words of the Ethics in Government Act into a thriving and vital part of the United States government.

So, on this anniversary —another inflection point in our program’s history— I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those public servants whose work has brought us here, and to wish the very best to the public servants who will carry the program forward.