As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First Up: Ethics, Transparency

I guess it makes sense that these orders come early, as soon as his staff shows up for work on the first business day, and ethics reform has been an Obama strong point since he came to Washington. So this was the big news made today, which is fine, although it's entirely internally directed.

With the national celebration over and the hard work beginning, President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed executive orders and announced new ethics limiting lobbyists' influence in his administration.

He suggested he'd release more public information than former President George W. Bush under the Freedom of Information Act. He also imposed a pay freeze on senior staff earning more than $100,000 a year, saying that given the economic crisis, "It's what's required of you at this moment." Obama made those announcements at a swearing-in ceremony for White House staff at the Old Executive Office Building.

"Public service is a privilege," he said in explaining the thinking behind the new ethics rules, on which he said he was briefed last week before his swearing in.

"It's not about advantaging yourself. It's not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients. It's not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organization. Public service is simply and absolutely about advancing the interests of Americans."

The memorandum outlining in particular the new transparency policy is here. Openness in government is an important principle, and I appreciate this amount of care that has gone into it. Freezing senior staff money is not going to save the government a lot, and it may discourage high-priced lawyers from public service, but I suppose there's a symbolic benefit. I like the prohibition of executive branch personnel from accepting gifts from lobbyists, and the closing of the revolving door between K Street and the White House. Pam from Pandagon has the full report.

This won't save lives, but if it reduces the power and influence of special interests and brings the office of the Presidency out into the open a little more (it could hardly be more secret than the Cheney Administration) it's a positive.

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