Ethics chief resigns amid concerns over Trump

Walter Schaub - OGE  

Walter Shaub, director of the independent Office of Government Ethics, announced his retirement, effective July 19.

The head of the office responsible for managing executive branch ethics policies, and a vocal and public critic of Trump administration ethics practices, announced his resignation July 5.

On his personal Twitter page, director of the independent Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub, Jr., announced his retirement, effective July 19.

In his resignation letter, Shaub, who joined OGE under the George W. Bush administration and was appointed agency head by President Barack Obama in 2013, thanked and praised the staff and ethics officials of the executive branch.

"In working with the current administration, it has become clear to me that we need improvements to the existing ethics program," he said in a statement.

Shaub will join the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization focused on campaign finance laws, as senior director of ethics.

Trevor Potter, president of CLC and a former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said that Shaub "has demonstrated the highest level of professionalism and integrity," and he added, "all of us at CLC are thrilled to have him join us in our continuing work to protect and improve our democracy."

Of Shaub's criticisms of the current administration's ethics practices, perhaps most notable was his position that President Donald Trump's plan to place his business holdings in a trust to be managed by his sons rather than to divest them was insufficient. This criticism followed a series of tweets from OGE's official account making the case for full divestment on Nov. 30.

Shaub praised OGE staff and executive branch ethics officials in his resignation letter. "They are committed to protecting the principle that public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain," he wrote.

In a statement, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) termed Shaub's resignation "a sad day for the government's ethics program" and thanked Shaub for his "strong, independent and steady leadership."

Cummings also urged the committee's new chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) to invite Shaub to testify about "the need to implement substantive reforms to ensure government officials can never put private gain above the public that they serve."

The Sunlight Foundation issued a statement saying, "Shaub's resignation should be taken as a bat signal to members of Congress who, despite reams [of] evidence of unresolved conflicts, have been far too reticent to oversee ethics in government or threats to transparency under the Trump administration."

The OGE director is a presidentially appointed position requiring Senate confirmation and serving a five-year term. The responsibilities include issuing rules and regulations to prevent conflicts of interest, establishing the framework for financial disclosures, developing ethics education programs for executive branch employees, as well as assisting the president and the Senate. OGE does not have the authority to enforce or prosecute laws or to adjudicate complaints.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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Reader comments

Sat, Jul 8, 2017

Conflicts now? Two words: Clinton Foundation Three more: Clinton Global Initiative Three more: Private email server

Fri, Jul 7, 2017

What a crock. I'm surprised he isn't going to work for the NY Times making up news. Shaub's the Conflict of Interest poster child, himself. Donates to president Hussein's campaign, then shields the former Sec State's self-enrichment by funneling hundreds of millions into the pay-for-play Clinton Foundation without reporting the income? Who was Shaub's watcher? Oh, wait - the crooks he was protecting... This guy chirps about being concerned NOW about someone in office putting personal gain ahead of "loyalty to the Constitution!" This party hack's blatantly leftist statement, "In working with the current administration, it has become clear to me that we need improvements to the existing ethics program" adds to the evidence that he's nothing but a liberal shill. Why NOW? Why not for a private email server and a damn-the-country disregard of the law that put national security at risk? Why not for an FBI director who gave it the seal of approval? Maybe he considered Hillary and Hussein patriots because they were playing public trust like a cheap violin while the country burned. And Elijah Cummings' pandering remark about Shaub's "strong, independent and steady leadership?" Sounds like Elijah is looking for a job at that tainted Campaign Legal Center. Good thing the rubbish is taking itself to the curb.

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