Ethics chief resigns amid concerns over Trump

The head of the office responsible for managing executive branch ethics policies announced his resignation almost six months before his term's scheduled end.

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.

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