This morning, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed an amendment that would expand and strengthen existing restrictions so that all employees of the Department of the Interior with responsibilities under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act—not just the highest-ranking employees—would be banned from lobbying for industry for two years after leaving Interior, and also from making lobbying contact with Interior for at least one year.
POGO sent a letter endorsing the amendment originally introduced by Senator Wyden (D-OR) to slow the revolving door, yesterday, along with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Fund for Constitutional Government, Government Accountability Project (GAP), Greenpeace, OMB Watch, Public Citizen, Revenue Watch Institute, Sunlight Foundation, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Union of Concerned Scientists, and U.S. PIRG.
But today, an amendment to both slow the revolving door and clarify conflicts of interest, offered by Senator Wyden and Committee Chair Jeff Bingaman, was passed.
As POGO blog readers know, there's a long history of a revolving door between the Department of the Interior and the oil and gas industry. Kudos to Senators Wyden and Bingamen for their leadership in this critical issue.
Find more details on the amendment, which echoes a request from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, below the jump—and don't forget to check out POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian's statement.
Here’s the lowdown—the Wyden-Bingaman Conflicts-of-Interest Amendment does the following:
- Expands the Ban on Lobbying: Expands current restrictions to ban all Interior Department employees with responsibilities under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – not just the highest ranking officials – from lobbying for two years after leaving Interior for any party that had an issue pending before or involving the substantial participation of the employee in the year prior to leaving.
- Expands the Ban on Lobbying Contacts: Expands current restrictions to ban all Interior Department employees with duties under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act from making lobbying contact with Interior for at least one year.
- Makes Inspections and Enforcement Lobbying Off-limits: Specifies inspection and enforcement action as off-limits for lobbying during the two-year ban.
- Slows the Revolving Door between Interior and Industry: Adds a one-year cooling-off period banning former Interior employees from employment with any party that had issues pending before them or in which they substantially participated in their previous year of civil service.
- Slows the Reverse Revolving Door: Bans Interior employees brought into the Department from industry from overseeing matters relating to any former industry employer or client for one year.
- Clarifies Definition of Conflicts of Interest: Clarifies conflicts of interest rules to ban Interior employees from substantially participating in any issue related to a financial interest of the employee, the employee's spouse, minor child, or general partner; an organization for which the employee serves in an official capacity; or a person or organization with which the employee is negotiating for employment or financial interest.
- Clarifies the Gift Ban: Clarifies the gift ban applies to all Interior Department employees with responsibilities under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and provides civil penalties.
- Gives Ethics Rules Some Teeth: Establishes civil and criminal penalties for violations of these restrictions which are not in the current law.