In the latest move in its wrestling match with the White House, the Office of Government Ethics on Thursday introduced a new ethics certification form for Cabinet secretaries and other appointees requiring Senate confirmation.
As first reported by NPR, OGE Deputy Director Dale Christopher wrote to all agency designated ethics officials saying the new form would make the financial disclosure process simpler and more uniform and “also increase transparency regarding the actions that the executive branch’s most senior leaders are taking to resolve potential conflicts of interest.”
“This certification will be posted on OGE’s website for public viewing,” the form announces in several places following questions demanding information on divestitures, resignations and recusals from past commitments and posts that might conflict with government service.
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OGE will monitor agency compliance and any extensions given to appointees who do not submit their ethics compliance agreement within the normal 30 days. The office reminded those signing the form that any “intentionally false statements” are subject to criminal penalties under Title 18, Section 1001 of the U.S. Code.
The new requirement comes after OGE Director Walter Shaub on April 28 issued a call for data on Trump appointees in the White House and agencies who have been given ethics waivers on certain reporting requirements, information the Trump team has not disclosed.
The Trump White House, meanwhile, after watching several of its announced nominees drop out, has agreed to work more closely with OGE.
At his May 8 briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, when asked about the large number of vacancies at agencies, said, “We have a very robust schedule of releasing names. There is a method to this in terms of the nominees who are getting put out now, and I think you should expect to see more and more go through. The process this time around is a little bit different. We're actually going through the Office of Government Ethics and FBI clearances before announcing most of these individuals.”