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QUIZ: Do You Know How to Be an Ethical Political Appointee?

Seventeen questions to test your knowledge of updated ethics rules.

Career federal employees are subject to tough regulations governing their conduct. But for many of their political bosses, the rules are even more complicated.

The Office of Government Ethics on Monday released the first update in six years on creating Ethics Agreements for presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed employees. Agencies must run through the gambit of appointees’ investments, work history and other financial interests -- both for appointees and their family members -- before they can be confirmed by the Senate.

Appointees must spell out in significant detail when they will divest from stocks and recuse themselves from matters involving prior investments or places of work. OGE’s new guidance was the first update since 2008, when the arbiters of right and wrong initially issued the directions.

Think you know how to live and work as an ethical political appointee? Take our quiz and prove it! Answers are linked at the bottom of the page.

  1. How long does an appointee have to divest from a stock, if it is determined necessary to do so?
    1. One month
    2. Three months
    3. One year
    4. Two years
  2. How long must appointees wait until they can participate in agency dealings with a company with which they worked immediately prior to joining federal government?
    1. One month
    2. Three months
    3. One year
    4. The entire length of their term
  3. Whose interests among the following are NOT considered to be imputed to the appointee?
    1. Spouse
    2. Dependent child
    3. Recent business partner
    4. Live-in girlfriend/boyfriend
  4. Which of the following is NOT a reason for appointees to offer to keep their investments in a company -- and recuse themselves when dealing with the company -- rather than divesting from it?
    1. The appointee has maintained the investment for more than 20 years
    2. Divestment is difficult because the investment is part of a trust, and the appointee is not the trustee
    3. Other agency officials can easily step in and deal with the company
    4. It is unlikely a matter involving the company will arise
  5. TRUE or FALSE: An appointee resigns from a private-sector company position upon being confirmed for a federal position. The appointee must also divest from any stock options the company offers.
  6. TRUE or FALSE: Appointees can hold a part-time, paid position in addition to the federal position to which they are confirmed.
  7. If appointees’ investments in a stock or security are under THIS amount, they do not have to divest or recuse themselves from matters involving the stock or security.
    1. $1,000
    2. $15,000
    3. $50,000
    4. $100,000
  8. If appointees’ investments in a mutual fund are under THIS amount, they do not have to divest or recuse themselves from matters involving the mutual fund.
    1. $1,000
    2. $15,000
    3. $50,000
    4. $100,000
  9. TRUE or FALSE: Sam Jones is invested in a technology company, and the total value is less than the answer to question seven. While Jones is in office, however, the company invents a new technology and the value of the stock skyrockets to millions of dollars. Jones must divest or recuse himself from matters involving the company, even though the initial investment was made prior to taking office.
  10. What key phrase is used to determine whether an appointee’s investment or decision-making causes the appearance of impropriety?
  11. TRUE or FALSE: Sam Jones is an appointee at the Defense Logistics Agency overseeing the testing of avionics being produced by an Air Force contractor. Jones’ sister-in-law takes a job with the contractor. Jones must recuse himself from further testing.
  12. How long must appointees recuse themselves from dealing with a client of a company at which they previously worked?
    1. 90 days from confirmation
    2. 90 days from when the appointee last provided services to the client
    3. One year from confirmation
    4. One year from when the appointee last provided services to the client
    5. The duration of the appointee’s term
  13. TRUE or FALSE: Sam Jones is an attorney, and in 1999 he launched the law firm Jones, Johnson and Smith. Jones is presidentially appointed to a federal position, and must have his name removed from the law firm upon confirmation by the Senate.
  14. TRUE or FALSE: Sam Jones serves on the board of directors for the American Cancer Society in an unpaid, advisory role. Jones is appointed as an undersecretary to the Health and Human Services Department, so he must resign from his position on the board.
  15. Sam Jones is appointed to serve in a civilian position at the Defense Department. Jones previously wrote a book on the American military, which at the time of his appointment is still a best seller and Jones continues to receive royalties. He must:
    1. Refuse the royalties until his term has ended
    2. Recuse himself from any matters that could impact his publisher, but can still accept the royalties
    3. Accept the royalties, no questions asked
  16. Who is responsible for conducting a thorough review of all of an appointee’s interests, finances and compliance with regulations?
    1. The appointee
    2. The appointee’s agency
    3. The Office of Government Ethics
    4. A private-sector third party
  17. Who is responsible for creating and issuing the Ethics Agreement that spells out all of the appointee’s prior and current financial interests, recusals and pledges to divest?
    1. The appointee
    2. The appointee’s agency
    3. The Office of Government Ethics
    4. All of the Above

How did you do? Click here to find out. 

(Image via Chris Ison/Shutterstock.com)

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