For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Angela Bradbery, abradbery@citizen.org, (202) 588-7741
Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779

Better Late Than Never: Following a Public Citizen Petition, the Office of Government Ethics Will Regulate Executive Branch Legal Defense Funds

Statement of Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

WASHINGTON - Note: Public Citizen on Sept. 15, 2017, petitioned the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) to promulgate rules and procedures for setting up and running legal defense funds by executive branch officials. OGE Director Emory Rounds announced on Monday that the agency will pursue rulemaking on legal defense funds, including addressing the issues raised by Public Citizen, ranging from disclosure requirements to contribution limits and source prohibitions. Comments from the public are due June 14.

Public Citizen applauds the recent announcement for rulemaking, even if it should have been done a while ago. Better late than never.

Legal defense funds for executive branch officials used to be not much of a problem, because very few were ever set up by executive branch officials. But as Public Citizen warned the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), with the tidal wave of ethics and legal scandals washing over the Trump administration, legal defense funds will be created in nearly every agency.

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

The media landscape is changing fast

Our news team is changing too as we work hard to bring you the news that matters most.

Change is coming. And we've got it covered.



Congress, on the other hand, has long had rules in place for how lawmakers may pay for legal expenses associated with ethics complaints and other legal issues associated with public office. Congress mandates full disclosure of congressional legal defense funds, sets contribution limits to these funds and even restricts lobbyists and foreign principals from donating to these funds.

But no such rules exist for the executive branch. A dozen such funds may be established and in full swing, but without adequate disclosure, no one really knows how many legal defense funds have been created, who is donating to the funds and how the money is being spent. The potential for donors buying favors with officials is enormous in this stealth arena.

###

We want a more open and sharing world.

That's why our content is free. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported.

All of our original content is published under Creative Commons—allowing (and encouraging) our articles to be republished freely anywhere. In addition to the traffic and reach our content generates on our site, the multiplying impact of our work is huge and growing as our articles flourish across the Internet and are republished by other large and small online and print outlets around the world.

Several times a year we run brief campaigns to ask our readers to pitch in—and thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Our 2019 Mid-Year Campaign is underway. Can you help? We can't do it without you.

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

Share This Article