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FixGov

OGE and its director Walt Shaub are showing grace under fire

Norman Eisen and Richard Painter

The independent Office of Government Ethics has provided nonpartisan support to every incoming Administration since its inception in 1978. Walter M. Shaub, Jr.—the current, Senate-confirmed Director of the Office of Government Ethics—and his staff have carried on this tradition in a conscientious and purposeful manner.

Prior to his appointment, Mr. Shaub served as a career civil servant with the Office of Government Ethics. During the administration of President George W. Bush, he ably served as the Deputy General Counsel of OGE assisting the Bush White House Counsel’s office in processing the ethics paperwork for its nominees and in addressing the myriad of other ethics issues that routinely arise. In earlier stints with the federal government, he served as an attorney for the Veterans Affairs Department and HHS.

No single public servant has done more to facilitate and prepare his staff and both political parties for the unique demands placed on them during the Presidential transition process. Mr. Shaub continually reached out to both campaigns to ensure that they had proper awareness of the resources and demands that would be placed on their nominees to comply with the federal ethics laws as part of the confirmation process. In doing so, he met with both transitions and offered them every resource available to him to ensure a smooth transition.

To attack him as incompetent or partisan is inconsistent with the facts. It should be noted that the Director of OGE has already precleared 58 percent of the ethics paperwork received from the President-elect’s Transition Team. By the same date eight years ago, OGE had precleared 21 percent of the ethics paperwork for the transition team.

He has been honest and transparent in response to recent inquiries from numerous senators about the status of the paperwork for President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominees in anticipation of their Senate hearings. In doing so, he noted the unique challenges the hearings schedule presented in light of the failure of some of the nominees to address (and in some cases submit) their paperwork in a timely manner.

He has also been candid in various tweets about President-elect Trump’s need to divest his business interests to avoid potential conflicts of interest consistent with advice OGE has rendered for decades. As a result of FOIA requests from the media, we now know the transition team ceased communicating with OGE during the most vital time of the transition. Had they not done so, none of these self-inflicted wounds would be on the public’s radar.

For simply doing his job, Director Shaub is now being unfairly attacked. It seems that it is open season on ethics in Washington D.C. Last week the nonpartisan, independent Office of Congressional Ethics was attacked, and now the nonpartisan, independent Office of Government Ethics and its Director are being targeted.

This attempt to bully and intimidate a hardworking, understaffed agency like OGE must not go unchecked. We are proud to stand by OGE and its director, who exemplify the highest standards of independent, non-partisan, government service.

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