Take a deep breath.
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That’s the scent of fresh air sweeping through the corridors of power as the detritus of the Mar-a-Lago swamp gets power-washed away.
The transition team for President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Harris issued their Code of Ethical Conduct and Ethics Plan today containing the rules that will govern the members of their team during the period until the inauguration.
According to the press release accompanying the guidelines, the plan is designed to “ensure the transition team members are held to clear and enforceable ethics standards.”
“Consistent with Vice President Biden’s long-standing commitment to honest government, the Biden-Harris Code and Plan go beyond the requirements of the Presidential Transition Act,” the press release states.
The contrast with the behavior of the administration of President-reject Donald Trump could not be starker, with the provisions of the ethics rules seemingly written to address the worst ethical abuses that had become an everyday occurrence with the current regime.
While the standards published for the transition will expire and be replaced with a new administration ethics pledge after the inauguration, the five standards published demonstrate a sharp break with the corruption that has dominated a Trump administration that has never met a corporate favor that it wasn’t willing to bend or eliminate the rules for in order to grant, no matter how much it may have harmed the environment or the average American.
The standards include:
Transition team members may not work on particular matters where they have a financial conflict of interest and must seek the General Counsel’s advice before working on a matter where there is a potential appearance of conflict.
This provision alone would mark a dramatic turnaround from a Trump administration that has been marked by its willingness to allow even cabinet members like Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to fail to divest his extensive financial holdings, creating a substantial conflict of interest, just one of an alarming number of swampy violations of ethical government behavior in the Republican administration.
Transition team members may not trade individual stocks, without clearance from the General Counsel, to avoid even the appearance that transition team members could use private information for personal gain.
With several GOP senators having been caught burnishing their stock portfolios with insider information in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, enabling them to avoid catastrophic losses with information not available to the general public, this provision is long overdue and a major change from the practices of the current administration.
Any transition team member who has personally represented, aided, or advised a foreign government or foreign political party in the last 12 months must receive prior approval from the General Counsel before working on the Transition. Additionally, transition team members cannot represent, aid, or advise a foreign government or political party while serving on the transition or for 12 months after the transition.
The entire Mike Flynn debacle could have been avoided had the shambolic Trump transition team followed this guideline when they began in 2016.
Federally registered lobbyists, or people who have been federally registered lobbyists in the last 12 months, require approval of the General Counsel to work on the transition team. Regardless of whether a team member is a registered lobbyist, transition team members cannot work on matters for which they conducted lobbying activity in the last 12 months or anticipate conducting lobbying activity for the 12 months after transition without approval of the General Counsel.
This is quite a change from the practices of the Trump administration where it was practically de rigueur to appoint former lobbyists to oversee the agencies that oversee the businesses that they represented.
To ensure compliance, the General Counsel has been designated to oversee and enforce the Biden-Harris Code.
Of course, anyone can publish a set of guidelines that don’t mean squat unless they are vigorously enforced. The final provision published by the Biden-Harris Transition aims to ensure compliance through the appointment of a General Counsel tasked with policing the code.
Take another deep breath.
It’s OK. It’s safe now.
The rotting carcass of Republican corruption is being buried, hopefully for good.
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