March 13, 2012
WSJ View of New Ethics.gov Website
[T]he accessibility of Ethics.gov makes it useful for oversight by journalists and others, said Nathaniel Heller of Global Integrity.
He said this is the first time he’d seen a government put together searchable datasets comprising information from so many agencies. In other countries, Heller said, it’s usually non-governmental organizations putting together a couple of them, and because of the difficulty, they don’t capture as much data from as many agencies.
Yet the new site “is a big time-saver, but not revolutionary,” Heller said. “It’s good that they did this because there’s not a lot in it for them.”
Even with the searchability of the new datasets, it’s still incumbent for government officials to hold themselves to the highest ethical standards, said Joe Newman, a spokesman for the Project on Government Oversight, in an email.
“Putting White House visitor records online is important but is a hollow gesture if meetings with lobbyists are held off-site. Knowing who is registered to lobby on behalf of foreign entities is important but meaningless if the law is not enforced,” Newman said.
December 04, 2011
Trustlaw: Focusing on International Corruption
Trustlaw is a website focusing on one-stop shop for news and information on anti-corruption and women’s rights.
November 02, 2011
Finding YouTube Videos for Ethics Training Use and Converting Format
YouTube and other online sources contain many videos useful for training. Audiences tend to like videos, and short videos can provide the trainer with a welcome break.
OGE maintains a YouTube "channel. PublicResource.org has converted an OGE 22 minute video entitled The Ethical Choice: Ethics for Special Government Employees, and a thorough YouTube search would probably find more OGE material. Since there is no copyright in government-produced material, anyone is free to upload it.
Clever trainers can find uses for material not prepared by OGE. One ethics office organized its annual training around videos from the popular TV show The Office, including using the "Let's Get Ethical" muscial sequence as an introduction.
Unfortuately, many training locations have poor Internet connections, or no connections accessible to the Ethics trainer. We have had good luck converting our videos with a free service called Media Converter. It's pretty easy, but pay attention to selecting the output file format, as some file formats work better on Windows computers and others work better on Macs.
October 29, 2011
IEC Member Fights Link Rot on OGE Website
"Link rot" refers to the process whereby hypertext links to a website go bad, through redesign or other reasons. While the Office of Government Ethics website upgrade provided many improvements, it had the unfortunate effect of breaking many links that other websites had built to OGE.
IEC member Wayne Johnson has taken the initiative to compile a list of bad OGE links, and has generously shared it with us. Rather than try to squeeze his memo into this narrow space, we are making it available in two files for downloading, in your choice of formats:
Download OGE_Link_Corrections Hypertext version
Download OGE_Link_Corrections MS Word version
October 21, 2011
OGE Conference Archives
Need to access the archives of the 2011 OGE Conference? The OGE website contains links to the archives of conferences back to 2005, but there is currently no link for the 2011 conference. The archives are available here (http://ethicsconf18.crowdcompass.com/activities).
July 29, 2011
OGE Announces Plan to Upgrade Website
From the OGE mailing list:
New OGE Website Coming Soon!
In late August 2011, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics will unveil a new and improved website, at www.oge.gov. The new site is designed to provide a more friendly user experience for all user groups, including ethics practitioners, executive branch employees, and members of the general public. The site will offer more intuitive navigation, and robust research tools will allow content to be searched by topic, date, and legal citation. You can preview the site by clicking here.
Note: As a result of the redesign, links to the current site (www.usoge.gov) will no longer work once the new site goes live.
May 29, 2011
OGE Resources for Dealing With Contractors in the Workplace
A subscription to the OGE mailing list (address in right column) is a must for all federal ethics officials. Last week's post on resources for dealing with contractors in the workplace is a good example. The resources include:
For employees -
- Working with Contractors: What You Need to Know (Web-based training module)
- Working with Government Contractors: What You Need to Know as a Federal Employee Who Works with Government Contractors (Booklet)
For ethics officials/trainers -
- Ethics and Working With Contractors, DAEOgram (06-023a) (2006). DAEOgram in Q&A format.
May 17, 2011
The Official Standards of Ethical Conduct Movie Site
Standards of Ethics Conduct Movie is a parody of ethical standards in the private sector that could have some incidental value for the federal sector. A 2009 Baltimore City Paper review described the 45 minute film as "a disarmingly sweet and funny take on situations most office drones know all too well: The suffocating efforts of management to sandpaper all shreds of humanity from the cubicle-bound employees who push company papers."
April 23, 2011
Commerce Ethics Website
We only recently discovered the Department of Commerce Ethics Law and Programs Division's worthy website, and we will be adding it to our link collection on the right.
We welcome your suggestions as to other agency websites, or other valuable Internet resources.
March 12, 2011
Legal Ethics Bilbliographies
March 05, 2011
OGE Opinions on CyberFEDS
The CyberFEDS legal research service, popular among lawyers working on personnel and EEO matters, includes Office of Government Ethics opinions in their database. After limited testing, the search features appear to be highly flexible. A screen capture showing the OGE option is available:
March 04, 2011
Zeroing In on POGO's Ethics Posts
The Project for Government Oversight's POGO Blog covers a variety of topics, including government ethics. This link includes only the posts that they have categorized as "Ethics."
February 16, 2011
Federal Register Upgrades
Need to research the Federal Register? Good news: The National Archives and Records Administration has made significant upgrades to the online version.
January 13, 2011
New SOCO Advisory
Department of Defense Standards of Conduct Advisory 11-01 is now available.
December 06, 2010
Let’s Get Ethical, Ethical, I Want To Get Ethical…
Ethics trainers might get multiple uses from a video clip from a 2009 episode of the popular television The Office that dealt with ethics training in a commercial office.
- From a "train the trainer" viewpoint, the episode demonstrated poor training techniques, including reading material to the audience and using "HR-speak."
- The segment featuring trainers singing "Let's Get Ethical" to the tune from the Olivia Newton song "Let's Get Physical" could be used to introduce a training module. For example: "Since my singing is poor, I'm bringing in some guest stars to introduce today's topic."
The Office is available on DVD for sale or rental, and the Fair Use doctrine allows some free uses of copyrighted materials for educational purposes.
December 04, 2010
Sample Holiday Ethics Issue Reminder
We would love to see IEC members make more use of this site to exchange resources. This was one of the prime motivations for starting the site, but lately we have been getting far fewer contributions than we would like.
People are sometimes reluctant to share their work product out of fear they would be blamed if it turned out to contain some subtle defect. This need not be a worry, since we can distribute information on a non-attribution basis.
Via this post, we are making available a holiday ethics reminder announcement we happened to come across that we thought looked good. We have redacted information that would identify the agency:
If you have any materials like training handouts, slide shows, memos, checklists, notices, etc. that you think might help your colleagues in other agencies, please pass them along to us, letting us know whether you would prefer attribution or non-attribution.
December 03, 2010
Post Upgrades WhoRunsGov.com Website
The WhoRunsGov.com website has recently been upgraded to improve ease of use. It could be useful for some ethics research projects.
November 22, 2010
Stone: 40 Rules on Off-Duty Employment
The newest edition of Mark Stone's e-mail newsletter contains a 12-page document entitled “40 Rules on Off-Duty Employment by Executive Branch Employees.”
Mark Stone's e-mail newsletter is a great source of ethics information. Since beginning an Internet ethics mailing list June 25, 1996, Mr. Stone, an ethics attorney at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base OH, has published well over 1,300 ethics updates.
Contact Mr. Stone to be added to the mailing list (address modified to reduce spam): Mark --DOT-- Stone --AT-- wpafb -- DOT af --DOT-- mil Mr. Stone's tips, and more
Contact Mr. Stone to be added to the mailing list (address modified to reduce spam):
Mark --DOT-- Stone --AT-- wpafb -- DOT af --DOT-- mil
Mr. Stone's tips, and moreethics information are available on the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) ethics website. The required registration is a painless process.
CORRECTED link to Mark Stone information Nov. 23.
August 31, 2010
OGE website to be reorganized, increase transparencyNextGov reports that OGE plans to demystify its website by reorganizing and renovating it to make audits and other guidance easier for employees -- and transparency watchdogs -- to find. See full article at http://www.nextgov.com/nextgov/ng_20100830_3089.php?oref=topnews
July 20, 2010
Latest Version of Ethics Regs AvailableThe 2010 version of OGE's Standards of Conduct regulations are available at the GPO website. Thanks to Mark Stone for the reminder.
July 15, 2010
2010 DOD Ethics Counselor's DeskbookThe DoD Standards of Conduct Office (DoD/GC-SOCO) 2010 DoD Ethics Counselor’s Deskbook is available. Thanks to Mark Stone (registration required) for the tip.
June 25, 2010
POGO PodcastsProject On Government Oversight (POGO) podcasts (easily accessible audio recordings) are available at no cost on iTunes.
June 07, 2010
Army JAGCNet Ethics Resources
The Ethics - Standards of Conduct section of the Army website has some worthwhile references. (This is not the same as the Army Office of General Counsel's Ethics and Fiscal Law website mentioned here previously).
June 01, 2010
The Army Lawyer Archives
May 07, 2010
Army OGC Ethics & Fiscal Law Web SiteThe Army Office of General Counsel's Ethics and Fiscal Law website is a valuable resource.
May 06, 2010
Library of Congress: Legislative History of the Privacy Act of 1974Since a knowledge of the Privacy Act can be useful in analyzing some ethics issues, it's good to be aware of resources like the Library of Congress collection of Legislative History of the Privacy Act of 1974. This is one of many hidden nuggets at the Library of Congress website.
April 19, 2010
Air Force Social Media Policies
Thanks to Mark Stone for drawing our attention to the new new Air Force Instruction (AFI 35-113), "Internal Information." It contains guidance for participation in weblogs and other social media.
Additional ethics information is available on the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) ethics website (registration required).
March 19, 2010
GAO Launches "Watchdog Report" Podcast Series
From a GAO press release:
. The Watchdog Report is also available free through Apple’s iTunes store.
As part of its ongoing efforts to utilize emerging technologies to help carry out its mission, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has launched an audio podcast series titled "GAO’s Watchdog Report." These five-minute audio files feature interviews with GAO officials on significant issues and new reports, and are easily downloadable for listening on computers or mobile music devices.
"GAO is always considering new ways to make its findings and products accessible to a wide range of audiences through various media," said Gene L. Dodaro, Acting Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO. "Podcasting enhances the service GAO provides to Congress and the public by offering an alternative means for people to learn about significant issues and new GAO reports and testimonies." ...
Users can listen to all episodes of GAO’s Watchdog Report podcast and subscribe to receive future episodes from a feed at GAO’s website
All episodes of the Watchdog report are recorded, hosted, and produced by GAO staff, and are accompanied by a transcript to ensure compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
GAO's move, like that of the FBI recently and others, confirms the value of this new way of distributing information.
March 15, 2010
GAO Appropriations Law Forumactors to be considered in determining propriety of using appropriated funds to pay fees for airport "registered traveler" programs.
February 12, 2010
DOD Ethics Counselor DeskbookMark Stone's e-mail newsletter contains a reminder concerning an important resource:
It is imperative that ethics attorneys and paralegals be aware of the DoD Ethics Counselor Deskbook. It is on the website of the DoD Standards of Conduct Office, is updated every year, and is an invaluable resource.
February 09, 2010
Mark Stone: What Must Be Reported on SF-450
Mark Stone's e-mail newsletter is a great source of ethics information. His annotated bibliography of guidance on what must be reported on a Form 450 is a recent example. Old issues of the newsletter are available on the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) ethics website (registration required). Contact Mr. Stone to be added to the mailing list (address modified to reduce spam):
Mark --DOT-- Stone --AT-- wpafb -- DOT af --DOT-- mil
January 12, 2010
New DOJ Policies on Criminal Discovery
NOTE: DOJ provides both an RSS feed and e-mail updates to make it easier to keep up with new developments.
January 01, 2010
HHS Annual Training 2006-9
A generous reader provided us with links to archived Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Annual Ethics Training (AET):
The 2009 version requires registration and appears to be limited to HHS employees. Requiring registration is understandable as a method of keeping track of which employees have completed the training, but there is something to be said for allowing even non-government employees to access the training. This is the approach taken by the acclaimed Department of Agriculture training program. Openness is particularly appropriate since, so far as I can see, all parts of the training would be releasable to any FOIA requester.
As we begin the new year, please remember: The IEC Journal lives or dies by reader contributions. Please continue to be generous in providing us leads on topics useful to IEC members.
December 24, 2009
POGO On Organizational Conflicts of Interest
Given the popularity of portable music players, especially iPods and cell phones that can play audio recordings, as well as the fact that most office PCs can probably replay voice recordings, podcasts have a lot of potential as a tool for ethics education. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center's Legal Division uses them extensively. Let us know of your results in this area.
December 09, 2009
Supreme Court Hears "Honest Services" CasesThe Christian Science Monitor analyzes three "honest services" cases being heard by the Supreme Court.
Note that it is easy to set up Google Alerts so that it will automatically send you e-mail updates on any topic you choose. This feature works best when you have a search term that filters well, such as "honest services."
December 04, 2009
The White House Blog: Ethics
The White House Blog: Ethics facilitates keeping up with new White House ethics policy announcements. It is a subsection of the overall White House blog. The site has an RSS feed, another reason to pick up an RSS reader, if you don't have one already.
December 01, 2009
Seasonal Greeting Cards
Mark Stone's Nov. 30 e-mail newsletter included a discussion of fiscal prohibitions against paying for seasonal greeting cards with appropriated funds. We have uploaded a copy of the key opinion cited by Mr. Stone, B-157883.4. Here is a link to the opinion at the GAO website. Here is the key language:
During the period covered by the IG's review, the Medical Center used its appropriation to purchase Christmas cards and stamps. According to the Medical Center Director, VA sent Christmas cards to service organizations, other VA medical centers, state medical facilities, and others for the purpose of enhancing the relationship between the Medical Center and these organizations. We have long held that the cost of holiday greeting cards is a personal expense of the officer who authorizes their use, even where the agency's name rather than the officer's name appears on the card. See, e.g., 64 Comp. Gen. 382 (1985); 37 Comp. Gen. 360 (1957). Both cases specifically rejected the argument that objectives such as engendering goodwill or ensuring the recipients' cooperation justified using appropriated funds for this purpose. Therefore, the cost of Christmas cards and stamps was not properly charged to VA's medical care appropriation.
Mr. Stone's invaluable e-mail newsletter is archived at the Air Force Materiel Command website. Authentication is required. Fill out the form that appears after the log-in page to obtain a password.
November 25, 2009
FMS Training Video AvailableTo see an example of an ethics training video that was produced in-house without any special equipment (aside from a digital video camera) and without any special funding, watch the Financial Management Service's premiere episode of its ethics web series. The Financial Management Service (FMS) is a bureau of the Department of the Treasury. The FMS Ethics Attorney recruited employees to write, film, and act in a web series and an ethics orientation video. Employee response to these training products has been overwhelmingly positive.
The premiere episode of the web series is available for IEC members to view at the following page:
For more information about these training videos, please contact Jen Dickey, the FMS Ethics Attorney, at 202) 874-6680
November 22, 2009
Revolving Door CartoonPulitzer Prize winning-cartoonist Tom Toles has a great take on revolving door issues. Consider Fair Use issues before reproducing it in instructional materials.
November 10, 2009
Reminder of Holiday Ethics Issues
Want to publish a warning of holiday ethics issues? Before drafting your own, check out the USDA holiday ethics reminder memo.
September 10, 2009
Tool for Researching Federal Officials Moves to Wiki Format
The Washington Post's Who Runs Government project is moving to a "moderated wiki" format. From the September 9 press release:
The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO) announced today the launch of WhoRunsGov.com as a “moderated wiki,” opening the site for readers to contribute to the 700-plus in-depth profiles of the most influential people in Washington. The site, which was launched in beta form in January, currently includes profiles of Obama administration officials, members of Congress, Capitol Hill staffers, Pentagon officials and heads of think tanks and interest groups that play a critical role in shaping public policy.
The “moderated wiki” platform created by MindTouch Inc. allows users to both write new profiles and edit existing content. Before any user-generated content is published, it will be reviewed and may be revised by an in-house editorial team for factors including accuracy, relevancy to the profile subject, and appropriateness. WhoRunsGov.com’s profiles are meticulously sourced through footnotes and the site’s reporting is thoroughly transparent.
Through the public’s contributions and partnerships, WhoRunsGov.com seeks to offer a uniquely valuable resource on the people who run the government. Each profile provides biographical details on information, its subject, resume information,an At-a-Glance box of key facts and contact examinations of the official’s stances on the key issues relevant to his or her job, and who is in their professional networks.
July 01, 2009
April 28, 2009
Upgrade of Customized OGE Search Engine
Paul Bergstrand has refined the customized Google search engine he created to facilitate searches of the OGE web site. The revised version allows users to restrict searches to the Advisory Opinion and DAEOgram directories. Paul deserves a lot of credit for his initiative in creating and upgrading this very useful resource.
The link in the right margin entitled "Custom Search OGE Web Site" goes directly to Paul's creation.
April 15, 2009
National Procurement Fraud Task Force (NPFTF)
The National Procurement Fraud Task Force (NPFTF) has information of interest to ethics lawyers, including press releases. It's hosted by the Department of Justice.
April 07, 2009
More OLC Opinions Available
Over the past few months, the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel has publicly released a number of previously-issued opinions. Here are just a few that appear to have implications for ethics officials:
ETHICS ISSUES RAISED BY THE RETENTION AND USE OF FLIGHT PRIVILEGES BY EMPLOYEES OF THE FAA (August 30, 2004) (added 12/19/08)
APPLICATION OF 18 U.S.C. § 207 TO FORMER CIA OFFICIALS’ COMMUNICATIONS WITH CIA EMPLOYEES ON DETAIL TO OTHER AGENCIES (October 23, 2007) (added 09/23/08)
OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS JURISDICTION OVER THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION (February 28, 2009)
March 31, 2009
OGE Building Photo Available
In response to our request for new artwork, a generous IEC member provided a copyright-free photo he had taken of the Office of Government Ethics building. It's a great shot of 1201 New York Ave. NW from atop the IBEW building in Chinatown. Unfortunately, we are not able to use this excellent photo as the logo for this site, due to the possibility of confusion between OGE and the Interagency Ethics Council. However, we are pleased to be able to make this professional-quality photo available for downloading by IEC members who would like to use it in training materials.
We have an idea for alternate new artwork, but in the meantime solicit other ideas or contributions. Preferably, the new artwork would fit in the existing space (150 x 219 pixels), or could be compressed or cropped to fit into the existing layout without too much image degredation.
February 27, 2009
US OGE Mailing List Archives
Do you ever wish you could locate old e-mails from OGE's mailing list? There is an easily searchable online archive, including the September 16, 2002 welcome message from then-Director Amy Comstock up to the latest OGE missive.
It's available at:
February 23, 2009
Search Techniques Reminder
Recent correspondence from IEC members experiencing difficulties with web site searches convinces us a reminder of some powerful specialized search techniques is in order. All rely on customized Google searches: 1. If you are searching the OGE web site for information on travel payments, you might enter a search request like this into Google: 1353 site:usoge.gov The site:usoge.gov part tells it to search only that web site. Incidentally, this trick works on any web site. You can search IEC Journal by using this language: site:iecjournal.org. 2. Alternatively, you can enter your OGE search request at the following specialized web site set up by a helpful IEC member:
Recent correspondence from IEC members experiencing difficulties with web site searches convinces us a reminder of some powerful specialized search techniques is in order. All rely on customized Google searches:
1. If you are searching the OGE web site for information on travel payments, you might enter a search request like this into Google:
The site:usoge.gov part tells it to search only that web site. Incidentally, this trick works on any web site. You can search IEC Journal by using this language: site:iecjournal.org.
2. Alternatively, you can enter your OGE search request at the following specialized web site set up by a helpful IEC member:http://www.google.com/coop/cse?cx=015302775765566133892%3Ajbqmf7oexls
To make it easier to find this customized search site, we have included a link on the right side of this site, under the name
February 09, 2009
OGE Quick Reference Chart
Thanks to Wayne Johnson for alterting us to the new U.S. Office of Government Ethics Ethics Official Quick Reference Chart. It's available in PDF and MS Word formats. The chart lists the primary source ethics materials and provides active web links that take you to the source documents. The chart can also be used as an index or table of contents to what the OGE web site has to offer.
February 03, 2009
Army Ethics Officer Deskbook
The Army Ethics Officer Deskbook is often a good source of information for agencies outside DOD. This discussion of ethics waivers was helpful:
a. Individual Waiver (18 U.S.C. 208(b)(1) and 5 C.F.R. 2640.301). An agency may determine in an individual case that a disqualifying financial interest in a particular matter or matters is not so substantial as to be deemed likely to affect the integrity of the employee's services to the Government.
(1) Requirements for issuing 18 U.S.C. 208(b)(1) waivers:
(a) The disqualifying financial interest, and the nature and circumstances of the particular matter or matters, must be fully disclosed to the appointing official.
(b) The waiver must be issued in writing by the Government official responsible for appointing the employee to his position.
(c) The waiver should describe the disqualifying financial interest, the particular matter or matters to which it applies, the employee's role in the matter or matters, and any limitations on the employee's ability to act in such matters.
(d) The waiver shall be based on a determination that the disqualifying financial interest is not so substantial as to be deemed likely to affect the integrity of the employee's services to the Government. (Evidence of good character is NOT relevant).
(e) The waiver must be issued prior to the employee taking any action in the matter or matters.
(f) The waiver may apply to both present and future financial interests.
(2) Factors to Consider:
(a) The type of interest that is creating the disqualification (stock, bonds, real estate, other securities, cash payment, job offer, or enhancement of spouse's employment).
(b) The identity of the person whose financial interest is involved and if that interest is not the employee's, the relationship of that person to the employee.
(c) The dollar value of the disqualifying financial interest, if it is known or can be estimated (e.g. the amount of cash payment which may be gained or lost, the salary of the job which will be gained or lost, the predictable change in either the market value of the stock or the actual or potential profit or loss or cost of the matter to the company issuing the stock, the change in the value of real estate or other securities).
(d) The value of the financial instrument or holding from which the disqualifying financial interest arises (e.g. face value of the stock, bond, other security, or real estate) and its value in relationship to the individual's investments.
(e) The nature and importance of the employee's role in the matter, including the extent to which the employee is called upon to exercise discretion in the matter.
(f) Other factors: The sensitivity of the matter; the need for the employee's services in the particular matter; and adjustments that may be made in the employee's duties that would reduce or eliminate the likelihood that the integrity of the employee's services would be questioned by a reasonable person.
(3) When practicable, a Government official is required to consult formally or informally with OGE prior to granting a waiver. A copy of each such waiver is to be forwarded to OGE. A copy of the waiver is publicly available. Note: DoD recommends that you use two memoranda. One is the actual waiver signed by the cognizant official containing the statutory determination language and sufficient supporting facts, which is releasable, and the other is a legal memorandum discussing the facts in more detail for the official, which is not releasable.
(4) In a program review, OGE will review all waivers, so be careful.