Comparing Ethics Orders: Biden’s Is on Top, But it Could be Stronger

President Joe Biden released his ethics executive order last week. Improving on his predecessors’ appointee ethics pledges, Biden focused on some key tenets—maintaining public trust in government, merit-based decision-making without regard to personal or private gain, and avoiding any appearance of a conflict of interest when leaving public service.

We have seen ethics pledges come and go, but the Biden order provides restrictions for appointees coming into and leaving the government, a ban on accepting gifts from lobbyists, and the first attempt to rein in golden parachutes given to appointees because they accepted a government position. The intent is to ensure that public servants are serving the people and not working for their own self-interest or in the interest of their previous or future employers or clients.

The following chart provides a summary of the Biden order, comparing it to the orders of Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. POGO provides an additional column detailing the ideal ethics order or statute.

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