Memos from OGE and OPM Provide Guidance on Financial Disclosures and Executive Orders, Respectively

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) released new guidance that seeks to clarify the meaning of the term “political entity” when used for OGE’s financial disclosure purposes. The legal advisory, which was sent by OGE Director Emory A. Rounds, III to all federal agency ethics officials, cites the Ethics in Government Act (EIGA), which “requires public financial disclosure filers to report the positions they hold with various organizations, but exempts certain positions from reporting, including positions held with a ‘political entity.’”

The new guidance notes that the EIGA “does not define ‘political entity,” and there is no discussion or debate regarding the meaning of the term in the legislative history.” OGE writes that, historically, it has “advised filers that they are required to report their positions with law firms that provide advice on campaign laws, political consulting firms, and political polling firms because these types of organizations are not ‘political’ entities but are instead in business to provide legal advice, consulting, or polling services.”

By contrast, the guidance notes, filers would not be expected to report positions “with a political campaign itself or with a political party, because these entities are themselves ‘political.’”

In seeking to clarify the issue, OGE cites the definition of “political entity” from the IRS code, which defines the term as any “’party committee, association, fund, or other organization’ engaged in ‘influencing or attempting to influence the selection, nomination, election, appointment” of a candidate for public office.’”

The full memo is available via OGE’s website.

This week, the Trump administration, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, also released new guidance regarding the administration’s recent executive orders, which sought to cap federal employees’ use of official time, among other effects. The orders were subsequently overturned by a D.C. judge and have once again been appealed by the administration.

In the guidance from OPM Acting Director Margaret Weichert, her first such memo since unexpectedly being named to replace OPM Director Jeff Pon last Friday, OPM tells agency heads that the executive orders are “intended to promote the highest standards or integrity and accountability in the federal workforce by requiring agencies to maintain accurate personnel records and to not alter the information contained in those records in connection with a formal or informal complaint or adverse personnel action.”

The order is also “further intended to ensure that those records are preserved so that agencies can make appropriate and informed decisions regarding an employee’s qualification, fitness, and suitability as applicable to future employment.”

The full memo is available via the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) Council’s website.

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