Office of Legal Counsel (Department of Justice) issued an opinion concerning the application of 18 U.S.C. 208 to Federal employees who also serve as officers or directors of nonprofit organizations engaged in advocacy with respect to particular matters. [The opinion, requested by the Office of Government Ethics, was announced in OGE's DAEOgram DO-06-002 .] The opinion clarifies the question of whether a nonprofit organization has a financial interest in a particular policy matter because the organization spends money on advocacy in connection with the particular matter. OLC concluded that a nonprofit organization does not have a financial interest in a particular matter on which it spends funds to advocate its policy position, solely by virtue of such expenditures. Consequently, Federal employees who serve as officers or directors of such organizations are not disqualified, under 18 U.S.C. § 208, from participating in particular matters with respect to which those organizations are spending funds on advocacy. The OLC opinion supersedes any suggestion in OGE Informal Advisory Letter 97 x 2 that a nonprofit organization has a financial interest in a particular matter, under section 208, whenever that matter would prompt the organization to expend resources on advocacy.
With the New Year come new pay levels, and new triggers for several requirements linked to salary. For 2006, the threshold for when a non-GS system employee must file a public financial disclosure report (SF 278) is $109,808.40. (5 CFR 2634.202).
The one-year post-employment restriction on a former employee's representations to his or her former agency (18 U.S.C. 207(c)) kicks in when the employee's rate of basic pay reaches $142,898.00 or more.
The limitation on outside earned income for non-career covered employees (primarily non-career SES) is $24,780. (5 CFR 2636.304)
DoD agencies and commands on the list of projected OGE agency reviews for the first four months of CY 2006 include U.S. Army Material Command and the Defense Information Systems Agency. For the full list see OGE's DAEOgram DO-06-001. OGE provides a handy checklist for preparing for a program review on their website.
Reviewers of OGE 450's or SF 278's and others checking for potential conflicts of interests often check holdings in companies doing business with DoD on the $25K contractor list (updated annually with the FY 2005 version expected next month). Note, however, that if your agency or command has its own list of companies with which it does business, as several procurement-oriented organizations do, you should use the local list for the conflicts check. The local list is much smaller and more accurately identifies potential conflicting interests. So, for example, if your installation commander in Arlington, Virginia, owns stock in the solid waste removal contractor for bases in California (which will be on the DoD $25k list, but not on the local prohibited source list), it would not be necessary to warn the commander not to take any official action that would affect the waste removal contractor.
The Washington Post reported that the Senate Finance Committee is looking into Medicare officials' regular attendance at contractor-sponsored conferences at resort locations. Congress is apparently concerned about the appearance created by public officials responsible for overseeing $300 million awarded annually to private contractors frequenting conferences sponsored by them at lavish beach and mountain resorts.
DISCLAIMER: The purpose of this advisory is to disseminate relevant information and sources of general guidance, policy and law on Government Ethics issues to the Department of Defense ethics community. Advisories are not intended to be and should not be cited as authoritative guidance, DoD policy, or law.