Rep. George Danielson (D-Calif.) yesterday introduced legislation that would postpone the effective date of provisions of a new ethics law that have caused several high government officials to threaten to resign.
The controversial provisions are designed to prevent government officials from leaving office and immediately becoming representatives of organizations dealing with their former government offices or areas of jurisdiction.
But several high-ranking officials, including Undersecretary of Health, Education and Welfare Hale Champion and Dr. Donald S. Frederickson, director of the National Institutes of Health, have threatened to consider resigning if the provisions go into effect July 1. They say the limits would leave them virtually unemployable in their fields.
The new law tightens an existing lifetime ban on representing outsiders before the government on persomal and substantial dealings while in government service.
It extends, from one year to two, a ban on acting for a private party on issues that were under the policymaker's official responsibility in government.
The most troublesome provision says that former government officials shall not aid, counsel, advise or assist in representing before the government a private organization on any matter under the official's former jurisdiction.
Because of this provision, scientists at NIH, engineers at the Defense Department and other officials complain that they could hold virtually no job with any company, academic organization or other institution doing business with the government.
Danielson, chairman of a Judiciary subcommittee that drafted the ethics law last year, said he will begin hearings in about a week to see what can be done about the "undesirable effects" of the provisions.
The legislation he introduced would postpone their effective date six months to Jan. 1.
Danielson said he is using the postponement as a vehicle to look at the problem, but if the matter appears complicated and not easily fixed, his committee might simply pass the postponement to gain time to find a solution.
He noted that "something has to be done fairly quickly because if these people are considering leaving, they must already be looking for splts."
He agreed that the provisions could be unfair, citing Treasury Sectetary W. Michael Blumenthal as an example, though he said Blumenthal had never complained about the provisions. Danielson said everythingin Treasuty is technically under Blumenthal's supervision, though he might not possess personal or substantial knowledge or interest in many matters.
Danielson said his subcommittee might move to make it clear that a government official would be barred from advising, assisting, etc. only on matters in which he or she had a personal or substantial interest.
Other parts of the ethics bill, which requires financial disclosure statements from high-ranking officials, would not be touched, he emphasized.
The bill affects GS16s and above -- about 15,000 people.
When the House passed the bill last year, it was used as a vehicle to try to repeal a 15 percent limit on outside earned income for House members. The repeal attempt was defeated on the floor. The Senate recently delayed its income limit for four years, some House members think the House should do the same.
Danielson said he would try to prevent any bills he brings up from being used for putting off the outside earned income limit. He said he would ask the Rules Committee tor a closed rule on his bill, but admitted it was possible the legislation could serve as a vehicle to delay the earned-income limit.
Danielson said. he fought last year for keeping the earned income limit as a "good soldier" for the leadership, but that he believed the curb was "hogwash" and could prevent people in their prime earning years from coming to the House, while making that body a repository for millionaires and those with no hope of outside earnings exceeding the current $57,500 annual salary of a House member.