The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump lobbying ban strips out language requiring public reporting on ethics compliance

President Trump promised to “drain the swamp” and reduce the influence of lobbyists in Washington. (Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

The ethics rule that President Trump signed Saturday limiting administration officials from parlaying their government posts into lobbying jobs stripped out an Obama-era provision that required public disclosure of how well the administration is complying with the order.

The deletion of the clause will make it harder for the public to determine whether the pledge is being enforced and find out how many administration appointees have been granted waivers that allow them to skirt aspects of the rules, government watchdogs said.

“There will be markedly less transparency under President Trump regarding how or whether the ethics [executive order] is being implemented,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause.

Former president Barack Obama's rule required that the Office of Government Ethics “provide an annual public report on the administration of the pledge and this order.” OGE issued seven such reports during the Obama administration. The last one, which came out in May 2016, found that 99.9 percent of the 890 appointees named in 2015 signed the ethics pledge and that two agencies had brought on appointees that had been registered lobbyists in the previous two years. The reports drew from a compliance assessment that each agency's ethics official was required to fill out.

The version of the ethics rule that Trump signed does not require the annual public report. White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.