Sens. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachuestts, applauded on Feb. 5 the unanimous passage of the bipartisan Presidential Transition Enhancement Act, which includes major provisions of the Transition Team Ethics Improvement Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Transition Team Ethics Improvement Act was introduced in February by Carper and Warren and the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, and will enhance the ethics requirements that govern presidential transitions.
Carper, Warren and Cummings introduced the Transition Team Ethics Improvement Act in the last Congress to ensure that the government is focused on the public interest during transitions from one presidential administration to the next, not just on the issues raised by special interest lobbyists. The bicameral bill was included in the For the People Act of 2019 — House Democrats’ first piece of legislation introduced in the 116th Congress that includes proposals related to voting and election laws, campaign finance, redistricting and Executive Branch ethics requirements.
“It is just common sense that the individuals running for the highest office in our land should be required to address any ethical issues before they take the oath of office,” said Carper. “That's not a partisan issue; it's a good government policy that is necessary for a healthy democracy. Regardless of their political party, presidential candidates and their transition teams should disclose how they will address their own conflicts of interest before the election and develop an ethics plan that the American people are able to see and evaluate. With this important bill now on its way to the president’s desk, together, we will provide more accountability and transparency in presidential transitions by helping new administrations address potential conflicts of interest, improve the vetting process for nominees and preserve the integrity of our executive branch. My friend Chairman Cummings worked hard on this important bill, and I know that he would be proud that it is now one step closer to being signed into law.”
The federal government provides presidential transition teams with financial support and access to executive agencies, non-public documents and other resources. Despite their public support and level of access, transition team members are not required to comply with federal ethics laws, including those regarding conflicts of interest, because they are not categorized as federal government employees.
Although recent presidents-elect have adopted ethics plans, the law does not require it. The Presidential Transition Enhancement Act specifically would: require eligible presidential candidates to develop and release transition team ethics plans and disclose how they will address their own conflicts of interest before the election; require transition team members to sign an ethics-specific code of conduct; and establish a set of minimum requirements for transition team ethics plans, including information about how the transition team will enforce a code of ethical conduct.