Political Appointees

Political appointees are subject to more ethics restrictions than regular executive branch employees. For purposes of this discussion, the term “political appointee” refers broadly to any employee who is appointed by the President, the Vice President, or agency head. As used here, the term encompasses two categories of appointees. Each category is subject to additional and slightly different ethics restrictions.

Ethics Pledge

Executive Order 13490 requires any political appointee who is appointed to a full-time position on or after January 20, 2009 must sign an Ethics Pledge. Under the pledge, each political appointee makes the following commitments:

  • not to accept gifts or gratuities from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations (subject only to certain exceptions)
  • to recuse for two years from any particular matter involving specific parties in which a former employer or client is or represents a party, if the appointee served that employer or client during the two years prior to the appointment

If the appointee was a registered lobbyist during the prior two years, he makes the following additional commitments:

  • to recuse, for two years after appointment, from any particular matter on which he or she lobbied during the two years prior to appointment (or any particular matter that falls within the same specific issue area)
  • not to seek or accept employment with an agency or department that he or she lobbied during the prior two years

Outside Earned Income Ban

With some exceptions, those political appointees who are appointed by the President are subject to an additional restriction pertaining to outside earned income. Under Section 102 of Executive Order 12674, a political appointee who is appointed by the President to a full-time noncareer position in the executive branch is prohibited from receiving any earned income for any outside employment or activity performed during that Presidential appointment. Appointees in the following positions are exempt from this ban:

  • a position filled under the authority of 3 U.S.C. § 105 or 3 U.S.C. § 107(a) for which the rate of basic pay is less than that for GS-9, step 1 of the General Schedule
  • a position, within a White House operating unit, that is designated as not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition
  • a position within the uniformed services
  • a position in which a member of the foreign service is serving that does not require advice and consent of the Senate

The information on this page is not a substitute for individual advice. Agency ethics officials should be consulted about specific situations. 


Laws & Regulations