August 7, 2014
by Walter M. Shaub, Jr.
Since the enactment of the Ethics in Government Act in 1978, OGE has been the supervising ethics office for the federal executive branch. The Act also established supervising ethics offices in the other branches of government: the Senate Select Committee on Ethics, the House Committee on Ethics, the Office of Congressional Ethics, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
In 2011, OGE brought together ethics practitioners from all of these offices at the 18th National Government Ethics Conference to conduct a training session highlighting their important work. These ethics practitioners delivered a presentation on the similarities between each branch's ethics rules, as well as the differences between their respective rules and the reasons for those differences.
With so much to discuss, they barely brushed the surface. As a result, this training session led to the creation of a regular forum for similar discussions, dubbed the "Three-Branch Meetings." Over the past three years, representatives of the supervising ethics offices have used the Three-Branch Meetings to discuss ethics issues of common interest.
Topics of the Three-Branch Meetings have included the restrictions on accepting gifts and travel reimbursements, the rules applicable to engaging in outside employment, impartiality concerns implicated when employees are affiliated with organizations outside the government, and the disclosure of personal financial interests. The participants have also traded best practices for managing government ethics programs and conducting ethics training.
The next meeting in this ongoing series is scheduled for the end of the summer at the Office of Congressional Ethics. My staff has found this continuing collaboration to be a beneficial one, and I am pleased that this solid example of cooperation between the branches of government is still going strong.