Ethics Waiver Tracker

Ethics responsibilities are an important aspect of public service. Many of the rules exist to ensure public officials are not using their positions of public trust for private gain for themselves or those around them, such as former employers. Just as importantly, they exist to maintain public confidence that their government is not making decisions arbitrarily or based on inappropriate biases.

At times, public servants are granted waivers from strict ethics requirements that allow them to work on matters that may involve former employers or others with whom the public servant has a “covered relationship.” While this an accepted practice, waivers should be limited in number and scope and should not be granted simply because of a former employer’s strong political or media connections. When this occurs, it undermines the single standard all Americans expect of their government and is not how ethics rules are supposed to work.

Thus far the Administration has granted nine waivers, including several to former labor union officials. Some former government ethics officials have defended the waivers, saying the individuals’ service is necessary and in the public interest. Yet others dispute this, claiming the former employers of the waiver recipients stand to reap significant financial and political benefits from the Administration’s proposed policies and that these waivers could represent a case of potential benefit and an appearance of bias that ethics rules are meant to prevent.

Protect the Public’s Trust is tracking agency decisions to grant waivers and impartiality decisions with a full list below. We will also be submitting FOIA requests to ensure the public stays up to speed on what potential conflicts of interest are being waived. First, check out some of the more notable waivers:


OfficialAgency
Alethea PredeouxOffice of Personnel Management
Celeste DrakeOffice of Management and Budget
Dr. Suhas TripathiHealth and Human Services
Aviva Aron-DineOffice of Management and Budget
Marianne Engelman-LadoEnvironmental Protection Agency
Marianne Engelman-Lado (impartiality determination) Environmental Protection Agency
Natasha BilimoriaU.S. Agency for International Development
Charanya KrishnaswamiDepartment of Homeland Security
Michelle BranéDepartment of Homeland Security
Michael ReganEnvironmental Protection Agency
Erika MoritsuguWhite House
Kristine LuciusWhite House
David CohenCentral Intelligence Agency
Gabriela ChojkierAgency for International Development
Melissa HofferEnvironmental Protection Agency
C. William B. NelsonNASA
Pamela A. MelroyNASA
Janet YellenDepartment of the Treasury
David LiptonDepartment of the Treasury
Anna Ruzinski (Waiver remains secret)Department of Justice
Allison Clements Henger (Waiver remains secret)Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Pete Buttigieg (Waiver remains secret)Department of Transportation
Jennifer Granholm (Waiver remains secret)Department of Energy
Wendy Sherman (Waiver remains secret)Department of State
David Turk (Waiver remains secret)Department of Energy
Rachel Levine (Waiver remains secret)Department of Health and Human Services
Jewel Hairston Bronaugh (Waiver remains secret)Deputy Secretary USDA
Vanita GuptaAssociate Attorney General, DOJ
Victoria Nuland (Waiver remains secret)Department of State
Chiquita Brooks-LaSure (Waiver remains secret)Department of Health and Human Services
Xavier Becerra (Waiver remains secret, contains “non-standard language”)Department of Health and Human Services
Elizabeth Klein (Waiver remains secret, contains “non-standard language”)Department of the Interior
Thomas Vilsack (USDA claims no waivers exist, yet document filed with OGE reveals Vilsack received a waiver)Department of Agriculture
Martha WilliamsDepartment of the Interior
Philip FineEnvironmental Protection Agency
Casey Katims Environmental Protection Agency

Limited Waiver: This is a waiver from the Administration’s Ethics Pledge. Executive Order 13989 obligates all Biden political appointees to adhere to certain restrictions on activity during their public service and in their return to the private sector. The Order permits waivers to be granted when it is in the public interest to do so or if the literal application of a restriction is inconsistent with the purposes of the restriction. The decision to grant such a waiver has been delegated to Designated Agency Ethics Officials. Oftentimes, limited waivers will be granted exempting political appointees from having to comply with certain paragraphs of the Pledge. For instance, Paragraph 2 – the Revolving Door policy that prohibits appointees from participating in specific party matters in which their former employer or former client is a party – is the most common focus of limited waivers.

Impartiality Determination: This is a de facto waiver from ethics regulations set forth in the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 C.F.R. § 2635, subpart E, titled “Impartiality in Performing Official Duty.” Under this section, appointees are prohibited from participating in any specific party matters in which their former employer is a party or represents a party if the circumstances would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question your impartiality. See 5 C.F.R. § 2635.502(a). Federal agencies are permitted to issue determinations that the government’s interest in the appointees’ participation in a party matter outweighs impartiality concerns otherwise present based on a six-factor analysis. 5 C.F.R. § 2635.502(d).