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Obama Announces Transition Ethics Rules

Obama Announces Transition Ethics Rules

By Kyle Trygstad - November 11, 2008

WASHINGTON -- At an afternoon press briefing in the Transition Team offices for President-elect Barack Obama, transition team co-chairman John Podesta said this would be "the most open and transparent transition in history" and released a set of rules that lobbyists working on the team will be required to abide by.

The list of rules include the following: Lobbyists working with the team -- a list of whom will be released -- are prohibited from doing any lobbying during the transition; someone who becomes a lobbyist after working on the transition is prohibited from lobbying the Administration for one year on matters for which they worked; and anyone who has lobbied in the last year is prohibited from working in the policy areas for which they lobbied. Transition team members will be subject to a "gift ban," and Podesta also indicated they would need to sign an ethics code.

"These are the strictest ethics rules ever applied," said Podesta, who served as Bill Clinton's chief of staff for the last two years of his administration. Asked why they would keep lobbyists from working on policy areas for which they're deeply knowledgeable, Podesta said: "I've heard the complaint that we're leaving all these extra people on the side, that we're leaving all the people that know everything out in the cold. So be it. That's a commitment that is one the American people expect and one the President-elect made."

Congress is providing $5 million of the $12 million budget the transition team is working under, Podesta said, meaning they will have to raise $7 million privately to fund the effort. Federal lobbyists are prohibited from contributing financially to the transition efforts.

Asked about the Washington Post and New York Times stories today that reported President Bush told Obama he may support an economic stimulus package during Congress's lame duck session if Democrats would reconsider their opposition to a Colombia free trade agreement, Podesta said no such offer took place and that there is no tension between the White House and the transition team.

"While the topic of Colombia came up, there was no quid pro quo," Podesta said. "The president didn't try to link Colombia to the question of an economic recovery package going forward."

On cabinet appointments, Podesta noted that positions traditionally are not announced until December. Overall, Podesta said Obama was looking for a "strong team who can work together" and that "excellence is the first criteria."

Kyle Trygstad is a Washington correspondent for RealClearPolitics. Email him at: kyle@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @KyleTrygstad.

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