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Highlights

Congress has enacted post-government employment restrictions and foreign agent registration requirements with the objectives of protecting the U.S. government against the improper use of government information by former federal employees and ensuring the American people know the identity of persons trying to influence U.S. government policy in the United States on behalf of foreign entities. This report discusses (1) the extent to which selected agencies have information on the post-government employment activities of former senior federal employees who represent foreign principals and (2) the challenges the agencies face in enforcing these requirements. We reviewed federal ethics guidance, laws, and other documents, and interviewed officials at the Departments of State and the Treasury, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Trade Representative.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
To enhance Justice's ability to ensure that the American people know the identity of persons trying to influence U.S. government policy in the United States on behalf of foreign entities, Congress may wish to consider (1) granting the Department of Justice civil investigative demand authority to inspect records of persons Justice believes should be registered as foreign agents and (2) requiring persons claiming certain exemptions to provide advance written notification to Justice before engaging in the exempt activities.
Closed - Not Implemented
Congress did not take any action in response to this matter.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Government Ethics To enhance executive branch enforcement of the post-government employment restrictions, the Director of the Office of Government Ethics should strongly encourage agency ethics officials to implement the suggested actions described in the November 2005 OGE memorandum and its subsequent 2008 reminder to designated agency officials on documenting ethics advice, and also encourage agency ethics officials to work closely with their Inspectors General to ensure that this information is shared when needed.
Closed - Implemented
The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has implemented GAO's recommendation that OGE strongly encourage agency ethics officials to implement the suggested actions described in OGE memoranda to document ethics advice and also encourage the ethics officials to work closely with their Inspector Generals (IG) to ensure that this information is shared when needed. In response to the recommendations, OGE sent a memo to all designated agency ethics officials on August 2008, encouraging them to comply with OGE guidance that they document the advice they give to employees and former employers. The OGE memo further encouraged the ethics officers to provide their IGs information when needed about such advice. In addition, OGE continues to emphasize the importance of documenting advice in the training it provides to designated agency ethics officers. OGE also initiated efforts to increase agency IG participation in its 2008 national ethics conference and plans to continue these efforts for its 2010 conference.

Full Report