House Ethics reminds members and staff of rules for life after Congress

Memo came with just hours left in the 115th Congress

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., walks down the House steps following the final votes as the House of Representatives leaves town for their summer recess in July. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

In a memo released Thursday with just hours left in the 115th Congress, the House Ethics Committee reminded departing lawmakers of criminal restrictions on certain job-hunting practices.

Outgoing members and staff have been planning their next career moves for months. The memo reminds members to “familiarize themselves with ... the criminal restrictions on post-employment communications.” It also says that members should be careful when negotiating for future employment, especially with anyone who could be “substantially affected by the Member’s performance of official duties.”

Exiting House members’ official duties ended at noon, making this warning a little late. In previous years, the post-employment memo has been released alongside guidance for members and staff on gifts and celebrations ahead of the holiday season.

The advisory details the proper steps for negotiating offers for future employment while individuals are still employed by the House, disclosing such discussions to the Ethics Committee and what “benefits” can be accepted from prospective employers.

Members must notify the Ethics panel within three business days after they begin any negotiations for future work with a private entity.

A separate section in each memo reiterates lobbying activities that are prohibited after leaving the House and for what duration. These rules have been in effect since the 1989 passage of the Ethics Reform Act and apply to members, officers of the House, employees of House members, committees and leadership offices paid at least 75 percent of a member’s salary.

There’s a one-year “cooling-off period” measured from the date of the individual’s departure from the House payroll.

Covered staff making $130,000 or more during 2018 may not “knowingly communicate with or appear before the employee’s former employing office or committee with the intent to influence” for one year after leaving. Members for one year cannot “knowingly communicate with or appear before any Member, officer, or employee of the House or Senate, or current employees of any other legislative office, with the intent to influence.”

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