White House defends ethics waivers for former union officials, saying they are ‘in the best interests of government’
The White House defends ethics waivers for former union officials, saying they are “in the best interests of government.”
The Biden administration has come under scrutiny by Republicans on Capitol Hill after its decision to bypass federal ethics rules to staff former union officials in senior positions.
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In early March, the White House waived certain rules applicable to former union staff in order to fill Biden’s transition teams and vacant government positions, which would otherwise have been barred from contacting their former unions.
A so-called ethics waiver lifts constraints on members of the executive branch to work with former colleagues or clients who could benefit from their proximity to White House authority.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the waivers during Monday’s press briefing.
“I’ll repeat … the president signed an executive order requiring all appointees across the federal government to sign the strictest code of ethics ever adopted by the White House,” Psaki said.
Psaki clarified that when “necessary and in the public interest,” the ordinance “authorizes agencies to grant limited exemptions and to consult” with the White House board office.
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“The president has of course defended unions throughout his career and he is proud to have prominent union voices in the White House,” Psaki continued. “And there are circumstances, very, very limited, where it’s in the best interests of governing and in the best interests of doing the work for the American people to issue these waivers.”
A senior official in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Alethea Predeoux, was granted a waiver allowing her to facilitate communication between the government agency and the American Federation of Government Employees – a union representing 700,000 federal workers for whom she was formally a senior lobbyist, Axios first reported.
In April, the White House issued a similar waiver, allowing Celeste Drake, who was hired to head the White House’s Made In America office, to contact her former employers, the Director’s Guild of America and the American Federation of work and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).
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The administration said these were necessary measures to facilitate liaison between government agencies and unions.
But in a statement to Fox News on Saturday, Republican National Senate Committee spokeswoman Katharine Cooksey said: “The pattern of corruption between Democrats and big union bosses is obvious – just follow the money and to follow the staff. ”