Sec. Vilsack followed ethics guidelines when negotiating his future employment

Under the Obama administration, we at Cause of Action Institute have not had many opportunities to applaud public officials for taking it upon themselves to adhere to applicable ethics standards.  This week, we learned that U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) Secretary Tom Vilsack appears to be an outlier for the administration.

On January 18, 2017, Cause of Action Institute submitted a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request to USDA after media reports indicated that Sec. Vilsack apparently began negotiating for private employment while still serving in government, triggering federal ethics laws.  Sec. Vilsack then retired from his government role a week before his term concluded.

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (“STOCK Act”) states that Executive Branch employees who are required to file public financial reports may not directly negotiate for future employment unless the individual’s ethics office is notified in writing within three business days after negotiations begin.

According to un-redacted records provided to Cause of Action Institute on January 31, 2017, less than two weeks after our FOIA request, Secretary Vilsack appears to have alerted his agency’s ethics office and properly followed all ethics guidelines when he decided to pursue his next employment opportunity.

We wish the Secretary the best in his new role and hope USDA continues to provide timely responses to all future FOIA requests.

John Vecchione is acting president of Cause of Action Institute