Financial Disclosure and Limitations.

The Ethics in Gov- ernment Act of 1978561 requires high-level federal personnel to make detailed, annual disclosures of their personal financial affairs.562 The aims of the legislation are to enhance public confidence in government, to demonstrate the high level of integrity of government employees, to deter and detect conflicts of interest, to discourage individuals with questionable sources of income from entering government, and to facilitate public appraisal of government employees’ performance in light of their personal financial interests.563 Despite assertions that employee privacy interests are needlessly invaded by the breadth of disclosures, to date judicial challenges have been unsuccessful, with one exception.564 The one provision that was invalidated was section 501(b),565 which prohibits Members of Congress and officers or employees of the government, regardless of salary level, from receiving any “honorarium,” which the statute defines as “a payment of money or any thing of value for an appearance, speech or article (including a series of appearances, speeches, or articles if the subject matter is directly related to the individual’s official duties or the payment is made because of the individual’s status with the Government) . . . .”566 The Supreme Court held that this prohibition, even interpreted in accordance with the standards applicable to speech restrictions on government employees, was over-broad, as “[t]he speculative benefits the honoraria ban may provide the government are not sufficient to justify this crudely crafted burden of respondents’ freedom to engage in expressive activities.”567

Footnotes

561
Pub. L. 95–521, tits. I–III, 92 Stat. 1824–1861. The Act was originally codified in three different titles, 2, 5, and 28, corresponding to legislative, executive, and judicial branch personnel, but by Pub. L. 101–194, title II, 103 Stat. 1725 (1989), one comprehensive title, as amended, applying to all covered federal personnel was enacted. 5 U.S.C. App. §§ 101–111. [Back to text]
562
See Developments, supra, 97 HARV. L. REV. at 1660–1669. [Back to text]
563
97 Harv. L. Rev. at 1661 (citing S. REP. 170, 95th Cong., 2d sess. (1978), 21–22). [Back to text]
564
97 Harv. L. Rev. at 1664–69. The Ethics in Government Act also expanded restrictions on post-employment by imposing bans on employment, varying from a brief period to an out-and-out lifetime ban in certain cases. Id. at 1669–76. The 1989 revision enlarged and expanded on these provisions. 103 Stat. 1716–1724, amending 18 U.S.C. § 207. [Back to text]
565
92 Stat. 1864 (1978), as amended, 103 Stat. 1760 (1989), as amended, 5 U.S.C. App. § 501(b). [Back to text]
566
5 U.S.C. App. § 505(3). [Back to text]
567
United States v. NTEU, 513 U.S. 454, 477 (1995). [Back to text]