Anti-corruption laws and policies in the United States began with the United States Constitution. Over the nation’s first 200 years, ethics policies slowly developed and evolved, creating a patchwork of policies, regulations, and laws that applied to some or all of the executive branch.
On October 26, 1978, the Ethics in Government Act established the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) as a part of the Office of Personnel Management. The goal of the office: to bring some continuity and uniformity to ethics policies across the executive branch and to establish a system of financial disclosure for senior officials and officials in positions with an elevated risk for conflicts of interest.
OGE worked swiftly. By 1979, OGE had worked with the Senate to establish a financial disclosure and ethics vetting process for nominees to positions requiring Senate confirmation. This was a major step forward in transparency. For the first time, the American people could see the financial holdings of the most senior officials in the executive branch, and use this information to ensure those officials were free from conflicts of interest.
The next major milestone for the new office: on November 3, 1988, OGE gained autonomy from the Office of Personnel Management. For the first time, the executive branch had a separate agency in charge of implementing an executive branch-wide ethics program.
In 1992, at the direction of President George H.W. Bush, OGE established the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch. Again, a first: a single set of ethics standards for all employees of the executive branch.
In the mid-nineties, OGE continued to implement and refine ethics regulations, notably issuing an implementing regulation for the financial conflict of interest law and the limitations on outside earned income contained in the Ethics in Government act.
The new millennia brought further change. The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act tasked OGE with expanding financial disclosure filing and moving the process online. In just three years, OGE designed, built, and deployed the Integrity electronic financial disclosure system. The system is used by virtually all of the public financial disclosure filers in the executive branch.
Today, OGE continues to refine ethics policies, improve the systems of financial disclosure, and lead the more than 5,000 ethics practitioners who ensure that every executive branch agency has an effective ethics program.