The 2012 elections are now over, the holidays have come and gone, Congress and the White House have negotiated on the fiscal cliff (for the time being). Amidst all this, some Members and staff are more focused on negotiating their own future and finding employment in 2013.
A memorandum issued by the House Ethics Committee provides detailed guidance on the issues presented by such negotiations.
Negotiations for Future Employment
As a general matter, Members of Congress and their staff are free to pursue employment opportunities in the private sector while serving in or employed by the House or Senate.
Similarly, corporations, law firms and trade associations are permitted to enter into employment negotiations with Members and staff, subject to certain ethical constraints. Of particular note, a potential employer should never use the prospect of future employment to influence the official actions of a Member or staff.
During the interview process, prospective employers are allowed to provide “food, refreshments, lodging, transportation, and other benefits…customarily provided by a prospective employer in connection with bona fide employment discussions.”
The Ethics Committee memorandum also reiterates that Members of Congress may not “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” for a period of one year after leaving office. Similarly, covered staff making $130,000 or more during 2012 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.
The memorandum further advises Members that they should “familiarize themselves with these restrictions, especially the criminal restrictions on post-employment contact that have been the subject of recent attention” by the Justice Department. Congressional staff are advised that they should pay particular attention to “criminal restrictions on post-employment communications” and it is important that employers are cognizant of these provisions as well.