THE PRESIDENT. I'm very pleased this morning to participate in a ceremony that has great significance for our country. During my own campaign for President, I promised the American people that I would do everything in my power to guarantee integrity in the executive branch of Government, and also obviously I have been joined with great enthusiasm by the Members of Congress and members of the judiciary as well.
On May 3 of 1977, shortly after I became President, I proposed legislation to the Congress to meet these commitments. And today I'm pleased to sign into law the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, which gives us added tools to ensure that the Government is open, honest, and is free from conflicts of interest.
I am pleased that no major provision of my own original proposal has been deleted or weakened, and that the Congress, with our support, has actually extended important provisions to the legislative and judicial branches of Government. This is a good indication of cooperation in extending these ethical standards throughout the entire Government of our country.
This bill will provide for mandatory, personal financial disclosures for high officials in the executive branch of Government, for all Members of the Congress, and for all senior members of the judicial branch of Government as well.
The ultimate authority for-or responsibility for endorsing and interpreting the provisions of the act lies in the executive branch of Government. Substantially, it broadens protection against abuses caused by postemployment conflicts of interest, so that people who have been employed in the Government cannot use this employment to go and enrich themselves by going into an area of private employment which would use their influence recently derived from Government service. It closes the revolving door that has been so significantly abused in the past.
This legislation also establishes a Special Office of Government Ethics in the new Office of Personnel Management, which was brought about by a revision of the civil service system of our country.
This bill responds to problems that developed at the highest level of Government in the 1970's.
If in the future there are ever substantial allegations of criminal violations by the President or the Vice President, by Members of the Congress [Cabinet] or senior members of the President's staff, a Special Prosecutor will be appointed by a panel made up of U.S. Court of Appeals judges of the District of Columbia to prosecute or investigate and see if a prosecution is necessary. This Special Prosecutor could only be removed on the basis of extraordinary impropriety or incapacity, which gives the Special Prosecutor in the future, if needed, a great protection in carrying out his responsibilities without interference.
I'm hopeful, of course, that this authority will rarely be needed, but I believe it is necessary in response to the lessons that we have learned to the embarrassment of our country in the past.
Enactment of this legislation would not have been possible without the outstanding leadership and enthusiastic personal involvement by Speaker Tip O'Neill. And I would like to point out too that Congressman George Danielson, the floor manager of the bill in the House, and Senator Abe Ribicoff, the floor manager in the Senate, did truly outstanding jobs in their successful efforts on behalf of this legislation. Senator Percy, Senator Robert Byrd, Senator Case, and Representative ...
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