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Remarks on Signing the Executive Order Establishing the President's Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform

January 25, 1989

Well, I want to -- especially at the opening of these brief remarks -- thank Judge Wilkey and Judge Bell, former Attorney General, for joining me today and for agreeing to take on this critical task.

Our National Government depends for its success on the excellence and the integrity of those who serve the public. And in choosing officials from my administration, I have sought out individuals of unquestioned competence and the highest integrity. But along with these high standards of selection, we need an unambiguous code -- a code of conduct -- to ensure that those who serve the public trust avoid any actual or apparent conflict between their personal and public interests.

As we've seen in the recent debates about ethics legislation, current Federal ethics rules do not adequately serve to eliminate abuse of public office for private gain. And the current framework is fragmented; it's confusing; and most important, does not incorporate sufficient safeguards to protect the public interest in honest and fair government. It's the difficulty of these issues that leads me to create the President's Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform.

Judge Wilkey, thank you, sir, for taking on the arduous responsibilities of Chairman. And Judge Bell, thank you for agreeing to be the Vice Chairman. You both come to this task with extensive experience in public service and a deep interest and understanding of these interests in, and understanding of, ethics matters. And I'm asking you and other members of the Commission to take a fresh look at the ethical standards that apply to all three branches of the Federal Government and to give me your recommendations by March 9th, if you can. I know this does not give you a lot of time, but I'm eager to move forward with reform, and I'm confident that you can get this job done.

Before I issue this Executive order, let me leave you with four key principles to guide you as you take up your efforts. One, ethical standards for public servants must be exacting enough to ensure that the officials act with the utmost integrity and live up to the public's confidence in them. Two, standards must be fair. They must be objective and consistent with common sense. Three, the standards must be equitable all across the three branches of the Federal Government. And the fourth one -- we cannot afford to have unreasonably restrictive requirements that discourage able citizens from entering public service.

The task of reforming and revitalizing Federal ethical standards is really of the highest importance to me and to the American people. And I'll await your recommendations with great interest.

And now I'll sign this Executive order.

Note: The President spoke at 2:36 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. The Executive order is listed in Appendix E at the end of this volume.

George Bush, Remarks on Signing the Executive Order Establishing the President's Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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