5 CFR § 2635.502 deals with potential conflicts of interests of federal employees. If I'm reading that correctly, it seems that every government agency needs to have at least one "designee" that rules whether an apparent conflict of interest is a real one.

Does the White House itself have such a designee for its staff?

I'm guessing it depends whether the White House is an agency... and the answer seems to be complicated, but probably is "yes" at least in part

The Executive Office of the President of the United States (EOP) is a group of agencies at the center of the executive branch of the United States federal government. The EOP supports the work of the president. It consists of several offices and agencies, such as the White House Office (the staff working directly for and reporting to the president, including West Wing staff and the president’s closest advisers), the National Security Council, and the Office of Management and Budget. Some of these play a very important role in the implementation and regulation of public policy.

The EOP is also referred to as a 'permanent government', with many policy programs, and the people who implement them, continuing between presidential administrations. This is because there is a need for qualified, knowledgeable civil servants in each office or agency to inform new politicians.

So who rules on conflicts of interests according to 5 CFR §2635.502 at least for the EOP?

1 Answer 1


Who is the "agency designee" with respect to 5 CFR § 2635.502 (c)-(d) for the White House?

Scott F. Gast, Senior Counsel to the President, Designated White House Ethics Official.

Appointed March 12, 2019, by President Trump, as the Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) under 5 C.F.R. part 2638.104 (a). Gast was previously the Alternate Designated Agency Ethics Official (ADAEO), 5 C.F.R. part 2638.104 (d).

Memordandum issued by Gast under 5 C.F.R 2635.502.

The prior DAEO, Stefan Passantino, raised the question as to whether the White House Office is an "agency" and whether certain ethics regulation apply to those employees.

U.S. Ethics Official To White House: No, These Rules Definitely Apply To You, March 9, 2017.

The Office of Government Ethics has informed the Trump administration that the White House has an "incorrect" view of ethics laws.

In a Thursday letter, OGE director Walter Shaub contradicted what he called the White House's "extraordinary assertion," made in a recent letter, that "many regulations promulgated by the Office of Government Ethics ('OGE') do not apply to employees of the Executive Office of the President."

Shaub was having no part of that: "The assertion is incorrect, and the letter cites no legal basis for it."


There are some big uncertainties here: The White House has not specified what it means by "many," nor explained why it believes those rules do not apply to EOP employees. In addition, the White House has said that the rules are not binding for EOP employees, but that it has also advised them to abide by ethics rules.

Ethics experts have told NPR that the White House's argument that "many" ethics rules don't apply to EOP employees may rest on the definition of the word "agency."

A number of ethics rules state that they apply to employees of government "agencies," so this definition is a crucial one in determining which rules apply to whom. Indeed, Passantino had said in a footnote that the White House Office, a subsection of the Executive Office of the President, is not an "agency."

Shaub disagreed with that as well.

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