"Revolving Door," Post-Employment Laws for Federal Personnel
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Federal personnel may be subject to certain conflict of interest restrictions on their permissible
private employment activities even after they leave the service of the U.S. government. These
restrictions, applicable when one enters private employment after having left government service,
are often referred to as “revolving door” laws. For the most part, other than the narrow
restrictions specific to procurement officials, these laws restrict only certain “representational”
types of employment activities, such as lobbying or other advocacy communications which are
directed at, and are intended to influence, current federal officials.
Under a federal conflict of interest law, 18 U.S.C. § 207, federal employees in the executive
branch of government are restricted in performing certain post-employment “representational”
activities for private parties, including (1) a lifetime ban on “switching sides,” that is,
representing a private party on the same “particular matter” involving identified parties on which
the former executive branch employee had worked personally and substantially for the
government; (2) a two-year ban on “switching sides” on a somewhat broader range of matters
which were under the employee’s official responsibility; (3) a one-year restriction on assisting
others on certain trade or treaty negotiations; (4) a one-year “cooling off” period for certain
“senior” officials barring representational communications to and attempts to influence persons in
their former departments or agencies; (5) a new two-year “cooling off” period for “very senior”
officials barring representational communications to and attempts to influence certain other high-
ranking officials in the entire executive branch of government; and (6) a one-year ban on certain
former high-level officials performing some representational or advisory activities for foreign
governments or foreign political parties. Under 18 U.S.C. § 207, as amended by the “Honest th
Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007” (P.L. 110-81, [S. 1 110 Congress]), the one-year
“cooling off” periods, and the restrictions on representations on behalf of official foreign entities
and assistance in trade negotiations, also apply in the legislative branch to Members of the House
and to senior legislative staff, while the two-year “cooling off” period applies to former U.S.
Senators lobbying the Congress.
Further limitations are placed upon post-government private employment activities of
“procurement personnel” in federal agencies. These restrictions go beyond the prohibitions on
merely representational, lobbying, or advocacy activities on behalf of private entities before the
government after leaving government service, and extend also to any compensated employment
for or on behalf of certain private contractors for a period of time after a former procurement
official had been responsible for procurement action on certain large contracts for the
Certain restrictions and requirements also apply under federal law and rule on current federal
officials, Members of Congress, and certain senior congressional staff, who are negotiating future
employment with a private party, or who have made arrangements or agreements for such
subsequent private employment.
Background: Legislative History and Intent of Provisions.............................................................1
Executive Branch - Representational Activities..............................................................................3
1. Lifetime Ban on “Switching Sides”......................................................................................3
2. Two-Year Ban on “Switching Sides”....................................................................................4
3. Representations in Treaty or Trade Negotiations..................................................................4
4. “Senior” Officials: One-Year “Cooling Off” Period.............................................................4
5. “Very Senior” Officials: Two-Year “Cooling Off” Period....................................................5
6. Representing Foreign Governments......................................................................................5
Negotiating Private Employment....................................................................................................7
Legislative Branch - Representational Activities............................................................................9
1. “Cooling Off” Periods on Lobbying or Advocacy................................................................9
2. Trade or Treaty Negotiations...............................................................................................10
3. Representing Foreign Governments....................................................................................10
4. Lobbying Restrictions on Senate Staff................................................................................10
5. Floor Privileges of Former Members...................................................................................11
6. Acceptance of Civil Office by Retiring Member of Congress.............................................11
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................12
onflict of interest regulations and restrictions on certain private employment opportunities
for a federal officer or employee do not necessarily end with the termination of the
officer’s or employee’s federal service. This report is intended to provide a brief history C
and description of the provisions of federal law restricting employment opportunities and
activities of federal employees after they leave the service of the executive or legislative branches
of the federal government. The conflict of interest provisions applicable after one leaves
government service to enter private employment are often referred to as “revolving door” laws.
Post-employment, “revolving door” statutes restricting certain subsequent private employment
activities of former federal officers and employees were enacted as early as 1872, and again in 1
part of a major revision and recodification of the federal bribery and conflict of interest laws.
That post-employment conflict of interest law was then amended and broadened by the Ethics in 3
Government Act of 1978, which added certain one-year “cooling-off” periods for high-level
executive branch personnel, limiting their post-employment advocacy activities before the federal
government for one year after leaving office. After President Reagan vetoed a major 4
congressional revision of the post-employment law which had been passed by Congress in 1988,
Congress adopted as part of the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 most of the reforms it had passed the 5
year earlier in the vetoed legislation. The statute has been modified in amendments several times 6
since 1989, including extensive technical amendments in 1990. In 2007, as part of legislation
dealing with lobbying laws and internal congressional rules on gifts, changes were made to the
revolving door statute increasing the one-year “cooling off” period for “very senior” executive
officials and for U.S. Senators to two years, and broadening the one-year “cooling off” 7
restrictions for covered senior Senate staff.
1 17 Stat. 202 (1872); 58 Stat. 668 (1944) and 41 Stat. 131 (1919), recodified at 18 U.S.C. §284, June 25, 1948, 62 Stat.
698. See discussion in Conflict of Interest and Federal Service, The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, at
2 P.L. 87-849, 76 Stat. 119, October 23, 1962; see H.Rept. 748, 87th Cong., 1st Sess. (1961).
3 P.L. 95-521, Title V, 92 Stat. 1824, 1864, October 26, 1978.
4 S. 2334, 99th Congress (Senator Thurmond), was reported out favorably by the Senate Judiciary Committee (S.Rept.
No. 99-396, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. (1986)), and in the 100th Congress the Senate Judiciary Committee again reported out thst
legislation amending the post-employment laws (S. 237, S.Rept. No. 100-101, 100 Cong., 1 Sess. (1987)). An
amendment in the nature of a substitute was offered by Senator Thurmond for himself and Senators Metzenbaum,
Levin, and Specter on February 3, 1988, and the legislation (S. 237) was amended on the Senate floor and passed on
April 19, 1988. In the House, the Judiciary Committee reported out a clean bill (H.R. 5043) on October 6, 1988 (H.R. th
Rpt. No. 100-1068, 100 Cong., 2d Sess.), which passed the House on October 12, 1988. Amendments were offered to
the House bill and agreed to in the Senate on October 18, and after the House substituted compromise provisions for
the bill, the House and Senate passed the legislation on October 21, 1988. The legislation was formally presented to the th
President on November 14, 1988, subsequent to the adjournment of the 100 Congress. The President announced his
intention not to sign the bill on November 23, 1988, and issued a statement of disapproval. The “pocket veto” was
effective on November 25, 1988, upon the President’s failure to sign the bill.
5 P.L. 101-194, Title I, § 101(a), 103 Stat. 1716, November 30, 1989, as amended.
6 P.L. 101-280, 104 Stat. 149, May 4, 1990.
7 P.L. 110-81, September 14, 2007. See, S. 1, 110th Congress, Sections 101-105, 301, 531-532.
One of the initial and earliest purposes of enacting the “revolving door” laws was to protect the
government from the use against it of proprietary information by former employees who leave the
government, take with them such information and knowledge, and then use that on behalf of a
private party in an adversarial type of proceeding or matter against the government, to the
potential detriment of the public interest. As noted by the United States Court of Appeals in
upholding the constitutionality of the “switching sides” prohibition of 18 U.S.C. § 207(a): “The
purpose of protecting the government, which can act only through agents, from the use against it 8
by former agents of information gained in the course of their agency, is clearly a proper one.”
Another interest of the government in revolving door restrictions was to limit the potential
influence and allure that a lucrative private arrangement, or the prospect of such an arrangement,
may have on a current federal official when dealing with prospective private clients or future
employers while still with the government, that is, “that the government employee not be
influenced in the performance of public duties by the thought of later reaping a benefit from a 9
private individual.” In a case dealing with another federal statute which relates in part to 10
potential future private employment of a current federal official, the court noted that the
statutory scheme was intended to deal with the “nagging and persistent conflicting interests of the 11
government official who has his eye cocked toward subsequent private employment.” thth
Additional interests asserted in the proposed amendments to 18 U.S.C. § 207 in the 99 and 100
Congresses were to prevent the corrupting influence on the governmental processes of both
legislating and administering the law that may occur, and the appearances of such influences,
when a federal official leaves his government post to “cash in” on his “inside” knowledge and 12
personal influence with those persons remaining in the government. As noted in the post-
employment regulations promulgated under the statute by the Office of Government Ethics, the
provisions of the law and regulation are directed at prohibiting “certain acts by former
Government employees which may reasonably give the appearance of making unfair use of prior 13
Government employment and affiliations”
These purposes in adopting limitations on former employees’ private employment opportunities
must, however, also be balanced against the deterrent effect that overly restrictive provisions on
career movement and advancement will have upon recruiting qualified and competent persons to 14
government service. Furthermore, unduly restrictive provisions on the “revolving door” (that is,
movement of government personnel into the private sector, and private sector employees into the
government) may tend to isolate, or at least insulate government employees from private sector
8 United States v. Nasser, 476 F.2d 1111, 1116 (7th Cir. 1973).
9 Brown v. District of Columbia Board of Zoning, 423 A.2d 1276, 1282 (D.C. App. 1980); note General Motors
Corporation v. City of New York, 501 F.2d 639, 648-652 (2d Cir. 1974), as to appearances of improprieties in such
10 18 U.S.C. § 208, which prohibits, in part, a federal employee from taking any official action for the government on a
matter in which a firm or organization “with whom he is negotiating ... prospective employment, has a financial
11 United States v. Conlon, 628 F.2d 150, 155, n. 26 (D.C. Cir. 1980), quoting Conflict of Interest and Federal Service,
supra at 234.
12 See, generally, discussion in S.Rept. No. 396, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. (1986), and S.Rept. No. 101, 100th Cong., 1st Sess.
13 5 C.F.R. § 2637.101(c).
14 S.Rept. No. 170, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 32 (1978); note discussion in “To Serve With Honor,” Report and
Recommendations to the President, by the President’s Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform, at 53 (1989).
concerns, considerations, and experiences of the general public to a degree not desirable for
public policy reasons.
The provision of federal law with applicability to the broadest range of federal employees is a
criminal statute, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 207, which may work to restrict or regulate some private
“representational,” lobbying or advocacy-type of activities by all employees in the executive
branch after they leave government service. Some parts of this statutory restriction also apply to
legislative branch officials, and those are discussed in more detail later in this report in the part
dealing with legislative branch restrictions.
Section 207 of title 18 provides a series of post-employment restrictions on “representational”
activities for executive branch personnel, including (1) a lifetime ban on “switching sides” on a
matter involving specific parties on which any executive branch employee had worked personally
and substantially while with the government; (2) a two-year ban on “switching sides” on a
somewhat broader range of matters which were under the employee’s official responsibility; (3) a
one-year restriction on assisting others on certain trade or treaty negotiations; (4) a one-year
“cooling off” period for certain “senior” officials barring representational communications before
their former departments or agencies; (5) a two-year “cooling” period for “very senior” officials
barring representational communications to and attempts to influence certain other high ranking
officials in the entire executive branch of government; and (6) a one-year ban on certain officials
in performing some representational or advisory activities for foreign governments or foreign 15
Section 207(a)(1) of title 18 of the United States Code provides a lifetime ban on every employee
of the executive branch of the federal government “switching sides,” that is, representing a
private party before or against the United States government in relation to a “particular matter”
involving “specific parties,” when that employee had worked on that same matter involving those
parties “personally and substantially” for the government while in its employ. This lifetime ban is
a fairly narrow and case-specific restriction which in practice would apply to one who worked
substantially on a particular governmental matter such as a specific contract, a particular
investigation or a certain legal action, involving specifically identified private parties, and who
then leaves the government and attempts to represent those private parties before the government
on that same, specific matter. The “switching sides” prohibition does not generally apply to broad
policy making matters, including rulemaking of an agency, but rather, as noted by the Office of
Government Ethics: “[T]ypically involves a specific proceeding affecting the legal rights of the 16
parties or an isolatable transaction or related set of transactions between identifiable parties.”
15 An Executive Order, 12834, January 20, 1993, issued by President Clinton, had required senior presidential
appointees to full-time government positions to take an “ethics pledge” which required observance of longer time
periods, generally five-years, for some of the restrictions on private employment after leaving their government posts.
That Executive Order was revoked on December 28, 2000 (E.O. 13184), and similar five-year bans have not been re-
instituted in the current Administration.
16 5 C.F.R. § 2637.201(c).
This provision does not prohibit a former government official from doing all work for a private
company or firm merely because the firm had done business with or had been regulated by the
official’s agency, or even had been directly affected by the former official’s duties or
responsibilities on a particular matter such as a contract. Rather, this particular prohibition is upon
subsequent “representational” or “professional advocacy” types of activities, that is, where the
former official makes “any communication or ... appearance” to or before the government “with
the intent to influence” the government on the same matter on which the former official had 17
personally and substantially worked while with the government.
Section 207(a)(2) provides a two-year ban on all federal employees in the executive branch on the
same types of representational, post-employment conduct involved in the lifetime ban, except that
it extends to matters which were merely under the “official responsibility” of the federal official
while he or she was with the government. This two-year restriction, while more limited in time
than the previous ban discussed is potentially broader in matters covered, as it does not require
that the former government employee had personal and substantial involvement in the matter
when that individual worked for the government, but rather merely that it was under his or her
Section 207(b)(1) of title 18 applies to all officers and employees of the executive branch (as well
as Members of Congress and employees in the legislative branch) who had personally and
substantially participated in ongoing trade or treaty negotiations on behalf of the United States
within the last year of their employment and had access to certain non-public information. The
law prohibits such former federal officers or employees, for one year after leaving the
government, from representing, aiding or advising anyone, on the basis of such information,
concerning United States trade or treaty negotiations.
Section 207(c)(1) provides a one-year “no contact” or “cooling off” period for “senior” level
employees in the executive branch, whereby such former employees may not make advocacy
contacts or representations to (that is, communications with “intent to influence”), or any
appearance before officers or employees of their former departments or agencies, for one year
after such senior level employees leave those departments or agencies. “Senior” level officers or
employees of the executive branch include persons paid on the Executive Schedule, and those
who are paid at a rate under other authority which is equal to or greater than 86.5% of the basic
rate of pay for level II of the Executive Schedule; military officers in a pay grade of 0-7 or above;
and certain staff of the President and Vice President. This one-year ban applies to any matter on
which one seeks official action by the employee’s former department or agency, regardless of
whether or not the former official had worked on the matter while with the government. Since
this “cooling off” ban applies to communications to one’s former agency or department in the
17 See Office of Government Ethics Regulations, at 5 C.F.R. §§ 2637.101(c)(5), 2637.201(b).
executive branch, it does not restrict former executive branch officials from leaving the
government and then immediately “lobbying” the U.S. Congress, its Members or employees.
The restrictions of 18 U.S.C. § 207(d) apply to “very senior” officials of the executive branch,
including the Vice President, officials compensated at level I of the Executive Schedule (cabinet
officers and certain other high-ranking officials), and employees of the Executive Office of the
President and certain White House employees compensated at level II of the Executive Schedule.
These officials, under amendments made to the law in 2007, may not for two years after leaving
the government make representations or advocacy contacts on any matter before their former
agencies, or to any person in an Executive Level position I through V in any department or 18
agency of the entire executive branch of the federal government. Similar to the cooling off
period for “senior” level employees, these restrictions on “very senior” officials do not prohibit
any former executive branch official from leaving the federal government and immediately
lobbying the Congress.
employees of the executive branch (as well as Members of Congress and senior legislative staff)
from performing certain duties in the area of representational or advocacy activities for or on
behalf of a foreign government or a foreign political party, before any agency, department or
official in the entire U.S. government. This provision prohibits, for one year after leaving the
government, those covered former officials from representing an official foreign entity “before
any officer or employee of any department or agency of the United States” with intent to 20
influence such United States official in his or her official duties, and prohibits for one year, as
well, a former senior or very senior official (including Members of Congress and senior
legislative staff) from even aiding or advising a foreign entity “with the intent to influence a 21
decision of any officer or employee of any department or agency of the United States.” The
definitions within this law expressly indicate that those officers and employees to whom such
communications on behalf of foreign governments may not be made during this one-year period 22
include Members of Congress. This one-year ban on representing or aiding or assisting in
representations of foreign governments becomes a lifetime ban in the case of the United States
Trade Representative or the Deputy United States Trade Representative.
The Office of Government Ethics has explained that the prohibition involves employment
activities with a foreign government that bear upon attempts to influence an official of the U.S.
government. Employment generally with a foreign government is not prohibited by this law, and
general public relations or commercial activities for or on behalf of a foreign government might
18 18 U.S.C. § 207(d)(1) and (2), P.L. 110-81, Section 101(a).
19 For those positions and compensation levels included in “senior” and “very senior” designations, see 18 U.S.C. §
207(c)(2), (d)(1), and (e)(1)-(7).
20 18 U.S.C. § 207(f)(1)(A).
21 18 U.S.C. § 207(f)(1)(B).
22 18 U.S.C. § 207(i)(1)(B).
not generally involve the types of conduct prohibited unless they also involved attempts to
influence United States government officials:
A former senior or very senior employee “represents” a foreign entity when he acts as an
agent or attorney for or otherwise communicates or makes an appearance on behalf of that
entity to or before any employee of a department or agency. He “aids or advises” a foreign
entity when he assists the entity other than by making such a communication or appearance.
Such “behind the scenes” assistance to a foreign entity could, for example, include drafting a
proposed communication to an agency, advising on an appearance before a department, or
consulting on other strategies designed to persuade departmental or agency decisionmakers
to take certain action. A former senior or very senior employee’s representation, aid, or
advice is only prohibited if made or rendered with the intent to influence an official 23
discretionary decision of a current departmental or agency employee.
Further limitations upon the post-government employment activities of certain officials exist
under so-called “procurement integrity” provisions of federal law for those former federal
officials who had acted as contracting officers or who had other specified contracting or
procurement functions for an agency. These additional restrictions go beyond the prohibitions on
merely “representational,” lobbying, or advocacy activities on behalf of private entities before the
government, and extend also to any compensated activity for or on behalf of certain private
contractors for a period of time after a former procurement official had worked on certain
contracts for the government.
The current post-employment restrictions within the procurement integrity provisions of federal 24
law are codified at 41 U.S.C. § 423(d). Under such provisions, former federal officials who had
been involved in certain contracting and procurement duties for the government concerning
contracts in excess of $10,000,000, may not receive any compensation from the private contractor
involved, as an employee, officer, consultant, or director of that contractor, for one year after
performing those procurement duties for the government.
The types of contracting duties and decisions for the government which would trigger coverage
under these provisions include acting as the “procuring contracting officer, the source selection
authority, a member of the source selection evaluation board, or the chief of a financial or
technical evaluation team in a procurement” in excess of $10,000,000; acting as the program
manager, deputy program manager, or administrative contracting officer for covered contracts; or
being an officer who personally made decisions awarding a contract, subcontract, modification of
a contract or task order or delivery order in excess of $10,000,000, establishing overhead or other
rates valued in excess of $10,000,000, or approving payments or settlement of claims for a
contract in excess of the covered amount.
23 Office of Government Ethics Memorandum “Revised Material Relating to 18 U.S.C. § 207,” November 5, 1992, at
24 See P.L. 104-106, § 4304(a), 110 Stat. 659, February 10, 1996. This law, the Defense Authorization Act of 1996,
also repealed certain specific restrictions on post-employment activities of military personnel which had been codified
at 10 U.S.C. § 2397, 2397b and 18 U.S.C. § 281. P.L. 104-106, Section 4304(b), 110 Stat. 664.
Current federal employees in the executive branch who are seeking private employment may
incur restrictions on the performance of their current duties for the government. The principal
federal conflict of interest law, at 18 U.S.C. § 208, provides, among other restrictions, that once
any federal employee or officer in the executive branch begins “negotiating” subsequent
employment with a private employer, that employee or officer must disqualify (recuse) himself or
herself from any official governmental duties, such as recommendations, advice, or decision
making, on any particular matter which has a direct and predictable effect on the financial 25
interests of that potential private employer.
The Office of Government Ethics has issued regulations concerning this potential conflict of
interest, and has expanded by regulation certain disqualification requirements beyond bilateral
“negotiations,” applying such requirements where the employee has even merely “begun seeking
employment.” The regulations note that a federal employee has “begun seeking employment” not
only if the employee is involved in a “discussion or communication” that is “mutually conducted”
(even if the specifics of a job or employment are not discussed), but also if the employee has
made an unsolicited communication regarding employment (other than merely asking for an
application or sending a resume to someone who is affected by the employee’s duties “only as
part of an industry or other discrete class”), or if the employee has made a response other than a
rejection to an unsolicited communication from a private source concerning employment. This
status of “seeking employment” will continue until all possibilities of employment are rejected,
and discussion ended, or two months have passed after an unsolicited communication had been
made by the employee and no indication or interest or postponement of consideration was 26
indicated. During the time one is within this status of “seeking employment,” the employee
“should notify the person responsible for his assignment,” or if the individual is responsible for
his or her own assignments, then the employee must take “whatever steps are necessary” to
ensure compliance. Appropriate oral or written communication to one’s coworkers and
supervisors concerning a required disqualification is suggested in the regulations, although
written documentation of a recusal is not required in the regulations except to conform to a 27
previous ethics agreement with the Office of Government Ethics. Waivers from the
disqualification requirements may be obtained in writing from the official responsible for the 28
In the area of procurement, even if no actual negotiations with a potential private employer are
involved or have begun, certain “contacts” about prospective private employment between certain
private contractors and federal procurement personnel may trigger reporting and recusal
requirements. Agency officials who are “participating personally and substantially” in a federal 29
procurement for a contract in excess of $100,000 must report all contacts from or to a bidder or
25 Note 5 C.F.R. § 2635.601; see United States v. Conlon, 628 F.2d 150 (D.C.Cir. 1980); CACI, Inc. - Federal v. United
States, 719 F.2d 1567 (Fed. Cir. 1983).
26 5 C.F.R. § 2635.603(b).
27 5 C.F.R. § 2635.604(b),(c).
28 5 C.F.R. § 2635.605; 18 U.S.C. § 208(b)(1) and (3).
29 The current “simplified acquisition threshold,” see 41 U.S.C. § 403(11).
offeror on that contract, when those contacts are about the possibility for non-federal employment
for that official. In addition to reporting the contacts made or received, the official must then
either reject the possibility of future employment, or must disqualify himself or herself from
further participation in the procurement until all discussions have ended without an employment 30
agreement, or until the business is no longer a bidder or offeror in that procurement.
Changes in the rules of the House and Senate have been adopted in 2007 regarding negotiations
for future private employment by Members and certain staff. In both the House and Senate, the
general rule is that Members may not begin private employment negotiations, or have 31
arrangements for subsequent private employment, until their successors have been elected. The
exception to the House and Senate rules allows for such negotiations to begin earlier, before a
successor is elected, if the Senator or Representative makes a disclosure statement within three
business days concerning the commencement of such negotiations or agreements. However, in
the Senate, this exception will not apply to, and thus will not allow, such negotiations or
arrangements for future private employment which involves “lobbying activities” until the 32
Senator’s successor has been elected.
The rules adopted in 2007 further provide that a Member of the House of Representative who is
negotiating, or has an arrangement for, future employment prior to a successor being elected must
“recuse” or disqualify himself or herself from participating in any matter that may raise a conflict
or interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest, because of such negotiations or employment
arrangements, and must notify the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct of such 33
recusal. In the Senate, the original disclosure statement of negotiations or arrangements is to be
made public at the time it is made to the Secretary of the Senate; while in the House, the original
notification of private employment negotiations or arrangements is not made public until and
unless the Member must recuse himself or herself for conflict of interest purposes, and then the 34
recusal notification as well as the original disclosure statement are made public.
“Senior” staff in both the House and Senate (i.e., those employees who are compensated in excess
of 75% of a Member’s salary) must notify the appropriate ethics committee within three business 35
days that the staffer is negotiating or has any agreement concerning future private employment.
Covered Senate and House employees must then recuse themselves from official legislative
matters that raise conflicts of interest because of their prospective private employment interests,
and notify the appropriate ethics committees of such recusal. Covered Senate staffers must
specifically recuse themselves from making any contact or communications with the prospective
employer on issues of legislative interest to that employer.
30 41 U.S.C.§ 423(c).
31 Senate Rule XXXVII, para. 12(a); House Rule XXVII, cl. 1 (P.L. 110-81, Sections 301 and 532).
32 Senate Rule XXXVII, para. 12(b). “Lobbying activities” referred to are those defined by the Lobbying Disclosure
Act of 1995, and thus would include behind-the-scenes advice and assistance to support “lobbying contacts.” See 2
U.S.C. § 1602(7).
33 House Rule XXVII, cl. 4.
34 Senate Rule XXXVII, para. 12(a); House Rule XXVII, cl. 4.
35 Senate Rule XXXVII, para. 12(c); House Rule XXVII, cl. 2.
The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 added post-employment restrictions for Members and certain
senior congressional staffers, effective January 1, 1991, and these have been amended by the
lobbying and ethics reform legislation, titled the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act 36
of 2007.” Under the criminal provisions of this statutory law, individuals who were Members of
the House are prohibited from “lobbying” or making advocacy communications on behalf of any
other person to current Members of either House of Congress, or to any legislative branch
employee, for one year after the individual leaves Congress. Members of the Senate are
prohibited from similar post-employment advocacy, but for a period of two years after leaving the
Senate. Additionally, senior staff employees are subject to certain one-year “cooling off” periods
regarding their advocacy contacts with their former offices; and both former Members and former
senior staff are limited in representing official foreign interests before the U.S. government, and
in taking part in certain trade and treaty negotiations, for one year after leaving congressional
There are now so-called “cooling off” periods of two different durations applicable in the
legislative branch that restrict post-employment “lobbying” and advocacy activities. U.S.
Senators are subject to a two-year post-employment advocacy ban, which restricts their lobbying 37
anyone in Congress for two years after leaving the Senate. Members of the House of
Representatives, as well as “senior” legislative branch employees, are now subject to a one-year 38
“cooling off” or “no contact” period after they leave congressional office or employment.
“Senior” legislative branch employees are subject to these restrictions if they are compensated at
a rate equal to or above 75 percent of the rate of pay of a Member of the House or Senate, and are 39
employed for more than 60 days.
After leaving Congress Senators are prohibited for two years, and Members of the House of
Representatives are prohibited for one year, from lobbying or making other advocacy contacts
with any Member, officer or employee of either House of Congress, or to any employee of a 40
“Senior” Senate staff covered by these statutory provisions are now prohibited for one year after
leaving Senate employment from making advocacy communications to any officer, employee, or 41
Member of the entire Senate. “Senior” House staff are barred for one year after leaving House
employment from making advocacy communications only to their former employing office; that
is, former “senior” employees of a Member of the House may not, for one year after they leave
congressional employment, make advocacy or representational contacts to that Member or any of
the Member’s employees. House committee staffers covered by these provisions are barred for
36 P.L. 110-81, September 14, 2007.
37 18 U.S.C. § 207(e)(1)(A).
38 18 U.S.C. § 207(e)(1)(B) and (e)(2)-(6).
39 18 U.S.C. § 207(e)(7).
40 18 U.S.C. § 207(e)(1)(A) and (B).
41 18 U.S.C. § 207(e)(1)(B), as amended by P.L. 110-81.
one year after leaving office from making such advocacy contacts and representations to any
Member or employee of their former committees, or to any Member who was on the committee
during the last year of the staffer’s employment; and “senior” employees in House leadership
offices are prohibited for one year after leaving employment from making advocacy 42
communications to anyone in that leadership office.
Not all contacts or communications by former Members or employees with current Members or
employees within the one-year period are barred, however. The prohibition goes only to
advocacy-type of communications, that is, communications “with the intent to influence” a
Member or officer or employee of the legislative branch concerning “any matter on which such
person seeks official action” by that Member, officer or employee, or by either House of
Congress. There are also several specific exceptions to the general prohibition, including, for
example, exceptions for lobbying and advocacy work for State or local governments, testifying
on matters under oath, and generally for representations or communications on behalf of political 43
candidates, parties and political organizations.
There is a further restriction on all officers and employees of the government, including Members
of Congress and congressional staff, who worked personally and substantially on a treaty or trade
negotiation and who had access to information which is not subject to disclosure under the
Freedom of Information Act, from using such information for one year after leaving the
government for the purpose of aiding, assisting, advising, or representing anyone other than the 44
United States regarding such treaty or trade negotiation.
Members of Congress, and those “senior” legislative branch employees who are covered by the
one-year “cooling off” periods, are also prohibited for a year after leaving office or employment
from representing an official foreign entity before the United States, or aiding or advising such
entity with intent to influence any decision of an agency or employee of any agency or 45
department of the U.S. government.
All employees of the Senate remain subject to the Senate Rule governing lobbying after they
leave Senate employment. Senate Rule XXXVII, clause 9, applies to all former staffers who have
become registered lobbyists, or are employed by a registered lobbyist or by an entity that retains
lobbyists if the former staffer is to influence legislation. Such former staffers are prohibited for
one year after leaving the Senate from lobbying the Senator for whom they used to work or the
Senator’s staff. Former committee staff are prohibited from lobbying the Members or the staff of
that committee for one year. If the staffer is a “senior” employee, then the former staffer, in
42 18 U.S.C. §207(e)(3),(4),(5), and (6).
43 18 U.S.C. § 207(j).
44 18 U.S.C. §207(b)(1).
45 18 U.S.C. §207(f).
accordance with the statutory restriction, will be barred from lobbying any Member, officer, or 46
employee of the entire Senate for one year.
Under congressional rules and practice, former Members are generally granted the privilege of 47
admission to the floor of the Senate or House, respectively. However, under the Rules of the
House of Representatives, former Members of the House are not to be entitled to floor privileges
if they have any “direct or pecuniary interest in any legislative measure pending before the House
or reported by any committee,” and are not entitled to admission if they are registered lobbyists or
agents of a foreign principal, or employed by or otherwise represent “any party or organization
for the purpose of influencing, directly or indirectly, the passage, defeat or amendment of any
legislative measure pending before the House, reported by any committee” or under consideration 48
of a committee. The Senate rules have also been changed to withdraw floor privileges from a
former Member or officer who is a registered lobbyist or agent of a foreign principal, or is in the
employ of an organization for the purpose of influencing, directly or indirectly, the passage or 49
defeat of legislation or any legislative proposal. The House and Senate have both limited the
access of such former Members, if those former Members are now registered lobbyists or foreign 50
agents, to the athletic and exercise facilities in the House and Senate.
A Member of Congress may not, before the expiration of his or her term, accept a civil office in
the U.S. government if that office was created, or the salary for the office had been increased 51
during the Member’s current term. This constitutional provision would by its terms prevent a
Member of Congress from retiring from Congress before his or her current term has expired, and
accepting such a civil position with the federal government. It may be noted that the
disqualification has in the past been avoided in regard to an office for which the salary was
increased during the Member’s term, by enacting legislation lowering the salary of that particular 52
office back to its previous level.
46 Senate Rule XXXVII, para. 9(a) (b), and (c), as amended by P.L. 110-81 [S. 1, 110th Congress], Section 531.
47 Senate Rule XXIII; House Rule IV, clause 2(a)(15).
48 Rules of the House of Representatives, House Rule IV, clause 4, as amended by H.Res. 648, February 1, 2006, and
regulations of the Speaker, 123 Cong. Rec. 321 (January 6, 1977).
49 Senate Rule XXIII, P.L. 110-81, Section 533.
50 Senate Rule XXIII, paragraph 3, P.L. 110-81, Section 533; see H.Res. 6, Section 511(c).
51 United States Constitution, Article I, Section 6, clause 2.
52 See general discussion in archived CRS Report 87-579A, Ineligibility of a Member of Congress for a Civil Office in
the Federal Government Which Was Created, or for Which the Salary Was Increased, During the Time For Which the
Member Was Elected, June 30, 1987, available from author upon request.