“I’ve got a big red flag. And it’s not just on the Federal employees. It’s on the responsibilities of the agencies,” said Virginia Canter.
Virginia Canter is the Chief Ethics Council with a non-partisan group called CREW: or Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. That red flag she’s waiving, it’s about the thousands of GoFundMe accounts created to financially help thousands of Federal employees during this shutdown.
Why the concern?
“Federal employees are subject to the standards of conduct – basic ethics rules and there’s specific provisions in the ethics rules that bar them from accepting gifts from outside entities – if they’re prohibited sources, which means that they do business with the agency,” said Canter. “Or if they’re offered because of their official positions. And employees are also discouraged from soliciting gifts.”
She said a spouse creating a GoFundMe page, may not be a workaround. These gift rules apply to all executive branch employees.
Canter said OGE or the Office of Government Ethics hasn’t specifically addressed these accounts and how to handle them during or after the shutdown, and that’s a big problem.
“It’s another thing when they’ve missed not one paycheck, but two paychecks and there’s no foreseeable end to this,” she said. “So there’s no excuse for why the White House cannot show leadership on this specific issue to get the Counsel’s Office to work with the Office of Government Ethics and the Office of Management and Budget to resolve this.”
She can’t give legal advice, but Canter is encouraging furloughed employees to reach out to your department and push to clarify whether these gifts are okay – just to make sure you don’t in trouble trying to get help.