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What is the Revolving Door?


Regulating the Revolving Door
Bill Clinton issued arguably the most sweeping revolving door restrictions when he took office in 1992.
Bill Clinton issued arguably the most sweeping revolving door restrictions when he took office in 1992.
Cynthia Johnson/Getty Images

The Revolving Door doesn't swing entirely freely. Since the 1970s, a number of presidents and legislators have sought to tighten restrictions on the labor exchange between the public and private sectors.

After the ethical violations and crimes that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, Congress, under the Jimmy Carter administration, passed the Ethics in Government Act of 1978. Most important to the Revolving Door was the cooling-off period the law mandated. Employees in the executive branch now had to wait a full year before they could be employed in a lobbying capacity.

In 1989, President George H. W. Bush signed the Ethics Reform Act into law. This bill expanded the restrictions on employment established by the 1978 Act beyond federal employees to include members of Congress and staff in the executive branch. Now legislators and their aides faced a year of non-employment in positions in private companies that used their former service in government to lobby on behalf of special interests.

During his 1992 campaign, President Bill Clinton ran on a platform that included a pledge to stop the Revolving Door. True to his word, when Clinton took office, he issued an executive order that extended the ban on lobbying among federal and executive branch employees from one year to a full five years. By the end of his second term in office, however, Clinton revoked the order, which would have stood in perpetuity. After the extension was revoked, many critics concluded that business was back to normal [source: Salinger].

How has the Revolving Door evolved in the new millennium? Find out on the next page.


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