Bush's Ethics Panel Backs Broad Ban on Speaking Fees

From Associated Press

Members of President Bush's ethics commission agreed Wednesday that senior officials of all three branches of the government should be barred from accepting fees for speeches and articles, regardless of whether they get a pay raise.

"The evil of honoraria is so great--from the appearance of a conflict of interest," former Atty. Gen. Griffin Bell said in proposing that the fees be banned. "People wonder who's paying all these honoraria. It undermines confidence in government."

All eight commissioners concurred, although there was debate over whether the idea should be coupled with a recommendation for a pay raise.

The tentative conclusions were reached at the third meeting of the panel, which Bush appointed to recommend ways of strengthening and standardizing federal ethics laws and rules. Final recommendations are due March 9.

Under public pressure, Congress recently voted down 50% pay raises for top officials throughout the government, although that recommendation, from the Quadrennial Commission and Presidents Bush and Ronald Reagan, was coupled with a proposal that members of Congress stop taking honorariums.

Members of the House and Senate may accept pay for speaking or writing about their congressional duties. The House allows members to receive honorariums amounting to no more than 30% of salary; in the Senate, the limit is 40% of salary. Members of both houses are paid $89,500 a year.

Committee Chairman Malcolm R. Wilkey, a former federal appellate judge, said: "I've observed excessive teaching and writing, basically to earn income."

The commissioners also agreed that top officials in all three branches of government should have their outside incomes limited to 15% of salary or less. That is the current standard for the executive branch, but is lower than that used in Congress.

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