The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 is a United States federal law that was passed in the wake of the Nixon Watergate scandal and the Saturday Night Massacre. It created mandatory, public disclosure of financial and employment history of public officials and their immediate families. It also created restrictions on lobbying efforts by public officials for a set period after leaving public office. Last, it created the U.S. Office of Independent Counsel, tasked with investigating government officials.
This summary is from Wikipedia.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Oct 11, 1978.
(Conference report filed in House, H. Rept. 95-1756) Ethics in Government Act - =Title I: Legislative Personnel Financial Disclosure Requirements= - Requires each Member of Congress, each Congressional officer and employee who is compensated at a rate equal to or more than the pay rate for grade GS-16, and any candidate for the office of Member to file an annual financial disclosure report (hereinafter referred to as "report") containing specified information including: (1) sources amounts of income, gifts, and reimbursements; (2) the identity and approximate value of property held and liabilities owed; (3) transactions in property, commodities, and securities; and (4) certain financial interests of a spouse or dependent. Provides that such report be filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives or the Secretary of the Senate, for the employee's respective House. Directs the Clerk and the Secretary to: (1) send a copy of each report of a Member or candiate to the appropriate State officer of their State; (2) submit each report for review by either the Committee of Official Conduct of the House or the Select Committee on Ethics of the Senate; and (3) make such reports generally available to the public. Prohibits the use of information from such reports for commercial, credit, or solicitation purposes, or for any unlawful purpose. Authorizes the Attorney General to bring civil actions in any appropriate district court against individuals who knowingly and willfully falsify or fail to file or report specified information required under this Act. Authorizes such courts to assess against such individuals civil penalties not to exceed $5,000. Requires the Comptroller General to report to Congress on the effectiveness of the implementation of this Title and the feasibility of conducting random audits of such reports. =Title II: Executive Personnel Financial Disclosure Requirements= - Requires the President, Vice President, each presidential or vice- presidential candidate, each military officer rated at 0-7 or higher, each presidential appointee whose Senate confirmation is pending, and each employee of the Executive branch who is compensated at a pay rate equal to or greater than that for grade GS-16 to file such report as described in Title I of this Act which shall include additional information regarding positions held with business entities, and agreements with respect to future employment and continuation of payments by former employers. Excludes political campaign funds, including campaign receipts and expenditures, from such reports. Authorizes the Attorney General to bring civil actions and district courts to assess civil penalties similar to those in Title I against individuals for failure to file or falsifying reports. Requires the head of each agency, each Secretary concerned, and the Director of the Office of Government Ethics to refer to the Attorney General the name of any individual they have reasonable cause to believe has willfully failed to file a report or willfully falsified or failed to file required information. Authorizes the President, the Vice President, the Secretary concerned, and the head of each agency or the Civil Service Commission to take appropriate personnel or other action in accordance with applicable law or regulation against any individual failing to report information required to be reported. Requires that such reports be made generally available to the public, with specified exceptions for certain individuals involved in intelligence activities. Prohibits the use of information from such reports as described in Title I. Authorizes the Attorney General to bring civil actions against persons who obtain or use such reports for such prohibited purposes. Authorizes courts in which such actions are brought to assess against such persons penalties not to exceed $5,000 in any one case. Stipulates that such remedy shall be in addition to any other remedy available under statutory or common law. Requires that reports be reviewed within 60 days of filing. Establishes procedures to notify individuals of their noncompliance and to assist them in complying with the requirements of this Act. Permits the President to require officers and employees in the executive branch not covered by this title to submit confidential reports. Permits the Director of the Office of Government Ethics to require by rule disclosure of gifts received by dependent children of reporting individuals if such information does not exceed that required of spouses. Requires that the Comptroller General have access to executive personnel financial disclosure reports in order to carry out statutory responsibilities. =Title III: Judicial Personnel Financial Disclosure Requirements= - Requires the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, each Federal court judge, judges of the courts of the District of Columbia, any presidential nominee for judicial office whose Senate confirmation is pending, and each judicial employee who is compensated at a pay rate equal to or greater than that for grade GS-16 to file such report as described in Title II. Directs the Judicial Conference of the United States to establish a Judicial Ethics Committee to: (1) receive such reports of judicial personnel; (2) monitor compliance with this Title; (3) provide for the availability of such reports to the public; (4) develop the method of determining the value of assets required to be disclosed under this Title; and (5) review such reports to ascertain possible violations of conflict of interest laws. Authorizes the Attorney General to bring civil actions and the courts to assess civil penalties similar to those in Title I and II against individuals failing to file or falsifying reports. Requires the Committee to refer the names of such individuals to the Attorney General. Prohibits the use of information from such reports as described in Title I. Authorizes the Attorney General to bring civil actions against persons who obtain or use such reports for such prohibited purposes. Authorizes courts in which such actions are brought to assess against such persons penalties not to exceed $5,000 in any one case. Stipulates that such remedy shall be in addition to any other remedy available under statutory or common law. =Title IV: Office of Government Ethics= - Establishes in the Office of Personnel Management the Office of Government Ethics, with a Director to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Requires the Director to provide overall direction of executive branch policies related to preventing specified conflicts of interest on the part of officers and employees of any executive agency. Stipulates certain responsibilities of the Director. Requires the Director to consult, when appropriate, with affected executive agencies and the Attorney General in the development of policies, rules, regulations, procedures, and forms. Requires the Director to develop and recommend and the Office of Personnel Management to promulgate a regulation establishing a method for readily determining, without the necessity for expert appraisal, the fair market value of assets required to be disclosed by this Act. Directs each executive agency to: (1) make its services, personnel, and facilities available to the Director to the greatest practicable extent for the performance of functions under this Act; and (2) except when prohibited by law, furnish to the Director all necessary information and records in its possession. Requires the Commission to issue its rules and regulations pertaining to financial disclosure, conflict of interest, and ethics in the Executive branch in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. Allows any person to seek judicial review of any such rule or regulation. Authorizes the appropriation to carry out this Title of $2,000,000 for each of five fiscal years beginning with fiscal year 1979. =Title V: Post-Employment Conflict of Interest= - Extends from one to two years the period of prohibition on appearances before an agency by former Federal employees or officials or commissioned officers in the uniformed services at specified salary levels on matters that were under such persons responsibilities. Includes within such prohibition informal as well as formal contacts. Prohibits formal and informal contacts with such agencies by former employees on other matters for a period of one year after the end of such employment. Exempts from the prohibition on contact with their former agency: (1) scientific personnel, if their communication is solely to furnish scientific and technical information; and (2) persons in specified positions designated by the Director of the Office of Government Ethics. =Title VI: Amendments to Title 28, United States Code= - Requires the Attorney General to investigate all specific allegations of Federal criminal law violations other than petty offenses, by specified individuals, including: (1) the President, Vice President, individuals at specified salary levels in the Executive Office of the President and the Department of Justice, any Assistant Attorney General, the Director and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, and the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service; (2) all such specified individuals who held office during the incumbency of the President or during the period the last preceding President held office, if such preceding President was of the same political party as the incumbent President; and (3) any officer of the principal national campaign committee seeking the election or reelection of the President. Requires the Attorney General to decide within 90 days whether the matter warrants further investigation or prosecution and if so, directs him to apply to the division of the U.S. Courts of Appeals responsible for the appointment of a special prosecutor. Enumerates the authority and duties of a special prosecutor. Gives a special prosecutor all the investigative and prosecutorial functions and powers of the Department except those which specifically require the Attorney General's personal action. Authorizes the special prosecutor to make public or send to Congress any statements or reports on his activities as special prosecutor he deems appropriate. Requires the special prosecutor to report to the division of the court at the conclusion of such special prosecutor duties. Permits the special prosecutor to advise the House of Representatives of any substantial and credible information which may constitute grounds for impeachment of the President, Vice President, or a justice or judge of the United States. Provides a procedure whereby specified Members of Congress can request that a special prosecutor may only be removed from office by impeachment and conviction, or by the Attorney General for extraordinary improperieties, physical disability, mental incapacity, or any other condition that substantially impairs performance. Permits the division of the court to terminate an office of special prosecutor at any time on the grounds that the investigations and prosecutions of such prosecutor have been completed. Requires the Department of Justice to suspend all investigations and proceedings regarding any matter which is in the prosecutorial jurisdiction of a special prosecutor or which has been accepted by a special prosecutor under this Title, except to the extent required by this Title or insofar as such special prosecutor agrees in writing that such investigations or proceedings may be continued. Allows the Attorney General or the Solicitor General to make a presentation as amicus curiae to any court as to issues of law raised by any case or proceeding or appeal in which a special prosecutor participates. Terminates the provisions of this Act which pertain to a special prosecutor five years after the date on which this Act takes effect. Authorizes to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to be held by the Department as a contingent fund for the use of any special prosecutor appointed pursuant to this Act. Requires the Chief Justice of the United States to assign three judges or justices for two-year periods to a division of the court to be the court for the appointment of special prosecutors. Requires the Chief Justice to assign three circuit court judges or justices, one of whom shall be a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to such division of the court. Requires the Attorney General to promulgate rules requiring any officer or employee of the Department, including a United States Attorney, to disqualify himself from participation in a particular investigation or prosecution if such participation may result in a personal, financial, or political conflict of interests or the appearance of such conflict. Requires the Attorney General to report annually to Congress on the activities and operations of the Public Integrity Section and related investigations and prosecutions by any other units of the Department of Justice. =Title VII: Senate Legal Counsel= - Establishes an Office of Senate Legal Counsel. Sets forth procedures for the appointment of a Senate Legal Counsel and a Deputy Senate Legal Counsel. Makes the Office directly accountable to the Joint Leadership Group established under this Act. Directs the Office to defend the Senate, a Member, officer, or employee of the Senate, or any agency or committee of the Senate if so authorized by a two-thirds vote of the Joint Leadership Group or by the adoption of a resolution by the Senate. Directs the Office to bring a civil action to enforce a Senate or committee or subcommittee subpoena only when directed to do so by the adoption of a resolution by the Senate. Directs the Office to intervene or appear as amicus curiae in the name of the Senate or of an officer, committee or subcommittee (or chair thereof) of the Senate. Directs the Office to serve as the duly authorized representative, in obtaining an order granting immunity under the Organized Crime Control Act, of: (1) the Senate, by an affirmative vote of a majority of Members present; or (2) a Senate committee or subcommittee, by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Members of the full committee. Provides that the expenses of the Office shall be paid from the contingent fund of the Senate.