Very senior executive-branch employees are restricted from so much as advising or aiding official foreign entities in matters where they intend to influence officers, employees, and/or other agents acting on behalf of the United States.
Bank examiners and inspectors are prohibited for one year following their term with s Federal Reserve bank or Federal banking agency from receiving any compensation as an "employee, officer, director, or consultant" of institutions intertwined with banks which fell under their inspection duties.
Likewise, procurement officials who worked on behalf of government departments or agencies are prohibited for one year from acting in any way which entails receiving compensation from certain private contractors in related industries and segments.
There are, lastly, heavy restrictions on the rights of employees of the government to negotiate post-government employment while still working for the United States.
Consider the following marks on the timeline of regulation of the revolving door:
In 1969 the United States was involved in a Cold War in which its defense industry was central to its own physical survival. This Cold War had become hot in certain places, especially Vietnam, and threatened nuclear war on various fronts, especially Europe and Asia. An ethical Department of Defense, ethical contracts agreed to and performed under it, and ethical performance of those contracts were therefore vital to the security of the country and high on the agenda of political leaders at that time.
Though the 1970s were characterized by economic issues, in particular "stagflation," by the 1980s the renewed and much more dangerous arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union again brought to the forefront the vitality of ethics around the Department of Defense. Moreover, the 1970s and 1980s saw the growth and development of such an array of new government departments and programs that the Department of Defense was no longer the single entity around which restrictions must be designed. In addition, what was once restricted to the Department of Defense now needed extension to cover a far broader array of government officials in the face of growing distrust of the motives guiding their conduct in the wake of Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974 and various other illegal and unethical happenings surrounding public officials. The coming end of the Soviet Union did not seem to deign a decrease in ethical regulations a reality, instead portending a need for an increase of such restrictions.
Following a decade of prosperity and security in the 1990s, the 2000s were characterized by a large-scale terrorist attack to start the decade and a financial debacle heavily related to porous oversight of important banking establishments to end it. By the time of the Obama election in November, 2008, public distrust of their own government was alarmingly prevalent due to repeated instances of the government being caught with its own pants down. A stronger code of ethical restrictions, lasting for longer periods and covering far more individuals within and around the government, seems like it would be the natural response of an ambitious opportunist, for good or for bad.
The unstated issue in all of this is the growing government which is incompatible with the republican form for which it was intended. The United States Constitution sets out a carefully limited federal government which was to be monitored and controlled by the citizens responsible for the positions of its members. The small size of the government allowed citizens to see and analyze the performance of relevant officials; there was no easy mask with which to hide abuses or mistakes.
Where public officials are visible they can be held accountable for their conduct and for the motives guiding it. Where public officials are not visible, they are liable to abuse or misuse the powers with which they are entrusted and to mistake those powers for rights, which are a separate issue altogether. No maxim of administration is surer than that, and it is verified by the experience and wisdom of the ages, with virtually no examples to the contrary.
Accordingly, the republican form of government adopted by the United States, or the representative democracy, to be more specific, contained the usual provisions for restricting terms of office, which necessarily entailed a revolving door of some sort. This was an expected part of the process of government and one which was not considered to be dangerous because it was countered by the small size of the said government and the mechanisms for holding government accountable, up to and including removal from office of offenders against the "code."
Until the Civil War this was the way in which the United States federal government continued to operate. With the victory of the Union in that war, the program of the Republican Party at that time increased the scope and role of government to a degree which consolidated its power and announced changes which would be realized in full only a century later. In addition, the admission of many territories in the West as new states entailed a growing number of Congressmen and programs for administration in these new political entities. Increasing centralization entailed increasing facelessness, and government was increasingly less accountable for its actions.
This era marked the first continual realization of government scandal, which excited extreme distrust among the people. Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's successor and the President in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, was impeached but not convicted; Ulysses S. Grant's administration, following Johnson's, was riddled by scandal and corruption; Rutherford B. Hayes assumed office under the cloud of a deal between the competing political parties which ended Reconstruction in exchange for a Republican presidency; and James A. Garfield's assassination by a deranged office-seeker who was denied under the spoils system was a proud testament to the corruption of the age. The era was a harbinger of the dangers of larger government.
Following Garfield's assassination, the ruthless robber-barons and political bosses of the Gilded Age continued the newfangled tradition of corruption, notably under the leadership of Boss Tweed, whose views on graft (there is honest graft, and then there is dishonest graft, according to the Boss) do not appear at all peculiar to those who understand human nature. The spirit of the age, and the disappointment it aroused in those who had once supported the Civil War as promising a return of ethics, honesty, and openness, was captured by Mark Twain in "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg," and the literature of the age increasingly points to a human nature that is "off," slightly deformed, and unaccountable to reason. The shining contributor to this age of literature is Henry James, and his novels and stories betray a growing disillusionment as to the deeper realities of human nature and its relationship to the behavior of individuals at the time.
As the Twentieth Century dawned, the role and scope of the government of the United States continued to expand beyond all reasonable bounds, first to include imperialistic "conquests" and then to include a new safety mechanism in the banking world, the Federal Reserve, brought about in the wake of the Panic of 1907. The array of activities in which the United States federal government was involved in the first decade of the Twentieth Century included administration of the Philippines, construction of the Panama Canal, protection of natural preserves and wildlife, increasing oversight of private economic actors and action, and benign mediation in foreign affairs such as the Russo-Japanese war and its ensuing peace.
In the next decade the role of the federal government expanded yet again, this time in response to an enormous international conflict. In addition to the creation of the Federal Reserve, World War I created an increasing and pressing need for larger government which was not always immediately acted upon but was certainly central in the ensuing decades as international peace and law became a mission and a duty for the federal government of the United States. Despite the initial rejection of the League of Nations, the later development of the United Nations constituted yet another major increase in the scope of the federal government of the United States, and its story begins here, in the 1910s, with Woodrow Wilson's vision of a lasting peace. Additionally, the implementation of Prohibition and the income tax expanded government, while the expansion of the vote to women drastically widened the base of voters, not all of whom had the necessary insights into the inner workings of government.
Though the 1920s was characterized by lax regulation and control, the end of the decade saw the onset of the Great Depression, and the 1930s saw increasing governmental intervention in economics as a result of Keynes' influential economic theories. With the advent of the TVA, WPA, and similar programs, the operations of governmental agencies and their leading members, employees, and officials were now officially out of the reach of a large majority of the base of citizens under whose control they were supposed to be running and in whose interests they…