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Obama Freezes Pay For White House Employees, Limits Lobbyists

If you work in the White House and make more than $100,000, don't expect a raise anytime soon.

President Obama today announced that he is freezing the pay of aides making more than that amount, a group that includes the White House chief of staff, national security adviser and press secretary, according to the Associated Press.

"Families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington," the president said.

The salary freeze wasn't the only thing Mr. Obama announced at an afternoon event, which also featured the swearing in of White House aides by Vice President Joe Biden. He announced a number of steps he said "represent a clean break from business as usual."

Among the announcements were new rules concerning lobbyists, including a requirement that aides not lobby the White House after they leave for at least two years.

In addition, current administration employees will be barred from working on issues on which they have lobbied in the past, and lobbyists will be forbidden from giving gifts of any size to members of the administration.

The rules on lobbyists are tighter "than under any other administration in history," Mr. Obama said, according to the AP.

The president also said he was altering policy when it comes to Freedom Of Information Act requests so that government agencies and departments are more responsive to the requests.

"For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city," the president said.

News outlets and other groups and individuals submit FOIA requests when they are seeking information they believe should legally be made public. Mr. Obama said he wants agencies to make public such information whenever possible instead of looking for reasons to withhold it.

"...these historic measures do mark the beginning of a new era of openness in our country," Mr. Obama said. "And I will, I hope, do something to make government trustworthy in the eyes of the American people, in the days and weeks, months and years to come."

Below, a statement from the White House on the president's actions.

The President today signed two Executive Orders and three Presidential Memoranda. These five documents represent a bold first step to fulfill his campaign promises to make government more responsible and accountable, to launch sweeping ethics reform, and to begin a new era of transparent and open government.

Across the country, families are tightening their belts in this economic crisis, and so should Washington. That is why in the Presidential Memorandum Regarding Pay Freeze the President has announced that he will freeze his White House senior staff pay at current levels to the full extent allowed by law. This will enable the White House to stretch its budget to get more done for the country. The President and his staff recognize that in these austere times, everyone must do more with less, and the White House is no exception.

The American people also deserve more than simply an assurance that those coming to Washington will serve their interests. They deserve to know that there are rules on the books to keep it that way. In the Executive Order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel, the President, first, prohibits executive branch employees from accepting gifts from lobbyists. Second, he closes the revolving door that allows government officials to move to and from private sector jobs in ways that give that sector undue influence over government. Third, he requires that government hiring be based upon qualifications, competence and experience, not political connections. He has ordered every one of his appointees to sign a pledge abiding by these tough new rules as a downpayment on the change he has promised to bring to Washington.

In the Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, and the Presidential Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act, the President instructs all members of his administration to operate under principles of openness, transparency and of engaging citizens with their government. To implement these principles and make them concrete, the Memorandum on Transparency instructs three senior officials to produce an Open Government Directive within 120 days directing specific actions to implement the principles in the Memorandum. And the Memorandum on FOIA instructs the Attorney General to in that same time period issue new guidelines to the government implementing those same principles of openness and transparency in the FOIA context.

Finally, the Executive Order on Presidential Records brings those principles to presidential records by giving the American people greater access to these historic documents. This order ends the practice of having others besides the President assert executive privilege for records after an administration ends. Now, only the President will have that power, limiting its potential for abuse. And the order also requires the Attorney General and the White House Counsel to review claims of executive privilege about covered records to make sure those claims are fully warranted by the Constitution.

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