President Reagan said he expected to be criticized for killing a bill that would have restricted lobbying by ex-government officials, but he asserted the legislation was "fundamentally flawed."
In announcing Wednesday that he would exercise a pocket veto to kill the Post-Employment Restrictions Act, Reagan said, "I am well aware that there will be criticism."Several lawmakers closely involved in drafting the wide-ranging ethics bill immediately denounced the president, and the head of Common Cause said the decision sealed an "anything goes" standard of ethics in the Reagan administration.
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., principal sponsor of the House version, called Reagan's veto "an appalling act of hypocrisy" in view of Vice President George Bush's previous presidential campaign endorsement of tighter ethics laws.
"This is the ultimate triumph of the Edwin Meese ethics-schmethics approach to government, in which the rule is that whatever makes everyone rich, makes them happy," Frank said in a telephone interview from Boston.
In a three-page memorandum citing his reasons for allowing the bill to lapse, and thus die, Reagan said the nation should embrace "more clear, far-reaching restrictions" on lobbying by ex-government officials than presently exist. But he called the bill "flawed, excessive and discriminatory."
"This bill would have begun to make former senior federal employees unemployable in the private sector after government service," he said. "Many of the most talented might never sign up to serve their country, and the country would be the worse for it."
Reagan said the bill was confusing and said that it would have imposed a double standard in which there would have been greater restrictions on post-employment lobbying by executive branch employees than by former members of Congress.
The bill he refused to sign would have brought former members of Congress and senior staff aides under lobbying restrictions for the first time. The president invoked his authority to kill legislation by failing to act on it within 10 days from the time he received it, and during a time when Congress is in adjournment.
Among Reagan's principal stated objections to the ethics bill:
_It would have gone beyond existing law to subject former executive branch employees to criminal sanctions for activities "unrelated to genuine ethical concerns."
_It would have barred former officials from representing a client before any senior federal executive, "wherever located and no matter how unrelated to the former officials' government service."
Reagan noted that the law would not have taken effect until next August, well after his term ends. But he said, "It is fundamentally flawed and would have made securing good government for America substantially more difficult."
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