Obama shows he's no Bush

President institutes new restrictions on lobbyists, pay freezes for some White House employees.

Published January 21, 2009 9:48PM (EST)

Barack Obama is making sure no one confuses him with his predecessor.

Following upon his order to suspend the Guantanamo Bay trials, this afternoon Obama offered another clear rebuke to the policies of former President George W. Bush. During a ceremony to swear in his staff, Obama announced new restrictions on lobbyists and a commitment to Executive Branch openness and transparency.

Altogether, Obama signed two executive orders and three presidential directives today. One of the executive orders bans lobbyists from giving any gifts of any kind to administration officials. The policy also bars any White House employee who leaves their job from lobbying the government for two years. And in what is seemingly a direct rebuttal to the hiring practices of Alberto Gonzalez's Justice Department, the order states "that government hiring be based upon qualifications, competence and experience, not political connections."

Obama also pledged to begin a new "era of openness" in Washington. "For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city," he said. He added that he hoped to "do something to make government trustworthy in the eyes of the American people, in the days and weeks, months and years to come." He has instructed government agencies to make more information available to the public when agencies respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. He went on to say that, "Information will not be withheld just because I say so -- it will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the constitution."

Additionally, in a symbolic move given the nation's economic crisis, one of the memoranda institutes a salary freeze on Executive Branch employees making over $100,000 a year. According to the AP, the salary freeze will affect around 100 employees, including Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff and Robert Gibbs, Obama's press secretary.

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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