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One Indian tribe wants to build a casino, another tribe already has one in the area and doesn't want competition. You're a council member in the city that can effectively block the casino from being built. Both tribes want your support, and are willing to back up that support with campaign contributions. What do you do?

According to an article in yesterday's Spokesman-Review, this is a question that Spokane's council members have faced. "About two years ago, the council voted 4-3 to oppose the tribe’s proposed casino resort. The council now has a new make-up," and the new council president wants to reconsider the proposal.

While running for his position, the council president accepted $1,600 in contributions from the tribe that wants to build a casino. When accused of supporting the proposal due to the contributions, the council president said that, in 2011, a lobbyist from the tribe that already has a casino told him that he had found four or five people willing to give him maximum campaign contributions (this is an offer to "bundle" contributions, a common thing that lobbyists do, so that their client can take credit not only for contributions, but also for fundraising). When the council president told the lobbyist he would continue to support the new casino, the lobbyist told him, “You probably won’t hear from us.”

I just received an e-mail announcing a search for a new editor of the journal Public Integrity, the only academic journal in the field in which I work. Here is the description of the journal by its publisher on the journal's webpage:
What should an ethics program do when an agency or department takes ethics advice and enforcement into its own hands? This issue has arisen in Hawaii County, according to two articles in West Hawaii Today, one from two years ago, the other from last week.

The county's finance department oversees property assessment. According to the 2012 article, "Employees may hold professional licenses such as in the area of real estate sales or property appraisals, but they are banned from using the license for personal gain anywhere in the county, unless approved in advance by the finance director and in accordance with the county ethics code."

The finance director suspended an employee for two weeks without pay for selling real estate, "after he told his supervisor he wanted to disqualify himself from assessing a parcel because he had had conversations with the owner in the past in his role of private-sector real estate agent." The employee insists he should be allowed to practice as a realtor as long as he properly withdraws from participation in matters where he is conflicted. The employee filed an ethics complaint against the finance director, arguing that the director violated the ethics code by failing to get an opinion from the ethics board with respect to the employee's alleged ethics violation.

Although citizen participation is not part of government ethics, it's important to keep reminding ourselves that it is central to government ethics, because it is a principal goal of government ethics programs.

Officials' ethical misconduct undermines citizen trust and participation, but there are also other obstacles that get in the way. One of these is the lack of opportunity to express opinions in public forums at a time when input can make a difference. This post will look at this sort of citizen participation and how to overcome obstacles to it, and then look at a consultant's deeper examination of the issue.

In a recent blog post, the background issue was the effect of independent spending on a local public campaign financing program in Santa Fe.

Especially in the shadow of recent Supreme Court decisions, this is currently a serious problem for many local public campaign financing programs, and is a potential problem for all of them. In public testimony to the New York City program today (attached; see below), Michael Malbin of the Campaign Finance Institute has raised a possible solution that is worth examining.

According to an article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, yesterday former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin was convicted on 20 of the 21 corruption charges against him, primarily for bribery, honest services fraud, and tax fraud.

This hard-fought battle was actually about one thing only, whether gifts given to the mayor were intended to influence him. From a government ethics perspective, this was unnecessary. The acceptance of gifts from someone seeking benefits is sufficient. Therefore, all the additional discovery and presentation of evidence was unnecessary, except to ensure that he would do time.