making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
It was only a matter of time before the U.S. Supreme Court's campaign finance opinions (and decisions at the trial and appellate level that have applied them to other situations) would be used to argue that conduct prohibited or limited by government ethics provisions are also protected as free speech by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In August 2015, a complaint against the state legislative ethics commission (attached; see below) was filed in the Eastern District of...
Robert Wechsler

Many local government attorneys insist that government ethics laws should not apply to them because they are covered by legal ethics rules. In fact, some government ethics codes have express exceptions for attorneys. I have always insisted that the two are very separate and should not be confused with each other. A recent Ohio Board of Professional...

Robert Wechsler
Eula Biss's excellent book On Immunity (Graywolf Press, 2014) is not about legislative immunity, but about immunity to diseases. And yet there is a great deal of food for thought in it about municipal ethics.

The first parallel can be seen in the "mun" in both "immunity" and "municipal." It comes from the same Latin word "munus," which means service or duty. Who knew that...
Robert Wechsler
What are the government ethics implications of private security when it goes beyond protecting specific businesses, malls, universities, and gated communities, becomes an adjunct to or replacement of an ordinary police force, and is done in conjunction with the public police force and, often, using off-duty public police officers?

One problem is that such private forces generally protect the most wealthy neighborhoods. Setting up a neighborhood force with the...
Robert Wechsler
Conflicts of interest are generally not seen to apply to local party committees. There are almost never limitations on membership or voting on such committees by local government employees, contractors, developers, grantees, or others seeking financial benefits from the government.

An article in today's New Haven (CT) Register...
Robert Wechsler
Robert E. Goodin's book Manipulatory Politics (Yale Univ. Press, 1980) is valuable for its "cataloguing [of] various modes of political manipulation," as the author wrote in his Preface. Goodin found only a few of the cases "ethically worrisome," but the fact that I disagree does not make the catalog any less valuable.

Goodin's definition of "manipulation" is "power...