making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Blago watchers will be interested in the news in today's Chicago Tribune about his former chief of staff and campaign manager pleading guilty and providing detailed testimony about the schemes of Blagojevich and three of his friends to make money off Blago's position, "such as through operating businesses that would get state money or receiving fees from people who did business with the state."...
Robert Wechsler

Update: November 16, 2009 (see below)

On Sunday, the Lexington Herald-Leader took an unflattering look at Kentucky's legislative ethics commission. As in New York State, a central problem appears to be the commission's lack of independence.

Two important changes were made to the commission's independence in 1996, three years after it was created. The first change involved who...
Robert Wechsler
David Brooks' column in the New York Times today is about two views of character, the philosophers' and psychologists' views. He too simply portrays the philosophers' view as involving ingrained character traits, which is sadly how most people seem to view character. I would call this the mythological view of character.

The psychologists' view of character involves a "multiplicity of tendencies .....
Robert Wechsler
“Unless you out-and-out stick it in your pocket and walk away, everything’s legal.”
--Spokesman for the New York State Board of Elections

Ethics programs are worthless if the laws are worthless, and if the enforcement bodies are politicized and toothless. Yesterday the New York Times ran a full-length editorial about the need for a culture change in New York's state government. The editorial...
Robert Wechsler
Update: October 21, 2009 (see below)
Two interesting issues come out of a long, detailed Kansas City Star article yesterday about Missouri political consultant, and recent house speaker, Ron Jetton.

Political Consultants and the Definition of "Lobbyist"
One involves the definition of "lobbyist." Missouri Revised Statutes §105.470(5)(a) defines "legislative lobbyist" as someone "acting in...
Robert Wechsler
One problem in government ethics is that when conflict situations are dealt with responsibly, there is rarely a record of them. They pass quietly, failing to end up in the newspaper, at an ethics commission, or in court. So generally we're stuck learning from the times when conflict situations are dealt with irresponsibly. One of these situations, in Wausau, Wisconsin, made it to court, and a decision this week by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin sets the facts out...