making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler

Another logical fallacy commonly used by municipal officials is the opposite of the Ad Hominem Attack: the Ad Populum ('[appeal] to the people') Defense.

The typical Ad Populum Defense is 'Everybody does it.' There are two simple responses to this. One is, 'How do you know what everybody else does?' In other words, you can't show that what you are saying is true. Another is, 'Even if you could show that everybody does it, that doesn't...

Robert Wechsler

Double-dipping occurs when someone holds two government jobs, usually at two different levels of government. This is not legal in many states, and for a good reason. It sets up many possible conflicts of interest, not the least of which is that when you're doing one job, you're not doing the other. It sometimes means actually dealing with yourself, wearing both your hats at once. It leads to a lot of pork-barrel spending, as local officials use their state power and local connections to...

Robert Wechsler

South Africa's police commissioner upon the revelation that he had met privately and repeatedly with a drug kingpin:

"Does that mean that anyone who has an appointment with him is a criminal?"

Robert Wechsler

The highest median income in 2005, and the fastest-growing county in the United States between 2000 and 2005. How does that translate in terms of local government ethics?

Sadly, not very well. The county is Loudoun in Virginia (principal town: Leesburg), not far from Washington, D.C. Although the issue politics is all about the pace of development (sold as "property rights"), the people politics has been all about connections with developers and realtors. Loudoun County provides an...

Robert Wechsler

North Carolina's 2006 state ethics reform turned out the lights, according to an article in yesterday's Charlotte Observer. The new system provides that there will be no public hearings before the new state ethics commission unless the accused asks for one. In many cases, when a case is dismissed or a reprimand is given, no one will ever know.

Hugh Stevens, a Raleigh attorney, is quoted as saying, very aptly, '...

Robert Wechsler

Lobbyists, lawmakers, and charitable fundraising form a triangle that is both virtuous and harmful.

Community leaders like to be identified with charitable groups, and charitable groups like to be identified with community leaders. It's a natural combination. But what is not natural, or even easy to see, is the line between charitable fundraising and campaign fundraising, when lobbyists, contractors, and developers enter into the picture.

The typical problem involves a mayor's...