making local government more ethical

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Advisory Opinions

Robert Wechsler
One of the news media's biggest problems is failing to look at the big picture and, instead, focusing on specific events and issues. This is especially true when it comes to government ethics, where the news media generally considers, and calls for, ethics reforms on a piecemeal basis.

An article on the Innovateli website yesterday shows that this same limited vision applies when a government ethics reform involves the...
Robert Wechsler
When gifts from lobbyists to government officials are discussed, what they consist of is usually money (including campaign contributions), meals, trips, and services. A pending Missouri House bill  (2059; attached, see below) seeks to extend the definition of reportable "gift" from lobbyists in this context to include:

sexual relations between a registered lobbyist and a member of the general assembly or his or her staff. Relations between married persons or between persons...
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

Mixing Election Oversight and Professional Contracts

According to an Illinois Business Times article on April 5, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners is chaired by an attorney whose law firm has received presumably no-bid contracts to lobby for city agencies, that is, contracts from the administration whose mayor and alders were...

Robert Wechsler

I just read a classic work of philosophical psychology, Self-Deception (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), wherein Herbert Fingarette takes an interesting approach to a phenomenon common to politics, but which seems...

Robert Wechsler

An example I often use for why government ethics laws are only minimum requirements is that these laws cannot include friendships or romantic relationships, because these are impossible to define with any precision. When a relationship is not included because it is undefinable, this does not mean that one should not treat this relationship like any other special relationship and withdraw from matters involving that individual. One should go beyond the minimum requirements of the law and...

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