making local government more ethical

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Campaign Finance

Robert Wechsler
Sometimes, conflict of interest matters come disguised as election law matters. Most of the time, due to secrecy, laziness, or an inability to draw lines between the dots, no one recognizes the conflict of interest matter. But sometimes, someone gives the game away, and it becomes clear how inextricable the two areas can be.

According to an article in...
Robert Wechsler
New York State's Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption filed a preliminary report on Monday. Most of the report involves state campaign finance and election laws, but many of these laws affect local government practices, as well. Those involving government ethics criminalize it, and an important recommendation is both too much and too little.

Most of...
Robert Wechsler
It was pointed out to me by Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, that back in 2000 John Copeland Nagle, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, wrote a law review article suggesting what I call the Westminster Approach to campaign contributions from those seeking benefits from the recipient official's government. The article, which focuses on Congress, is entitled "The Recusal Alternative...
Robert Wechsler
An editorial in yesterday's New Orleans Times-Picayune points out a problem that is common to many ethics programs that have jurisdiction over both conflicts of interest and campaign finance:  campaign finance sucks up the program's resources, leaving too few resources for other things, including the collection of the fines they impose.

The editorial begins, "...
Robert Wechsler
In my estimation, Seattle voters made a big mistake last week. They voted for two related changes to their government. One was a public campaign financing program for citywide council elections. The other was a change from citywide council elections to district council elections, which would leave only two citywide positions.

Public financing was rejected 51.6% vs. 48.4%. Council districts were accepted 65.6% vs. 34.4%. Both votes will lead to more institutional corruption in...
Robert Wechsler
Update: February 7, 2014
It took the Jon Stewart Show three months to catch up with the City Ethics blog, but it was worth the wait. You have to watch the video they made about the Coralville, IA situation I discuss below. The defense of what occurred is truly incredible.

There has always been independent spending in local elections, and it has always been (and been seen as) a source of...

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