making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
A couple of weeks ago, in a City and State column, veteran NYC reporter Wayne Barrett hit the nail on the head regarding the responsibility for failures to deal responsibly with conflicts of interest, specifically with respect to the conviction of former state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat:

Robert Wechsler
“If you hold a tiger by the tail, you have a difficult choice to make: Do you let go or not? It’s not a good thing to alienate any legislative leader.”

—Richard Runes, lobbyist for Glenwood Management, a large New York state real estate developer that allegedly gave tax work to a law firm that then made undisclosed payments to the state's Assembly Speaker, who had allegedly recommended the law firm. The quote refers to continuing the use of this law firm, knowing that if it...
Robert Wechsler
Campaign Vendors Lobbying Their Candidates
According to an article in the Capital (of DE) Gazette, an assistant state's attorney for Anne Arundel County, whose political firm was paid $200,000 by the successful candidate for county executive, is also a lobbyist for a company involved in a stormwater pilot program for the county. Since the state's attorney...
Robert Wechsler

Criminal enforcement of ethics violations usually involves fraud, and less so honest services fraud (which was essentially misuse of office) now that it has been essentially limited to bribery. And yet ethics enforcement rarely involves fraud, because ethics codes do not have fraud provisions. This is pretty strange, when you think about it:  the same misconduct being treated as apples and oranges.

Can local government ethics commissions enforce against fraud even without fraud-...

Robert Wechsler
A former head of Chicago's public school system has said she will plead guilty to a scheme to take hundreds of thousands of dollars, airfare, meals, and baseball tickets in exchange for steering more than $23 million in no-bid contracts to her former employer, an educational consulting and training company. The situation provides a valuable look at the problems that can arise when someone goes through the revolving door in the manner that is often overlooked by ethics code:  from a company that...
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...