Do Chinese walls
(that is, mechanisms that separate someone from
information or involvement in a matter)
work in conflict situations in government? And what considerations determine whether they work or not?
One consideration is whether, even with the Chinese wall, there is still an
appearance of a conflict. Another consideration is whether the
individual will still have access to the information or still be
involved in the matter despite the Chinese wall; that is, whether the
Chinese wall is really a Chinese screen.
There are two important Chinese walls in the news the last couple of
days. One involves congressional representatives in the position of
choosing defense-related earmarks and their access to information about
which recipients of those earmarks made campaign contributions to them,
at what amounts and at what times. The other involves what was
apparently a sweetheart deal between Florida and the United States
Sugar Company, where the governor's chief of staff's law firm
represented U.S. Sugar in the negotiations.