making local government more ethical

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Contractors and Vendors

Robert Wechsler
Can anyone volunteer for a local political campaign without it being considered a contribution? Isn't it everyone's right to do so? Isn't this just about the most important thing a citizen can do, short of running for office herself?

According to the Toronto Metro News website last week, a "political strategist" and lobbyist who was...
Robert Wechsler
While I was on vacation last week, the biggest story in local government ethics appears to have been, once again, in the District of Columbia. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and the charges brought by the U.S. Attorney (attached; see below), the CEO...
Robert Wechsler
Recently, the hiring of lobbyists to represent cities before state and federal governments and agencies has become controversial. Some people think this is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds. I don't agree. However, the hiring of external lobbyists (as opposed to government officials who do the lobbying themselves) does raise some government ethics issues, because it adds to the mix highly politicized contractors.

This problem is exacerbated when there are laws limiting or...
Robert Wechsler
UC at Irvine Law School professor Richard Hasen's essay, "Lobbying, Rent-Seeking, and the Constitution," 64 Stanford Law Review 191 (2011), is a good complement to the Teachout essay I recently wrote about. Besides its valuable look at the idea that lobbying should be regulated because...
Robert Wechsler
Human Rights Watch has just published a harrowing report entitled "Profiting from Probation," which shows how the privatization of probation has led to conflicts of interest that have seriously harmed many individuals, and how probation companies have not been sufficiently supervised by the criminal justice system.

The principal conflict situation is well described on page 5 of the report:...
Robert Wechsler
Here is a concrete example of the problem of allowing local government attorneys to provide ethics advice that protects local officials, a problem that Florida state senator Jeff Clemens and the Florida League of Cities want to harden into state law in SB 606 (see my recent blog post for a discussion of the problem).

According to...