making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Lobbyist Extortion
According to an article yesterday on Columbus, Ohio's NBC 4 website, a lobbyist for a red-light camera company pleaded guilty to charges that he solicited campaign contributions for elected city officials from his client by creating the impression that the money was needed to bribe the city officials. The lobbyist had helped the company win the city contract...
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
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
David A. Marcello, the Executive Director of the Public Law Center at Tulane University Law School in New Orleans, has been keeping close tabs on New Orleans' troubled ethics program. In 2011, he published a report on how Hurricane Katrina (2005) led New Orleans' officials to turn a moribund ethics program into one...
Robert Wechsler

Last month, Jonathan Rauch published a sincere and well-written defense of political machines, entitled "Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy" (Brooking Institution Press; available free as a PDF or e-book). Although the essay scarcely mentions conflicts of interest, gifts, nepotism, and the like, and it makes no mention at all of conflicts of...

Robert Wechsler

This is the second of four blog posts on Zephyr Teachout's excellent new book, Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United (Harvard Univ. Press).

A Culture of Gift Giving
In the book's introduction, Teachout notes that, back in the 18th century, the idea of elected officials accepting...