making local government more ethical

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Ethics Codes

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

I just read a classic work of philosophical psychology, Self-Deception (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), wherein Herbert Fingarette takes an interesting approach to a phenomenon common to politics, but which seems...

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...

Robert Wechsler

An example I often use for why government ethics laws are only minimum requirements is that these laws cannot include friendships or romantic relationships, because these are impossible to define with any precision. When a relationship is not included because it is undefinable, this does not mean that one should not treat this relationship like any other special relationship and withdraw from matters involving that individual. One should go beyond the minimum requirements of the law and...

Robert Wechsler

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is to be indicted this week for bribery and failure to report gifts. Where there is an effective government ethics program, he would be easily found to have committed administrative government ethics violations. In a criminal case, the official has the edge (and he has already formed a legal defense fund, to obtain legal but inappropriate contributions from those seeking favors from him). According to...

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