making local government more ethical

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Gifts

Robert Wechsler
It was pointed out to me by Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, that back in 2000 John Copeland Nagle, a professor at Notre Dame Law School, wrote a law review article suggesting what I call the Westminster Approach to campaign contributions from those seeking benefits from the recipient official's government. The article, which focuses on Congress, is entitled "The Recusal Alternative...
Robert Wechsler
Updated: November 20, 2013 (see below)

The gift regulation proposed by Philadelphia's ethics board last week (attached; see below) provides a great opportunity to consider many issues involving gift bans and exceptions.

It's a great thing that the ethics board has chosen to provide guidance with respect to the city's gift ban, which is not itself very clear. However, I don't think it did a very good job. I'm a big fan of Philadelphia's ethics program, but this...
Robert Wechsler
There is usually another side of the coin, and that other side is often ignored in drafting a government ethics code. The other side of the nepotism coin came up recently in an ethics proceeding in Stamford, CT.

According to an article this week in the Stamford Advocate, a former finance board member filed an ethics complaint against a former...
Robert Wechsler
"It was like dandelions. You just accept them. They were there, something you've seen all your life."

Dandelions are a perfect metaphor for institutional corruption. In this case, the dandelions were extra payments (beyond those due to retirees) made by Detroit's two pension funds, to active employees (54%), retirees (14%), and the city itself (32%), the latter to lower annual contributions to the funds, according to...
Robert Wechsler
There is a great deal of misunderstanding concerning the difference between a conflict of interest and a gift. It appears that most people consider them two completely different things. In fact, they represent two kinds of conflicts, pre-existing conflicts and conflicts that are created by an event. The confusion between the two characterizes a situation that led to an ethics complaint in Los Angeles.

According to...
Robert Wechsler
Five years ago, I wrote a blog post about gifts and reciprocity, based on a classic anthropological work, Lewis Hyde's The Gift. An op-ed piece...

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