making local government more ethical

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Pay-to-Play

Robert Wechsler
If you read the newspapers and blogs, the big issues in the Chicago Chick-fil-A controversy are free speech and government boycotts. But it's really a government ethics issue.

All rational voices acknowledge that a local legislator should not block a store opening just because it has given large sums to help an unpopular political cause. What they aren't saying is that a local legislator shouldn't be able to block a store opening in his district at all. Zoning matters should not be...
Robert Wechsler
Talk about independent expenditures usually refers to such expenditures in support, or more often in opposition to, federal candidates. At the local level, the major independent expenditures tend to come from unions, both public service unions and construction unions. There are also cases where independent expenditures come from contractors and others seeking direct benefits from the candidates they support or oppose. This can look very much like a payoff for favors done and/or for future...
Robert Wechsler
The situation of Rose Pak, a power broker for San Francisco's Chinese-American community who was featured a week ago in a New York Times article, raises some interesting questions. A paid consultant to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, she has never held public office. Nor has she ever registered as a lobbyist or been an official member of a campaign...
Robert Wechsler
Legal Disciplinary Proceeding as Ethics Enforcement Forum
Occasionally, government ethics enforcement spills out from ethics and criminal proceedings into other types of proceeding. Since Maricopa County's officials have managed to turn ethics and criminal enforcement into a form of internecine warfare, the state's lawyer disciplinary program has gotten into the action.

According to...
Robert Wechsler

How you present an ethics provision can make all the difference. Take a pay-to-play ordinance proposed in Fort Wayne, which would limit the amount of contributions and gifts that can be given to city officials by an individual or entity if it wants to have a no-bid contract with the city.

A council member had a state senator ask for a legal opinion from the state attorney general on the...
Robert Wechsler
It's fascinating how different issues are important to local government officials in difference places at different times. I couldn't say that officials will always dig in their heels and fight this ethics provision, or that another ethics provision never raises an eyebrow.

Take Broward County, FL, for example. After numerous arrests and convictions of local officials, the county commission passed a new ethics ordinace, and the county's citizens voted to have this ordinance apply to...

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