A conflict situation in my state of Connecticut is instructive
regarding a basic concept of government ethics, as well as a basic
concept of legislative immunity.
Legislators insist that they require immunity because their motives
in making decisions cannot be questioned outside their body. Government ethics, on the
other hand, does not consider motive, only conduct and relationships. This is one of
the principal reasons why I argue that legislative immunity does not
protect legislators from government ethics enforcement.
But when the talk is not about legislative immunity, it turns out to be perfectly okay to discuss a legislator's motives, as well as others' motives.
According to a
Jon Lender column in the Hartford Courant this weekend
(Disclosure: the Courant
occasionally hires me to write
op-ed columns on government ethics issues), the state's house
minority leader made a strenuous argument against a bill requiring
increased financial disclosures by for-profit nursing homes. His law
firm lobbies for the Connecticut Association of Health Care
Facilities, which opposed this bill.