making local government more ethical

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Public Campaign Finance

Robert Wechsler
"In my view, the suggestion [by Judge Sotomayor] that [campaign] contributions are tantamount to bribery should offend anyone who’s ever contributed to a political campaign — including the millions of Americans who donated money in small and large amounts to the Presidential campaign of the man who nominated Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court."

Sen. Mitch McConnell (Rep, KY) in a press...
Robert Wechsler
The controversy surrounding the New York State pension fund returned to the front page of the New York Times today. The players are former state comptroller Alan Hevesi, his political adviser Hank Morris, and pension fund investment officer David Loglisci.

The occasion is the indictment by the state attorney general of Morris and Loglisci, along with charges brought by the SEC. The...
Robert Wechsler
The NYC Campaign Finance Board has put together an excellent Doing Business Database, consisting of a searchable list of individuals (principal owners, principal officers, and senior managers of entities) “doing business” with a wide assortment of city agencies and quasi-governmental entities, including through contracts, bids or proposals for contracts, concessions, franchises, grants, economic development agreements,...
Robert Wechsler
Campaign contributions are not generally considered to be bribes, but the perception of large campaign contributions from local government contractors is often that they are payments for contracts past or future, what is known in the government ethics business as "pay-to-play."

For this reason, state and local governments have taken a variety of approaches toward dealing with this perception. The most common response is disclosure, for example, requiring local government...
Robert Wechsler
You know you're in trouble when a grand jury foreman says about you, "They need an independent organization to be an oversight ..., not just the grand jury doing it once every few years."

Of course, the "they" here are local government agencies:  five community college districts in San Diego County, whose boards of trustees are elected.

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Robert Wechsler
One goal of campaign finance reform is to end the appearance and reality of corruption that comes with large campaign contributions. This appearance is attached especially to large contributions from those doing business with the city or trying to change its laws -- contractors, lobbyists, and unions. This appearance is most serious when the position has fiduciary obligations and is supposed to be independent rather than representative, such as the New York City Comptroller.