making local government more ethical

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Campaign Finance

Robert Wechsler
Monday evening, I learned about the serious consequences that can result from not giving ethics commission members a clear understanding of what government ethics is, and what it is not.

The occasion was the consideration by the Democracy Fund board, which oversees the public campaign financing program in New Haven, of a possible violation of the program's ordinance and regulations.

I am the Democracy Fund Administrator. Focused on the topics before the board, I never...
Robert Wechsler
Sometimes, conflicts are built right into ethics laws, partly because it is in the political interest of those with conflicts, and partly because they don't even view those laws as ethics laws.

A good example of this is the Connecticut law (CGS §9-623) that places enforcement of municipal campaign finance laws in the hands of city and town clerks. In Connecticut, clerks are often elected...
Robert Wechsler
Reading the Supreme Court majority and dissent opinions in McComish v. Bennett (attached, see below; actually Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett at the Supreme Court level) is a very jarring experience that I highly recommend to anyone interested in government ethics. One opinion presents the world as we know it. The other opinion exists in a different world, a world without action and inaction on the part of legislative officials that can be tied directly...
Robert Wechsler
Just because it happens in New York City doesn't mean it will happen in the average city or, especially, town. Right? No, it can happen, only the numbers will probably be smaller. Two situations described in today's New York Times, both of them effectively centered on the hiring and failure to oversee consultants, are worth knowing about.

Robert Wechsler
Electing EC Members
Is electing an ethics commission a good idea? I had never heard of an elected EC until this week, when I read that the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, an Indian nation in Kansas, canceled an EC election for four out of six seats, because there were no candidates.

Electing an EC would seem to be the most independent way to select its members, but the problem is that, since...
Robert Wechsler
As discussed in an earlier blog post, eighteen months ago the Dallas council, under the prodding of the mayor at the time, passed some ethics reforms. According to a Dallas News editorial last month, only six months later the council backed off...