making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Recently, the hiring of lobbyists to represent cities before state and federal governments and agencies has become controversial. Some people think this is an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds. I don't agree. However, the hiring of external lobbyists (as opposed to government officials who do the lobbying themselves) does raise some government ethics issues, because it adds to the mix highly politicized contractors.

This problem is exacerbated when there are laws limiting or...
Robert Wechsler
"Access and Lobbying: Looking Beyond the Corruption Paradigm," by Dorie Apollonio, Bruce E. Cain, and Lee Drutman, Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 36:1 (2008) (attached; see below), has some very valuable things to say about local government lobbying, even though it focuses on federal government lobbying.

The authors note that, despite the greater focus of academics and good government groups on campaign finance regulation, more money is spent by companies on lobbying...
Robert Wechsler
One Indian tribe wants to build a casino, another tribe already has one in the area and doesn't want competition. You're a council member in the city that can effectively block the casino from being built. Both tribes want your support, and are willing to back up that support with campaign contributions. What do you do?

According to an article in yesterday's ...
Robert Wechsler
UC at Irvine Law School professor Richard Hasen's essay, "Lobbying, Rent-Seeking, and the Constitution," 64 Stanford Law Review 191 (2011), is a good complement to the Teachout essay I recently wrote about. Besides its valuable look at the idea that lobbying should be regulated because...
Robert Wechsler
Here is a concrete example of the problem of allowing local government attorneys to provide ethics advice that protects local officials, a problem that Florida state senator Jeff Clemens and the Florida League of Cities want to harden into state law in SB 606 (see my recent blog post for a discussion of the problem).

According to...
Robert Wechsler
An interesting article in today's New York Times focuses on an unusual feature of an unhealthy local government ethics environment. This feature is payment for votes, something we think of in terms of old city machines. In this case, it involved school board elections in Donna, TX, a town of 16,000. The FBI, rather than local prosecutors...