making local government more ethical

You are here

Campaign Finance

Robert Wechsler
Several interesting issues arise from a recent ethics case in Jefferson Parish, a suburb of New Orleans with about 430,000 people. According to an article in the Advocate yesterday, an employee of a large parish contractor sent the following e-mail to a council member's aide, who forwarded it to the council member:
“I would like to schedule a meeting with Councilman Spears...
Robert Wechsler
According to a New Mexico Telegram article, four Albuquerque contractors sued the city's ethics board, claiming that a 2007 charter provision banning contributions from contractors violates their free speech rights.

Here's a link to the contractors' complaint. And...
Robert Wechsler

“You work for the banks, they pay you, and yet you’re supposed to represent the public interest. ... Consultants have a financial incentive to do things to attract repeat business.”

—U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the conflicts of interests of consultants who are paid both by federal bank regulatory agencies and the banks, according to...
Robert Wechsler
We often hear elected officials saying, "I can't be bought at any price." The assumption behind this statement is that there is no amount of money, no job offer, nothing that will make the elected official act or vote any way than the way he otherwise intends to act or vote, that he cannot be influenced.

In a discussion forum I follow, journalist Ben Adler pointed out that there might actually be different prices for different acts. Sometimes elected officials accept gifts or...
Robert Wechsler
Government ethics is a process issue. Process issues appeal more to, and are better understood by, lawyers. Although corruption may be seen as a substance issue, the ways to prevent it are considered procedural. So at election time, most candidates choose not to talk about ethics reform, at least in any detail. When they raise the issue, it is usually to portray themselves as clean and ethical, and sometimes to portray others as corrupt.

This process-substance distinction is rarely...
Robert Wechsler
Yesterday, Los Angeles' KCET-TV put up a database on it website to show who's giving to candidates in the current city and school board elections. You can see which city officials, business people, and others are giving, who's getting contributions from which zipcodes, and more. The database is a bit slow, at least today, just a few days before the first primary...