making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Appearances are very important in government ethics. A situation that has arisen with respect to a proposed state audit of the Palm Beach County ethics commission has created serious appearance problems.

Robert Wechsler
When the economy is booming, local government corruption feeds off the sale of government land, development projects, and construction contracts. When the economy is doing poorly, there is usually less money floating around to fund corruption. But in bad times, local governments are willing to accept the help of companies and nonprofits, which might have (or appear to have) their own interests at stake in what they fund for local governments. This leads to another set of problems.

Robert Wechsler
Update: August 9, 2012 (see below)

People tend to think that all good government people are alike. The thinking goes that those who favor the improvement of ethics programs also favor such things as term limits, referendums and initiatives, and pension forfeiture by those found to have violated the public's trust. As a matter of fact, I don't favor any of these other good government approaches.

The one I want to talk about in this blog post is referendums. They...
Robert Wechsler
Gift Bans
In Sunday's Marietta (GA) Daily Journal, former state representative Roger Hines wrote a column with the title "What Does Corruptibility Have to Do with a Dollar Figure?" Hines considered the state's $100 limit on gifts from lobbyists. After talking about the value of lobbyists...
Robert Wechsler
Defining what lobbying is is one of the most important parts of a lobbying law. Not only are many definitions of lobbying unclear or full of loopholes, but it is difficult to get even a good definition across, because the popular concept of lobbying is different from what lobbying really is.

This can be clearly seen in what has recently happened in the Orange County, FL school district. According to...
Robert Wechsler
An excellent article on the front page of last Sunday's New York Times looks at a proposal by the federal Office of Governmental Ethics (OGE) to limit two exceptions to the prohibition on accepting gifts from lobbyists:  the "widely-attended gathering" (WAG) exception and the "social invitations" exception.

First, the proposal recognizes something the U.S. Supreme Court has been...