Tag Archives: conflicts of interest

Your Presumptive Nominee For President in 2016 Has Been Exposed As Greedy, Arrogant, Dishonest, Conflicted and Corrupt. Now What, Democrats?

Hillary-Clinton-Without-Makeup

Today’s Washington Post expands on the Clinton scandal I wrote about here, with new and damning revelations. Not only did Hillary Clinton’s family Foundation accept millions of dollars in contributions (that is, bribes) from foreign governments while she was Secretary of State, at least one of these violated even the excessively permissive and unethical conditions permitting  such gifts (that is, bribes) agreed to as a condition of her confirmation. Here are some quotes from the story by Post reporters Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, which you should read in its entirely, with horrified comments from me interspersed: Continue reading

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The Clinton Foundation’s Latest Donor Policy Prompts This New Ethics Alarms Policy: Hillary and Bill Clinton Are Henceforth Ineligible For Future “Ethics Dunce” Awards, Since They Both Understand Ethics Very Well— They’re Unethical Because They ChooseTo Be

clinton_foundation

“Making life easy for the Clinton family, and ethics be damned”

I apologize for taking such a long time to figure this out. Upon reflection, it’s been obvious for a long time. I wonder if the Clintons’ fans and supporters understand that their heroes have no respect for ethics? Perhaps they don’t care.

The lightbulb went off for me when it was revealed that the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation has changed its policy on soliciting and accepting contributions from foreign governments and has now received millions from foreign governments including Qatar, a prominent backer of Hamas.

Playing stupid (and protecting the Clinton’s flanks the best they can, as is their nature), the Washington Post and other media outlets have written that this raises “ethical questions as Hillary Clinton ramps up her expected bid for the presidency.” No, it doesn’t raise any ethical questions at all. This is unethical. It’s blatantly unethical. The Clintons know it’s unethical, but because they are themselves unethical, they are doing it anyway. What’s the question?

At the National Journal, that Passenger Pigeon of journalists, Ron Fournier, correctly calls the decision “sleazy and stupid.” I’m not so sure about stupid, if the only objective is to elect Hillary Clinton, and it is reasonable that Bill and Hillary have concluded that anyone who still supports them care as little about ethics as they doe. Besides, ethics schmethics, LOOK AT ALL THIS MONEY, BILL!

From the Washington Post: Continue reading

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On The Other Hand, Libertarians Have Good Reasons To Distrust The Government, Like Washington’s 520 Bridge Toll Trap

SR-520-toll-signNicola Livic, of Redmond, Washington  has a transponder on his car that is linked to a credit card that automatically pays his tolls when he crosses Washington’s floating Highway 520 Bridge. His credit-card number was changed by his bank due to a fraud threat, so his online account stopped working.

The motor-vehicle department also had his mailing address wrong, so when it tried to alert him that his tolls were in arrears, the letter ended up who-knows-where. Meanwhile, fees and fines were added, and compounded. By the time Mr. Livic realized the problem, he owed $3,545 to the state, less than $300 of which were the tolls.

He appealed the bill at the state Department of Transportation (DOT), and was told, in essence, “Tough.”

He is not alone. The system, in which a photo of a vehicle is taken as it crosses the bridge and the owner is billed, but without subsequent warnings or reminders if payment is overdue, is guaranteed—a conspiracy theorist would say designed– to generate snafus that the citizen is always going to pay for, and through the nose. The fine on each missed four dollar toll is $40, and over time, the fines turn into multi-thousand-dollar collection actions. Appeals go to an administrative review system set up by the transportation agency itself. This is what we commonly call  “a conflict of interest.” The state makes an average of $65,000 just in fines on the 520 bridge tolls each day. It loves this system. Continue reading

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Ah, Mediaite? CREW Is NOT An “Ethics Watchdog Group,” It’s A Partisan Media Matters Hit Group

See, Congressman, it works this way: if you were a Democrat, CREW would ignore your junket to London, and so would Mediaite. Fox News, however, would be all over your ass...

See, Congressman, it works this way: if you were a Democrat, CREW would ignore your junket to London, and so would Mediaite. Fox News, however, would be all over your ass…

Did Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Tx)*, one of the prominent conservatives in the Republican-led Congress, misuse over $6,000 in campaign funds on a speaking trip to London? Maybe; it sounds like one of those typical gray election law controversies, and one of the lesser ones, except that Gohmert is on a lot of partisan hit lists. If he did misuse the funds, I’d want to see him fined, or whatever the violation warrants, and chastened too.

That’s not my concern right now, though. What interests me is that the alleged misuse of funds was flagged by Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and in reporting it, Mediaite said, in a story headlined, Ethics Watchdog Accuses Gohmert of Misusing Campaign Funds:

“An ethics watchdog group has filed a complaint against Rep. Louie Gohmert, accusing the Texas Republican of misusing campaign funds to foot the bill for a trip to England that included a 5-star hotel and a $200-plus taxi ride.The complaint, filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), was addressed to the staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics and demands an investigation into whether Gohmert violated House rules by using campaign money for a trip that seemingly had nothing to do with his campaign.”

CREW, as I have repeatedly pointed out for years, is no “ethics watchdog.”  Continue reading

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The Sixth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2014 (Part 3)

ellen-selfie

2014 Conflicts of Interest of the Year

  • Conflicted Elected Official: Philadelphia State Senator LeAnna Washington. This is always an entertaining category. Washington was convicted of using her tax-payer financed staff to organize a yearly campaign fundraiser around her birthday party. When one staffer complained that this was illegal, she reportedly replied, according to his grand jury testimony:

“I am the fucking senator, I do what the fuck I want, and ain’t nobody going to change me. I have been doing it like this for 17 years. So stop trying to change me.”

  • Conflicted Journalist: CNN sent Jay Carney, fresh off his assignment as President Obama’s official spokesman, defender and spinmeister, to cover his ex-boss’s speech.
  • Conflicted  “Non-partisan” Watchdog: CREW. The Center For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and its chief, Melanie Sloan, finally came clean (after falsely claiming non-profit status as a non-partisan organization for years) by making David Brock, head of the openly partisan, foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Republican media watchdog Media Matters its Chairman of the Board, essentially merging the two groups.
  • Appearance of Impropriety Award: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), Republican Whip. It is not certain yet whether Scalise knowingly spoke to a group of white supremacists in 20o2, inadvertently spoke to the group, or just spoke to another group meeting in the same venue before the David Duke-affiliated group of racists started comparing sheets. It isn’t even clear that Scalise knows, but everyone should agree that it looks awful no matter how you categorize it, making the fiasco a classic appearance of impropriety situation. If the Republicans were smart, they would dump him.

Unethical Attire of the Year

Offensive shirt

This.

Unethical Political Candidate of the Year

Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, whose campaign materials were largely plagiarized from the materials other candidates.

Ethically Clueless Voters of the Year

New York’s 11th Congressional District, which contains Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. These alert and ethical citizens sent back to Washington thuggish and crooked Rep. Michael Grimm (R), then facing a 20-count indictment by federal authorities for fraud, federal tax evasion, and perjury, having earlier distinguished himself by threatening to kill a reporter and being recorded doing so.

  Unethical Advertising of the Year

Lawyer Division:

Public Service Announcement Division:

TV Program Division:

The Discovery Channel’s campaign for “Eaten Alive!” which did not, in fact, feature anyone being “eaten alive,” or at all.

Private Sector Product Division:

Halos. Or perhaps this is the Child Abuse Division:

Political Campaign Division:

Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for Texas Governor, offered an ad attacking her wheelchair- bound opponent that 1) appealed to bias against the disabled 2) misrepresented the duties of a state attorney general 3) misrepresented the facts of the cases the ad referred to and  4)  deceived the public regarding the ethical duties of lawyers, which Davis, a lawyer, presumably understands. Continue reading

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Ethically Incoherent Statement Of The Month: Van Jones

Van Jones: Reasonable or biased?

Van Jones: Reasonable or biased?

Van Jones, the former White House “czar” of something or other turned smooth-talking racialist warrior on CNN’s “Cross-Fire” and various TV panels, was arguing for frank racial dialogue on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” in the context of the protests over the Ferguson and Staten Island police grand jury decisions. Sounding reasonable as he often does, Jones then said that what should be an area of agreement is the need for a special prosecutor whenever police misconduct is before a grand jury, noting that it was an “obvious conflict of interest”for prosecutors who work with police as a core element of their job.

I have addressed this argument before, but let me be clearer. This is a conflict of interest that a competent and ethical prosecutor should acknowledge and be able to deal with as the legal ethics rule require. The prosecutor should get a waiver from his or her client—not the victim’s family, but the government the prosecutor represents—and honestly assess whether the fact that the police serve the same client will prevent the prosecutor from being fair and objective. If the answer is yes, then the prosecutor must recuse, but I see no reason why the answer should be yes, if the prosecutor is ethical and worthy of the position.(Jones and other advocates for this “solution” have a bias against prosecutors, whom they view as presumptively unethical.)

Theoretically, every case in which an officer’s credibility determines whether a citizen should be charged poses the same conflict: it is endemic to the prosecutor’s job. Indeed, prosecutors have a very good reason to want bad cops punished and removed from the police force; I’m not at all certain that there is a necessary bias on the part of prosecutors in favor of letting such cops escape legal consequences of their actions. That assumption is based on the assumption that prosecutors don’t care about  justice. Nobody who doesn’t care about justice becomes a prosecutor. Why would they? It is a hard, frustrating job and the pay isn’t anything special.

The strongest argument for a special prosecutor is a different ethical problem, the appearance of impropriety. If the decision to prosecute or not is tainted with suspicion of bias, then the justice system is compromised and breaks down. This is why, for example, it is terrible that the Justice Department, a super-politicized one at that, is supposedly investigating the I.R.S. scandal.

As George moved to another topic, Jones blurted out a final statement that caused me to spit-take a mouthful of coffee. It undermined all of his finely tuned rhetoric about fairness and non-partisan dialogue about race, and exposed, ironically, his own biases. He said;

“If there had been a special prosecutor in Ferguson, we would have had a different result.”

AHA! Continue reading

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Watch “Blue Bloods”

Blue Bloods

I owe Tom Selleck an apology. The long-time genial hunk, famous as “Magnum, P.I.” and notable in show business lore for missing the career opportunity of a lifetime when contractual obligations forced him to turn down the role of Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” has guided his CBS police series “Blue Bloods” to five seasons, exploring tough ethics dilemmas in virtually every episode, and usually doing it very well. For some reason, I’ve only cited the show a few times, once critically, and it deserves better. Netflix started streaming the show, and my wife has been watching about three a day. I really hadn’t been paying sufficient attention, or respect. It’s a wonderful ethics show, the best since “Star Trek, the Next Generation’s” hay day, and one of the very best ethics TV shows of all time.

Selleck plays fictional New York City police chief Frank Reagan. The show could be called “The Conflicts of Interest Family, ” because law enforcement is the family business, and Selleck’s large brood includes two sons, one a patrolman and the other a detective, under his command, and a daughter who is an assistant district attorney. Reagan delicately balances the jobs a father, mediator and boss, all while being given back-seat advice from his father, who is retired but was also a NYC police chief.

I have found myself thinking about how Selleck’s character would react to the Ferguson ethics train wreck. Police shootings have been frequent topics of episodes, as have political efforts to demonize police. Frank was a fan of New York’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy, and accusations of profiling do not reduce him to a mass of apologetic jelly. Meanwhile, he has forged a working relationship or trust with the City’s black mayor, whose loyalties to the black community, and more than a few dubious civil rights headline-seekers.

Selleck is a credentialed, if low-key, Hollywood conservative, and his show’s demographics are just short of Social Security territory.  It’s too bad: teachers should assign the show and discuss the episodes in class. The episode I wrote about earlier was an entire ethics course on its own, but hardly unique in the series: What should an undercover cop do when a child is imperiled in a burning building, and he is the only one who can get to the kid in time? If his photo is taken by the media that arrive on the scene, not only is his cover blown, but his life and family may be in danger. He hands off the child to his partner, who is the on photographed and becomes a hero. The city is clamoring for the Chief to decorate him as a hero. Naturally, the real rescuer is a Reagan.  Should the partner be willing to live a lie? Should the Chief deceive the public and preside over a fake ceremony to preserve an undercover operation that might bust the mob?  This was a memorable “Bluebloods” episode. but many reach this level of ethics complexity, and the duds are far and few between. This season the show has explored many ethics problems that have been debated in the news, such as campus rape, police body cameras, the “blue line,” news media bias, and others.

I apologize, Mr. Selleck. I have neglected your excellent efforts to present ethical dilemmas in law enforcement, leadership and parenting to the public in an intelligent, balanced, courageous and entertaining manner. Great job, on a great show. Please keep it up. I promise to pay closer attention.

 

 

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