Tag Archives: appearance of impropriety

From The Ethics Alarms “Doing The Right Thing For The Wrong Reason” Files: The President Snubs The White House Correspondents Dinner

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President Donald Trump has declined the invitation to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, becoming the first President to skip it since Ronald Reagan in 1981, who missed the dinner while recovering from an assassination attempt but still delivered remarks over the phone.

Good.

Once, before it was televised, over-publicized, and hyped, before Presidents started hiring comedy writers to give them professional qualify stand-up material, and especially before the last eight years of an event that looked like the President was fraternizing with complacent and sycophantic supporters and cronies—which he was— the dinner served the purpose of sending a salutary message that the relationship between the press and the President in power was adversarial but not personal, and that like all professionals, the adversaries could disagree intensely on important issues and have a congenial beer together later. It had become a classic example of the appearance of impropriety, however, going hand and in hand with Joe Biden’s “Super-Soaker” party for journalists that I examined in 2010.

Let me take you down on a stroll down Memory Lane. After Wolf Blitzer, Ed Henry and others appeared on You-Tube giggling and playing games with Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and other Obama administration officials at the Biden-hosted party, Glenn Greenwald wrote,

I personally don’t think that these types of interactions ‘violate journalistic ethics,’ because I don’t think such a thing exists for them.  Rather, all of this just helpfully reveals what our nation’s leading “journalists” really are:  desperate worshipers of political power who are far more eager to be part of it and to serve it than to act as adversarial checks against it — and who, in fact, are Royal Court Spokespeople regardless of which monarch is ruling.  That’s why they’re invited into the heart of Versailles to frolic with the King’s most trusted aides:  it’s their reward for loyal service as Court courtiers.”

To which I added,

It’s not very complicated: if the public believes that journalists are inclined to be favorable toward government officials because they like them, get benefits from them, and seek their approval, then they cannot trust the objectivity of the news. The Biden party proves that some prominent journalists either don’t understand this, or don’t care.

Now, after 8 years,  we know: they don’t care. Their relentless partisan bias has become transparent, and journalists, as well as the beneficiaries of their bias, are content to continue denying it, pointing to the solid and fair reporting mixed in with the deceptive and incompetent stories. The White House Correspondents Dinner has been both the product of an illicit relationship between the White House and the press, and proof of it. To bolster the public’s trust, to avoid conflicts of interests and to reduce the appearance of impropriety, Presidents, Vice-Presidents and high government officials should not participate in this event or others like them—OR super-soaker parties at the VP’s mansion. Continue reading

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The Strange Story Of How Alabama Corruption Threatens To Infect The U.S. Senate

That's Senator Starnge on the right, and Governor Dormammu on the left...

That’s Senator Strange on the right, and Governor Dormammu on the left…

Personally, I love the idea of Congress having a “Senator Strange.” The movie almost writes itself, with a Senator who has magic powers and who says things like “By the Hoary Hordes of Hogarth! Point of order!”

But not like this.

Now bear with me. This is a complicated story and will take a while, but as Keven Costner says to James Earl Jones (as Terrance Mann) in “Field of Dreams,” “It’s a good story.”

And a really, really strange one, in more ways than one..

When the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General in hearings that may be best remembered as the time Elizabeth Warren earned the fawning admiration of feminists by behaving like a mean-spirited jerk, it meant that Alabama’s Republican governor got to appoint his successor. There wasn’t much discussion in the news media about who this might be, because it’s hard for journalists to inform the public properly when it is concentrating on bringing down the President, per the orders of their Eldritch Progressive Masters—sorry, I’ve got Dr. Strange stuff rattling around in my brain now—but there was some interesting speculation in Alabama.

You see,  Republican Governor Robert Bentley is fighting to avoid  impeachment as the result of a sex scandal, and one that called his honesty into question as well.

An official fired by Bentley alleged that the Governor had engaged in an extramarital affair with his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. An audio recording surfaced in which Bentley told a woman named “Rebekah” that he “worr[ied] about loving you so much” and that “[w]hen I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts […] and just pull you real close. I love that, too.” At a press conference, Bentley apologized for the comments but denied having an affair and stated that his relationship with Mason was purely platonic.

Sure. Continue reading

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The President’s Ethics Grades So Far

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Is it fair to grade President Trump on his ethics after less than a month? Of course. If he wanted to pay attention to this area, the President would certainly seek an objective progress report. There has been enough activity in three weeks to give some preliminary grades. Ethics Alarms began this adventure with low expectations; after all, I have never read or heard a single statement from the President, ever, that suggests that he thinks about or cares about ethics at all. His behavior and opinions appear to be entirely governed by rationalizations, emotions, and impulse. However, we do have hope, and three weeks of a presidency is not sufficient to extinguish it. There is plenty of time for President Trump to address his ethical shortcomings

Let’s use the Josephson Institute for Ethics’ Six Pillars of Character for this exercise. All graded categories should be regarded as incomplete, and the offered grades as provisional only. Remember, these are ethics grades only.

I. TRUSTWORTHINESS, including Honesty in communication, Candor, Truthtelling, Reliability, Sincerity, Honesty in Conduct, Integrity, Loyalty

The President and his agents, like Spicer and Conway, have been especially loose with facts and assertions, some of which can be excused a bit as carelessness, but the sheer volume of misinformation is daunting. I suppose one could argue that Trump is reliably unpredictably, but that’s not what the value of reliability is all about. The President’s astounding verbal sloppiness makes it impossible to gauge sincerity (is he really out to ban Muslims, or just determined to keep out Muslim terrorists?) I score Trump relatively high on integrity, as shown by his Inaugural speech. Whatever he thinks he means, he really means it. (The contrast is Hillary Clinton.) Trump is loyal. Loyalty is a troublesome value that can be abused as often as not: he was loyal to appoint Ben Carson to the cabinet, but it’s still an unethical act, since Carson is unqualified beyond belief. But loyalty also covers conflicts of interest, and the appearance of impropriety. The President’s conflict of interest problems have not been seriously addressed, and won’t be.

He hasn’t been trustworthy, so his grade here is..

F

II. RESPECT, including Civility, Courtesy, Decency, Dignity, Tolerance, Acceptance, Autonomy Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Leadership

Why Health and Human Services Nominee Price’s Smoking Gun Ethics Breaches Won’t Disqualify Him

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There was good news on the Trump Administration Ethics Train Wreck, still just pulling out of the station. Despite the ethically-challenged reaction fro the Trump transition team when it was revealed that Monica Crowley had plagiarized in her latest book, somebody, somewhere, persuaded the conservative radio talk-show host to resign her new White House post. Good. But as many—most?—predicted, the muck is just beginning to bubble to the surface.

CNN reports that Rep. Tom Price,Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services who will have much of the responsibility for dismantling Obamacare  without triggering a health system crash, appears to have engaged in a flagrant instance of using his position for financial gain.  Last year, Price purchased shares in Zimmer Biomet, a medical device manufacturer [Full disclosure: I have one of their artificial hip joints, setting off metal detectors at airports all over the world] right before he introduced  legislation that would have directly benefited the company.

Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares in the company last March, and then, less than a week after the transaction,  introduced the HIP Act (Clever!) to delay until 2018 a regulation that industry analysts believed  would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet, one of two companies most affected by a regulation that limits payments for joint implant procedures. Not only did Price have a financial stake in the regulation he tried to stall,but after Price introduced  his bill, Zimmer Biomet’s political action committee donated to the Georgia congressman’s reelection campaign.

Merely a coincidence, I’m sure.

Price is scheduled to appear before the Senate Health Committee this week, and the Senate Finance Committee later. He should withdraw, or failing that, Trump should pull the nomination. Price’s purchase of the Zimmer Biomet shares isn’t the first time he’s used inside information (the inside information being “I’m going to propose a bill”) to buy shares in a company. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he traded roughly $300,000 in shares over the past four years in health companies while pursuing legislation that could affect their bottom lines.

Yeccch. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Now THAT’S A Trump Bribe…Wait, Wait, I Mean The APPEARANCE Of An ALLEGED Bribe!

Why is Pam smiling?

Why is Pam smiling?

After his election victory, Donald Trump agreed to pay out $25 million in settlement  of claims against the new defunct Trump University. In September, before the election, the Florida Attorney General’s office had announced that that there were “insufficient grounds” to proceed with a fraud probe of the school. Three years earlier, it had announced that it was considering such a probe in anticipation of legal action against Trump University.

Four days after that threat, Donald Trump’s personal charity illegally donated $25,000 to a political group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s re-election campaign. Bondi personally solicited that donation from Trump just as her office was deciding whether to pursue the Trump U. investigation. (This is almost certainly an prosecutorial ethics violation, as well as being obviously corrupt.) This revelation by the Associated Press emerged during the campaign, and was swamped by all the other Trump controversies at the time.

Yesterday, Trump’s transition team told Bloomberg that Pam Bondi has accepted a job in Trump’s White House. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Ethics Dunces: House Republicans….WAIT! Trump To The Rescue!

oce-website

Per The Washington Examiner:

House Republicans on Monday quietly voted to strip the independent power from an outside ethics panel established eight years ago following a string of corruption scandals, a move they made just hours before the start of the 115th Congress. A measure defanging the Office of Congressional Ethics, authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, will now be included in the House Rules package, which is poised for a Tuesday afternoon vote before the entire House.

The provision’s most important feature changes the OCE from an independent entity to a body that falls under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee, a 10-member, bipartisan committee of lawmakers that rarely hands out serious punishment. Goodlatte’s provision renames the OCE the “Office of Congressional Complaint Review,” and said the changes were needed because lawmakers have been subjected to investigations provoked by partisan outside groups.

The move was incompetent, as it is terrible public relations and undermines the public trust. I’d call it straight-up unethical as well, because it constitutes the appearance of impropriety, which is prohibited by House ethics rules already.

Then, that evil, fascist President-Elect Donald Trump tweeted…

“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it … may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS,

The House Republicans backed down, and eliminated the measure.

Observations: Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, Incompetent Elected Officials, Leadership

Ethics Observations On The Trump Sons’ Influence Peddling Story

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To catch you up: Celebrity gossip website TMZ  hyped the launch of new Texas nonprofit led by Donald Trump’s adult sons Donald Jr. and Eric based on what it called a “draft” of a soon to be released event brochure. The non-profit was offering, we were told, access to the new President during inauguration weekend  in exchange for million-dollar donations to unnamed “conservation” charities.  Prospective million-dollar donors to the “Opening Day 2017” event on  January 21, the day after inauguration, were to receive a “private reception and photo opportunity for 16 guests with President Donald J. Trump,” a “multi-day hunting and/or fishing excursion for 4 guests with Donald Trump, Jr. and/or Eric Trump, and team, ”as well as tickets to other events” and “autographed guitars by an Opening Day 2017 performer.”

The Center for Public Integrity was on this like a shot…and so was the news media. I received a link in an e-mail from someone who archly noted that “You seem to be interested in influence peddling,” a reference to my many posts about the real purpose behind the Clinton Foundation, “so perhaps you will find this of interest [Unsaid but understood: “…you Donald Trump enabling, racist, fascist bastard!”] In the link, TIME took the hand-off from the Center, and got a series of quotes from critics, like Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign reform organization.“This is problematic on so many levels,” Larry said.  “This is Donald Trump and the Trump family using a brand new organization to raise $1 million contributions for a vague goal of giving money to conservation charities, which seems a way of basically just selling influence and selling the ability to meet with the president.”

Noble cautioned that the details of the event and its association with the new nonprofit listing the Trump brothers as directors were still unclear. “It’s really hard to identify all the problems when they’re so vague,” he said.

True. As of today, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are no longer listed as directors of a that non-profit. Papers removing their names from the Opening Day were processed by the state of Texas,  a spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state told CNN Money.

Never mind!

Observations: Continue reading

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