Tag Archives: bribery

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

smoking-gun

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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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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A Lawyer Ponders: “Will Obama Pardon Clinton? And If He Does, Will She Accept?” An Ethicist Answers…

get-out-of-jail2

Over at The Hill, lawyer David Weisberg examines the questions in the title above. Frankly, I assumed that Hillary needing a pardon from Obama was a dead issue, but Weisberg persuades me that it might not be.

Let’s begin by pointing out that it would be gallactically stupid for the Trump Justice Department to prosecute Clinton. Doing so would be a guaranteed circus; it would inflame Democrats who are already resembling The Human Torch, and it would appear to be a political prosecution. A winning President tries to put his losing opponent in jail would reek of banana republic vengeance, and that’s one reason why no American President has ever done it.

This is Donald Trump we are talking about, however, so who knows? Certainly many of his more angry and less grey matter-blessed supporters would love to see Hillary in the slammer. I am hoping and praying that Trump either is smarter than this or has advisors who can talk him out of his worst ideas, but I am not as confident as I should be. Weisberg makes the reasonable point that Hillary may not be confident either:

“Since being elected, Trump has been remarkably warm towards the person he used to call “Crooked Hillary.” But how confident could Clinton be that the Justice Department, under a Trump administration, would not prosecute? Prosecutorial decisions are supposed to be independent of political considerations, so Trump’s recent friendliness should not be controlling once the new attorney general is in office.”

That last sentence is both true, and following the wretched partisanship of the Obama Justice Department, very much in the category of  legal fiction. Continue reading

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Tales From The “Bias Makes Us Stupid” Files: Is It Possible That The News Media Really Thinks That Donald Trump’s Latest Stupid Blather Is More Newsworthy Than Hillary Trading State Department Favors For Foundation Contributions

Media bias

In a statement that is mindblowing for its shameless ethics ignorance, Slate editor Josh Voorhees wrote,

“The latest batch of State Department emails from Hillary Clinton’s tenure, released Tuesday, further highlights the occasionally overlapping interests between the agency and the Clinton Foundation. The messages, which don’t directly involve the Democratic nominee herself, aren’t going to overshadow Donald Trump’s ongoing self-immolation—nor should they—but they are worth a closer look.”

“Nor should they?”

Nor should they?

By what possible set of warped values could the latest inanity from a Presidential candidate who constantly says silly, inarticulate and ultimately meaningless things the second they pop into what we generously call “his brain,” be more worthy of public attention than revelations that the other candidate for President used her position in the State Department for the enrichment of herself and her family?

The former is a well-established idiot free-associator idiotically free-associating with the same results he always gets. Why is this news? It is only news because the news media, knowing well that Trump just utters  jokes, ad-libs, random observations, musings, insults and all sorts of other things that adults never say in public because his confused and disoriented fans enjoy them, intentionally treats them as serious statements of a serious person, when they know very well he is not. The latest of these is the Trump assertion that Obama is “literally” the “founder of ISIS.” It is as newsworthy as if Trump said “Obama is literally a tree frog.” OK, everyone knows this isn’t true, and that Trump is a babbling fool. Got it. Next? Yet this non-story gets absurd attention: like at ABC News, The National Memo, Business Insider, Fox News Insider, Politicus USA, Washington Post, Raw Story, The New Civil Rights MovementDaily Kos, The Times of Israel, CBS New York, RT, Balloon Juice, New York Magazine, Guardian, Independent Journal Review, Mother Jones, NBC News,and Mediaite.

Before that, it was media hysteria over Trump’s bizarre “Second Amendment people” crack being a crime, which Popehat neatly debunks here. Ken White’s  opening statement is also enlightening: “Donald Trump, against all advice and rumors of pivot, will continue to be Donald Trump.”

Exactly. Which means his continuing to say stuff that mature and responsible people don’t say is not legitimate front page news.

Ah, but it provides an excuse not to explain to the public how stunningly corrupt Hillary is and has been. That is the objective, and an biased and unethical objective it is. Continue reading

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The Olympic Games Are An Ethics Train Wreck, And Have Been For Quite A While

Olympic mascots

The 2016 Rio Games Opening Ceremony was the apotheosis of a rotting tradition that has lost the slightest resemblance to its so-called ideals. The Olympics are a TV spectacle justified by dollars now, using fake and dubious values to obscure the obvious.

Some moments that gave my ethics alarms twinges last night—

  • Political propaganda. It’s sporting event, not a PSA for climate change regulations. Shut up and play. Or perhaps “Shut up and cheat” is more accurate.
  • Speaking of cheating, the ceremony featuring Tom Brady’s Brazilian model wife as a special effect was jarring, but maybe that’s just me.

This was all just yucky frosting on the unethical cake, however. Before the Games began, the continuing corruption of the Games was again approved when the IOC announced that 270 Russian athletes would be allowed to compete despite a major doping scandal last year that indicated that the Russians routinely cheated, and that there was no reason to presume that any Russian athlete wasn’t. Never mind: the desire for ratings—the US vs. Russia!—and/or bribes paved the way.

Meanwhile, the swimmers are competing in raw sewage. Ocean water along Rio de Janeiro’s famed beaches are contaminated with bacteria and viruses, so much so that the World Health Organization  warned athletes participating in open water sports to not swallow water, to cover any open wounds during competition and to wash off immediately after exiting the water. Why is the US subjecting its athletes to this kind of peril? Why are any of the nations?

I don’t watch football players damage their brains while the NFL pays them to do it, and I’m certainly not going to cheer young athletes risking brain eating amoebae so NBC can sell beer for Anheuser Busch.

When did the Olympics start churning my stomach? It may have been when the U.S. started using NBA stars in the basketball competition, and relishing the opportunity to beat amateur Angolan players 154-12. Yecchh. It may have been when I learned how the female gymnasts were kept sprite-like long into their teens by inhibiting their puberty, and how many young gymnasts were sexually molested on their way to Gold.  Or when I listened to some of my scuzzier male friends explain what they liked about watching them…. Continue reading

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Gut Check For Obama: The Responsible Thing Is To Pull Out Of The 2016 Olympics

Rio2016-Logo-2

UPDATE: 6/18/13 Now this.

The responsible thing, in fact, would have been to pull out before now.

The Olympics, which were supposed to represent the ideal of pure, individual amateur (For love, not money) athletic achievement, metastasized into a bloated, hyper-nationalist insult to those ideals long ago. In addition…

…The Olympic organization is corrupt, accepting bribes to determine which nations host the games.

…The competitions are corrupt, with banned performance enhancing substances being used widely and with the assistance and knowledge of participating nations, in some cases. At the end of last year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)  issued a report calling for Russia to be banned from international athletics at all levels for flagrant doping violations and a “deeply rooted culture of cheating at all levels” within Russian athletics.

Have the Olympics banned Russia? Of course not.

Meanwhile, an IOC investigation revealed that 23 athletes have tested positive in a massive doping scandal that could ban a total of 31 yet-unnamed athletes “from 12 countries and six sports” from participating in the 2016 Olympics.

…The games now have the shadow of terrorism hanging over them.

…Expenditures by hosting nations always divert resources into inefficient and unnecessary projects, as greater national and social priorities suffer in the pursuit of pride and prestige. Following a pattern that we have seen in other countries, some poor Brazilians  have  lost their homes as part of preparations for the games. Continue reading

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When Counting On Ethics Isn’t Enough: The Delegate Bribery Risk At The GOP Convention

Fortunately, we all know Donald Trump doesn't operate this way...

Fortunately, we all know Donald Trump doesn’t operate this way…

This hasn’t come up before in party nominating conventions, because the last time there was a threat of a brokered convention no billionaires were running. Now, however, with Donald Trump likely facing a battle for delegates at the GOP battle looming in Cleveland, the specter has been raised of horribly unethical conduct being nonetheless legal: bribing delegates.

There are federal and state laws prohibiting bribery of elected officials, and laws making paying for votes illegal in elections. No laws seem to  restrict what private citizens serving as delegates at their parties’conventions can take in exchange for their votes on a nominating ballot, however. The closest, suggests former Bush administration lawyer Richard Painter at the Legal Ethics Forum, is the “theft of honest services” statute 18 U.S.C. § 1346, and it isn’t close enough. Continue reading

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