Tag Archives: conflicts of interest

Exploring Double Standards In The 2016 Election, A Hypothetical Thought Experiment For Ethics Alarms Readers


While the news media has been almost totally focused on Donald Trump’s misogyny, alreday well-established long  but somehow decisively important once it was in full display from the video of a private exchange from 11 years ago, revelations about his opponent’s character and modes of operation have also been trickling out into view, and receiving far less attention from either journalists or voters.

They have also exposed many of Clinton’s lies. For example, after posturing about Trump’s birtherism and claiming that his defense that Clinton led the way in 2008 with planting conspiracy theories to otherize Obama, this  ugly email, surfaced from the 2008 Clinton campaign, including John Podesta and Paul Begala on the distribution list. It strongly suggest that an attack on Obama’s religion and citizenship was part of the strategy to defeat him, as well as using his alleged use of illegal drugs and support for gay adoption as ammunition.

The 2013 Goldman-Sachs speeches that Clinton received $675,000 to give to the investment companies have turned up, thanks to Wikileaks. More revealed files from the FBI have cast suspicion on the process whereby Clinton was cleared of criminal misconduct in her irregular handling of official e-mails.

Other documents have indicated that the federal government, “supported by tax dollars,” as the Wall Street Journal puts it, was working as an extension of the Clinton campaign. The State Department seems to have coordinated with her staff to blunt the email scandal, and the Justice Department kept her team informed about developments in the court case.

Clinton’s State Department, as documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show, also facilitated Clinton’s use of her official influence to provide special favors to Clinton Foundation donors. For example, in one  series of 2010 emails, a senior aide to Hillary  Clinton asked a foundation official to let her know which groups offering assistance with the Haitian earthquake relief were “FOB” (Friends of Bill) or “WJC VIPs” (William Jefferson Clinton VIPs).

The leaks show “that the press is in Mrs. Clinton’s pocket,” writes Kimberly Strassle at the WSJ.  Donna Brazile, now DNC chair, sent the exact wording of a CNN town hall question to Hillary ahead of a scheduled debate.  Other journalists gave the Clinton campaign the power to veto which quotes were used from interviews, helped facilitate press events, and offered advice to her campaign.

Less surprising but arguably more damaging if the average voter knew, the various leaks, e-mails and speeches reveal a candidate with little integrity and few core principles, an opportunistic policy Janus who constantly changes her position to maximize political gain. She told an audience that she believes in giving the voters one position while holding different ones, and has taken such dual positions on banks; international policies, trade, illegal immigration, energy, and more. Though many of the leaked e-mails reveal views of her staff that are only attributed to Hillary, it is likely that the voluminous discussions among Clinton’s advisors about  what false rhetoric she should use to recruit “the Red Army,” also called “the base of the Democratic Party.” are not inconsistent with her own attitudes.

All of this, and more is on the way, does not show an individual with Donald Trump’s repulsive narcissism and contempt for a full half of the world’s population, but does show Clinton to be, like Trump, untrustworthy, dishonest, corrupt, ruthless, and shameless. Unlike Trump, it reveals an individual addicted to showing the public a completely different political being than she really is.

Strassle concludes her summary by saying that “Voters might not know any of this, because while both presidential candidates have plenty to answer for, the press has focused solely on taking out Mr. Trump. And the press is doing a diligent job of it.”

So I wonder…what if, rather than requiring explanation, analysis, extrapolation, and connecting the dots, and without being marred by over-reaching and biased exaggerations of already damaging evidence by right-wing, Hillary-hating zealots, visual and audible smoking gun proof of Clinton’s lies, false poses and corruption was exposed to the nation?

I now present this hypothetical as a thought experiment: Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Leadership

Trump’s Tape Is Disgusting; This Is Much Scarier…Or Should Be

"Hillary is experienced! Hillary is healthy! Hillary is young! Hillary is progressive! Hillary never attacked her husband's victims! You are a chicken!"

“Listen to my voice! Hillary is experienced! Hillary never lies! Hillary is healthy! Hillary never knowingly send e-mails with classified contents! Hillary is young! Hillary’s Middle East policy brought peace and stability!  Hillary never attacked her husband’s victims! You will vote for Hillary! And you are a chicken!”

Blogger-muckraker Glenn Greenwald reports today on leaked strategy e-mails from the Hillary Clinton campaign that show ongoing coordination between the campaign and journalists to advance her candidacy and place her in power. The natural defense of the Clinton Corrupted to this is predictable (“Everybody does it!), and because it impugns the integrity of the news media, I doubt that Greenwald’s findings will even be widely reported. As he writes in his conclusion,

“All presidential campaigns have their favorite reporters, try to plant stories they want published, and attempt in multiple ways to curry favor with journalists. These tactics are certainly not unique to the Clinton campaign…But these rituals and dynamics between political campaigns and the journalists who cover them are typically carried out in the dark, despite how significant they can be. These documents provide a valuable glimpse into that process.”

The glimpse shows a thoroughly unethical process whereby the Clinton campaign sets out to bias coverage, and unprofessional journalists allow them to do it. Then it is all kept secret, since allowing the public to know how “cozy” (to use Greenwald’s benign word–he is a progressive himself, after all) the relationship between journalists and those whom they claim to covering “objectively” really is would make it far more difficult for the news media to manipulate public opinion and warp democracy.

Among the revelations in Greenwald’s report

1. Lobbying and feting reporters at off-the-record events…

“The Clinton campaign likes to use glitzy, intimate, completely off-the-record parties between top campaign aides and leading media personalities. One of the most elaborately planned get-togethers was described in an April, 2015, memo — produced, according to the document metadata, by deputy press secretary Jesse Ferguson — to take place shortly before Clinton’s official announcement of her candidacy. The event was an April 10 cocktail party for leading news figures and top-level Clinton staff at the Upper East Side home of Clinton strategist Joel Benenson, a fully off-the-record gathering designed to impart the campaign’s messaging:


“Unfriendly” reporters and pundits were not invited. This is what is called “an appearance of impropriety.” Accepting gifts and favors, including parties, from those who a reporter is supposed to cover objectively is a conflict of interest, and should be disclosed. Of course it wasn’t. Continue reading


Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

Ethics Quiz: The Boxer Who Bet Against Himself, And Lost His Bet


Three Olympic boxers received “severe reprimands” from an International Olympic Committee last week for betting on fights during last month’s Rio de Janeiro Games in violation of Olympic  anti-betting rules.

The interesting one is Ireland’s welterweight Steve Donnelly, shown above. Donnelly bet against himself in a first-round bout but still won the fight.

The IOC said the three boxers received only reprimands rather than retroactive disqualifications or bans because a disciplinary panel determined “there was no intent to manipulate any event” and the athletes have apologized.

Donnelly, an evident idiot, said that he was in fact not aware of the prohibition against betting, though he had signed the documents agreeing to the restrictions. He hadn’t read them, he said.  He claimed that he bet against himself without intending lose his match to win those bets. He reasoned that if he lost the match, winning the bets ( he made two on his opponent) would be some compensation for his defeat.

Good thinking there, Steve.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day

Is a reprimand just and sufficient punishment for an Olympic competitor who bets on himself to lose, as long as he loses the bet and not his competition?

Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Character, Quizzes, Sports

Without Courage, Integrity And Professionalism In The Legal Profession, The Rule Of Law Hasn’t A Prayer: The House of Representatives v. Burwell Saga

" Nice law firm you got here. Too bad if something were to happen to it..."

” Nice law firm you got here. Too bad if something were to happen to it…”

As I explained  here and here in 2015, the process of judicially determining whether the Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional or not was unethically sabotaged by  threats to and improper lobbying of the law firm that had agreed to defend it. The Justice Department and the President had refused to do their sworn duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and same-sex marriage activists pressured the biggest client of the firm that had accepted the case to pass the pressure along. It worked. The firm dropped the case, precipitating a resignation by the partner handling it and this ringing assertion of traditional legal ethics:

“…[D]efending unpopular positions is what lawyers do. The adversary system of justice depends on it, especially in cases where the passions run high. Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law.”

This was, we are learning, not an anomaly. On the Volokh Conspiracy, law professor Josh Blackmon relates how the same strategy of applying of unethical political pressure, and the unprofessional capitulation of major law firms to it, nearly made a legitimate challenge to illegal payments to insurers under Obamacare impossible. He explains in part: Continue reading


Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Rights

Sometimes It All Comes Together…But First, A Song!

As those who have read here for a while know, among my fondest passions, virtually life-long, are baseball,  theater and ethics. Today, I have the pleasure of seeing them all come together in a single event. How often does that happen?

At noon, I will be giving my most recent musical Continuing Legal Education ethics seminar, “Ethics Cabaret,” at Nationals Park in D.C. prior to the Mets-Nats game. “Ethics Cabaret,” like its six predecessors, presents legal ethics hypotheticals  as parodies of pop, rock, Broadway or country-western standards, presented by a professional performer. In this case, the performer is American Century Theater veteran Esther Covington, who accompanies herself on the keyboard. I write the songs that make the young lawyers cry, but she sings them, beautifully and often hilariously.

Speaking of Barry Manilow, my favorite segment of the seminar is the parody of one of his signature songs, which you can hear above—it’s an ear-worm, so be careful. The legal ethics version is about “Bridge of Spies” and the many quandaries raised in the film, which I examined in this post earlier this year. The parody is called “Who is the Client?,” lyrics-only copyrighted by ProEthics. Here they are….you can sing them along with Barry’s version! Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions

Did You Know Hillary Confessed To Repeated, Intentional And Blatant Unethical Conduct As Secretary Of State? Because She Did…


Now, to be fair, you may not have realized that Clinton made this unusually candid—for her—admission, because the statement was made in a phone interview with CNN, with a typically ignorant and incompetent interviewer (“THIS is CNN!”) who either doesn’t know the first thing about government ethics, or doesn’t care if Clinton complied with them. Moreover, virtually no mainstream media sources pointed out the significance of what Clinton said, because…well, read the last part of the last sentence.

Talking about the various news reports and new email content that indicated a disturbingly close relationship between Clinton’s Foundation interests—that is, raising money that assists the Clintons’ personal fortunes in various ways—and her State Department duties, which were supposed to occur completely free of such conflicts of interest, Hillary said, straight out…

“I know there’s a lot of smoke and there’s no fire.”


And there we have it, Ladies and Gentlemen, a confession of official wrongdoing! For as an officer of the Executive Branch and a government employee, Clinton was subject to  Executive Order 12731 of October 17, 1990, “PRINCIPLES OF ETHICAL CONDUCT  FOR GOVERNMENT OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES,” as are all such officers and employees today. That order, which has the force of law, as well as the order it amended, states very clearly, in black and white, that.. Continue reading


Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

The Clinton Foundation’s Confession, (or) “Is The Public Really As Stupid As The Clintons Think It Is?”


Bill Clinton said last week that the Clinton Foundation would no longer accept foreign or corporate money and also that he would resign from its board should Hillary Clinton win the Presidency.

The logic of this, one assumes, is to allay any fears that President Hillary Clinton would allow access and influence to be purchased by foreign powers by contributing to a foundation that exists substantially to line the pockets of the three and to provide a foundation...but the other kind, not the non-profit kind—for Clinton power-brokering, career advancement and mutual back scratching.


Allow me to pause for a brief expansion on that…

The New York Times, which really is good at telling the truth while deceiving its readers anyway, describes the Clinton Foundation as working “globally to combat AIDS/H.I.V., malaria, childhood obesity and climate change, and promotes women’s rights and other causes.” This is true, but it is also lying by omission, because it intentionally omits the shady side of the story. Here is how Jonathan Chait, as full-throated a Clinton booster as you can find in the pundit ranks, describes the Foundation:

“The purpose of the Clinton Foundation is to leverage Clinton fame into charitable donations. That purpose has important positive effects — shaking loose donations for AIDS prevention and training African farmers and other worthy causes. But it also has the unavoidable side effect of giving rich people a way to curry favor with a powerful elected official.”

Exactly. Perfectly stated, except that “giving rich people a way to curry favor with a powerful elected official” is a euphemism for “quid pro quo,” or better yet, bribery. It is unethical, and also illegal if you can prove it, which is generally hard to do, especially when the “contributions” are designated for worthy causes, though much of them somehow end up paying for the Clintons’ regal lifestyle. Chait’s uncritical assessment of this per se corruption is stated thusly:

“There’s a reason the term politician is synonymous with lying, calculation, and ambition — these are common qualities for politicians. The Clintons are common politicians, motivated in general by a desire to implement policy changes they think will make the world a better place, but not immune to trimming and getting rich in the process. None of their behavior is disqualifying, given the number of elected officials, presidents included, who have done the same”

Translation: “Everybody does it, but the Clintons are just better at doing it and getting rich in the process. Stop bitching.”

That Chait says that behaving this way isn’t disqualifying explains everything, including why the metastasizing  ethics rot in our government will slowly but surely result in the predatory elected official conduct common in Africa if the public doesn’t insist that it is disqualifying, and start recognizing ethically-hollow opinion makers like Chait for what they are…enablers and courtiers.


Parenthetical discourse over; thank-you for your attention. Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity