CREW’s Depressing “Worst Governors” List

The Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington released its list of “America’s Worst Governors” this week, and as with most things CREW does, it is well-researched, informative, and depressing. Also just a teeny bit biased.

Mostly it is depressing. That so many of the leaders of our states engage in such egregiously unethical conduct–and CREW’s list is far from complete—shows how deeply corrupt the nation’s political culture remains, and what a herculean job lies ahead if we ever hope to change it. It is also depressing when one reflects on how frequently our presidents are recruited from the ranks of governors. Continue reading

The Ethics of Unethical Ethics Teachers

An essay by lawyers Joel Cohen and Katherine A. Helm begins with this story:

Noted ethics philosopher and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell once was questioned by the Harvard Board of Governors about having an extramarital affair with a student. When faced with the hypocrisy of being an ethics professor engaged in immoral conduct, Russell argued his private affairs had nothing to do with his professional duties. “But you are a Professor of Ethics!” maintained one of the board members. “I was [also] a Professor of Geometry at Cambridge,” Russell rejoined, but “they never asked me why I was not a triangle.”‘

The authors use the anecdote to explore the issue of whether proven ethics miscreants like Eliot Spitzer, Rod Blagojevich and disbarred class action lawyer William Lerach ought to be lecturing, speaking, or otherwise being listened to in regard to their opinions and advice on ethics. After all, acting teachers are often indifferent actors, and the best baseball managers weren’t much as players. Why should ethics be any different?  Continue reading


There is apparently is little that a politician can do today that is so uncivil, embarrassing or undignified that partisans won’t cheer it, and that fundraisers and marketers unencumbered by things such as values, responsibility, and shame won’t try to use to raise money. Call the President a liar during his State of the Union Address? Fundraising gold!  Shout “Baby killer!” on the floor of the House? Great!! Use it to get those checks flowing!

Now, not to be outdone by the shameless venality of the GOP, Democrats are using Joe Biden’s resort to gutter-speech, to the President, during a formal ceremony, on national television, as part of a new fundraising pitch.  CNN reports that Democrat donors who give at least $25 to the cause will receive “a limited edition ‘Health Reform is a BFD’ T-shirt in a super-soft, fine jersey (men’s) or baby rib (women’s) cotton fabric,” according to a new fundraising page posted on the website of Organizing For America, the White House political group housed in the National Democratic Committee. Continue reading

Premature Ethics Alarm on Obama’s Judicial Appointment, Day 2

Amazingly, even liberal journalists are now presuming that Obama’s appointment of attorney Scott Matheson signals that a deal has been struck with his Congressman brother to reverse his previous votes and support the health care bill, whatever its current form may be. And they are saying that this is hardly sinister, as such deals are commonplace in the rough-and-tumble, amoral world of politics.

Deals like this one, if that’s what it is, are not commonplace. Not when the object is a major systemic overhaul costing billions, not when so much of the public is dubious about it, not when the legislation is so complex that almost nobody completely understands it and definitely not after previous efforts to buy votes–as in the “Louisiana Purchase” and Ben Nelson’s extortion—caused so much public revulsion that they swept a Republican into a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts. Nobody knows what unsavory back-room tactics L.B.J. used to get the civil rights legislation passed, but that’s the point: you don’t mind the little piece of rat in your sausage if you’re not certain it’s there. Continue reading

The Paterson Scandal: Another Governor Bites the Ethics Dust

For weeks, rumors have been swirling around New York Governor David Paterson, indicating that the New York Times was about to drop a scandal bombshell that would mortally wound his political career. The rumors themselves became a story, bringing some sympathy to Paterson as a political figure being smeared by whispers and innuendo. Paterson, who became governor when his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, disgraced himself and his office by patronizing exactly the kind of prostitution ring he made his reputation prosecuting, was already unpopular and hadn’t helped himself any by claiming his unpopularity was fueled by media racism.

The good news for Paterson: from this point on, he needn’t worry about racism being the cause of his low approval ratings.

The bad news: The New York Times did have a scandal to investigate, and it shows the governor to be almost as great a hypocrite as Spitzer, as well as an abuser of his power and position. Continue reading

A Northwestern University Education, 2010

“Ethics in Politics: An evening with Former Governor Rod Blagojevich,” will be presented by Northwestern University at Cahn Auditorium next week for the education and edification of its students and others in the university community.

Future programs under consideration by Northwestern include:

  • Career Development and Image Enhancement: an evening with Lindsay Lohan
  • Civility in the Public Square: an evening with Rep. Alan Grayson
  • Retirement with Dignity: an evening with O.J. Simpson
  • Building Trust: an evening with Bernard Madoff

I am depressed, and am going to bed.

But if you have  similarly edifying programs to suggest, I will pass them along to the Northwestern administration.

The Lies of Enroll Southers

The bottom line is this: President Obama’s nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration lied to Congress under oath, and Democratic senators who knew he was lying voted to confirm him anyway. Now that his misrepresentation has been discovered and reported, the Administration’s and the Senate’s position is that it doesn’t matter.

It does matter. Continue reading

The Worst Ethics Exam Ever!

We all know that Illinois ranks right down there with New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Louisiana when it comes to unethical government culture. What I didn’t know was that there is an annual ethics test given to all state employees. Or that these two facts may be related in an unusual way.  I thought the ethics exam was in response to the state’s ethical problems. Now I think the exam may be causing the state’s ethical problems.

I also think it may have been written by Mel Brooks. Continue reading