Lunchtime Ethics Warm-Up, 4/23/19: Sanders, Warren and Steyer

Good Morning!

I don’t know about where you are, but Spring has finally arrived to stay in Alexandria, Virginia!

1.  Mea Culpa. The first post today made it up without a final proofing and edit, the result of three consecutive computer crashes and an intervening work crisis. Veteran reader Tim Levier flagged the mess, which I cleaned up on Aisle 9 after pulling the post down. This has happened a couple of times before, and makes me want to throw myself in the shredder.

2. Stop making me defend Bernie Sanders! Apparently Bernie spent $444,000 dollars in campaign money in 2015 on his own book, which, of course, put money in his pockets. Some conservative writers have compared this to the scam that has caused the Mayor of Baltimore to go on “leave,” which in her case means “I’m resigning, except that I’ll still be getting my salary.” That’s unfair to Bernie. Pugh’s self-dealing was genuine corruption, using her place on a non-profit’s board to get the organization to buy her book rather than many other options. A candidate’s book is legitimate campaign material: it’s not like the campaign can distribute another candidate’s book. Continue reading

The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2013 (Part Two of Three)


The Ethics Alarms review of a truly disheartening year in ethics continues with fallen heroes, ficks, fools and follies with Part Two of the 2013 Worst of Ethics awards….and there’s one last section to come. Be very afraid:

Fallen Hero of the Year

Edward Snowden, whose claim to civil disobedience was marred by his unwillingness to accept the consequences of his actions, whose pose as a whistle-blower was ruined by the disclosure that he took his job with the intention of exposing national secrets, and whose status as a freedom-defending patriot lies in ruins as he seeks harbor with not only America’s enemy, but a human rights-crushing enemy at that. The NSA’s over-reach and mismanagement is a scandal, but Snowden proved that he is no hero.

Unmitigated Gall of  The Year

Minnesota divorce lawyer Thomas P. Lowes not only violated the bar’s ethics rules by having sex with his female  client…he also billed her his hourly fee for the time they spent having sex , a breach of the legal profession’s rule against “unreasonable fees.” Yes, he was suspended. But for not long enough…

Jumbo Of The Year

(Awarded To The Most Futile And Obvious Lie)

Jumbo film

“Now, if you had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”

—–President Obama

2013 Conflicts of Interest of the Year Continue reading

Now THAT’S An Appearance of Impropriety!

Why is this woman smiling?

Why is this woman smiling?

Juliet Ellis is the assistant for external affairs at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission at a salary of $195,000 annually. She is charged with, among other aspects of her duties, implementing the agency’s new environmental justice and community benefits policies.

She also, her public disclosures reveal, is the salaried chair of Green for All, an Oakland-based nonprofit, which trains disadvantaged minorities in energy-related work. The Commission—that is, the commission that Ellis works for in an influential position—awarded a $200,000 no-bid contract to Green for All—which Ellis chairs for compensation—to train people for city jobs.

Fancy that. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Should the State Department Be Buying and Distributing the President’s Books?

It's a State Department...and a nifty literary agent too!

It’s a little early for another Ethics Quiz, but this one is tailor-made.

The Washington Times reported today that The State Department has bought more than $70,000 worth of  books authored by President Obama. Hillary’s folks have been sending out copies as Christmas gifts, and stocking  libraries around the world with “Dreams from My Father.”  For example, the  U.S. Embassy in Egypt spent $28,636 in August 2009 for copies of the best-selling 1995 memoir, six weeks after it had placed another order for the same book for more than $9,000. At the same time, the U.S. Embassy in South Korea spent more than  $6,000 for its copies of “Dreams from My Father.” All of this comes from federal purchasing records.

The Times points out that the previous  State Departments resisted the impulse to buy books by former Presidents George W. Bush or Bill Clinton.

Are you ready for your Ethics Quiz? It’s a multiple choice:

For the State Department to spend $70,000 on its boss’s book is…. Continue reading

A Real Estate Appraiser Discovers “the Appearance of Impropriety”

You won’t find a better example of the ethical breach known as “the appearance of impropriety” than this, a question from a real estate appraiser posted on (Note: This is one of the infuriating websites that won’t allow you to post a reply or a comment until you register, and then informs you that it may be a day or more before the registration is approved, so you still can’t post a comment. Yes, the site is so crucial that I will hold my comment…or maybe write it down and save it in a file labeled “pending Appraisers Forum comments”—and wait with palpitating anticipation while my plea to be allowed to interact with a bunch of real estate appraisers is evaluated for worthiness. )

Here is the question: Continue reading