Santa Clara University

Ethics Center Blog
Bookmark and Share

At the Center

Capturing the lively discussions, presentations, and other events that make up the daily activities of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

The following postings have been filtered by category Government Ethics. clear filter
  •  Post-Election Recovery: Blessed Are the Peacemakers

    Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 11:51 AM

     In the wake of the recent contentious election, it's time for both sides to search for common ground.  So Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics, will argue at a program Dec. 13, 7:30 - 8:30 a.m., at the San Jose Airport Garden Hotel, sponsored by Catholic Professionals.  

    More Information

  •  Why Do Candidates Lie?

    Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 9:03 AM

    The public can have an impact on the truthfuness of political disourse, according to Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler.

    In an op-ed in today's San Francisco Chronicle, Nadler writes,

    Our civic responsibility extends beyond the election, and we need to start at the local level.

    Voters need to study the ballot, and consult with nonpartisan organizations like the League of Women Voters that research the issues, making recommendations without political bias. Over time, we can pick better local candidates, because term limits means council members often end up as senators and members of Congress.

    We can press them to back up their statements, explain how they can accomplish what they have promised, and speak of their own record rather than tearing down an opponent's.

  •  Transparency in Political Campaigns

    Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 3:14 PM

    Ann Ravel, chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, discussed the effect of the Supreme Court's Citizens United case on the 2012 elections, especially at the state and local level, at a recent presentation to the Ethics Center's Public Sector Roundtable. 

    Ravel stressed the importance of transparency in the process.  Disclosure, she argued, allows voters to understand where the money comes from so that they can assess the validity of campaign claims. "We have to have enough disclosure so people know what they need to know about the candidates," she said.

  •  Free Travel for Politicians

    Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 2:00 PM

    While the state of Washington allows government officials to accept free travel and events, the amount and nature of travel by the state's attorney general are raising eyebrows.  "Rob McKenna has accepted $184,000 worth of free travel and events since becoming attorney general in January 2005," according to the Seattle Times. Several trips were paid for by conservative political groups.

    Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler commented for the Times: "When you take an oath of office, you vow to put the public interest first....Political trips or trips paid for by a political party or to rub elbows to advance a political career are inappropriate," she said. "There's a fine line between being an officeholder and being a candidate. You are supposed to be doing the public's job."

  •  Lying in Political Campaigns

    Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 10:55 AM

    Twenty states have laws against making false campaign statements, but if Ohio is a typical example, the law is not stringently enforced.  "In the last decade, the commission has not referred a single case involving a false statement to a county prosecutor," according to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

    Interviewed for the article, Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler, talked about the effect of unchecked lying on the political process:  "The problem is that this leads to an eroding of people's confidence in government. People throw up their hands and say, 'I don't believe any of them,' and it decreases voter registration and turnout."


  •  Ethics in High Pressure Campaigns

    Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 12:27 PM

    In a panel discussion that focused on the presidential election after the first debate, Kirk O. Hanson, Center executive director, analyzed the ethical issues that arise in a high pressure campaign. He was joined by Terry Christensen, Professor Emeritus at San Jose State University, and Barbara Marshman, Editorial Pages Editor, San Jose Mercury News.  John Zipperer, Vice President of Media and Editorial, The Commonwealth Club, the program sponsor, was the moderator. 


  •  Freedom of Information Act Requests to the Obama Cabinet

    Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 4:00 PM

    An editorial in the Orange County Register explores the failure of President Obama's cabinet to respond to Freedom of Information requests from Bloomberg for information on the secretaries' travel.  Interviewed for the piece, Ethics Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler said,

    Transparency is the most important thing the government can engage in to enhance public trust.  One of the things the president mandated on coming into office was acting promptly on FOIA requests. This is of concern because it should not be difficult for people to see what's going on in government. The FOIA was put in place for people to know what's going on in terms of spending and policy.

    When officials fail to respond to FOI requests, Nadler continued,

    The default position for many people is that the officials must be hiding something. I don't know if that's true. But the lack of disclosure is troubling, whether it's a city council member or a Cabinet member. The public has a right to know.

  •  Transparency and Campaign Finance

    Monday, Sep. 24, 2012 4:33 PM

    Ann Ravel, chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, speaks on the ethics of political campaigning at Santa Clara University Oct. 5 from noon-1 in the Weigand Room of the Arts and Sciences Building.

    Prior to her appointment as commission chair, Ravel served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Torts and Consumer Litigation in the Civil Division of the United States Department of Justice.

    Most of her career was as an attorney in the Santa Clara County Counsel's Office, ultimately serving as the appointed County Counsel from 1998 until 2009. As County Counsel, she represented the County and its elected officials, providing advice on the Political Reform Act.

    After Ravel's public lecture, she will meet with the Ethics Center's Public Sector Roundtable, a group of locally elected and appointed officials who address ethical issues in government

  •  The Ethics of Special District Expenditures

    Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2012 12:20 PM
    Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler

    The Santa Clara Valley Water District is the latest in a group of California special districts to draw press scrutiny for its spending of taxpayer dollars.  An NBC Bay Area news segment reports that members of the Water District Board collected  fees for attending meetings that had, at best, a dubious connection to the business of the district.  Member Patrick Kwok, for example, took fees to attend the city of Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce awards, San Jose State University’s Engineering Banquet Awards, and the Asian Pacific Resources Group Lunar New Year luncheon. 

    To Kwok's claim that the charges were reasonable because constituents might approach him at these meetings about Water District issues, Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler responded:

    The presumption that when you go out in the public someone will, A) Recognize you are a water board member and B) will have a pressing issue that they want to discuss at a social event, I think it’s actually unlikely.  You are not necessarily paid to show up, you are paid to do your job. 

    If the gist of the discussion is not at all about water issues I would question why you would be in attendance.

  •  California After Redevelopment Agencies

    Monday, Aug. 13, 2012 4:35 PM

    The Center's Public Sector Roundtable focused this month on the ethical challenges for cities and counties facing the dissolution of the Redevelopment Agencies that were funding municipal efforts to combat blight.  Richard Keit, managing director of the Successor Agency to the San Jose RDA (video), and Bert Robinson, managing editor for content of the Bay Area News Group (video), kicked off the discussion.