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Her Honor

Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, looks at ethical dilemmas, scandals, and best practices in government.

The following postings have been filtered by tag campaign finance. clear filter
  •  Does Public Financing of Campaigns Make Sense Today?

    Monday, Aug. 13, 2012

    In an effort to make it easier for newcomers to have a chance to win in the upcoming election, the taxpayers of San Francisco are financing qualifying candidates.

    The program is administered by the city’s Ethics Commission, and allows challengers for a seat on the board of supervisors to receive a maximum of $155,000; incumbents have a cap of $152,500. More than $4 million is available in the account, according to John St. Croix, executive director of the commission. A payment of $248,867 was made Friday to five candidates who have qualified.

    In order to be eligible, says St. Croix, the individual “must demonstrate that he or she has received at least $10,000 in qualifying contributions from at least 100 individuals who reside in the city.” The threshold for incumbents is slightly different: they must raise $15,000 in qualifying contributions from at least 150 residents.

    A base grant of $20,000 is granted once the candidate qualifies, with additional amounts given based on the results of private fundraising.

    Discussion questions:

    • With cities and counties facing bankruptcy, does public financing of campaigns make economic sense?
    • Do you support public financing of political campaigns? Why or why not?
    • Should there be an “ethics clause” that requires the public money be returned if the candidate engages in negative campaigning?
    • Should the money be returned in the case of campaign ethics violations?
  •  Tweet This

    Monday, Dec. 12, 2011

    Are there any rules requiring an elected official to disclose board membership on a non-profit organization? Is it ethical for a councilmember to fundraise for a favorite charity? For the purposes of getting free tickets to a concert or sporting event, what is the definition of “ceremonial role” or “in an official capacity?” These were some of the questions discussed at the recent meeting of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL).

    Nearly 300 individuals from the United States, Canada, Australia, and Brazil traveled to Nashville to share best practices, get updates on ethics laws, and learn the latest on lobbying, campaigns, freedom of information requests, and many more issues.

    The use of social media was a hot topic, and tech-savvy participants were busy tweeting during the panel discussions. Enforcement of ethics violations, including fine structures prompted spirited debate, as did the Citizens United decision.

    Look to this blog and my tweets in the coming weeks for more on the conference. I invite all who attended to comment at the end of this blog on what was the your most significant “take away” from the meeting.

  •  Studying The Past And Predicting the Future

    Friday, Dec. 17, 2010
    When something goes wrong or a student makes a mistake, educators are likely to ask, “what can we learn from this experience?”
    In looking ahead to the government ethics stories I predict will be in the headlines in 2011, I’m reflecting on what went wrong this year and trying to imagine what we have learned, and how or if things will change.
    Reviewing the past is easy; predicting the future is difficult. Nevertheless, here are the five topics I believe we will be talking about in the months ahead:
    ·     Conflicts of interest. We used to think that a conflict was clearly defined and applied to an individual and a vote. Things have changed. We are now seeing all kinds of conflicts of interest surfacing – institutional, personal, financial, political. The “sleeper” is the conflict that exists when public officials are involved in foundations, non-profits, and similar organizations that benefit the community but also benefit the office holder.
    ·     Campaign finance and the influence of money. Record amounts of money were spent across the nation on the November election, and a significant portion came through 501c 4 organizations that are not subject to the strict reporting requirements we need in campaigns. And while the defeat of Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in their self-funded campaigns may lead us to conclude that personal wealth cannot buy an election, there are results in other races that prove otherwise.
    ·     Increased use of social media. At the Conference on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) conference I attended recently, there was much talk about the use of social media in government and politics. I predict more government agencies, officeholders, candidates, and voters will be using Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms. This presents many opportunities, but also many challenges. As long as comments can be made anonymously and statements posted without any verification as to factual content, we are bound to have problems. And public officials will need to remember that a majority of councilmembers chatting on Facebook about city business is no different than conducting business behind closed doors – it’s illegal.
    ·     The private lives of public officials.  While sexual misconduct has captured most of the headlines in the past, I expect there will be some new subjects that surface in this area of personal conduct. Increasingly, the background and history of an individual can come back to haunt, even 20 or more years later. (And there are many stories captured on cell phones that make it to YouTube.) There are also high-stakes financial dealings that may receive more attention in the coming year.
    ·     Partisan polarization. The emergence of the Tea Party has created an unprecedented degree of chaos and partisan bickering on the local, state, and national level. Budgets have been stalled, bills have languished, and rhetoric has overtaken honest debate. I’ve heard people talk about the “super minority” and “super majority” in terms that signal a long, difficult legislative year ahead.
    Let me know what you think will be making headlines next year. Post your comments here or on my Twitter account : her_honor.
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