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Lobbyists Target School Officials for Boost In Facility Construction

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013

“Quid pro quo never comes without a price.”

This comment, posted on the Orange County Register by reader Theresa Santoro, summarizes the ethical problems that can occur when business and corporate interests host an event for public officials.

According to the newspaper, the annual conference of the Coalition for Adequate School Housing (C.A.S.H) brings together corporations and employees of 500 school districts. “Bankers, lawyers, architects and companies hoping to profit from school construction are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars this week to court public education officials at a three-day gathering in Sacramento.” Some of the workshops deal with how to pass bond issues for new school construction.

How can the school’s decision makers be objective after enjoying meals, cocktail receptions, and rounds of golf (including a gift bag and “high quality golf shirt” paid for by the sponsors of the meeting)?

Tracy Westen, formerly of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles, said there is “a danger that the company that has handed out money will be looked at more favorably” when it comes to awarding contracts.

Santoro’s comments illustrate the fundamental issues of conflicts of interest: “Builders should not be allowed to endorse those running for school boards, and school boards should not be allowed to take fancy trips and be wined and dined by builders and bankers. It all starts with a nice free glass of Chardonnay on a golf course.”

Tags: conflicts of interests

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