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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Government Ethics

The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics explores Government Ethics issues including campaign ethics, conflicts of interest, gifts to officials, transparency, budgeting, and other topics.

What Is Government Ethics?

by John Pelissero, Senior Scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University and a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Loyola University Chicago

"On taking office, every public servant, elected or appointed, enters into a covenant with the people: that as a public official they will seek to promote the public interest in all political processes and ensure that policy adoption and service provision occur without favoritism or discrimination. Moreover, a public official must not use her or his position for personal gain and should avoid even the appearance of having a conflict of interest. An ethical awareness of the obligation to act in the public interest will normally promote fairness and justice, and advance the common good."

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Commentary on Government Ethics

City Hall Building

State and local governments’ adoption and implementation of ESG is becoming an important ethical value in jurisdictions across the country.

Often thought of as concept more closely tied to the private sector, the public sector has both an historical and expanding role in promoting the value of ESG in its policies and decisions.

Ethically speaking, immigrants who have credible fears of persecution or torture should have a right to a bond hearing in front of an immigration judge and should not be indefinitely detained.

Soldier standing in front of a flag

Many military personnel and their family members are declining to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and this raises important ethical issues for our national security and the public health of communities.

    Government Ethics Fellowship

    Government Ethics Fellowship

    The Government Ethics Fellowship is open to current first years, sophomores, and juniors with a major or minor in Political Science.

    The application review and selection process is now in progress for the Ethics Center's newest fellowship opportunity. Fellows will work on projects at the intersection of policy and ethics with Professor John Pelissero, senior scholar and director of government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.  

    If selected, the fellowship requires approximately 4 to 5 hours a week working on the fellowship during the 2022-23 academic year.

    Applications are currently closed for new submissions and the selected fellow(s) will be announced in June.

    Code of Ethics Guidelines

    Writing a code of ethics? View samples curated from professional associations and state and local governments.

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    Government Ethics Resources

    Navigate here to Read Articles

    Browse our commentaries on civic virtue, campaign ethics, lobbying, and current events.


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    Navigate here to Review Cases

    Dive deep into real-life conflicts of interest, whistleblowing, gifts and bribes, and cronyism.


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    Navigate here to View Videos

    Hear what our staff and fellows are saying about voting, public trust, transparency, and more.


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    Voting for Ethics: A Guide for U.S. Voters

    “Voting for Ethics” is a non-partisan, how-to guide for U.S. voters. It will help you identify the hallmarks of an ethical candidate and make a more informed decision -- whether for your local school board or a national election.

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    Campaign Ethics: A Field Guide

    This guidebook is designed to help those managing or engaging in political campaigns do so in an ethical manner. It also serves as a valuable resource to voters, helping them identify the hallmarks of an ethical campaign.

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    Recent Media Mentions

    Pickleball laying on a blue court

    John Pelissero, senior scholar, quoted by The Orange County Register.

    John Pelissero, senior scholar, quoted by CAL Matters.

    BART VTA Offices in San Jose, California.

    John Pelissero, senior scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, quoted by The Mercury News.

    Susan Walsh/Associated Press

    John Pelissero, senior scholar, quoted by The Daily Record and Southern Maryland Online.