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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Friendship and Government Contracts

Conflicts of interest in campaigns

You have a group of eight old college friends who spend an annual boating weekend at the home of one the group. The host and his wife are very generous and pay for everything associated with the weekend. This year, your host is additionally going to hold a fundraiser for your city council reelection campaign during the boating weekend. Six weeks before the event, you and the host are discussing the fundraiser invitation list, when your friend casually mentions that he plans to bid on a significant city contract for the first time. Telling yourself your friend didn’t mean anything by it, you pretend you didn’t hear and continue to plan the fundraiser and boating weekend.

Is this a problematic conflict of interest?

Hana Callaghan, director of Government Ethics for the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, wrote this case for her online course, How to Run an Ethical Political Campaign—and Win.

Jan 25, 2016
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