The announcement by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom that he will not open an office in the San Francisco state building but will instead take space at the private, invitation-only Founders Den for entrepreneurs raised eyebrows over possible conflicts of interest and lack of accessibility.
Newsom was invited to set up his office at the Founders Den by managing partner Zachary Bogue, who contributed the maximum amount allowed under law to Newsom's primary and general election campaign for lieutenant governor.
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Ethics Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler said:
"I think that it raises a red flag and poses some important questions about fairness and how campaign relationships may have an impact on officeholder actions," said Judy Nadler, former mayor of Santa Clara and senior fellow of government ethics at Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.
"Being in the environment where the lieutenant governor is there and being part of an incubator that has basically been blessed by the lieutenant governor gives all persons who are involved a real advantage over people who weren't invited to become part of this," she added.
Private dinner meetings between the CEO of Duke Energy and the chairman of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission raise questions about whether the relationship regulated and regulators is too close. As reported in the Indianapolis Star:
"This certainly gives the appearance of (Duke having) an inside track," said Judy Nadler, a senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California, and a former mayor of Santa Clara, who frequently dealt with regulators on energy issues concerning the city-owned electric utility, Silicon Valley Power. "It's a fairness issue that everyone have equal access."
A Pierce County, Wash., official worked for two months as both a county councilman and executive director of the Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District while the county was considering an extension of the park district. In an article for the News Tribune, Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler commented, "It certainly appears he was trying to serve two masters.
Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler returns from the Aspen-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership Program, where she co-moderated two seminars, "Political Leadership and the Principles of Western Democracy" and "The Ethics and Responsibilities of Political Leadership."
The program "seeks to enhance our democracy by identifying and bringing together the nation's most promising young political leaders to explore, through study and conversation, the underlying values and principles of western democracy, the relationship between individuals and their community, and the responsibilities of public leadership. The AspenRodel Fellowship program is open by invitation only to men and women who are in publicly elected office and who are ideally between the ages of 25 and 50.
The Fellowship is a 24-month program consisting of three weekend-long seminars, generally held in Aspen, and weeklong foreign trips in Asia and the Middle East.
William D. Budinger, an Aspen Institute trustee and president of the Rodel Foundation, is the program's chief source of inspiration. "The United States is founded on two bedrock ideas -- freedom and democracy. It's important to make sure our political leaders understand the degree to which America's unique character rests on those two principles."
The Aspen Institute Rodel Fellowship program seeks to develop thoughtful, committed leaders who will produce a more bipartisan approach to America's most important domestic issues...to transcend the usual partisan political divide.
Did the virtriolic quality of American political discourse contribute to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and several bystanders?
Interviewed by USA Today, Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson responded:
"Americans are trying to cope with diminished expectations. We will not be the richest and most successful country in the next 25 years," he said. The shootings reinforce "a soul-searching that many in Washington and around the country have been engaged in. The questions about violent rhetoric were already being asked even before the first shots were fired on Saturday."
A basic overview of the most common ethical issues for government officials becomes the vehicle for a discussion of building public trust in this talk by Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler. Nadler, who was formerly the mayor of Santa Clara, Calif., calls on public officials to act at their best.
Reporter Karen de Sa talks about how legislation is really made in Sacramento. In 2008, the last year for which statistics are available, 60 percent of the bills that became law were sponsored by outside organizations.
In de Sa's investigative report for the San Jose Mercury News, she writes,
"While advocacy groups, trade associations government agencies also sponsor legislation, more than 500 of the sponsored bills introduced in the 2007-08 session came from private industries and industry trade groups, often seeking to increase market share, repel regulations or limit lawsuits."
Almost 40 percent of the bills introduced into the California legislature in 2007-08 (the most recent session for which statistics are available) were sponosred by outside interests, according to a study in the San Jose Mercury News. These bills made up 60 percent of the bills that actually became law in our state.
One of the reporters for the Mercury series, Karen de Sa, will visit the Ethics Center Friday to talk about the influence of lobbyists in writing state legislation. Here is how de Sa introduced her series:
"Imagine: At a time when California is lurching from crisis to crisis, a legislator has an idea to make life better. He puts together a bill, gathers support and shepherds it into law.
If only Sacramento worked like that. Instead, it often works like this:
A lobbyist has an idea to make life better — but only for his client. The lobbyist writes the bill, shops for a willing lawmaker to introduce it and lines up the support. The legislator? He has to do little more than show up and vote.
This is the path of the 'sponsored bill,' a method of lawmaking little noticed outside California's capital but long favored on the inside. In many states lobbyists influence legislators; in California, they have — quite baldly — taken center stage in lawmaking."
De Sa will be in conversation with Ethics Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler. The event is part of the Center's Public Sector Roundtable and the University's Grand Reunion.
On the November ballot, Californians will be asked to decide whether to suspend the provisions of the Global Warming Act of 2006. Proponents of the proposition claim that the 2006 act will cost the state jobs and that the act's requirements should be suspended until unemployment drops to 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters.
SCU Professor of Economics Bill Sundstrom visited the Center's Emerging Issues Group today to discuss the likely economic impacts of the original legislation and the effort to rescind it. (podcast)
Sundstrom teaches courses in microeconomics, economic history, labor economics, history of economic thought, and environmental economics. His research interests include the history of labor markets.