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Capturing the lively discussions, presentations, and other events that make up the daily activities of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

The following postings have been filtered by tag government ethics. clear filter
  •  Discretionary Funds

    Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 1:48 PM

    The Arizona Republic recently ran a series of articles on discretionary funds, "pools of money, often taken from a city’s general fund, that [are] set aside for an individual council member to use at his or her discretion. It’s a common practice among city councils around the country."  These funds are not closely monitored, and they may go for items that individual members might want but the full council might not approve.

    The Republic analyzed expenditures from discretionary funds and raised the question, In tough economic times, when cities are cutting basic services, does it still make sense to allow this discretionary spending?  Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler responded, 

    We’ve reduced police forces. We’ve reduced the hours at the library.  So we cannot afford to waste one dime on expenses that are not legitimate and that do not advance the work elected officials are charged to do on behalf of the public.”

  •  Santa Clara County Board President Shirakawa Subject of a Critical Audit

    Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 3:13 PM

    The Santa Clara County Finance Agency has determined that Board President George Shirakawa Jr. has been imprudent in his use of public funds.  According to the San Jose Mercury News:

    Since taking office in 2009, Shirakawa used his county credit card for 174 meals at local restaurants, later reporting he had lost most of the required itemized receipts. He also billed taxpayers for out-of-state casinos, golf fees and rental car upgrades -- in some cases reimbursing the costs months later, only after being questioned. 

    Shirakawa also allowed his staff to use county monies to make donation to his favorite charitable causes.  In an interview with the Mercury News, Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson commented:

    It's clearly improper for public officials to use public monies for charitable causes....  The channeling of public monies by a single public official outside the appropriation process becomes a backdoor way of funding the charities that either are the favorite of a public official, or are useful to the public official in their election efforts.

  •  Government Ethics Resources

    Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 10:24 AM

     All of the Ethics Center's materials on government ethics have now been sorted into a new system of categories that makes it easier for visitors to our Web site to find articles, videos, and podcasts on these areas:

    General Topics in Government Ethics: Unavoidable ethical dilemmas, codes of ethics, and leadership

    Campaigns and Elections: Campaign finance, contribution irregularities, hit pieces, and attack ads

    Conflicts of Interest and Undue Influence: Lobbying, favoritism, financial and other interests

    Gifts and Bribes: Quid pro quo arrangements and political perks

    Transparency: Open meetings, sunshine laws, the Brown Act

    Professional Ethics for Public Officials: Civility, councilmanic interference, and the personal lives of public officials

    Budgeting as a Reflection of Values: Weighing public goods, pension reform, auditing, redevelopment

    Zoning: Marijuana dispensaries, religious institutions, big box retailers

    Government and Media: Relations with reporters, social media, leaking, whistleblowing

  •  Post-Election Recovery: Blessed Are the Peacemakers

    Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 11:51 AM

     In the wake of the recent contentious election, it's time for both sides to search for common ground.  So Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics, will argue at a program Dec. 13, 7:30 - 8:30 a.m., at the San Jose Airport Garden Hotel, sponsored by Catholic Professionals.  

    More Information

  •  Why Do Candidates Lie?

    Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 9:03 AM

    The public can have an impact on the truthfuness of political disourse, according to Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler.

    In an op-ed in today's San Francisco Chronicle, Nadler writes,

    Our civic responsibility extends beyond the election, and we need to start at the local level.

    Voters need to study the ballot, and consult with nonpartisan organizations like the League of Women Voters that research the issues, making recommendations without political bias. Over time, we can pick better local candidates, because term limits means council members often end up as senators and members of Congress.

    We can press them to back up their statements, explain how they can accomplish what they have promised, and speak of their own record rather than tearing down an opponent's.

  •  Transparency in Political Campaigns

    Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 3:14 PM

    Ann Ravel, chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, discussed the effect of the Supreme Court's Citizens United case on the 2012 elections, especially at the state and local level, at a recent presentation to the Ethics Center's Public Sector Roundtable. 

    Ravel stressed the importance of transparency in the process.  Disclosure, she argued, allows voters to understand where the money comes from so that they can assess the validity of campaign claims. "We have to have enough disclosure so people know what they need to know about the candidates," she said.

  •  Free Travel for Politicians

    Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 2:00 PM

    While the state of Washington allows government officials to accept free travel and events, the amount and nature of travel by the state's attorney general are raising eyebrows.  "Rob McKenna has accepted $184,000 worth of free travel and events since becoming attorney general in January 2005," according to the Seattle Times. Several trips were paid for by conservative political groups.

    Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler commented for the Times: "When you take an oath of office, you vow to put the public interest first....Political trips or trips paid for by a political party or to rub elbows to advance a political career are inappropriate," she said. "There's a fine line between being an officeholder and being a candidate. You are supposed to be doing the public's job."

  •  Lying in Political Campaigns

    Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 10:55 AM

    Twenty states have laws against making false campaign statements, but if Ohio is a typical example, the law is not stringently enforced.  "In the last decade, the commission has not referred a single case involving a false statement to a county prosecutor," according to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

    Interviewed for the article, Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler, talked about the effect of unchecked lying on the political process:  "The problem is that this leads to an eroding of people's confidence in government. People throw up their hands and say, 'I don't believe any of them,' and it decreases voter registration and turnout."


  •  Ethics in High Pressure Campaigns

    Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 12:27 PM

    In a panel discussion that focused on the presidential election after the first debate, Kirk O. Hanson, Center executive director, analyzed the ethical issues that arise in a high pressure campaign. He was joined by Terry Christensen, Professor Emeritus at San Jose State University, and Barbara Marshman, Editorial Pages Editor, San Jose Mercury News.  John Zipperer, Vice President of Media and Editorial, The Commonwealth Club, the program sponsor, was the moderator. 


  •  Freedom of Information Act Requests to the Obama Cabinet

    Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 4:00 PM

    An editorial in the Orange County Register explores the failure of President Obama's cabinet to respond to Freedom of Information requests from Bloomberg for information on the secretaries' travel.  Interviewed for the piece, Ethics Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler said,

    Transparency is the most important thing the government can engage in to enhance public trust.  One of the things the president mandated on coming into office was acting promptly on FOIA requests. This is of concern because it should not be difficult for people to see what's going on in government. The FOIA was put in place for people to know what's going on in terms of spending and policy.

    When officials fail to respond to FOI requests, Nadler continued,

    The default position for many people is that the officials must be hiding something. I don't know if that's true. But the lack of disclosure is troubling, whether it's a city council member or a Cabinet member. The public has a right to know.