Saturday, February 21, 2009

Developers, Lobbyists, and Legislative Ethics

Interesting stuff, ethics. Sometimes it's hard to tell what's in a name, and it appears that "ethics" can mean different things to different people. Sometimes the apparent lack of ethics in a given situation comes down to a differing world view. Take Sen. Buttars and his view on same-sex couples and their civil liberties. No matter where you fall on the topic, the side you view as "ethical" comes down to fundamental differences in what you define as right and wrong. Buttar's embarrassing antics aside, and acknowledging heated debate and belief on both sides, I believe fundamentally differing world views will always cause each of us to question our definition of ethics and who is right or wrong in any given situation.

Defining Ethics

HOWEVER, broader world view perspectives are not the focus of ethics reform at Capitol Hill. The ethics reform we are all calling for can and should be clearly defined and measured. But will it even come close? A couple of GOP ethics bills have made their way into the Senate, and here are the ethics bills currently being considered in the House Ethics Committee. What exactly is the definition of "ethics" up on the hill? For example, as a public servant, is it ethical to have to list all of the gifts you receive from lobbyists, or is it ethical to simply refuse an honest attempt to remain unbeholden to anyone except your constituents? I have my own opinion, and it has nothing to do with limiting or listing gifts.

Developers and Lobbyists Need To Go

I also wonder if its ethical for a legislature full of developers and former/future lobbyists to to police themselves. The Governor's "ethics commission" does not look like it's shaping up to actually become an independent body providing oversight on ethics at all. The developers and lobbyists will continue to run the state, remain loyal to their overall agendas, and get away with looking like they are truly interested in ethics by participating in this year's high-profile ethics reform. In addition to truly effective ethics legislation and a bona fide independent Ethics Commission, the current gaggle of developers and lobbyists parading as public servants need to be ousted in the next round of elections. They need to be replaced by individuals who are actually interested in, and capable of, actually serving the public in honest, ethical, and transparent ways.

Do your research, my friends. Understand not only the world view of your public servants, but also their definition of ethics and what loyalties they bring with them to the hill...