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Real Ethics Reform Is Needed

At every level of government there are committees set up to review questionable practices.

An issue not going away is ethics reform that is needed in government. Following this election cycle, we heard from people as they evaluate the reality of many incumbents losing. We are finding more people willing to express their lack of trust in elected lawmakers.

There has always been a certain level of distrust for any who serve over long years in elective office. Trust is earned, and once a reason is found to distrust a person, that trust level is hard to build up again.  This is true in the business, education, and church world. It is hard to restore trust when a person or company has proven to be unethical in their treatment of others or by bending the rules in their favor, pushed the envelope their way instead of unbiased fairness.

At every level of government there are committees set up to review questionable practices. Generally speaking, these committees deal with inner office personnel issues on the local level. At the state level, there are government appointed and funded ethics commissions, as well as public policy forums tracking the daily activity of elected officials. Each level of government has rules by which the elected lawmakers are to adhere. It seems there is a Congressional oversight committee for every phase of government, even personal behavior.  There have been a few times over the long history of government when the behavior of elected officials has been so outrageous it required being corrected.

Few of us like being corrected, especially if is done publicly. However, the only way trust can be restored in lawmakers is for the citizens to know that those who are making decisions about the lawbreaker’s behavior are doing so in full view of the people and with the people’s best interest in mind. It is not the offender’s best interest that is to be protected when it is determined that rules are broken.

As long as I have been expressing my views in writing, there is not a subject generating as much interest as the issue of ethics and how we expect our lawmakers to behave. I have been requested to respond to the word that certain national freshmen lawmakers went skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee. Shameful is the word that comes to mind. I was asked to respond to the senseless word usage of a candidate in Missouri concerning “legitimate rape.” Mindless is the word that I use to describe such a statement. Others have insisted that I must have an opinion about the decision of the punishment for a long serving state senator from Gwinnett County who admitted to ethical violations. This issue is not settled and until it is, there will be lingering and continuing voices calling for real, genuine, and meaningful ethical reform at the state level.

From where I stand, trust will be restored when the citizens see serious reform policies on ethics and the policies will then be followed to the letter.

Follow Ray Newman on Twitter: @RayNewmanSr

Patrick T. Malone August 28, 2012 at 07:20 PM
You are right about trust being earned and difficult to restore once it is lost but I see the actual problem a little different. If my person got elected then I trust him/her but I don't trust your (and everyone else) person. If my person didn't get elected then I trust no one. As you have said many times before, nothing will change unless the voters are engaged and informed at election times and then stay engaged during the time in between elections. I go back to the old Reagan theory "trust but verify".
Ray Newman August 28, 2012 at 07:28 PM
You are so right, Patrick. We must stay on alert, and remain in contact with our elected leaders.
Tom Price's constituent August 29, 2012 at 11:12 AM
The reason we are a "nation of laws", is because of our corruptible nature. People need systems in place to keep honest people honest and to help catch the more easily corrupted. It is not about trusting individuals, it's about having systems in place that give citizens confidence that our elected officials our acting in our best interests. As it is now, lobbyists and their big-money corporate backers flood our legislature with campaign contributions and gifts. Also, our legislature places way too much authority in the hands of the House Speaker and other leaders. Lastly, our ethics laws are so weak that there is very little transparency and accountability. We need campaign finance reforms (it's absurd that utilities can make campaign contributions to Public Service Commission candidates). We need rules changes in the legislature so that power is less concentrated in a few key people. We need an independent ethics commission that has the resources and authority to properly carry out its functions.
Jack McClure August 29, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Ray, I love the article, and I see a real call for those with both documented ethics issues (Balfour) and questionable fundraising (PSC Commissioner Stan Wise) - most of his campaign cash came from Georiga Power, to the legislators who are mum on these issues. To that end, I wrote a post for the Buford Patch calling for my State Senator, Renee Unterman, to call for a meeting of the Committee on Assignments to have Balfour stripped of his chairmanship. Passing reform laws is one facet of cleaning house, but actually cleaning house is another. I'm just glad that I'm not the only articulating the changing landscape of the new status quo. Link: http://buford.patch.com/blog_posts/accountability-ethics-reform-decision I would love to have your opinion on it.
Ray Newman August 29, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I agree on the independent ethics commission. I have been an advocate for reform in ethics for many years and will continue to support the changes that are real and not just moving stuff around with no real change in the process.
Ray Newman August 29, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Jack, I read your article, and you hit the nail on the head. We are moving, I believe toward real reform because the people are tired of just moving stuff around and not getting to the heart of real reform on the issue of ethics, and ethical behavior.

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