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11.2.08

Ethics enforcement change criticism part of larger agenda

As the Louisiana Legislature dives into the ethics special session summoned by Gov. Bobby Jindal, a clever if not disingenuous sort of opposition has emerged against him piggybacked onto that very issue of ethics. It represents the opening salvo of anti-Jindal opponents attempting to diminish his political power.

Very overtly has been the issue of a campaign finance report oversight by Jindal’s campaign. Jindal’s adversaries in both the media and Democrat Party jumped on that in a rush to try to tarnish Jindal’s reputation on ethics. Mind you, the campaign received no assistance illegally, it just failed to report an expense on its behalf and corrected it but tardily, bending over backwards not to contest it and to pay the fine as quickly as possible. (And ironically, the Democrat who made the biggest fuss about it, Chairman Chris Whittington, a month later looks to be out of a job since he lost election to the party’s state central committee last weekend.)

More covertly has been criticism about one special session item call which would revamp the procedures involved in judging and enforcing ethics violations. This item would separate the investigatory and enforcement aspects, with the state’s Ethics Board essentially pressing charges, and then impartial administrative law judges hearing the case and deciding a sentence if guilt is established.

This is a fairer system, used already in 10 states. Not only would it put the eventual decision in the hands of individuals hired for their expertise through the merit-based civil service who cannot be pressured politically in their decision-making, but it takes it out of the hands of inexpert political appointees who act as investigator, judge, and jury. In short, it is an improvement over the current arrangement.

For example, a hearing may be conducted by somebody in a state civil service job who is appointed by merit and in all likelihood will possess a law degree (something in short supply on the current Ethics Board). Going up the administrative line (according to the relevant bill, HB 41 vesting the judges in the Department of State Civil Service’s Division of Administrative Law), this person’s boss would be a gubernatorial appointee (with Senate confirmation) of a fixed six-year term independent of the governor’s who cannot be fired by the governor. Part of the director’s job is to assign judges to cases. Overall, it is a system that promotes expertise and leaves little room for politics.

Yet in almost Orwellian fashion, some have gone on the record asserting the reform actually will make matters worse, regardless of the fact that it works elsewhere, that it increases expertise, and decreases politicization of the process. Amazingly – indicating either ignorance of the alternative or revealing their true motives are simply to oppose Jindal whenever and wherever on whatever – some of these critics have long lambasted the current Ethics Board yet when an obvious improvement in the ethics administration process comes about they somehow argue it is a step backwards. What’s it going to be, either political consideration plays too much of a role already, or it doesn’t and this change will?

As surrealistically, current chairman of the Ethics Board Hank Perret has joined in his criticism saying the DAL director, thus by extension the governor, can influence the process – as if the current board isn’t composed of political appointees such as himself who have much more influence over the current process with much less insulation from politics and personal agendas. Fear of loss of power and prestige, rather than a genuine desire to improve the process, seems a better explanation for his opinion.

As noted previously, much of the conflict that will occur during the ethics session outside issues of monetary and power enrichment by legislators will concern how the session’s outcomes will impact the power Jindal can use to fulfill an agenda which he promised would radically change the state’s philosophy regarding the size and priorities of government. Many opponents of that think that a little cut here trying to paint Jindal as insincere on ethics reform combined with other little cuts elsewhere will bring his overall overhaul efforts to a bloody halt. It is just the first of many tests Jindal can expect to receive.

7 comments:

Daniel Z. said...

"Jindal’s adversaries in both the media and Democrat Party jumped on that in a rush to try to tarnish Jindal’s reputation on ethics."

Um, if the actions of Jindal and his campaign cause his reputation on ethics to be tarnished, that is Jindal's fault. Don't shoot the messenger. Jindal, however, was already weak on ethics. His recent actions just help to prove what everyone said about him.

"[Separating the investagory and enforcement aspects in the enforcement of ethics violations] is a fairer system, used already in 10 states. "

If only 10 states have adopted it, that means 40 states have yet to adopt it. Which states are those, and where to they rank on the ranking of ethical states? How long has it been since they have adopted those standards? And what has the effect been? Those are questions that have to be asked before we can actually determine if the system is better.

"Not only would it put the eventual decision in the hands of individuals hired for their expertise through the merit-based civil service who cannot be pressured politically in their decision-making"

But Jeff, these people who become appointed will have their right to free speech infringed if they are civil service.... How can you support that?

"Yet in almost Orwellian fashion, some have gone on the record asserting the reform actually will make matters worse"

Just because one believes that Jindal's changes are not improvement, does not make one Orwellian. In fact, "propaganda, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past" are absolutely tactics used by Jindal. Unfortunately, Jindal apologists tend to not see this while casting labels on others who are part of the "corrupt crowd".

"Many opponents of that think that a little cut here trying to paint Jindal as insincere on ethics reform combined with other little cuts elsewhere will bring his overall overhaul efforts to a bloody halt. "

I know you find this hard to believe. However, there are those of us who actually WANT meaningful ethics reform who have been opposed to Jindal because we already believed he was insincere on the issue of ethics. When we point out the flaws in Jindal's ethical plans, it is not that we want ethical reform to fail. It is that we want meaningful ethical reform to pass and do not want the people to get fooled by the idea that successful passage of ethics legislation by Jindal automatically means that such legislation was meaningful.

Jeff Sadow said...

>Um, if the actions of Jindal and his campaign cause his reputation on ethics to be tarnished, that is Jindal's fault. Don't shoot the messenger. Jindal, however, was already weak on ethics. His recent actions just help to prove what everyone said about him.

How does a clerical error by his campaign make him weak on ethics when he has walked the walk in every other way? Only a heavily prejudiced anti-Jindal attitude would make one think otherwise.

>If only 10 states have adopted it, that means 40 states have yet to adopt it. Which states are those, and where to they rank on the ranking of ethical states? How long has it been since they have adopted those standards? And what has the effect been? Those are questions that have to be asked before we can actually determine if the system is better.

Good, but we can rely on theory too, as the rest of the posting did to show why it is a superior system. And, as I subsequently discovered, actually 25 states use such a system.

>But Jeff, these people who become appointed will have their right to free speech infringed if they are civil service.... How can you support that?

See my previous comments on another post.

>Just because one believes that Jindal's changes are not improvement, does not make one Orwellian. In fact, "propaganda, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past" are absolutely tactics used by Jindal. Unfortunately, Jindal apologists tend to not see this while casting labels on others who are part of the "corrupt crowd".

You just made my point. None of what you accuse the Jindal Administration of objectively is occurring, it's just that it fits your agenda to say that it is. Just look at the breadth and content of the measures he has gotten into and supported for the special session. It's a flight of fantasy to say that is insincere and unsubstantial. It is entirely meaningful and repeating that it isn't does not change that fact.

You don't have to take just my word for it, why not a number of groups across the state, media editorialists, national watchdogs, etc.? Oh, are they being insincere, too, and I guess part of a grand conspiracy concocted by Jindal to fool everybody but the moonbats?

Daniel Z. said...

"How does a clerical error by his campaign make him weak on ethics when he has walked the walk in every other way?"

Thats the thing, he HAS NOT walked the walk in every other way.

"Only a heavily prejudiced anti-Jindal attitude would make one think otherwise."

Could you take a moment to realize that the reason one could have such a heavily prejudiced anti-Jindal attitude is that they SAW Jindal as being weak on ethics and that hypocricy caused them to be that way? I didn't just wake up one morning and say "Bobby Jindal is a horrible person". I did my reasearch and at the end of the day, looking at his record, I determined that he is not the man people believe he is.

"Good, but we can rely on theory too, as the rest of the posting did to show why it is a superior system. And, as I subsequently discovered, actually 25 states use such a system."

And are they better off for it?

"You just made my point. None of what you accuse the Jindal Administration of objectively is occurring, it's just that it fits your agenda to say that it is."

My agenda is a better Louisiana. Jindal has absolutely used ""propaganda, misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past"" and I have chronicled that over at jindalisbad.com during the governors race and continue to do it at my personal blog. The proof, with all the documentation to back the claims up, is all there.

Just because you say those things don't happen, doesn't make you correct.

"You don't have to take just my word for it, why not a number of groups across the state, media editorialists, national watchdogs, etc.? Oh, are they being insincere, too, and I guess part of a grand conspiracy concocted by Jindal to fool everybody but the moonbats?"

The media and editorialists are realizing the mistake they made when they endorsed him for Governor. Or did you miss all the articles in the papers that are pointing out his double standards. Even conservative 99.5 FM in New Orleans (the fox news station) made it a point to not just report on Teepell's tickets, but they also showed why Jindal and his administration was hypocritical about it.

I would also suggest you go read the Clancy Dubos comment on double standards as well.

http://blogofneworleans.com/blog/2008/02/16/gold-standard-double-standard/

The the owner of the paper that endorsed Bobby Jindal in 2003, 2006, and 2007 is now saying things like "What’s becoming obvious is that Governor Jindal, who promised us a “gold standard,” actually wants to give us a “double standard” — one for himself and his cronies, and another for everybody else.". The only thing wrong about that statement is that it was obvious well before the election.

A former Republican member of the Louisiana Legislature TOLD ME I WAS RIGHT AND HE WAS WRONG on his radio show. February 11th and go to about 7 minutes and 45 seconds to hear it.

http://995fm.com/cc-common/podcast/single_podcast.html?podcast=foresterpatton.xml

So your idea that the media is all behind him is plainly false.

Jeff Sadow said...

>So your idea that the media is all behind him is plainly false.

I never intended to imply all the media are (The BR Advocate certainly never has been.) But it seems most are, and these are media who in the main do not like Jindal's overall agenda. Probably if Jindal had not given such primacy to ethics (and structural spending reform) a number of them would not have endorsed him because even though there was so little concerning the other candidates to commend them, they still needed something to get them over the idea they'd be endorsing somebody whose ideology they loathe. This explains why some have (over)reacted strongly to anything that could be construed as imperfection, such as with the enforcement questiona nd the ridiculous flap over concert tickets (quesiton to the media: if this is such a big deal, why did the media never complain when every governof from Edwards on did it with the Superdome, and from Foster on with the N.O. Arena?).

>Thats the thing, he HAS NOT walked the walk in every other way.

Pretty much every other way. That's why I say the only way you can conclude otherwise is to cherry pick a few things that look like they could be exceptions and then claim it represents the whole. That's the tactic Jindal's enemies will use: Jindal and his administration must be perfect in every way or else he's corrupt. I prefer to look at then whole and judge any specific act by the overall pattern of behavior. And that pattern, in word and deed, has been pretty good.

>jindalisbad.com

Ah, now I see. I ran across that I think a month before the election. Just being honest here, but I didn't find much compelling about it. In terms of the arguments there, they apparently were not that compelling to a lot of voters, either.

>And, as I subsequently discovered, actually 25 states use such a system."

>And are they better off for it?

I haven't checked on that nor have I really wanted to (if I had the time), but on that I'm working from my public administration background. It's something we cover (briefly), administrative law judges with arguments for and against, and I approve of it on theoretical bases: you simply are more likely to get more competent and more impartial judgments than by nonprofessionals who are direct political appointees.

Daniel Z. said...

"(quesiton to the media: if this is such a big deal, why did the media never complain when every governof from Edwards on did it with the Superdome, and from Foster on with the N.O. Arena?)."

Because when you lift yourself on a higher pedestal than others, you make a louder thud when you fall. So if EWE did something crooked, after admitting to being a crook, you are not surprised. However, when Bobby Jindal provides free tickets to his staff after saying that his staff should set the example on ethics and that nobody in government should be getting free tickets, he looks like a hypocrite.

Does that make it more wrong when Jindal did it than when EWE did it? No. It just becomes more surprising to those in the media who believed that Jindal was spotless and not a hypocrite.

'That's the tactic Jindal's enemies will use: Jindal and his administration must be perfect in every way or else he's corrupt. "

Actually, Jindal himself set himself up, claiming to be mr ethics. So when he shows a double standard, the tarnish on him becomes much more apparent.

" I prefer to look at then whole and judge any specific act by the overall pattern of behavior. And that pattern, in word and deed, has been pretty good."

I have tried to see it, and I cant.

"Ah, now I see. I ran across that I think a month before the election. Just being honest here, but I didn't find much compelling about it. In terms of the arguments there, they apparently were not that compelling to a lot of voters, either."

I don't think a lot of voters saw the site.... the site has a lot of posts with a lot of links to provide evidence to the claims made.

">And are they better off for it?

I haven't checked on that nor have I really wanted to (if I had the time), but on that I'm working from my public administration background. It's something we cover (briefly), administrative law judges with arguments for and against, and I approve of it on theoretical bases: you simply are more likely to get more competent and more impartial judgments than by nonprofessionals who are direct political appointees."

Well I can't make a decision on whether I support a change based on theory (especially if other states have put the theory into practice already)

But on the issue of the assets of state government, don't you think that they should only be used to conduct the business of government?

I mean, just because Timmy Teeppel has access to a government car, does that mean he should be able to use it to drive his family to the coast for a vacation? Or should he be restricted to using the car for conducting state business only?

The same goes to the suites in the dome and arena, they should be used for state business only and not for personal pleasure.

Jeff Sadow said...

I've never bought the logic that previous bad behavior "innoculates" one from criticism, and therefore the criticism can be made or made louder when somebody without a record of that behavior has some actions then framed in a way to make them appear as bad. Let's face it, giving away spare tickets to officials that otherwise wouldn't have been used is a far cry from selling licenses for hospital beds, etc.

But a better poolicy would be, if there are spare tickets, to raffle them away with proceeds given to a laudable, public (not some of the ones some legislators run) charities.

Jennifer D. said...

Jeff - Your article makes reference to 10 other states that already have the "fairer system" in place. I would be grateful if you could tell me which 10 states and where you were able to find the information. I've found many sites comparing various State's Ethics Commissions, but none of them contained that specific information. Many Thanks!