Democracies require openness and honesty in government. Today, government institutions largely function in public view. Nonetheless, the potential for secrecy or lack of accountability persists. Recent prosecutions of high-level elected officials in Virginia and New York illustrate the ongoing necessity of reviewing and strengthening existing ethical standards. Making it illegal to accept expensive gifts and closing loopholes that enable wealthy special interests to evade campaign contribution limits, as well as vigorously enforcing such standards, would help prevent corruption.
Ethics and Accountability: Policy
Openness and fairness
Legislative and regulatory meetings should be open to the public, conducted at convenient times and places, and held with adequate prior notification, except in extraordinary circumstances.
When ex parte communications are permitted, they should be equally available to all parties.
Administrative and legislative policies and procedures should promote fairness, openness, and accountability in public decisionmaking.
All state legislative and regulatory agencies should periodically review disclosure requirements and update open-records laws to keep pace with technological developments.
Inclusion of consumer and community interests
Regulatory agencies with jurisdiction over critical areas such as health care, utilities, transportation, and financial services should include consumer members and/or significant representation from the communities and individuals affected by the agencies’ decisions.
Enforcing ethics and lobbying regulation
Conflicts of interest
Public officials should provide early financial disclosure as a first step in preventing conflicts of interest.
Ethics regulations should require protections such as the creation of blind trusts and the withdrawal of government officials from decisionmaking or other activities that would create conflicts of interest.
Nominees and appointees such as agency heads, members of boards and commissions, and judges should be qualified individuals who are committed to the enforcement of the laws they administer or interpret. AARP may, on a case-by-case basis, review the nominations.