Ethics and Accountability


Democracies require openness and honesty in government. Today, government institutions mostly function in public view. Nonetheless, the potential for secrecy or lack of accountability persists. This must be addressed.


Openness, fairness, and inclusion

Legislative and regulatory meetings and procedures should promote public participation, be fair, and ensure accountability.

Meetings should be conducted at convenient times and places, and held with adequate prior notification, except in extraordinary circumstances.

When informal off-the-record communications (sometimes called “ex-parte” communications) are permitted, they should be equally available to all parties and properly disclosed.

Administrative and legislative policies and procedures should promote fairness, openness, and accountability in public decision-making.

All state legislative and regulatory agencies should periodically review disclosure requirements and update open-records laws to keep pace with technological developments.

Regulatory agencies with jurisdiction over critical areas such as health care, utilities, transportation, and financial services should include consumer members and significant representation from the communities and individuals affected by the agencies’ decisions.

Enforcing ethics and lobbying regulation

Governments should create and enforce ethics and lobbying regulations. Adequately funded independent, nonpartisan commissions should monitor implementation and violations.

Conflicts of interest

Ethics regulations should protect against conflicts of interest. Some examples are the use of independent blind trusts (in which the government official does not know or have any control over how the assets are managed) and the withdrawal of government officials from decision-making when conflicts exist.

Public officials should provide early financial disclosure as a first step in preventing conflicts of interest.

Political appointees

Nominees and appointees should be qualified for their role. They should be committed to the enforcement of the laws they administer or interpret. AARP may, on a case-by-case basis, review the nominations.