Ethics and Accountability


Democracies require openness and honesty in government. This means government policymaking and institutions function in public view. In addition, elected officials and government employees must operate without conflicts of interest. They should disclose, mitigate, and, if necessary, recuse themselves when their public duties may create a conflict of interest. Blind trusts are one way to address financial conflicts. Government officials use blind trusts to allow an independent third party to manage their assets without their knowledge or consent. This can help ethically balance private interests with public duties. 



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. They should be held with adequate prior notification, except in extraordinary circumstances. 

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

All state legislative and regulatory agencies should periodically review disclosure requirements. They should 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. They should also have significant representation from the communities and individuals affected by the agencies’ decisions. 


Governments should create and enforce strong ethical standards for government officials. These standards should promote honesty, integrity, and transparency. They should protect against conflicts of interest. Government officials should use tools such as independent blind trusts to avoid such conflicts. They should also provide public financial disclosures to help evaluate whether conflicts exist. If they do, government officials should withdraw from decision-making. 

Adequately funded independent, nonpartisan commissions should monitor implementation and violations of ethics laws. 

Political appointees

Nominees and appointees should be qualified for their chosen roles. They should be committed to the enforcement of the laws they administer or interpret.