The Attorney General's Lawyer: Inside the Meese Justice Department

By Douglas W. Kmiec | Go to book overview

9
Ethics, Give Us More Ethics

There are few things more important than integrity in public office. This is especially true for those who exercise law enforcement authority. Nothing shakes a citizen's faith in government faster than a corrupt police officer or vengeful prosecutor. Despite some very one-sided press reporting, the Reagan administration held the importance of ethical conduct in high regard. The first White House memorandum I received as a presidential nominee dealt with ethics. The memorandum stated:

A conflict of interest may exist whenever a government official has a personal interest (financial or otherwise) in a matter which is related to his or her official duties... or the activities of the official's department or agency.... [F]or purposes of conflicts of interest, not only must you consider interests held in your own name but also those of your spouse, minor children and other members of your immediate household. [W]hen considering whether an interest creates a conflict it is just as important to avoid even the appearance of a conflict as an actual conflict;... 1

The memorandum went on to highlight specific provisions of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. As might be expected, these criminal provisions forbid bribery or making any decision, even of a general policy nature, that might affect private investments. The prohibitions also greatly limit the continued receipt of financial benefits from a previous employer. Other regulations require highly detailed financial disclosures. Finally, there are postemployment restrictions, which preclude contact for designated periods of time ranging from one year to life with one's prior agency after leaving government service.

All of these provisions are important. Many of them were enacted or

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