Magazine article State Legislatures

YES, NO, MAYBE SO ETHICS IN THE WORLD OF LEGISLATURES: When Should a Legislator Use a Blind Trust?

Magazine article State Legislatures

YES, NO, MAYBE SO ETHICS IN THE WORLD OF LEGISLATURES: When Should a Legislator Use a Blind Trust?

Article excerpt

Trust in government is near historic lows. Only 20 percent of Americans believe the federal government does what is right "just about always" or "most of the time," according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. That number is down from more than 50 percent following the 9111 terrorist attacks, but close to the level of public distrust during the recession of the early 1990s. State governments fare only slightly better, generally following the federal trend.

It doesn't take much for citizens to be concerned when it appears that personal interests drive lawmakers' decisions rather than the public good. Let's say, for example, a legislator persuades the state to contract with a business in which he or she owns stock, leading to an increase in the legislator's personal wealth. When the public learns of the connection, red nags go up. Citizens could reasonably assume that the lawmaker is placing the competition at a disadvantage and ripping off taxpayers.

Disclosure requirements and conflict of interest laws help protect against the perception of legislative self-dealing, but blind trusts provide a way for lawmakers to preserve personal financial interests while avoiding lengthy disclosures and the need for recusals.

A legislator can establish a blind trust by transferring control of his or her financial interests to an independent third party authorized to buy and sell assets without the legislator's knowledge. This gives the lawmaker the freedom to set about the work of legislating, "blind" to how decisions and actions taken would affect his or her personal wealth. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.