From Watergate to Whitewater: The Public Integrity War

By Robert N. Roberts; Marion T. Doss Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Strategic Ethics Initiatives:
1960-1973

The 1960 presidential race pitted Richard Nixon, the stalwart Republican warrior, against John Kennedy, the charismatic Democrat war hero from Massachusetts. The Kennedy strategy, as exemplified by the famous missile gap ploy, aimed at creating an "ethics gap" during the 1960 campaign. Speaking at Wittenberg University in Ohio, on October 17, 1960, Kennedy declared that "no officer or employee of the Executive Branch shall use his official position for financial profit or personal gain, or reveal to others for their advantage confidential information acquired through his position."1 Kennedy urged Congress to enact "a simple, comprehensive code on conflict of interest," a code that eliminated in existing laws and regulations "duplications, inadvertencies and gaps."2

Even though the ethics issue did not have a major impact on the 1960 presidential election, the Kennedy White House followed through with its pledge to put in place a new executive branch ethics management system.3 The restructuring of the federal ethics management program ushered in a new era in public ethics regulation. Instincts for political survival, not ideology, motivated the Kennedy White House to pursue its ethics reform initiatives.


THE MANAGEMENT OF PROPRIETY

Shortly after taking office, President Kennedy appointed an advisory panel on ethics in government to report back to him on updating the present ethics management program.4 The panel, interestingly enough, did not

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