Sarah Palin – Ethics Violation? I Violated Nothing!

October 11, 2008

Nothing more contentious than a hot presidential election, especially when everyone is looking for dirt – for that one fatal choice that could cost the election.  On Friday, it was reported that Palin violated Alaska ethics law when she tried to get her former brother-in-law fired.

Sarah claims – NO VIOLATION!

According to a report on CNN:

“If you read the report, you will see that there was nothing unlawful,” Palin said as she emerged from her hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

According to the report Palin violated state ethics law by trying to get her former brother-in-law fired from the state police, a state investigator’s report for the bipartisan Legislative Council concluded Friday.

“Gov. Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda,” the report states.

The investigator’s report states Palin’s efforts to get Wooten fired broke a state ethics law that bars public officials from pursuing personal interest through official action.

Of course Palin’s attorneys have stated in a CNN report:

Any abuse of power, they said, was on the part of the Legislative Council members, not the Palins.

“Sen. French and Sen. Green may have abused their government power by using public money to pursue a personal vendetta against the governor…”

“Put bluntly, Branchflower completely misapplied the Ethics Act and has instead sought to create a headline to smear the governor,” the lawyers wrote.

McCain spokeswoman Stapleton said the Legislature exceeded its mandate in finding an ethics violation. “Lacking evidence to support the original Monegan allegation, the Legislative Council seriously overreached.”

Ethics Violation or not?  In Presidential politics the issue of truth may not be important.  Rather, illusion and the ability to sway popular opinion seem to be more important than the truth.

Do you think Palin violated ethics law in Alaska or do you think that this is mostly a political ploy?  Your comments are welcome.


A State Ethics Law Violation – Report Says Palin Abused Power!

October 10, 2008

There is nothing easy about politics – not state politics and certainly not presidential politics. Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was cited in a state investigators report today for abuse of power and a violation of state ethics law. Palin is accused of trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the state police.

Now, this investigation was already on track before John McCain made his surprise announcement that Sarah Palin was his choice as running mate. Palin certainly brings spice to the election as McCain (clearly a powerful and smart man) lacks in the spice department. But what McCain does not need at the crucial time in the election is to have any part of his campaign (which appears to be dying) fail.

“Gov. Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda,” the report states.

Now, let’s face it…Alaska is a small state when it comes to politics and perhaps without national media attention Palin could get by with attempting to exert undue pressure to influence who is hired or fired as the case may be. But, Sarah, this is the big league and every move you make will, no doubt, be under heavy scrutiny.

According to a CNN report:

Palin and her husband, Todd, have consistently denied wrongdoing, describing Wooten as a “rogue trooper” who had threatened their family — allegations Branchflower discounted.

“I conclude that such claims of fear were not bona fide and were offered to provide cover for the Palins’ real motivation: to get Trooper Wooten fired for personal family reasons,” Branchflower wrote.

The Branchflower report states Todd Palin used his wife’s office and its resources to press for Wooten’s removal, and the governor “failed to act” to stop it. But because Todd Palin is not a state employee, the report makes no finding regarding his conduct.

The bipartisan Legislative Council, which commissioned the investigation after Monegan was fired, unanimously adopted the 263-page public report after a marathon executive session Friday. About 1,000 more pages of documents compiled during the inquiry will remain confidential, the council’s chairman, state Sen. Kim Elton, said.

Here’s the question – did, in fact, Sarah Palin violate state ethics law. While she may have been vindicated of the allegation of an improper filing, that does not mean that she walks away scott free. Of course, the McCain camp says that this is a democratic ploy in a hotly contested election. Others, however, might say that the report is accurate – ethics laws were violated.

The full report can be found here.

With all that is taking place in America right now, one thing we do not need is a newly elected official being tarnished when entering office. As an ethics speaker, I am reminded daily of how easy it is to make the wrong choice in the heat of the moment – only to find that the consequences are far worse than you could every have imagined.

What do you think – Ethics Violation – or not? Your Comments are welcome!


What do US Representative Richard Renzi, Real Estate Investor James Sandlin, and Andrew Beardall Have in Common? A 35 Count Indictment for Fraud, Extortion and Money Laundering!

February 23, 2008

On Friday, February 22, 2008, a federal grand jury in Arizona returned a 35-count indictment yesterday against Richard G. Renzi, 49, of Flagstaff, Ariz., the U.S. Representative from Arizona’s first congressional district; James W. Sandlin, 56, of Sherman, Texas, a real estate investor and Renzi’s business associate; and Andrew Beardall, 36, of Rockville, Md., Renzi’s business associate.

renzi.jpg

The news release from the US Attorneys office states the following:

The indictment charges Renzi and Sandlin in 27 counts with honest services wire fraud, extortion and money laundering, and conspiracies to engage in these acts, based on Renzi’s active involvement in the sale of Sandlin’s property in Cochise County, Ariz. to a participant in a federal land exchange proposal. The indictment alleges that Renzi and Sandlin previously owned land together in Kingman, Ariz. and that in 2003, Sandlin bought out Renzi’s interest for $200,000 and a note for $800,000. The indictment further alleges that in 2005, at a time when Sandlin still owed Renzi $700,000 in principal on the note, Renzi insisted that two separate entities doing business in Arizona purchase Sandlin’s property in exchange for his support on land exchange legislation.

The indictment also alleges that Renzi failed to disclose to either entity Sandlin’s $700,000 debt to him; that after the second entity purchased Sandlin’s property, Renzi failed to disclose to that group the $733,000 he received from Sandlin at the commencement and close of escrow in the spring and fall of 2005; and that Renzi failed to disclose to Congress his earnings from Sandlin in his 2005 Financial Disclosure Statement. Finally, the indictment traces the manner in which Renzi and Sandlin used the alleged proceeds of the above unlawful activities for their own personal and business use.

The remaining counts of the indictment charge Renzi and Beardall with violations of federal insurance laws, by embezzling over $400,000 in insurance premiums from the trust account of the Patriot Insurance Agency, Inc., a business owned by the Renzi family in Santa Cruz County, Ariz., to fund his first Congressional campaign in 2001 and 2002, and by subsequently making false statements to influence state regulatory investigations.

As would be expected, Renzi’s attorneys, Reid Weingarten and Kelly Kramer, denied that their client had done anything wrong and vowed to fight, on behalf of their client, the charges.

“Among the allegations contained in the indictment, Congressman Renzi misused his public office by forcing a land sale that would financially benefit himself and a business associate, and in so doing, he betrayed the trust of the citizens of Arizona,” stated U.S. Attorney Diane J. Humetewa.

Did this come as a surprise to those named? Not a chance.

There has been an active question as to Renzi’s ethics ever since the FBI raided a family business last year. Questioned, the FBI said it was investigating whether Representative Renzi used his office for personal gain. Renzi stepped down from the House Intelligence Committee after the raid and has publically stated that he will not seek re-election. The 48-year-old Renzi, once a rising Republican in the nation’s capital, now faces calls for resignation and a possible prison term and fines if he is convicted.

Every choice has a consequence! As an ethics and white collar crime speaker, I share that simple five word statement with groups nationwide. So often you find people – from all walks of life – make choices that, to them, seem right at the time – only to find out that the consequences of their actions are far worse than they ever imagined. Under the circumstances, there are members of congress both democrat and republican who are asking if Renzi should step down as they question his ability to effectively represent his constituents.

A John McCain tie? Yes. According to the Arizona Republic:

Sen. John McCain, on the presidential campaign trail, said he feels for Renzi’s wife and 12 children, adding, “I don’t know any of the facts in the case. . . . I also have faith in the justice system.” Renzi is listed among two dozen co-chairs of McCain’s Arizona campaign. McCain said Renzi may have to step down because he will be tied up with the case.

Personal guess – Renzi will step down from the McCain election committee, not because he’ll be tied up with the case, but because he is now a liability and no presidential candidate needs that!

Outcome? Well, that’s uncertain at this time, but continue to read…as there will be more to come.

Business Ethics Speaker, Chuck Gallagher, welcomes your comments!


Clinton, Obama, McCain, Romney – Are There Ethics in Presidential Campaigns?

January 8, 2008

With New Hampshire behind them and other states primaries staring them squarely in the face – I wonder if the population feels that the front runners in this presidential campaign are ethical?

As I began to ponder that question, a larger more important question loomed. What is the definition of ethics or ethical behavior?

The copyrighted world wide definition of ETHICS involves two parts:

  • Doing specific things to make yourself and the world better, and
  • Avoiding doing other things so that you don’t needlessly hurt yourself, or others with bad personal judgement.

While I am sure that those who have clearly found the candidate they wish to support in this 2008 presidential election will have a strong opinion, the question is – do the front running candidates (thus far) have the ethics or ethical foundation to stay the course and make American’s proud?

All the candidates (as far as I can tell) would meet the first qualification for ethics – doing specific things to make yourself and your world better.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won New Hampshire’s Democratic primary Tuesday night, pulling out a stunning victory over Sen. Barack Obama in a contest that she had been forecast to lose.

“I come tonight with a very full heart and I want especially to thank New Hampshire,” she told a jubliant crowd at her campaign headquarters in Manchester. “Over the last week I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice.

Clinton has stated that she is an agent for change. She clearly wishes to get the message out that she desires to do something good for America.

Barack Obama speech excerpt: “We are choosing hope over fear. We’re choosing unity over division, and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.

The time has come for a President who will be honest about the choices and the challenges we face; who will listen to you and learn from you even when we disagree; who won’t just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to know.”

Obama, likewise, has a vision and passion for where he sees America headed. Clearly the first definition of Ethics – meet.

Senator John McCain speech excerpt: “We live in momentous times. We face a global threat from enemies for whom no attack is too cruel. The world is changing in profound ways. We need to make those changes work for us and for all people who share our beliefs in free markets and free people. Our government has failed to meet some of its most basic responsibilities and the American people have lost trust i n their leaders. This election is about big things, not small ones. We can’t muddle through the next four years, bickering among ourselves, and leave to others the work that is ours to do.”

McCain – ethical – yep – as far as the first definition goes as you can see from his remarks above.

Mitt Romney comments in a speech: “My campaign is about changing Washington to strengthen America: I want to build a stronger military, a stronger economy, and stronger families. I call these the three legs of the Republican stool. These three unite the coalition of conservatives that Ronald Reagan championed – defense conservatives, economic conservatives, and social conservatives.

“We won’t win the White House with only two out of three or one out of three. Republicans win the White House by motivating all three parts of our coalition to carry us to victory. We’re not going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton.”

Well…by my account much less vision here with Romney than with the others, but it might be in appropriate to judge based on a quote from a speech.

The real issue with ethics won’t necessarily be found in the first part of the definition, that’s the easy part for most. Rather, it will be found in the second part. “Avoiding doing other things so that you don’t needlessly hurt yourself, or others with bad personal judgment.”

When the heat of the campaign arises – the real test will be who sticks to the VISION for the future of America or who gravels in the mud to sling the most dirt.

Chuck Gallagher - The Ethics Expert

Speaking of Ethics a little advertisement:

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