Ethics Mr. Weiner? My What a Tangled Web We Weave when we Tweet our wiener and then Deceive!

June 7, 2011

There are times when actions taken defy explanations!  This is the case with “the talented Mr. Weiner” – oops…that should read “the lying Mr. Weiner!”  First you tweet a picture of your wiener (covered up of course) and then you try to cover it up?  What?  This is beyond a Comedy Central South Park script.  Only in real life can  you find something this bizarre!

From the movie Porkys (with minor modification): “I can identify that wiener,” yet early on Mr. Weiner was challenged with clearly recognizing who’s wiener was in the tweeted picture.

Sensational?  Yes!  Worthy of this blog – well only in a few ways.

It is not my intention to tear someone down when they have been foolish in their choices.  As an ethics speaker, my opening line is – “Every Choice Has A Consequence!”  That is true and like Representative Weiner, I, too, have had to face the consequences of my choices.  Perhaps they were not a embarrassing as his, but the consequences were every bit as great.

Now called upon to resign, embattled and embarrassed Anthony Weiner is just now beginning to experience the consequences of his Tweet!  “The chairman of the Republican Party said Tuesday that Rep. Anthony Weiner should resign after admitting to sexually charged online relationships with several women and lying about his misdeeds.”  Beyond calls for his resignation, in a Washington Post article the following was stated:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has written to the chairman and ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee formally requesting an investigation into whether Rep. Anthony Weiner broke House rules, after the New York Democrat admitted that he had repeatedly liedto cover up his inappropriate communications with several women online.

“On June 6, 2011, Representative Anthony Weiner disclosed conduct which he described as inappropriate,” Pelosi wrote in the letter, which she sent Tuesday to Ethics Committee Chairman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (Calif.). “An investigation by the Ethics Committee to determine whether the Rules of the House of Representatives have been violated is warranted.”

CHOICES AND ETHICS:

The issue for me isn’t what the consequence should be.  I am not the judge nor jury…that is for others to decide.  Rather, for me the entire conversation centers around choices and consequences!  To put this into perspective, I was talking today with a client for whom I’ll be speaking soon.  Folks with the Florida Association of Counties have asked me to come and speak at their annual meeting on ETHICS.  They, like many around the nation, have seen the devastating impact that unethical choices have on elected officials, government employees and all connected with them including their families.  In fact, this article was sent to me today that outlines the serious impact of our ethical or UNETHICAL choices.

Over a ten year period over 800 public officials were convicted on charges and that number does not reflect the much larger number of folks that did not face prosecution due to challenges with cases or circumstances where the violation could be resolved without public prosecution.

But in a time when things move more quickly than ever before, the actions we take today may very well make the headlines tomorrow.  The Washington Post describes Weiners actions as follow: ”

Here is what we’ve been dealing with: We’ve been dealing with four sad, grainy photos of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) in various states of undress, looking pathetic in the pathetic way exclusive to men who are trying their best to look sexy. He sat shirtless at his desk. He sat shirted on his couch. In one particularly artful photo, he sat next to a picture of a dog in a sweater and held up a piece of paper with an arrow pointing to his own face. It said, “Me.” He apparently sent these photos to a single mom named Meagan Broussard, who responded with her own grainy pouts. He also texted with several other women.

He was guilty, but of what?

Here is what we are dealing with: We are dealing with the gray space where fidelity meets Facebook and with the boundary between our “real” lives and our online lives, which is constantly being pushed, and never where you expect it.”

Weiner contends that his actions were private and personal.  He used his own computer and it had nothing to do with his role as a United States Representative.  All that may be true, but it doesn’t change the action(s) he took and the judgment surrounding them.  The problem is two fold: (1) the choices we make do have direct and profound consequences (I know as I’ve experienced them in federal prison) and (2) in this day and age, the speed at which we make our choices and receive our consequences makes taking the time to think about them much more profound.

Again, best stated in the Washington Post article:

But 20 years ago, Weiner would have had to load his Nikon with film before pointing it at his crotch. He would have had to take this film to the Fotomat, wait 24 hours before picking it up, find an envelope, lick a stamp. In every preceding era, there were built-in checkpoints, moments in which one could ask oneself, “Is this a good idea? Does she want to see my dog in a sweater? Am I a congressman? Should that influence my decision?”

There was, in fact, a literal red flag: the one you flicked up on the mailbox to signal to your postal carrier that your correspondence was ready for the world.

WHERE FROM HERE?

Well, for Representative Anthony Weiner – I don’t know, but I suspect that he’s soon be out of office.  This is far to public and too political for it to die a quiet and quick death.

From my end, as I prepare to speak at the Florida Association of Counties meeting, I am confident that many in the room will identify with choices and consequences and perhaps, when faced with someone who has been there and done that, perhaps they will think (that’s the operative word – THINK) before they go off half cocked and do something stupid like tweeting one’s wiener!

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!