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Ethics in the News 2021

By Mark Quiner  |  December 14, 2021

Ethics in the News is a monthly summary of ethics- and lobbying-related articles published in 2021, compiled by NCSL’s Center for Ethics in Government.

Note: The links to these articles are provided for information purposes only. NCSL does not endorse any views these news stories provide. Links more than two weeks old may no longer be active. If you are interested in reading an article whose link is inactive, please contact the newspaper in which the story was published.

Ethics in the News is a monthly summary of ethics- and lobbying-related articles published in 2021, compiled by NCSL’s Center for Ethics in Government.

Note: The links to these articles are provided for information purposes only. NCSL does not endorse any views these news stories provide. Links more than two weeks old may no longer be active. If you are interested in reading an article whose link is inactive, please contact the newspaper in which the story was published


New York - New York's ethics watchdog agency on Tuesday ordered former Gov. Andrew Cuomo to repay to the state the proceeds he received from his $5 million book deal last year to write about his response to COVID-19 pandemic. View story.

Colorado - A Colorado panel responsible for investigating ethics complaints against government workers and elected officials is asking lawmakers for more money to help its only employee deal with a growing caseload. View story.


Alabama -  An Alabama judge accused of violating judicial rules with her criticism of the death penalty is going before a disciplinary court on ethics charges. A complaint before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary on Monday says Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tracie Todd wrongly became embroiled in the capital punishment debate. View story.

New York - New York’s ethics panel voted Tuesday to rescind approval of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $5.1 million book deal. View story.


General - According to reporting in the Wall Street Journal, more than 130 federal judges violated U.S. law and judicial ethics by presiding over court cases featuring companies in which they or their families owned stock. Judges are supposed to recuse themselves in these cases. The Wall Street Journal found that judges presiding over such cases, when contested, ruled about two-thirds of the time in favor of their or their families’ interests. View story.

This morning when I opened up my daily newspaper (yes, I still have one delivered!) the headline blared, “Two Fed Leaders to Step Down Following Trading Controversy.” I had been following the situation for a few weeks. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas had been trading stocks at the same time the Federal Reserve was setting monetary policy during the pandemic. View story.

Despite what the pundit/political class says, most Americans agree on a lot more than they disagree on. Partisanship is real, but doesn't define us. View story.

“Integrity” is the qualification of being honest, and having strong moral principles, moral uprightness. It is generally a personal choice, to hold oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards. View story. 

California - On Oct. 21, 2021, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) voted unanimously to adopt new disclosure requirements for charitable contributions made on behalf of politicians in a practice known as behested payments. The new rules will go into effect 30 days after they are filed with the California Secretary of State’s office. View story.

New York - New York’s much maligned state ethics watchdog, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), agreed last week to launch an investigation – of itself. The reason? The Commissioners want an independent review of the agency’s decision to bless former Governor Cuomo’s $5 million book deal. View story.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday moved to replace the chairman of the state's much-criticized ethics commission a month after appointing a top official at the panel who came under scrutiny for his ties to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo. View story.


General - The Law Experts Artificial Intelligence consider it urgent that the European Union must adopt a code of ethics to regulate articulated responsibilities for damage caused by these systems. View story.

New York -  Nearly three weeks after it last met, the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics will meet on Tuesday morning. This time, it may take action regarding the $5.1 million deal former Gov. Andrew Cuomo received to write a book last year regarding the COVID-19 crisis.


General - The proliferation of artificial intelligence and algorithmic decision-making has helped shape myriad aspects of our society: From facial recognition to deep fake technology to criminal justice and health care, their applications are seemingly endless. View story.

National - Cuomo not alone: several governors have stepped down due to sex scandals. In the past 20 years, most governors who have resigned got caught in sex scandals of one sort or another. View story.

Guam - One of the rituals many take as a part of assuming public office is the swearing in or oath ceremony. ... For Guam public officials, the oath of office is specified in federal law at 42 USC 1423d. View story.

Malaysia - Dewan Negara president Tan Sri Dr Rais Yatim has suggested that a code of ethics for elected representatives be introduced to members of Parliament and assemblymen to make them respected and exemplary leaders.


General - Judges shouldn’t hear cases involving their campaign donors. Though some lawmakers are addressing the issue, only a few states have ethics rules that require judges to avoid hearing such cases. View story.

Published in the wake of the recent apartment building collapse in Miami, Florida, the document asks if the tragedy would have ever occurred if engineering ethics were upheld at every link in the supply chain. It also points out that legislative responses are commonly introduced when ethical practices have eroded or failed. View story.

Illinois - The Illinois General Assembly recently passed a major omnibus ethics reform bill. Senate Bill 539 was sent to Governor Pritzker on June 30 and is currently awaiting approval. If approved, the bill would extend the state’s lobbyist registration requirements to the municipal, county, and township levels. View story.

New Mexico - New Mexico voters may be asked whether to have the State Ethics Commission review and set salaries for state legislators. View story.


Illinois - State lawmakers approved ethics reforms earlier this week amid erupting indictments, investigations and convictions of Illinois lawmakers including former Speaker of the Illinois House Mike Madigan and powerful lobbying interests such as Commonwealth Edison.  View story.

Michigan - Pew Research Center recently found that 67% of Americans believe that “most politicians are corrupt,” and 65% said the U.S. political system needs major reform.  View story.


Guam - The Guam Office of Public Accountability completed an audit on elected and appointed officials attending an ethics in government program training required by Public Law 28-76. View story.

Kentucky - As we continue to review legislation passed in the 2021 Regular Session, it is important to note that much of what became law helped to make state government more efficient. ... Charitable Gaming Relief/Executive Branch Ethics — HB 226 temporarily waives the charitable gaming requirement that net receipts for the previous calendar year are required to be at least 40% of adjusted gross receipts. Due to COVID, some facilities were unable to meet this requirement. HB 226 also makes members of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission subject to the Executive Branch Ethics Code. View story.


General - What inspires you? A person? A place? An idea? A belief? Inspiration is a deep-rooted passion that motivates us to do something. Should ethics — the act of deciding to do what is right — be a source of inspiration? I think we are reminded daily that it should be. View story.

Guam - Among the bills that made the third reading file during legislative session Friday is Bill 94-36, a measure that would expand ethics training for all government of Guam employees. The bill is sponsored by a majority of lawmakers. View story.

Michigan - Michigan’s lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are pushing to reform a wide range of ethics and transparency rules, deeming it a “top priority” in the next month.

New York - New York’s ethics oversight agency has a top staffer to lead its operations after having gone two years with the position unfilled. And for the first time, that key post at the Joint Commission on Public Ethics will not be filled by a former staffer of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. View story.


Federal — When it comes to oversight, transparency, and consistent ethics in government, you can never rest on your laurels. View story.

The Democratic-led House on Wednesday approved HR 1, a sweeping government, ethics and election bill. View story.

As Congress begins debate this week on sweeping voting and ethics legislation, Democrats and Republicans can agree on one thing: If signed into law, it would usher in the biggest overhaul of U.S. elections law in at least a generation. View story. 

House Democrats have moved sweeping pieces of legislation in recent days that will have significant impacts on the federal workforce, including by boosting paid leave and placing tighter restrictions on employees’ pre- and post-government work. View story.

Illinois - The independent Legislative Inspector General is asking Illinois lawmakers for a budget of nearly $1 million to investigate lawmakers. If investigation costs end up exceeding that, she said she would have to go back to lawmakers for more. 

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