Anticorruption Bibliography–April 2018 Update

An updated version of my anticorruption bibliography is available from my faculty webpage. A direct link to the pdf of the full bibliography is here, and a list of the new sources added in this update is here. As always, I welcome suggestions for other sources that are not yet included, including any papers GAB readers have written.

Tracking Corruption and Conflicts of Interest in the Trump Administration–April 2018 Update

Last May, we launched our project to track credible allegations that President Trump, as well as his family members and close associates, are seeking to use the presidency to advance their personal financial interests.Just as President Trump’s son Eric will be providing President Trump with “quarterly” updates on the Trump Organization’s business affairs, we will do our best to provide readers with regular updates on credible allegations of presidential profiteering (despite the fact that Eric Trump seems to think this is a violation of his family’s First Amendment rights). Our April 2018 update is now available here.

There are not too many new items in this month’s update, though there have been some additional stories on Jared Kushner’s potential conflicts of interest, most notably concerns raised about his White House meetings last year with representatives of financial institutions that subsequently provided substantial loans to Kushner family companies. There was also another example of mostly trivial but blatantly improper use of the presidency as a marketing tool, with Trump Organization golf courses ordering tee markers with the presidential seal, in clear violation of a law forbidding such private, non-official uses of the seal. (The tracker doesn’t include a discussion of allegations that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt received a below-market-rate apartment from an industry lobbyist, as this seemed sufficiently removed from issues related to the personal enrichment of Trump’s family and inner circle, but Rick has a good discussion of the ethics issues raised by the Pruitt situation in yesterday’s post.)

As always, we note that while we try to include only those allegations that appear credible, we acknowledge that many of the allegations that we discuss are speculative and/or contested. We also do not attempt a full analysis of the laws and regulations that may or may not have been broken if the allegations are true. For an overview of some of the relevant federal laws and regulations that might apply to some of the alleged problematic conduct, see here.

Announcement: PAR Blog Symposium on “Corruption and Anti-Corruption in the 21st Century”

Here at GAB we’re always thrilled to see more useful discussion of corruption-related issues in the blogosphere. I’m therefore delighted to announce that the Public Administration Review is organizing a special “blog symposium” on “Corruption and Anti-Corruption in the 21st Century,” and is soliciting contributions from anticorruption experts. The symposium editors, Liz David-Barrett and Paul Heywood, provide the following overview of the symposium theme and the sorts of contributions they’re looking for:

It is a quarter of a century since the launch of the global anti-corruption NGO, Transparency International. In those 25 years, corruption has become a major focus of academic research, while seeking to curb corruption has become a core preoccupation of ever more international organisations, national governments, dedicated agencies and civil society groups, as well as an issue with which the private sector increasingly engages.

Yet many question what has really been achieved and bemoan our seeming inability to distill research and experience into effective lessons for action. Scholars and practitioners alike complain that they lack channels through which to share ideas and learning, and that all too often their respective agendas and insights fail to connect. And many international organisations, including the World Bank, IMF and OECD, are reassessing their approaches. This blog symposium seeks to develop an open and engaged dialogue to facilitate learning.

We invite scholars and practitioners to contribute posts on the topic of Corruption and Anti-Corruption in the 21st Century, which:

  • Showcase new approaches to understanding and tackling corruption.

  • Share learning about how change can be encouraged, achieved and sustained.

  • Exchange ideas on how to evaluate the impact of anti-corruption interventions.

Those interested in contributing should submit a proposal/abstract by midnight GMT on April 27th (two weeks from today); the proposal should not exceed 150 words, and should outline the main argument and examples to be discussed. The submission should also include a brief bio of the author(s), not to exceed 100 words. Please send your proposal by email to e.david-barrett@sussex.ac.uk and Paul.Heywood@nottingham.ac.uk, and mark the subject line “Blog Symposium Proposal.” The editors will invite 20 authors (or author teams) to contribute, and will notify the selected authors on May 11th. Invited authors should submit their completed blog posts (1200 words max) by June 1st, and shortly thereafter the blog posts will then be published in an online symposium hosted by the Public Administration Review.

Here at GAB, we look forward to reading (and perhaps responding to) what we’re sure will be a set of insightful and provocative contributions in this symposium.

Anticorruption Bibliography–March 2018 Update

An updated version of my anticorruption bibliography is available from my faculty webpage. A direct link to the pdf of the full bibliography is here, and a list of the new sources added in this update is here. As always, I welcome suggestions for other sources that are not yet included, including any papers GAB readers have written.

Corruption in the Trump Administration: A Discussion on “The Scholars’ Circle”

As readers of this blog are well aware, we’ve had quite a bit of discussion here regarding concerns about corruption and conflicts of interest in the Trump Administration (including our regularly-updated page that tracks credible allegations of such corruption and conflicts). I recently had the opportunity to participate in a discussion of these issues on “The Scholars’ Circle,” a radio program hosted by Maria Armoudian (and to which I’ve had the opportunity to contribute once before). I was joined for the panel by Professor Richard Gordon, an expert in money laundering who directs the Case Western Financial Integrity Institute. A recording of the program can be found here. Some highlights of the discussion:

  • We started with an overview of the various kinds of allegations of corruption and conflicts of interest in the Trump Administration—basically, an oral summary of some of the highlights of our Trump Corruption Tracker (from about 1:30 to about 7:55 on the recording of the broadcast).
  • Professor Gordon followed up on this by providing an overview of money laundering allegations against Trump associates and Trump businesses, principally before the election, which prompted some back-and-forth discussion of these issues (7:56-17:30).
  • We then proceeded to discuss what Ms. Armoudian called the “So What?” question: Why these issues are important, and what their larger adverse consequences might be (17:30-22:32).
  • This was followed by some consideration of why the allegations of corruption and associated misbehavior don’t appear to bother President Trump’s supporters, and what, if anything, might prompt them to care more about these issues (22:33-28:56).
  • Ms. Armoundian then posed the provocative question of whether the Trump administration might portend the a more general spread of the “culture of corruption” throughout American politics and society, along with the erosion of rule-of-law norms and values—making U.S. politics resemble more closely what we’ve seen in other countries, such as Kenya, Brazil, South Africa, Italy, etc. (29:54-42:23).
  • The discussion then turned to the broader question of the problems of American democracy and political institutions that allowed Trump to win both the nomination and the general election, and whether Trump an aberration or sign of things to come (42:24-49:14).
  • Ms. Armoudian concluded the conversation by asking about what, if anything can be done to preserve the traditional norms and values of American political institutions and to prevent a slide into a culture of corruption in the United States. This part of the conversation went well beyond corruption, and touched on the importance of making sure, more generally, that political institutions work, and are perceived as working, as well as trying to cultivate a health political culture (49:15-56:28).

I hope the discussion may be of interest to some of our readers out there.

Conference on Human Rights and Asset Recovery

The Open Society Foundations hosts a conference this Friday, March 16, at its Washington office on the human rights issues raised when stolen assets are returned.  During the morning session new strategies for addressing corruption before UN treaty bodies and the complementarity of international laws on human rights and criminal justice governing asset recovery will be discussed.  In the afternoon, speakers will examine the role of asset-holding states and international organizations in ensuring accountability in asset recovery and return and civil society’s role. Previously unpublicized information on the return of stolen assets to Kazakhstan will be reviewed for the lessons it offers.

Click here for more on the agenda and a list of speakers.  Those wishing to attend should RSVP to Joshua Russell.

Tracking Corruption and Conflicts of Interest in the Trump Administration–March 2018 Update

Last May, we launched our project to track credible allegations that President Trump, as well as his family members and close associates, are seeking to use the presidency to advance their personal financial interests.Just as President Trump’s son Eric will be providing President Trump with “quarterly” updates on the Trump Organization’s business affairs, we will do our best to provide readers with regular updates on credible allegations of presidential profiteering (despite the fact that Eric Trump seems to think this is a violation of his family’s First Amendment rights). Our March 2018 update is now available here.

The most notable new developments over the last month include:

  • New reports concerning the financial entanglements of Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and senior advisor, in particular an allegation that multiple foreign governments may have already attempted to use Kushner’s business interests as a form of leverage to influence U.S. policy.
  • The controversy surrounding Donald Trump Jr.’s visit to India, which he ostensibly took in a solely private capacity, but which critics pointed to as exactly the sort of blending of public and private rolls that is of such great concern in this administration.
  • Additional troubling financial conflict-of-interest reports involving senior administration officials outside of the Trump family circle, including former CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald, who resigned after it was revealed that she had purchased stock in tobacco and health care companies while director, and HUD Secretary Ben Carson, whose “listening tour” appears to have been organized in such a way as to benefit his son’s business interests.

As always, we note that while we try to include only those allegations that appear credible, we acknowledge that many of the allegations that we discuss are speculative and/or contested. We also do not attempt a full analysis of the laws and regulations that may or may not have been broken if the allegations are true. For an overview of some of the relevant federal laws and regulations that might apply to some of the alleged problematic conduct, see here.