Modernizing Legislative Ethics: Costa Rica’s Turn?

The conduct of parliamentarians has not escaped the anticorruption community’s attention.  Ethics codes and parliamentary immunities are everywhere being examined to ensure legislators adhere to the highest standards of conduct and can be held to account if they do not. In Costa Rica, for example, reform-minded parliamentarians recently launched an effort to determine whether their legislative ethics code and immunity rules, unchanged for several decades, need revision.

As a first step, the parliament’s in-house research center prepared a fine summary and analysis of legislative codes of conduct and member immunities in selected European and Western Hemisphere nations. To follow up, I met with reformers to discuss what issues to weigh when amending ethics codes or revising parliamentary immunities. The English PowerPoint Slides for my presentation are here, the Spanish version here. Points emphasized during the discussion: Continue reading

Donald Trump: Ethics Champion?

Seeing the President-elect as a champion of ethics would be one way to interpret the comedic events of the past 36 hours in the upside-down world of what was once termed the capital of the free world.  The comedy opened Monday evening, January 2, with Republican members of the incoming House of Representatives voting (in secret and without prior notice) to curb the Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent body which hears allegations of ethical transgressions by House members and staff.  The vote met with immediate and sustained outrage by citizens, media commentators, and government reform groups.  Criticism was also voiced from a source many found unlikely.  In a pair of messages (here and here) Tuesday morning President-elect Trump tweeted that:

“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS”

Within hours of the Trump tweets, the comedy ended.  Chastened, on-the-defensive, with even their allies questioning their political competence, House Republicans reversed course and left the congressional ethics office’s powers intact.      Continue reading