Whatever else one might say about corruption and the Trump Administration, it has been a godsend for those who teach ethics and integrity courses. Recent, real-world examples can spice up otherwise dry, abstract presentations while helping drive home key points, and Trump officials’ habit of skating at the edge of permissible conduct never fails to provide headline grabbing fodder for classroom discussion. The most recent debt of gratitude ethics instructors owe the Trump Administration arises from the Environmental Protection Agency chief’s choice of a D.C. landlord. In one fell swoop agency head Scott Pruitt’s actions illustrate the finer points of not one but two key ethical norms, the receipt of gifts and the duty to appear impartial.
The story begins with Pruitt’s decision after appointment as chief regulator of American environmental protection laws to not move to Washington, D.C. but instead to rent a place just for the nights spent in the nation’s capital. He found the spare bedroom in a two-bedroom apartment located in a tony part of town whose owners agreed to rent the extra bedroom for $50 for each night Pruitt spent in Washington.
Real estate agents told the New York Times that Pruitt got quite a bargain: $50 a night was less than one would expect to pay on the open market. Pruitt’s ethical travails begin here. Continue reading