What has become of us?

By Arlene Violet, Esq.
Posted 6/27/23

June was pockmarked by events which suggest to me that ethics as a guiding force is in full decline. Locally, we had the pathetic saga of two administrators of Gov. Dan McKee engaging in unchecked …

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What has become of us?


June was pockmarked by events which suggest to me that ethics as a guiding force is in full decline. Locally, we had the pathetic saga of two administrators of Gov. Dan McKee engaging in unchecked behavior which, besides being boorish, violated ethics rules as one of them, at least, sought gifts while “negotiating” a potential contract.

Not to be outdone, the governor himself may have tripped over the same gift giving rules with the same contract-seekers, but what was really the eye-opener was his meeting at the Capitol Grille with them and their lobbyist. This company already has a state contract and was looking for another one for $55 million. Two campaign contributions totaling $1,000 passed hands at the event.

Whatever happened to avoiding the appearance of impropriety? Meeting with contract seekers and taking a campaign contribution at the meeting should be verboten.

On the national level, President Joe Biden laid out the red carpet for Prime Minister Modi, of India. Modi was denied a visa in 2002 because of his human rights violations. Certainly, the relationship with India is important, particularly as a hedge to the growing influence of China in the region, but President Biden did not have to lionize this leader as a sterling democratic leader.

The United States Supreme Court continues its plunge into an ethical morass with the revelation that Justice Samuel Alito took gifts including a $100,000 jet ride from a right-wing businessman who had 10 cases before the court. Judge Alito did not disclosed the gifts and voted in all of the cases. He joined Judge Clarence Thomas, who also egregiously takes fancy freebies without disclosure of compunction and votes on cases before it which involve the gift-giver’s ideological bent.

Late Justice Antonin Scalia took at least 258 subsidized trips when he was on the court. His more liberal colleague, Stephen Breyer, took at least 225 subsidized trips, including the use of exclusive property on the island of Nantucket compliments of private equity billionaire David Rubenstein.

Justice Neil Gosush had tried to unload a 40-acre property he co-owned in Colorado, and nine days after he was confirmed by the Supreme Court, the property was purchased by the CEO of a law firm that had numerous cases before the Court. He did not recuse himself. Even the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg took a trip to Israel compliments of billionaire Morris Kahn, and she voted on a decision favorable to him.

It hardly took a crystal ball to predict that in McDonnell vs. the United State, the court watered down bribery prosecutions. Fie on all of them for eroding the respect for the highest court in the land.

Even sports has been pockmarked by greed. The PGA has now rolled out the red, blood stained carpet because of the green (backs) offered by Saudi Arabia. Money trumps ethics again as the PGA embraces a country whose human rights record, including abuse of workers, being a prominent player in 9/11, and murdering journalist Jamal Khashogg, is deplorable. “Sportswashing” seems headed to other future sports events while Americans don’t bat an eyelash.

Even the Justice department is correctly under scrutiny in light of the Hunter Biden charges of misdemeanors while two whistleblowers gave sworn testimony of interference in the investigation.

U.S. citizens seem to give a collective yawn to these diminishments of conduct unbecoming. Sad.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

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