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Violation of Public Policy Case: Corruption

Violation of Public Policy Case: Corruption

People have always paid much attention to the political life of their country and the work of the elected officials who represent the interests of the audience and protect the democracy. The current work discusses two outstanding cases of the violations performed by the most powerful politicians in New York State. Mr. Sheldon Silver and Mr. Dean Skelos were involved in corruption schemes and obtained thousands of dollars by using their political influence, hence violating value systems of the American public policy. Furthermore, the essay covers the topic of existing laws and regulations which concern private and public life of common people and governmental representatives. The description of the violations of public policy creates the background for the understanding of the reasons for trust and discredit to the existing political system.

Violations of Mr. Sheldon Silver and Mr. Dean Skelos

Introduction of Accused

First, the current work provides a short discussion of cases of Mr. Silver and Mr. Skelos. Both of them were prominent politicians in New York State and were arrested for corruption at the end of 2015. Mr. Silver was one of the most powerful politicians in New Your State and the Speaker of the State Assembly (Weiser & Craig, 2015). In 2015, he was convicted and found guilty of “honest-services fraud, extortion and money laundering” (Orden, 2015a). In November 2015, Mr. Silver was removed from the position of the Speaker (Weiser & Craig, 2015). Mr. Skelos is the former U.S. politician who represented District 9 in the State Senate. Moreover, Mr. Skelos was the Majority Leader of the Senate of New York State. He was “found guilty of federal corruption charges” in December 2015 (Rashbaum & Craig, 2015).

Violation of Laws by Mr. Sheldon Silver

Mr. Silver was the powerful political leader who used his official position for self-interest. The politician “had performed a bit of lawyering on behalf of a client” (Craig, 2015). He helped legislative employees to settle their private property disputes (Craig, 2015). He used two parallel schemes to cash in on his political position and overseeing the Assembly Democratic campaign (Craig, 2015). The first scheme concerned lobbying interests of real estate developers. These companies employed the real estate law firm Goldberg & Iryami that specialized in challenging property-tax assessments (Craig, 2015). Goldberg, one of the directors of this firm, closely cooperated with Mr. Silver. The company obtained referrals of developers and immunity and the politician was paid some “cut of all fees that the firm earned,” which amounted to USD 700,000 (Craig, 2015). The second scheme was connected with the funding of a personal injury law firm (Craig, 2015). Mr. Silver directed USD 500,000 in state grants to oncologist Dr. Taub, who sent his patients to Weitz & Luxenberg law firm. This company earned about 60% of its revenue from the litigations connected with asbestos (Craig, 2015). The politician earned USD 3.9 million for the referrals and USD 1.4 million as the salary of the lawyer, notwithstanding the fact that he had never worked in the law firm mentioned above (Craig, 2015).

Mr. Silver represents the striking example of the politician who used his official position and influence for converting public money into personal riches through lobbying interests of certain companies and personalities engaged in real estate, oncology, and legal services. This particular case shows that the existing gaps in the American political, legislating, and financial systems provide the opportunity for moneyed real estate companies to spend millions of dollars on influencing legislation in the United States. Mr. Silver was not the only participant in illegal actions. This prominent politician was the organizer and the facilitator in illegal schemes. The Speaker of the State Assembly used his power granted by Americans to perform actions directed at personal enrichment instead of the good of society.

Violation of Laws by Mr. Skelos

This work also provides the discussion of violation performed by another prominent American politician, Mr. Skelos. He was convicted and arrested on conspiracy, extortion, and bribe solicitation on May 4, 2015 (Rashbaum & Craig, 2015). With the help of his son, Adam Skelos, the politician used the position of the majority leader for pressing the companies which were under his control. A Manhattan developer engaged in providing environmental technologies and medical malpractice insurance was obliged to pay USD 300,000 for consulting work of Skelos’ son (Rashbaum & Craig, 2015). Glenwood Management, the real estate developer in New York, was also forced to make a payment to Adam Skelos in the amount of USD 20,000 through the special environmental technology company Ad-Tech Industries (Rashbaum & Craig, 2015).

The politician used his political power and influence for getting the job for his son and unfair enriching of his family. According to Rashbaum and Craig (2015), “Senator Skelos got these payments for his son through his official powers, his official powers to make or break the companies that paid his son.” This particular case shows that the American most notable and powerful politician uses his influence not for aining common good but for obtaining personal benefits from his positions. Moreover, Mr. Skelos forced the companies to perform illegal actions and to break the law.

The Similarities of the Cases

Both cases have some similar features. Mr. Silver and Mr. Skelos were prominent politicians who served for more than three decades in the New York State Legislature. Moreover, they were the two most powerful political figures in the state. These cases show that at the current moment, American lawmakers “can wield their considerable power to extort benefits for themselves or others” (Orden, 2015b). The existing political dysfunction reflected in the lack of strong enforcement of requirements to slack financial disclosure gave these people an opportunity to mask the illegal payments for lobbying their interests or interests of other personalities or companies as outside income. Orden and Vilensky (2015) noted that these cases “have to be seen as an indictment of how the Legislature has been doing business” instead of promotion of honor and ethics in the American society.

Honor and Ethics in Public Policy

Public policy is related to the set of principles used for the operation of various legal systems and institutions in different parts of the country. This policy represents the combination of social, economic, and moral values which are necessary for tying the society together and for the maintenance of order. The established laws and principles regulate the behavior of officials and common people to reinforce the existing social expectations and “reflect the collective morality of the society” (Oshisanya, 2015). Any legal system contains such crucial values as impartiality, neutrality, equality, growths, and certainty. Among other critical and, at the same time, ethical values of public policies, there is the necessity of building the systems which are necessary for the functioning of good society. Moreover, there is a need to build governmental systems which will assure the realization of the public interests and the common good, presupposing the greater good for the greater number of people, instead of the limited amount of officials (USA.gov, n.d.).

American public policy is based on laws, courses of actions, regulatory measures, and funding priorities. They are realized by the U.S. government through its representatives unexceptionally. The majority of laws and acts and links between them can be found in the Almanac of Policy Issues. Additional attention should be paid to the fact that all the laws mentioned in the Almanac and developed by the U.S. government have the aim of promoting honor and ethics. In other words, their goal is to provide the understanding what the person, especially the official representative, “ought to do or ought not to do” (USA.gov, n.d.). They are necessary for the creation of the clear difference between just and unjust actions, right and wrong decisions. Ethical inquiry and honor are “equally relevant to the public realm, including the decisions of those who act on behalf of the public” (Stone, 2014).

Ethics and honors concern governmental actions and inactions (Orden, 2015a). They are the most crucial part of the American public policy. At the normative level, governmental representatives should be governed by the legislation in force. All the stages of the policy-making cycle should be based on ethics and honor. Among such stages, one can outline tasks of the definition of the issue, identification and assessment of the problem and possible solutions, decision-making, the implementation of the decisions, their evaluation, and termination.

Sometimes, governmental officials face ethical dilemmas which could be solved only by the strict observance of the established laws and regulations. Their decisions should be based on whether they are consistent with the above-mentioned ethical values and principles. Such approach grants the strengthening of the moral case of the actions of governmental representatives.

The cases described in the current work show that the prominent representatives of the legislature acted contrary to the established public policy and critical values of the American legal system. In particular, they violated such principles as impartiality, equality, and neutrality. They breached laws and used their power and trust of taxpayers for enriching themselves and their families. Both politicians put themselves above the law because they assumed that their political position can give them an ability to go beyond the legislating system of the United States.

The government of the United States developed a great variety of laws related to public policy. They comprise all actions taken by the American federal government. The policies mentioned in the Almanac of Policy Issues can be organized into the following categories: economic affairs, education, environment, criminal justice, society and culture, government operations, social welfare, health, national security, and foreign affairs.

Among the most notable laws in the public policy is the Ethics in Government Act passed in 1978 (United States Office of Government Ethics, n.d.). This law created mandatory and public disclosure of the documents of public officials concerning their employment history (United States Office of Government Ethics, n.d.). Additional attention should be paid to the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act passed in 2012. This law aims at combating information trading. The transparency of the work and bribery of foreign officials who work on the territory of the United States are addressed by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (1977) (United States Office of Government Ethics, 2015).

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning the New York laws which concern the public policy. They include Public Officers Law §73 (restriction on the work of former and current state employees), Public Officers Law §74 (code of ethics), Public Officers Law §73-a (financial disclosure), and Civil Service Law §107 (prohibition of some political activities) (New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, n.d.).

The current work focuses on the prosecution of the corruption among the representatives of the legislature. It should be noted that different states may have various laws and penalties for violation of state ethics and public corruption laws. The above-described cases took place in New York State.

Lobbying rules and regulations in the New York State are represented by Legislative Law Article 1-A (Lobbying Act) and Guidelines to the Lobbying Act (New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, n.d.). Rules and regulations related to the public policy are represented by 19 NYCRR Parts 930-938, 19 NYCRR Part 940, 19 NYCRR Part 941, and Meeting Guidelines (New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, n.d.). They govern such aspects of work of governmental officials as activity expense payments, outside activities, gifts, exemptions from filing a financial disclosure, funding disclosure, access to publicly-available records, and appeals process, among others (New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, n.d.).

As it is mentioned on the official site of the National Conference of State Legislatures (2015), statutes concerning the corruption include PC §200.12, PC §200.11, PC §200.27, PC §200.10, PC §200.45, PC §200.50, PC §195.20, PC §200.25, PC §195.00, and PC §200.35. Laws concerning the violation of the ethics code by officials in New York State are EC § 77, EC §75, EC §76, and EC §73-A (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2015).

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Laws that Apply to Professional Life and Personal Life

There is the great variety of laws which apply to professional and public life of Americans. Labor Law regulates the amount of working and free time, issuance of wages and their extent, employment of minors, public work, measures for prevention of accidents at working places, insurance, job retention, and many other aspects (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2015). Additional emphasis should be put on the fact that the New York Labor Law also creates special limitations for any working discrimination on the basis of the personal lifestyle. According to Stone (2014), “the statute prohibits an employer from firing an employee for recreational or political activities outside of work, for legal use of consumable products outside of work, or for membership in a union.”

The private life of people is regulated by health-related laws, which include American with Disabilities Act, Health Care Proxy Law, Public Health Law (Stone, 2014), Freedom of Information Act (USA.gov, n.d.), Same-Sex Marriage Laws (USA.gov, n.d.), Criminal Procedure Laws, Vehicle and Traffic Laws, New York Education Law, Child Support and Family Law (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2015) and others.

The Background of Trust to Elected Officials and Public Employers

The elected officials and public employers are entrusted by the taxpayers to follow the laws because they act as the representatives and defenders of the interests and rights of the society. They are elected for the presentation of public ideas and development of projects directed at the promotion of common good, which presupposes good for the majority of people. The audience believes that these people would protect their lives and the established order. They also expect that the elected officials and public employers would work and spend the money of taxpayers on the improvement of the existing system of affairs. The politicians are those who are “responsible for upholding the quality of democracy” (Stone, 2014). They are also “supposed to be on the people’s payroll” instead of enriching personal wealth and lobbying interests of moneyed companies (Craig, 2015).

Conclusion

It should be noted that the existing political systems are full of gaps which enable politicians entrusted by the taxpayers to use their power and influence for personal enrichment. Violations of Mr. Silver and Mr. Skelos serve a perfect example of the drawbacks of the political systems. These people were not just involved in illegal actions but also established the schemes of laundering money and forced companies to pay them. These politicians show that the elected officials can break the laws and put themselves over the value systems, which leads to the distrust of taxpayers who entrusted and enforced politicians to protect and promote the interests of the society.

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