While we are told that the ridiculously partisan impeachment debacle currently playing out in our nation’s capital is a search for the truth about the president’s conduct on a phone call, and as we watch the campaigns for the Presidency play out before us, what is most revealing is the rampant hypocrisy that is on display by “leaders” of both parties. Politicians certainly have no qualms about holding others to standards they themselves ignore.
Hunter Biden’s appointment to the board of the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, and President Trump’s appointment of family members to his inner circle of decision makers in our government are two glaring examples of this hypocrisy. As any public sector leader will attest, both are clear violations of the ethical behaviors that us local peons are expected to exhibit. How ironic is it that the most powerful among us, the ones who actually establish the rules by which the rest of us must play, don’t obey their own rules?
Is it any wonder why politicians are held in such low regard?
If you believe that Hunter Biden wasn’t handed his very lucrative position on the Burisma board solely because his father was vice president of the United States, I have a very good parcel of land to sell you…in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Are we really supposed to believe that of the more than one million attorneys in this country that it was just a coincidence that the vice president’s son happened to be the one selected to serve on the board of a corrupt company in a country under the vice president’s purview? Really?
Similarly, early in his presidency, as Donald Trump was assigning official duties within his administration to members of his family, I couldn’t help but ask, “Just how the heck does that work?” I posed that question as a former school superintendent who was held to a far different standard by public sector ethics laws, which specifically forbid such behavior.
To keep us local yokels in line, public school CEOs (AKA superintendents), CFOs (AKA treasurers), and board members, along with many other people who serve in leadership positions in the public sector, and, yes, even politicians, are required to annually submit a financial disclosure document to the Ohio Ethics Commission (OEC). In that document, we have to divulge personal information such as sources of income and gifts, any debtors and/or creditors we have, who we invest with, and who we do our banking with.
Along with this intrusive and insulting requirement, the OEC has posted on its website a document called the “Ohio Ethics Law Overview,” which explains what public employees are and are not allowed to do.
Chapter five, for example, titled “Conflicts of Interest Restrictions—Soliciting or Accepting Anything of Value,” states, “The conflict of interest law also prohibits a public official or employee from soliciting or accepting anything of value that could have a ‘substantial and improper influence’ on the official or employee.”
In other words, it is unacceptable for a school superintendent to accept a gift from the CEO of a company interested in doing business with his or her school. But of course, it’s just fine for politicians’ campaign organizations to solicit and accept millions of dollars on their favorite politician’s behalf, which we all know sways political decisions and from which the candidates most certainly benefit.
The second sentence of Chapter 10, which is titled “Nepotism,” states, “A public official or employee is prohibited from hiring a family member or from using his or her position in any way to secure employment of a family member.”
In other words, as a school superintendent, I would have violated the ethics law if I would have even suggested that my wife be hired as a school clinic aide even though she was immensely qualified, having spent her entire working life in the medical field.
Now, compare that to the son of the vice president of the United States being appointed to the board of a company situated in a country under the vice president’s purview, from which he, the son, reaped great financial benefits, or for the president to appoint family members to important positions within the federal government.
Can someone please explain the difference between these scenarios?
Let me help you. There is none.
Just as despicable is the partisan outrage expressed from members of both parties aimed at, you guessed it, only the member of the opposing party who is engaged in the unethical behavior. Their own side is obviously as pure as the driven snow.
Do these people have no shame?
Meanwhile, our national press remains predictably selective with its interest in such actions. Any time the Republicans charge corruption about the Biden/Burisma relationship, for example, the press assures us that it is “a debunked conspiracy theory.”
What isn’t a “debunked conspiracy theory” is that both former Vice President Biden and President Trump, who are vying for the most powerful office in the world, and many of their peers who sit in judgment of them, regularly engage in conduct for which any one of the rest of us are held accountable.
So how about if we acknowledge this hypocrisy, drop the partisan outrage, and demand the same ethical behavior from our “leaders” that they demand from us?
Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.