Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Today's New York Times highlights the difficulty of squaring ethical principles with the political culture of money/speech. Everywhere President Obama turns for expertise (Treasury, Defense, Health) his appointments run counter to his rhetorical policy about lobbyists and the ethical contours of public service. President Obama has lost one major player, Tom Daschle, and a smaller one, Nancy Killefer because of their failure to pay taxes. Part of President Obama's difficulty will be the perception of opportunism as his ethical policy norms interact with the specific case. Regarding taxes, the rule of thumb seems to be: a Treasury Secretary can avoid taxes but not a Health and Human Services Secretary nor a White House performance officer.