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New York State Bar Journal

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The question I would like to address in this article arises out of my recent work with the New York State Commission on Government Integrity. As you may recall, the Commission was appointed by Governor Cuomo in 1987 following a series of corruption scandals in our State involving officials at all levels of government. It was a nonpartisan group comprised of a former Secretary of State, a former judge of the State's highest court, a prominent civil libertarian, a former federal prosecutor, and other prominent citizens of this State.' The Commission had a very broad mandate. It was directed to investigate weaknesses in existing laws, regulations and procedures relating to such areas as campaign financing, judicial selection, conflicts of interest, the solicitation of government business, and the use of public office for personal enrichment. It was directed to make recommendations to the Governor to remedy inadequacies in the law that permit corruption to exist. The Commission did so, issuing 20 reports prior to the completion of its work inSeptember1990. The recommendations in these reports ranged from limiting the influence of political patronage to expanding the protections for public employees who call attention to government impropriety. The question I would like to discuss is this: "Do we really want ethical government?" This answer is, to my mind, an easy one. Particularly when it is addressed to lawyers my question must seem to be entirely a rhetorical one, since lawyers take seriously the responsibility we have, as members of the bar, to strive to improve our legal system, including our system of government.