I see what you're [Jim Berstein] saying and think it probably applies a lot
of the time, but I will pose a question/comment in order to ask a
fundamental question I have (I'm young and still learning).

If a restriction was placed upon those seeking to financially benefit from
the city on donating money to political campaigns (so that a financial
conflict of interest could be avoided), would it be ethical to continue to
take financial contributions from PACs?

What about political payback? For example, if a candidate ran a campaign
focusing on how they would vote on specific projects, would it be a
conflict of interest if that person was elected and had the opportunity to
vote on the project? I can see it reasonable that the candidate had already
established their opinion, but was their opinion used to "buy" votes at the
ballot box? (I am being over the top). 

My big concern/question is if local officials are charged with representing
the electorate, which includes watching out for the public good...how do
businesses and those who utilize or conduct business with the city have
their impact on elections? In addition, should certain residents (those not
connected to businesses that have financial interest with the city) have
more "power" (by being able to donate money) than others? So many people
have a stake in the city and those making decisions that I just am trying
to figure out how reform would work. 

I agree, there are problems with the current system. Perhaps there are ways
to improve it, but something black-and-white seems potentially unfair. As
stated above and before, I'm trying to learn. I appreciate the good
responses that both Jim and others have shared.

-Thatcher Imboden

Jim Bernstein wrote:
An elected official who accepts campaign contributions from a developer (or
anyone else who is seeking to profit financially from a project or a
contract)and who then votes to support that project or contract has - at
the very least - a perceived conflict of interest. [...] The difference I
think is that the developer or vendor or bidder is seeking to profit from
the elected official's vote while the constituent seeking pothole repair or
a plowed alley is not. [...] In fact, I would like to see tough
prohibitions imposed on elected officials at all levels that would prohibit
accepting contributions from persons or entities doing business with the
public body they are elected to.  [...] Similarly, a developer who makes
contributions and then secures favorable votes from those council or park
board members to whom they made contributions should and will always be
viewed suspiciously as having bought that support.  How could it be any
other way?

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