From the ProJo:
[Rhode Island] Ethics Commission members said yesterday that they suspect that if a Rhode Island official (Governor Carcieri, for example) did what an investigation in Alaska found that [Alaska Governor Sarah] Palin did — used her office to advance a personal, although not financial, cause — it would probably not violate the Rhode Island Code of Ethics.
Nonfinancial conflicts of interest have been a sore point with the commission for some time, and members said yesterday that they want to look into adding a provision like Alaska’s to the Rhode Island rules. Chairwoman Barbara Binder said she’ll ask that the question go on the agenda of a future meeting.
What caught Cheit’s eye was the provision of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act that the legislative investigator cited in his findings. It says that officials hold office as a public trust and that “any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.”
Ethics Commission members have repeatedly expressed frustration that the Rhode Island code isn’t clear enough about conflicts of interest that are not financial. The code says that officials it covers cannot “have any interest, financial or otherwise” in the use of their office, and the commission has stayed away from trying to apply the “otherwise” provision.
Interesting that the commission is finally deciding to address this long time “sore point” only after being, well, inspired by a partisan-influenced investigation into the VP nominee of the Republican Party. Yet, regardless of the merits of the Palin case, it’s fascinating how the goings-on in a state thousands of miles away brought them to this tipping point while several local examples just didn’t similarly inspire them. Perhaps all that was needed was the proper partisan focus?