Take comfort, Obama believers. The new prez is not the first executive to come into office promising sweeping ethical changes, only to stumble out of the starting gate. More than one chief executive who campaigned on ethics reform ran into trouble at the outset.
• Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA) made reforming his state’s tarnished ethical reputation a centerpiece of his 2007 campaign and within his first year worked with the Louisiana legislature to pass an unprecedented reform package. As he took office, however, the state’s Board of Ethics charged Jindal with failing to disclose more than $118,000 in contributions from the state’s Republican party, violating campaign finance law. The governor settled the charge by paying a $2,500 fine.
• In his first official act after he was elected in late 2006, Gov. Charlie Crist (FL) ordered increased government transparency and put in place a new code of ethics for state agencies. Before he even took office, however, he had attracted controversy by asking supporters and lobbyists to fund his inaugural ball with donations as large as $500,000. After a public outcry, he canceled the party in favor of a prayer breakfast.
• While it was ex-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s more salacious violations of the public trust that lost him the governorship, he ran into ethical difficulties earlier on. In 2007, Spitzer absorbed the state’s Lobbying Commission into a new ethics commission, but failed to appoint the old body’s respected executive director David Grandeau — a fierce watchdog — to the new body. And of the former gov’s seven appointments to the new commission, two of them had to recuse themselves in their first hours of work, citing conflicts of interest.