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BIGUN

US SUPREME COURT

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The justices adopted an ethics code in November, though it lacks a means of enforcement. The code treats travel, food and lodging as expenses rather than gifts, for which monetary values must be reported. Justices aren't required to attach a value to expenses.

Democratic lawmakers are continuing to press legislation that would require the court to adopt a binding code of conduct and provide for investigations of alleged violations.

https://www.npr.org/2024/06/08/g-s1-3565/clarence-thomas-discloses-trips-gop-donor

There's no need for a "binding code of conduct." We had to abide by the CFRs. It would have been career/contract suicide to accept/offer a dinner to a government employee (COTR). That's what the CFR is about. If they found exceptions to the law, then be Congressional, modify the terminology in the code and ensure there are no exceptions. If it adds or subtracts to/from your personal income - it must be reported. Just my two cents. 

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/5/2635.204     

Edited by BIGUN

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1 hour ago, BIGUN said:

The justices adopted an ethics code in November, though it lacks a means of enforcement. The code treats travel, food and lodging as expenses rather than gifts, for which monetary values must be reported. Justices aren't required to attach a value to expenses.

Democratic lawmakers are continuing to press legislation that would require the court to adopt a binding code of conduct and provide for investigations of alleged violations.

https://www.npr.org/2024/06/08/g-s1-3565/clarence-thomas-discloses-trips-gop-donor

There's no need for a "binding code of conduct." We had to abide by the CFRs. It would have been career/contract suicide to accept/offer a dinner to a government employee (COTR). That's what the CFR is about. If they found exceptions to the law, then be Congressional, modify the terminology in the code and ensure there are no exceptions. If it adds or subtracts to/from your personal income - it must be reported. Just my two cents. 

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/5/2635.204     

All power corrupts, absolute power....

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6 hours ago, BIGUN said:

The justices adopted an ethics code in November, though it lacks a means of enforcement. The code treats travel, food and lodging as expenses rather than gifts, for which monetary values must be reported. Justices aren't required to attach a value to expenses.

Democratic lawmakers are continuing to press legislation that would require the court to adopt a binding code of conduct and provide for investigations of alleged violations.

https://www.npr.org/2024/06/08/g-s1-3565/clarence-thomas-discloses-trips-gop-donor

There's no need for a "binding code of conduct." We had to abide by the CFRs. It would have been career/contract suicide to accept/offer a dinner to a government employee (COTR). That's what the CFR is about. If they found exceptions to the law, then be Congressional, modify the terminology in the code and ensure there are no exceptions. If it adds or subtracts to/from your personal income - it must be reported. Just my two cents. 

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/5/2635.204     

Hi Keith,

Re:   It would have been career/contract suicide to accept/offer a dinner to a government employee (COTR).

Maybe in the military side of the gov't.  In the civilian side, it is quite normal.  When I was working I had the cite on the wall of my office.

Jerry Baumchen

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8 minutes ago, JerryBaumchen said:

Hi Keith,

Re:   It would have been career/contract suicide to accept/offer a dinner to a government employee (COTR).

Maybe in the military side of the gov't.  In the civilian side, it is quite normal.  When I was working I had the cite on the wall of my office.

Jerry Baumchen

As direct contractors, we knew not to offer. Even when we had coffee and donuts, we always had a "contributions jar," so that payment was at least possible. And I never had a doubt about the honest and desire for a successful and safe space program as the top priority for anyone I dealt with.

Wendy P.

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(b) Gifts based on a personal relationship. An employee may accept a  gift given by an individual under circumstances which make it clear that the  gift is motivated by a family relationship or personal friendship rather than the position of the  employee.

Clarence says Harlan is just his good buddy. Think maybe that's why a separate code of conduct is needed?

 

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15 minutes ago, BIGUN said:

Numerous State & Federal contracts (on the civilian side) and never heard of that. 

https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-5/chapter-XVI/subchapter-B/part-2635

Hi Keith,

Times change.  As I said, I had the cite on the wall of my office.

Come 1 Oct it will be 25 yrs since I retired from working as a gov't civilian employee.

Jerry Baumchen

PS)  I was up in Duluth, MN for a project.  This company had most of their sales with DOD.  When it got close to lunch time, they sort of hesitated, hummed, hawwed, etc.  Then they asked if I would like to go to lunch.  They said that the DOD guys would not even accept a free cup of coffee.

 

 

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3 hours ago, JerryBaumchen said:

Maybe in the military side of the gov't.  In the civilian side, it is quite normal.  When I was working I had the cite on the wall of my office.

Yep. Working with Chinese companies we were constantly offered free stuff from dinners to gadgets to outright bribes (gift cards.)  Our company code of conduct was that paying for business dinners was fine as long as it was for business, but no direct gifts.  They tried every way they could think of to get around that.

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11 hours ago, billvon said:

Our company code of conduct

Maybe I'm not tracking. Private company to private company is company policy dependent. If private company to government employee then the CFR kicks in. 

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21 minutes ago, BIGUN said:

Maybe I'm not tracking. Private company to private company is company policy dependent. If private company to government employee then the CFR kicks in. 

Federal contractor to federal contractor, in their federal capacities, also have codes of conduct. At least we did. And, frankly, we were expected to behave that way in general, but I was a federal systems employee after 1985...

Wendy P.

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3 minutes ago, wmw999 said:

Federal contractor to federal contractor, in their federal capacities, also have codes of conduct.

This is from the DoD's Standards of Conduct Office (They don't just point at the CFRs. One can call them and ask just to make sure they're not doing something wrong.) And not unlike our BSRs, it's written in someone else's blood. 

Back to the point at hand. Congress could enhance the CFRs and since the SC interprets and applies the law - then it applies to them also. 

 

 

contractors_in_federal_workplace.pdf

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2 hours ago, BIGUN said:

This is from the DoD's Standards of Conduct Office (They don't just point at the CFRs. One can call them and ask just to make sure they're not doing something wrong.) And not unlike our BSRs, it's written in someone else's blood. 

Back to the point at hand. Congress could enhance the CFRs and since the SC interprets and applies the law - then it applies to them also. 

What you've just linked references the link you originally supplied: and a cursory glance at the chapter headings of that link shows who it applies to - "PART 2635—STANDARDS OF ETHICAL CONDUCT FOR EMPLOYEES OF THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH"

It's going to need a signficant legislative act to make that apply to Supreme Court Justices, for reasons I would hope are obvious. Even then, as shown, the link you supplied spells out a specific exemption for (Clarence Thomas would say) the exact conduct which caused the current Supreme Court ethical crisis.

 

So is there a particular reason why a standalone code of conduct is worse than what you suggest? Either one is going to need a decent chunk of legislation explicitly targeting the Supreme Court. I don't really see why doing it one way is Congressional and doing it the other way isn't.

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At SCE&G, the local power company, we followed the 20/50 rule with the feds. No single gift worth more than $20 or a total of $50 per year.

When we held educational seminars for customers this was often an issue. The total value of morning refreshments, lunch and afternoon refreshments exceeded $20. The legal guideline was that if it was something offered to a broad group of customers then it was OK for government peeps to accept it. We created a form that the feds could use to pay for the event if their organization required it, problem solved. South Carolina also had a "blind trust" sting on bribery with numerous people charged. The State agency folks were equally nervous. Some wouldn't attend, some would pay and some didn't pay.

During customer visits some fed folks refused to accept anything. Some would ask about going to lunch or for the typical trinkets we had. 


Almost a big problem. I managed the corporate relationship with the federal customers. Crazy but I was just about the only one that understood the FAR and federal contracting in the Fortune 500 company. For a small State we had a big DOD presence and the typical list of agencies. Fort Jackson, Shaw AFB, McEntire, 2 Navy hospitals, Parris Island MCAS, Naval Weapons Station, Coast Guard, NOAA, Border Patrol, a bunch of GSA buildings, etc. We were trying to get a 1/4 acre site for an underwater transmission cable crossing in Beaufort SC. The Navy had an unused corner of their property on the river. Our local manager and a transmission/substation engineer went to talk to the Navy Captain Base Commander.  He agreed to provide the land. If it had been private property it would have been worth more than $250K. On the Navy site it was valued at $10k. Under federal regs they could only sell it for that minor value.  

The CPT knew that it was worth a ton of money so he asked for a donation, "Would SCE&G consider an additional donation to our MWR fund to build a recreational dock for the employees?" Our folks said, "I'm sure we can do that, how do we make out the check?" 

Two weeks later, Friday at 3 PM, I hear about this story while talking to the local manager. "(excitedly) We got a great deal, I have the check in my drawer and will take it over there on Monday, do you want to come?" "Uhhhh ..... NO. Please don't do anything and don't talk to anyone about this until you hear back from me or the legal group."

Because most power companies are sole source vendors to the feds and the feds can buy more than just electricity, gas and steam (energy services: lighting system upgrades, new HVAC, repairs to their electric grid, surge protection equipment, etc.) they get real comfortable taking with us, we see them frequently and attend their social functions. In this case the CPT wasn't thinking.

Called our General Cousel to explain what happened ... under the FAR, this guy solicited a bribe and we are required to report it. There are big penalties for not reporting and worse if we pay it. General Counsel knows nothing about fed regs and knew that I did, and asked, "So what do you think we should do?" I doubt the CPT remembered that we're a federal contractor, we do one-page sole source deals with them quite often. If you agree, I'll call him on Monday and say, "I understand you met with a couple of our folks about the transmission crossing, it's great that the Navy can help with that. About the MWR thing, do you realize that we're a federal contractor?", and see what he says. You can also call the $500 Washington law firm that you use for advice and see if they agree or take my free advice (a standing joke, he often called to ask for advice then called the $500 guy to confirm it).

The call happens and the CPT's response was, a 5 second pause then, "We're glad to assist SCE&G. We'll issue the invoice for the $10k land value and that's all that's needed. Thanks for calling and look forward to seeing you next time you are here." The check disappeared and was never spoken about again. At our next meeting the CPT gave me a firmer than normal handshake, a smile and said, thanks for keeping me out of the frying pan.

Making that type payment is normal in commercial transactions. It was a good reminder for our engineering and management teams that taking me along to meetings was advisable. 

Working with the feds one had to know 3 languages: English, FAR and utility speak.

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Bill, that's a great story with a happy ending. Because the point of those rules is to make people think about what bribery is, and what can look like it even if it isn't. I.e. perception.

Wendy P.

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44 minutes ago, wmw999 said:

Bill, that's a great story with a happy ending. Because the point of those rules is to make people think about what bribery is, and what can look like it even if it isn't. I.e. perception.

Wendy P.

And that perception works in three ways:
 

1 - Does the person giving the gift have some expectation of reciprocity?

2 - Does the person receiving the gift feel some obligation to 'pay it back'?

3 - Do any outside observers see either 1 or 2 happening?

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2 hours ago, wolfriverjoe said:

And that perception works in three ways:
 

1 - Does the person giving the gift have some expectation of reciprocity?

2 - Does the person receiving the gift feel some obligation to 'pay it back'?

3 - Do any outside observers see either 1 or 2 happening?

All of that's true. The challenge with the feds is they tend to have one size stick and a minor slip up can get the same number of whacks as a big screw up. My goal was to avoid all of it. Luckily he said the right things and our company decided to not report it.

We had a transmission lineman supervisor going into Savannah River Site. He had a spent shotgun shell under the seat. Crazy number of phone calls and amount of red tape to get that resolved. His site access was suspended and he had to take remedial training. 

They used to strip search our bucket trucks and always argued about gasoline and chain saws. "Well, we're here to fulfill our contract requirements. There's a tree on the power line and X-Area is out. We can leave or you can let us in. You chose." Finally got them to modify their restrictions for our crews.   

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Clarence complained he wasn't making enough money and was going to have to resign to try and make more money elsewhere.

he then started getting gifts and very beneficial loans from conservative leaning sources.

Clarence stayed.

This sequence of events alone should make him ineligible to continue to be on SCOTUS. You shouldn't be able to buy a judge, unless you are a Banana Republic.

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46 minutes ago, SkyDekker said:

This sequence of events alone should make him ineligible to continue to be on SCOTUS. You shouldn't be able to buy a judge, unless you are a Banana Republic.

Ethics is tricky. He's only a Supreme Court Justice, you shouldn't expect him to be able to read a form.

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There are all kinds of analogies referenced here. None of which are relevant. For the USSC if you can pass the confirmation process be it bribes, gifts, conflicts of interests. You are your own demi-god.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. recently stated at a SC "gala" that the US needs to return to a place of "godliness". He was " secretly recorded at an annual black-tie event for the Supreme Court Historical Society, a charity aimed at preserving the court’s history and educating the public about the role of the court ."

He never mentioned how Clarence Thomas was living up to those ideals.

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On Wednesday, Senate Democrats attempted to expedite passage of a bill that would provide a binding code of ethics for the Supreme Court, but the effort was scuttled by Republicans who said the legislation’s true aim was to undermine a conservative court whose rulings Democrats don’t like.

Seems like the GOP is admitting that only conservative justices are behaving unethically.

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On 6/10/2024 at 12:50 PM, SkyDekker said:

Clarence complained he wasn't making enough money and was going to have to resign to try and make more money elsewhere.

He was a victim whiner back in the 90's, so we can't be surprised that he's still one today.  

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