Government Ethics

The ALI’s project on Principles of Government Ethics is designed to provide guidance to government agencies and individuals on the proper standards of conduct that should apply to current and former public employees and officials. This topic is of critical importance to the confidence that citizens have in their government. The ALI Council undertook this project following an era of widely publicized scandals that raised issues of public integrity. As a result, all levels of government have struggled to develop, revise, and refine the rules and procedures intended to ensure that public officials act in the public interest and use public resources for public, not private, purposes. The ALI, with its tradition of painstaking research and broad engagement by diverse groups of leaders of the legal profession, can play an important role as this area begins to move toward maturity.

(Excerpted from the Forward of Tentative Draft No. 1 by ALI Director Richard L. Revesz)

The ethical standards that ought to govern the behavior of government officials have long been a matter of great public interest. The development of the standards and procedures needed to assure that public officials act in the public interest and use public resources for public, not private purposes, has been the focus of criminal codes, ethics laws, executive orders, and legislative rules at all levels of government, federal, state, and local. The goal of the Principles of Government Ethics project is to distill a basic set of principles that articulate the values that ought to shape the field and, where possible, to present operational rules that will vindicate those goals in order to provide some guidance to the many governments, particularly at the state and local level, that may be developing ethical standards for the first time or revising, refining, and strengthening rules previously adopted.

Proposed Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 – Scope, General Principles, and Definitions
Chapter 2 – Gifts from and Financial Relationships with Prohibited Sources
Chapter 3 – Conflicts of Interest and the Outside Activities of Public Servants
Chapter 4 – Limits on the Use of Public Resources in Elections
Chapter 5 – Restrictions on Leaving or Entering Public Service
Chapter 6 – Disclosure
Chapter 7 – Administration and Enforcement of Ethics Provisions


Richard Briffault

Reporter, Government Ethics

Richard Briffault is the Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School. His research, writing, and teaching focus on state and local government law, legislation, the law of the political process, government ethics, and property. In 2014, he was appointed chair of the Conflicts of Interest Board of New York City. He was a member of New York State’s Moreland Act Commission to Investigate Public Corruption from 2013 to 2014, and served as a member of, or consultant to, several city and state commissions in New York dealing with state and local governance.

Richard Painter

Associate Reporter, Government Ethics

Richard W. Painter is the S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law at University of Minnesota Law School. From February 2005 to July 2007, he was associate counsel to the president in the White House Counsel’s office, serving as the chief ethics lawyer for the president, White House employees, and senior nominees to Senate-confirmed positions in the executive branch. He has also been active in the Professional Responsibility Section of the American Bar Association. He is a board member and vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington as well as a founding board member of Take Back our Republic, a campaign finance reform organization.