Are Politicians Role Models?

BowserThis week, Washington D.C. elected Muriel Bowser as the Democratic nominee in the race for the next mayor. She defeated first term Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) who federal prosecutors have accused of allegedly having knowledge of a campaign scheme by one of his donors. The ‘shadow campaign’ and accusations of quid pro quo put Mayor Gray under significant scrutiny as he sought to be reelected. The Mayor has denied having any knowledge of a shadow campaign to help him win in his 2010 race.

Another DC candidate lost his seat after his colleagues cited him for ethics violations.  The fifth-term councilmember, Jim Graham lost to first-time council candidate Brianne Nadeau. Councilman Graham was the subject of several investigations involving code of conduct violations.  His colleagues subsequently reprimanded him in February 2013. The investigations found that he tried to bargain with bidders for a lucrative contract and attempted to use his power for personal gain.

And in San Francisco Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was the subject of an investigation of public corruption and arms trafficking. Federal agents this week continued to search his office.

Even in Atlanta, Georgia’s former state ethics commission director, Stacey Kalberman is in the courtroom where she has alleged in a lawsuit that commissioners retaliated against her and she lost her job for pursuing an investigation into Governor Nathan Deal’s campaign spending.

Are political leaders role models? Of course they are.  While that may be an unwanted and reluctant role, there is no question that voters have an expectation of trust in those who choose to serve. Ethics and politics are inseparable.  The cost of political office is often microscopic scrutiny and persistent challenges to the public’s trust. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property.”


  1. Lynn Brown McKinney says:

    And these are minimalist expectations – follow the law and don’t lie.

  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    “Are political leaders role models? Of course they are.”

    They should be role models but they are not.
    The reasons are simple: once elected, their first priority is getting re-elected and their second priority is lining their pockets. Add to it every politician’s hubris that he/she is smarter, craftier, and more diligent than the public, and we get today’s sorry situation.