Leaders are usually held to an ethical obligation of following the standard of doing what is morally good and will benefit the society in the long run. When speaking of Halloran’s and Smith’s case, it is important first to differentiate between power and leadership. While power implies one’s ability to take a specific course of action through any means available and necessary, leadership rather paints an image of the future through encouraging followers to pursue this image. The first ethical obligation that was violated in the case of Senator Malcolm Smith and Councilman Dan Halloran being arrested in an alleged plot to rig the race for the position of the New York City mayor is to hold the balance of power and not abusing it for personal gains.
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The second ethical obligation that the politicians violated was to serve the public interest regardless whether it aligns with the personal interests of a politician. As Smith was accused of trying to bribe his way to the top through Halloran’s assistance, it is evident that both of them wanted to serve their personal interests by facilitating an imbalance in power to get the support from the Republican party, despite the fact that Smith was registered as Democrat (Associated Press, 2013). This shows that the politician acted against the principle of serving the interests of the public to push his candidacy, not caring about what political view he had to follow in order to rise to the top.
Violations of Ethical Obligations
When discussing the violations of ethical principles in the case of Smith and Halloran, it is essential to mention that the established rules of ethics in political leadership are put in place to prevent classic, run-of-the-mill issues that are easy to regulate. Such laws can range from limitations on political contributions to bans on accepting gifts (Noland, 2015). However, the examined situation is much more complex because it involves several other players interested in hiding the occurrence of bribery. The lack of attention from relevant actors could have exasperated the situation and eventually led to Smith being elected as the New York City major, thus complicating the situation even further. Corruption in politics can take different forms and is often more complicated than cash-for-support swaps. Effective rules of ethics that impose restrictions on contributions and gifts are ineffective to cover all situations that can occur within the political system (Noland, 2015). This means that when cases such as the bribery to win an election occur, common sense rules have to be applied to ensure that justice is served in accordance with the key principles of democracy.
In the case of using power to push political interests, there should have been an immediate and firm response of involved politicians to explain the situation and suggest possible solutions to the problem. An active and independent judiciary should have been asked to review the situation and keep the public informed about the unethical behavior of politicians who were granted a power by the citizens of New York. It is important to mention that prior to releasing relevant information to the general public, an unbiased investigation of the cause should have been conducted to ensure the compliance with ethical standards. In terms of the second violation of ethical standards, the opinion of the public is an essential variable that could have either mitigated the problem or given it broader coverage. New York citizens should have been active and submitted their inquiries to their representatives in order to shape an informed opinion and make sure that the violators of ethical obligations are not allowed to proceed with elections for the position of the mayor. If the same case occurred in the private sector, it would also be considered unethical; however, there would be more possibilities to cover up the bribery by announcing partnerships and subsidiaries, which are prohibited in the context of political relations.
Bribery Being Accepted
Unfortunately, some cities in the United States have gained a reputation of being corrupt, which suggests that the public is more accepting of the cases of bribery because it does not know how to fight it. “Since the 1970’s, four of seven Illinois governors have been convicted, along with 31 members of Chicago’s city council” (“Chicago most corrupt city in America: Report,” 2012, para. 3). The fact that the city continues showing high rates of politicians’ arrests for bribery makes it easier for the public to accept the problem and anticipate the same trends to occur in the future. Recent reports have started pointing out that corruption in the New York government was a pervasive problem, which has a potential of transforming into a similar to Chicago case, where efforts of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics are not effective enough in stopping government officials to attempt lobbying and bribery (McManus, 2016). Statistics pertaining to New York are similar to Chicago’s data, with 30 lawmakers being removed from office due to violations of ethical conduct. If immediate and firm actions are not taken, New York risks getting the same reputation as Chicago with regard to corruption being accepted and anticipated.
Associated Press. (2013). N.Y. state senator arrested in alleged mayor race plot. Politico. Web.
Chicago most corrupt city in America: Report. (2012). Huffington Post. Web.
McManus, B. (2016). Why corruption is so rampant in New York government. New York Post. Web.
Noland, J. (2015). Limiting political corruption through ethics rules. Web.