A (partial) conflict of interest agenda for Biden

There are many reasons to celebrate the  apparent defeat of Donald Trump in the presidential election, but among the top ones for me is his total antipathy toward rules and norms concerning conflicts of interest.

Trump has created or maintained literally thousand of COIs during his presidency.   The concern here is less what might be considered his ill-gotten gains from the COIs than what is on the other side of the conflicted transaction, i.e. what interest did he improperly trade/betray for the COI.

But more so that this is the larger issue of the lasting general impact from the very rotten “tone from the top” on future ethical conduct issues

I do not believe that many individuals have overtly justified their engaging in  COIs based on Trump’s behavior.  But we also know from behavioral ethics research  that many of the causes of wrongdoing lie below the surface. To me these are the most dangerous aspects of COIs because they undermine the trust that will be necessary for dealing with the many complex and high stakes challenges, we face, including Covad 19 and climate change.

To help restore that trust the president elect should build a COI element into his communications  plan. Note that this need not be an every day affair. But there are presumably lots of opportunities of this sort, and Biden’s communications staff should be directed to make the most of them.

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