Loyalty, ethics, virtue, and Wilkerson
Friday’s press conference by Gov. Deval Patrick to announce that he’s naming a special commission on ethics had an interesting moment. Although Patrick said a string of troubling cases involving ethics in state and local government prompted his move, there was little doubt that this was all about Tuesday’s arrest of state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson on federal bribery charges, and she was the only elected official Patrick discussed by name.
Patrick offered a sweeping argument for strengthening ethics and lobbying laws. He then tied it to his efforts to promote civic engagement by saying citizens, too, have a responsibility. He decried the fact that so few incumbents face challengers in Massachusetts, and encouraged residents to run for office, participate in campaigns, and vote. AP reporter Glen Johnson asked the first question. Wilkerson, he said, had a prior federal conviction for not filing income tax returns and she agreed to pay thousands of dollars to settle cases of campaign finance law violations brought by the attorney general, one of them resolved just weeks ago. She also was facing a bright, capable challenger, Sonia Chang-Diaz, who shared her progressive views. In spite of all that, Johnson said, Patrick endorsed Wilkerson in the September Democratic primary, a move that seems entirely at odds with his call for high ethical standards and vigorous competition for elected offices.Patrick defended his endorsement by recalling that Wilkerson was the first elected official to endorse his run for governor when he was an "improbable" unknown to most voters. Such a nod to loyalty is a time-honored practice in politics, one that seems to have particular currency in Massachusetts politics.
In other words, there are times when loyalty is a virtue; there are also instances when disloyalty is a virtue. Any thoughts on this and the scandals now swirling around the State House and Boston City Hall?