Chapter 3: Reluctant Innovators: Regulating Conflict of Interest within Washington and Westminster
Robert P. Kaye INTRODUCTION This chapter deals with an age-old low-technology risk: the danger that private interests will subvert the official actions of elected legislators. There is nothing new about this issue: the English Parliament grappled with cases of conflict of interest over a century before the founding of the United States, with both a Lord Chancellor and a Speaker of the House of Commons expelled for corruption in the seventeenth century. Moreover, this chapter concerns two institutions – the British House of Commons and the United States Congress – that might be thought by outsiders to be insular, self-serving and conservative to the point of reactionary. The term ‘regulatory innovation’ can convey notions of newness, modernity, radicalism and originality. Regulatory change in Congress and in Parliament has frequently been characterized by the very opposite characteristics. Yet, occasionally, there has been genuine innovation. From an international perspective, ethics regulation in Washington and at Westminster is relatively advanced compared with other national legislatures. Prolixity, reluctance and back-sliding, it would appear, are endemic to legislatures. Moreover, while second-order change – the application of new technology to the problem – is the most common manifestation of innovation, there can also be third-order change where the underlying rationale for regulation changes, with or without change in formal regulatory structure. Where this is sufficient to amount to a revolution in conceptual world view, we can talk of a paradigm shift (Kuhn 1962). Although the prime mischief at which conflict of interest regulation has been directed has not changed over...
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