Conflict of interest laws prevent decisions about public policy from being tainted by the financial interests of the decision-maker. Whether a question of what government should buy, whom it should hire, or any of the other myriad of decisions governments regularly make, citizens of modern states expect that when weighing up the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action, policymakers will not be influenced by how the decision will affect their wealth or income. Conflict of interest laws can also increase citizen confidence in government. As the head of one ethics agency has explained: An effective conflicts of interest system [creates a culture of integrity]. … Mayor Bloomberg in New York City is a billionaire. And when he was first elected, we received phone calls from all over the world and there were stories in newspapers all over the world suggesting it was a conflict of interest for him to own all that he owns and be mayor of the City of New York. Those phone calls and those stories stopped the day after our agency issued an advisory opinion approving the plan we worked out for the mayor to avoid conflicts of interest. In other words, a conflicts of interest system can help create a sense of public confidence in the integrity of public officials.
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