As part of his effort to eliminate conflicts of interest, Viola was negotiating the sale of his majority share in Eastern Air Lines for part ownership of Swift Air. Ironically, this divestiture created another conflict. The New York Times reported that Swift Air is “a charter company with millions of dollars in hard-to-track government subcontracts,” and that Viola “would find himself in the precarious position of being a government official who benefits from federal contracting.” More broadly, “his airline negotiations bring an unexpected twist, showing that even when appointees try to sell assets, the transactions can be bedeviled with ethical issues.” Viola withdrew his nomination.There may be other reasons to prefer a different candidate, of course. Still, there's a point to be made here. Aren't the people who have succeeded in creating successful businesses often going to be the very people we want?
Viola is yet another example of the costs one’s success can impose on those who seek to enter public service. Nevertheless, in the eyes of ethics lawyers in the government, it is an open and shut case. It is also a high-profile case where the conflicts are easy to identify yet the remedies by the individual, difficult to provide.
Talent Creates Conflicts of Interest
COL(R) David Johnson points out that our country is losing a lot of talent because government ethics officers are so worried about conflicts of interest. The more talented you are, however, the more likely you are to have created something that will result in a conflict of interest if you should enter government:
By Grim on Monday, February 27, 2017