More on “Appearance of a Conflict of Interest”

· dKo journal, Edgewise, Paleoblogs

I am inspired by Dumpster’s post below, to make a general point about “The Appearance of a Conflict Interest.” I believe the meanings of the key terms here have become distorted and compromised in recent years. It may not affect this EPA ruling directly, but the Inspector General did contribute to the convenient confusion surrounding the subject

is when I have an interest in unfairly favoring one side, and I act on/succumb to it.
Conflict of Interest is when I have an interest in unfairly favoring one side, whether or not I act on/succumb to it.
Let’s say I own stock in one of the companies affected. I must “recuse myself”–take myself out of the decision making process–simply because I own the stock. If I did not “recuse myself,” I would be guilty of having a conflict of interest–whether or not I actually committed favoritism by acting on my interest.

Simply to continue acting, despite having a conflict of interest, is itself a crime.
And simply to hold an official position covering an area in which I have a conflict of interest is also a crime–unless the area of conflict is merely peripheral to the position, openly acknowledged, and quarantined by recusal.
The idea of “the appearance of a conflict of interest” is just a fabrication, a diversion. It would be something like appearing to own the stock, but not really owning it.
The function of this phrase has been to draw attention away from the fact that having a conflict of interest, even when it is not acted on, is indeed a crime. Or to put it another way, one needn’t prove that it has been acted on, for it to be a crime (punishable ethics breach, etc.).