Encyclopedia Of Ethical Failure

This sounds like a perfect opportunity for a mashup with the resources of Josh Marshall's minions at TPM Muckraker. I'm sure it wouldn't take too much effort to match the unnamed workers in the Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure (MS Word document) with a news story naming them.

At the Pentagon, An 'Encyclopedia Of Ethical Failure' - WSJ.com :

Government workers who are caught misbehaving often are suspended, fired or prosecuted for their misdeeds. Then, when all that is done, they face one last humiliation -- a virtual dressing down at the hands of Pentagon lawyer Stephen Epstein.

Mr. Epstein, the director of the Pentagon's Standards of Conduct Office, is mounting an ethical cleansing offensive from inside the corridors of power. His weapon of choice is the “Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure,” a hit parade he publishes on the Internet to regale bureaucrats with tales of shenanigans and shockingly bad judgment that have shot down the careers of fellow public servants across government.

Take the case of the Customs and Border Protection officer who landed a government helicopter on his daughter's grade-school playground: Despite having a supervisor's ill-considered clearance to fly there, Mr. Epstein writes, the officer was fired for misusing government property. When one Army base official was caught funneling bogus business to himself and to his girlfriend's daughter, Mr. Epstein ran the item under the headline, “One Happy Family Spends Time Together in Jail.”

With so much federal money sloshing around thanks to record defense spending, Mr. Epstein hopes to drive home the importance of ethics by publicizing wrongdoers. It's “like public executions,” he says. “We try to write the entries with a sense of humor, but the message is clear that this behavior is ruinous.”

Sometimes he takes a bit of literary license: The “Happy Family” case actually involved Michael Rzeplinski and Kirsten Davidson, who are in separate prisons after pleading guilty to conspiracy, while Ms. Davidson's mother, Connie, will serve time for submitting false claims after her daughter is released.

Those and other names don't appear in the Encyclopedia, which anyone can access on the Internet. Mr. Epstein believes it's more instructive to lay out the crimes and punishments as parables without identities or dates, or often locations.
Nearly 3,000 people, mostly Pentagon employees, have signed up to receive emails when Mr. Epstein updates the Encyclopedia on his office's Web site. Page hits aren't monitored, but the Encyclopedia has won an audience beyond the Pentagon. “It's a good source of guffaws,” says Paul McQuade, a government-contracting lawyer at the Greenberg Traurig law firm in Tysons Corner, Va.

Patrick Carney, assistant general counsel for ethics at the Federal Communications Commission, draws on the Encyclopedia for training and encourages his staff to read the document online because the “bite-size examples are more entertaining than reading the statutes” themselves, he says. In quarterly internal FCC “Ethicsgram” newsletters, Mr. Carney includes items from the Encyclopedia. “Everyone around town is looking for ways to get the word out on ethics, and Steve's material is often used,” he says.

Scandals involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Air Force official Darleen Druyun, who was imprisoned for negotiating a job with Boeing Co. while still overseeing Pentagon contracts, have shaken confidence in Washington. Ms. Druyun's case appears twice in the Encyclopedia -- under Conflicts of Interest and Post-Employment Violations -- though it is sanitized, with all officials' names left out. Mr. Abramoff is one of the few names mentioned -- in the case of an Interior Department official who accepted football and concert tickets from the lobbyist. Mr. Epstein's lesson: Officials hiding such gifts get “a gift from the federal government that they cannot keep secret -- probation.”

The Iraq war and its contractor fraud also have provided fodder for Mr. Epstein. One Encyclopedia entry, stemming from a Washington Post article, tells of an official working for a U.S. company in Iraq who accepted more than $1 million in bribes of cash, cars, jewelry and sexual favors, steered contracts to buddies and even gushed in an email to one contractor: “I love to give you money!”

I have a strong feeling Karl Rove doesn't send Mr. Epstein a Christmas card.

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This page contains a single entry by swanksalot published on May 15, 2007 10:02 AM.

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