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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dear Randy Cohen

Somebody ought to write to The New York Times ethics guy about this one.

As Oregon scams go, it looks like nothing to me.

Comments (1)

I know Jack, over at BLUE OREGON, they broke this shocking story of LIM. As you do, I am sure you are invited to speak to orgainzations on occassion. I did at one time years ago work for goverment, and many times would want to go to a seminar that my boss didn't have money in the budget to support or want to pay expenses for, but we would compromise and he would let me have the time off, and I would pay my own travel expenses. If you look at the numerous junkets our City commissioners go on routinely at tax payers expense, we should be cheering this guy not chastizing him.

We are about the same age Jack, the story I wanted up there on Blue Oregon was the one that I felt was more relevant and posted on BLUE Oregon after the majority of folks felt as you did the LIM thing was petty, and got Chastized. I remember Andrew Young, and admiring him so much during the Civil Rights movement, and his ground breaking election the first Black to congress from the south since reconstruction, Ambassordor to the UN.

As far as stories go how about Page 4 of todays(Saturday August 19) Oregonian, Andrew Young, Demo Icon, Carter appointed UN ambassidor, and Mayor of Atlanta, but most recently former head of "Working Families for WalMart" "the non-profit grassroots" organization he headed, "resigning after saying the "mom and pop" stores run by "Jewish, Korean, and Arab shopowners who have "ripped off" black customers"

We should be looking at the "system" of how a once proud and good man and leader in the Civil rights movement, a man like Andrew Young, went from where he was to being a month piece for WalMart, and spewing racist garbage.

Posted by: John Capradoe at August 20, 2006 08:04 AM

If no tax dollars were spent then it looks like just a matter of the airline charging Lim the regular price. If Lim, upon being rejected a lower price, caused an uproar and demanded the lower price then this would have shaped the procedural character of any legal case he might bring against the airline.

To have the airline give the discount, of their own free will, then later complain about the ethics of the requester allows the airline to be highly selective; to be arbitrary.

Perhaps the airline could demand that someone within DAS supply EVERY person claiming the discount rate something like a permission slip to be excused from school or a student hall-pass to use the restroom during class time.

Any paycheck-to-paycheck soul that has no savings ought to be offered the lower rate too, if it remains "profitable" to the airline, by the way. The elementary notion from General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in the international context is that each country have uniformity in offers between entities within the member countries, rather than have favoritism.

My question is why on earth is there two separate rates in the first place. Lim did not single-handedly create the differential pricing scheme -- which could be said for each and every opportunity for someone to avail themselves of a special provision of the tax code, to their personal advantage. Should every tax filing invoke an examination of the ethics of merely applying the law to each claimed benefit from the subjective position of the claimant? (This question could be viewed as a rhetorical "yes.")

The proper course given the current facts could be limited to the tax-man being alerted to the personal gift in the amount of the discount obtained by Lim and his duty to report it and to pay taxes on the same. This then leaves the opportunity to act arbitrarily up to the tax-man. How convenient? How ethical? And it can be resolved "administratively" and even coupled with the possibility of criminal charges.

Favoritism is the name of the game today, systematically, like a disease. If the airline submitted a competitive bid, of their own free will, rather than challenge the differential scheme at the outset then the ONLY reasonable and rational deduction is that their claim of ethical taint should bounce right back to the airline itself. Perhaps they should put their money where their mouth is and claim that there was a breach of contract, in total, and refuse to give ANYONE the discounted rate.

Then again, what does The O have against Lim, quite unrelated to the factual context of the clearly intended charge of ethical taint? The O IS A PAC, as I have said before, and should be treated as such free from the statutory exemption (a privilege) from transparency.

Posted by: Ron Ledbury at August 20, 2006 09:58 AM

According to the article, the relevant criteria is whether Lin used the discounted fare "to obtain financial gain." Did he get an honorarium for speaking? If so, it was probably unethical. On the other hand, was his fare reimbursed by the groups that asked him to speak? If so, then Lin did not get any gain from it, only the groups that hired him. That might also be inappropriate, but not unethical.

Posted by: Randal O'Toole at August 20, 2006 10:40 AM

I know Jack, over at BLUE OREGON, they broke this shocking story of LIM.

No, we didn't. We posted a link to a Salem Statesman-Journal story. Seems that they didn't really break the story, they were just first online with a story based on a press release from the investigating agency.

Posted by: Kari Chisholm at August 20, 2006 08:37 PM


You make my point for me. It is a charge that is calculated for political effect, leveraged political effect, under the guise of (superficially apparent) neutral application of the law.

The legislature is a citizen body. It is assumed that each member obtains gainful employment outside of their service as a legislator. Let's assume that Lim asks for the differential in price, then cuts a check to Alaska Airlines; this would restore the sole issue, conclusively, to an ethical examination of his activity on his private trip. A legislator is not prohibited by reason of their position from conducting routine private business on the road; and certainly not prohibited from simply speaking as a normal citizen. An example of a contrary notion is that judges and members of the Employment Relations Board are affirmatively prohibited from having outside work. There are some folks that wish, for whatever political purpose, that legislators have significantly higher pay. I would suggest that these folks would like to use such higher pay to also limit the outside work, and limit the citizen-nature of the legislature, in favor of a professional body that is subject to the control (and arbitrariness) of the Executive branch.

The O's point, and the gist of the charge itself, is nothing more than a means of bootstrapping the discounted-airline-charge to then use it as an affirmative restraint on the conduct during the trip itself. (Like the notion of the CoP Auditor dishing out, selectively and arbitrarily, civil penalties beyond just demanding return of money.) But, such bootstrapping is addressed elsewhere and affirmatively limited by the points raised in the preceding paragraph, which are policy issues of superior import in any resort to the judicial arena.

While you are not expected to understand this The O is sure to have run the proposed article by their counsel to excise elements that might lead to potential liability. Yet, they have excised "reasoning" in the process, resulting in a patently absurd, bootstrap, argument. I have enough faith in the counsel to consider it a willful choice made with sufficient knowledge to establish knowing and malicious intent (and certainly a reasonable inference of intent to influence the election through knowingly making a false presentation of the law). Again The O needs to be treated as a PAC; particularly here as a counter claim/charge; if Lim dares (provided he immediately cuts that check for the differential in price).

Perhaps the authoritarians in our midst hate having a citizen legislature that can sometimes act like loose cannons rather than a set of professionals that can be forced to speak only when told and only from their lobbyist's scripts. I wonder which way The O feels on this issue; while flaunting their O PAC hat. (I am reminded of folks in the past that thought that it would be wise to require that only lawyers could be legislators. Where it would enhance the already flawed tension between public service and dedication to attorney-client -- secret lobbyist -- style privilege. The lawyer duty to client is particularly useful for them to offer tailored P.R. services, sans public candor.)

Lim could buy his own ticket to go to a remote island and sip a fancy drink in the sun and call it recuperation time from his service as a legislator and I would not care, so long as he paid regular price. If he choose to be more productive than getting some sun or sleep then more power to him. He could then avoid attack on the political grounds that he might be lazy. What he did on his trip is wholly irrelevant to the issue of personally-obtained plane tickets, so long as he pays the regular price; which is easily remedied, in isolation.

Posted by: Ron Ledbury at August 21, 2006 07:36 AM

I suppose that Mr. Lim should buy his own airline tickets the private citizen's rate.

But what about the ethics of the airlines that use their computers to change the price of a ticket daily and hourly by hundreds of percent?

What if a supermarket, by applying its scanning and computer systems, continuously adjusted the price of a loaf of bread based up how many loaves were still left on the shelves?

$1.50 in the morning, $18.75 in the afternoon.

Posted by: Matt Jusiski at August 21, 2006 07:53 AM

Everyone shoud pay the same, this is stupid. If I have to cough up more than my rent for a plane ticket, then so should the elected dopes, even for "official business". The airlines get enough subsidies as it is.

Posted by: Jon at August 21, 2006 10:09 AM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]


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