Officials shouldn’t need
to be told what’s ethical


The Legislature enacted a bill that requires elected officials and other high-ranking state officials to complete a course in ethics.

WITHOUT question, many public officials in past years have shown themselves to be ethically challenged, but it is doubtful that a two-hour lecture could undo the damage caused by lousy upbringing. A public official's integrity is measured at the polls and in job interviews. "Ethics training" for grownups, as prescribed by a bill approved by the state Legislature, would be the equivalent of toilet training for trustworthy stewardship. Public officials are presumed to already know and adhere to such standards of conduct. Governor Lingle should veto the bill.

Four years ago, the City Council asked for and received a 2 1/2-hour counseling session from city ethics therapist -- er, Ethics Commission director -- Chuck Totto. Then-Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura asked for the counseling after Councilman Andy Mirikitani was indicted -- but before he was convicted -- on theft, bribery, extortion, witness tampering and wire fraud charges, and Councilwoman Rene Mansho was being investigated for theft, for which she was later convicted -- not to mention Yoshimura's recent suspension from practicing law for lying about a traffic accident.

The state bill would subject the governor, lieutenant governor, department heads and deputy directors, school board members and Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees to complete a course led by the state Ethics Commission. Much of this involves reading state ethics laws and administrative rules, something public officials should do anyway to determine how they might differ from what their mothers told them.

Sen. Willie Espero chided Lingle for needing the course after her judgmental lapse in allowing a private organization promoting her education reform package to operate from the governor's offices. Senate Republican Leader Fred Hemmings quickly began reading a "roll call" of Democrats caught in criminal conduct, the most recent being former Rep. Nathan Suzuki, awaiting sentencing in July after pleading guilty to tax conspiracy.

Government misconduct does not occur because officials are unaware of ethics. It occurs because either they are unscrupulous scoundrels or they are so engrossed in achieving certain goals that they don blinders so they won't be distracted, concluding that the end justifies the means. People who belong in high office shouldn't need Ethics 101.


Lift federal blocks
to stem-cell study


Former first lady Nancy Reagan will speak at a fund-raiser tonight in favor of stem-cell research aimed at finding cures to several diseases.

SUPPORT for expanded embryonic stem-cell research has grown during the three years that have passed since President Bush set up barriers demanded by extremists warning of a slippery slope toward human cloning. Nancy Reagan, who has been quiet in her support for stem-cell research, will speak publicly tonight about the issue for the first time in a star-studded fund-raiser in Beverly Hills sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The president should take note of the groundswell of support for this important research.

President Reagan suffers from Alzheimer's disease, among the diseases for which scientists believe stem-cell research can be used to find a cure. Other ailments they believe can be conquered by such research include Parkinson's disease, heart problems, juvenile diabetes and A.L.S., or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Bush limited federal funding for such research to already existing stem cells, saying there were more than 64 such lines that had been developed from using embryos that had been created and discarded at fertilization clinics. However, only 19 lines are currently available, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A growing number of Republicans in Congress are joining Democrats in calling for a reopening of the issue. Last week, 206 House members signed a letter urging the president to allow federal financing of studies on embryos that otherwise are discarded from in vitro fertilization clinics. Signatories included House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio, Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas of California and nearly three dozen avowed opponents of abortion rights. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., is drafting a similar letter in the Senate.

Sen. John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has begun to criticize Bush on the issue for choosing ideology over science. The president can quell such criticism by lifting a presidential order that has impeded scientific research aimed at curing diseases that afflict more than 100 million Americans.



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