I came across this survey analysis which stated "Americans Are Pretty Cool With Politicians Cheating on Their Spouses As Long As It's Not With A Prostitute" but I couldn't find a question about would they vote for them if they, or their family, were perceived as personally gaining from their work in public office.
As many of you know when I left Government I went through the standard review process before I joined Huawei. The review process sets out to ensure that I did not get my new job on the basis of doing my new employer a favour, i.e. I granted them a big fat contract. It also ensures that I had no advanced policy knowledge or knowledge on one of their competitors. Whilst the process is painfully slow, it is the right process. Officials or politicians should not gain, or be seen to gain from their official position.
The civil service code also talks about being perceived as being in breach even though you might not have breached any actual rule. I think you would agree this is a much tougher requirement, but perception is reality.
I was therefore very dismayed to read an article concerning a very influential American politician who is giving the impression that he (or to be accurate his wife) might be gaining from his position. Let me be clear I am not suggesting any wrongdoing has occurred just that this behaviour might send the wrong signals – I accept my values are just that, my values, and you might have different and equally valid views. The article Oh Look, some politicians Wife Stands To Benefit Greatly From CISPA Passing... analyses the links between a husband and wife and the perception of personal gain by the fervent pushing of a particular bill.
Now I must declare an interest. This particular politician is on the whole aggressive towards my company and frequently cites lack of transparency. He holds an important position, a position that is influential for the future success of America and whether he, or his wife, likes it or not, perception is crucial. I have no difficulty if people hold different views to my own; I have no difficulty with others having a different set of values and beliefs to my own, but I think we all want people in public office to work to the highest possible morale and ethical standards. I know this in its own right creates an inherent conflict: if no laws have been broken and your values say this is acceptable how are you to know others might perceive it as inappropriate. It isn't easy being in public office.
You can form your own views on whether you think there is a conflict of interest or indeed whether as the article puts it this is "soft corruption", but for me I always worried about creating such perceptions when I was in public office, and more importantly so did my boss and other colleagues. We do not allow this in the UK Civil Service or indeed with Ministers; we certainly would not allow this in Huawei where every year we have mandatory (re)training on Business Conduct Guidelines and we have to pass an online exam to make sure we understand the rules.
Politicians and Officials have to work to the highest levels of transparency and integrity and this does sometimes limit what our families can do. But this is the decision we make when we take up these important roles.