January 30th, 2008
05:55 PM ET

Ethics violations & our government?


FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In case you're not convinced our government is broken, consider this: A new study shows that almost 60% of government employees at all levels - federal, state and local - say they've seen violations of ethical standards, policies or laws at their workplaces in the last year. This includes everything from conflicts of interest, abusive behavior, altering documents and financial records to lying to employees, vendors or the public.

And apparently it's worse at the state and local levels. The nonprofit research group "Ethics Resource Center" found 63% of those at the local level witnessed at least one kind of misconduct. At the state level, it was 57%, and 52% at the federal level.

And it's going to get worse. The head of this group says it looks like we're headed toward more ethical misconduct in government in the future, not less.

They found that 30% of the incidents go unreported. One reason for that is some employees who reported misconduct said they experienced retaliation. Researchers also say there aren't enough systems in place to stop these problems once they're exposed.

The center says the answer to this problem is what it calls a "strong ethical culture." A lovely idea to be sure. But when you watch example after example of government dishonesty and abuse go uninvestigated and unpunished, what's the message? That it doesn't matter because no one will do anything about it anyway.

Here’s my question to you: Does it surprise you that almost 60% of government employees at all levels say they've seen ethics violations at work?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Barbara writes:
I am one of those state employees who has witnessed such conduct. The more you speak up, the more you are isolated and retaliated against. I have six more years until I can retire, and if I won the lottery I would be out the door in a minute. This is a scandalous problem and it falls right in line with our need to shake up government status quo at all levels.

John from Carlsbad, California writes:
Jack, I am not surprised at all. None of these government employees have any accountability to us or to their superiors. The government as a whole needs accountability for not only ethics, but performance. This statistic shows me that government is completely broken.

Lisa writes:
Before we answer the question, let's get some perspective: What percentage of employees at non-government jobs see the same kind of dishonesty at work? No, I'm not surprised. I've seen abusive behavior of managers just while I'm standing in line at a store. The real question is how pervasive those things are in our culture, not just our government.

Doug writes:
I am surprised that only 60% say they have seen ethics violations. I suspect the other 40% are lying.

Kevin writes:

No Jack, it does not surprise me at all. Our country has become so engulfed in lives of athletes and cele-Britneys that they have turned a blind eye to "boring" politics. They have let the government get away with what ever they want, and continue to re-elect them. Where's the incentive to do good? They have none and it does not surprise me.

James writes:
Yes, it surprises me that more don't open their eyes and see the waste, fraud, and abuse. As an employee of a federal contractor for five years, I saw far more than I could stomach. From fraudulent accounting practices easily documented to overtly bigoted management. We get the government we deserve. We've gotten sewage.

Filed under: Ethics
soundoff (150 Responses)
  1. ben

    not at all! These people fall short of any morality, and act as such! Good christians, not in washington!!!

    January 30, 2008 at 2:14 pm |
  2. Diane in New Jersey

    No. What surprises me is that Congress refuses to do anything about it.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:17 pm |
  3. Jarrett

    No surprise to me, Jack. When I moved from private industry into local (County) government, I was shocked to find the pervasive lack of professionalism exhibited by both employees and upper management alike. Typically, they are 9 to 5 'ers, far more interested in happy hours and Christmas parties than productivity. Having tolerated this environment for only a short while, I was equally shocked to find that the "government worker" stigma is a real impediment when attempting to find employment back in private industry. Ethics violations, nepotism and negligence are down right common place in governmental settings where tax payer dollars, in lieu of profits, are the source of employee income. Admittedly, education (i.e. teaching) may be the only exception.

    Weston, FL

    January 30, 2008 at 2:20 pm |
  4. David of Natchez

    I am surprised the other 40% didn't admit it. Really Jack, ethics are just something that gets in the way of doing the business of government.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:27 pm |
  5. Bob R

    Why would you expect government workers to find anything different than in the general society. Ethics violations are not unique to government. Listen to the talk shows. Watch the cable news programs. Explore the mortgage lending and insurance firms. Check out the credit card business. Where ever you go you find unethical practices. The problem is much bigger than government. It is pervasive in society. and that is why you see it in government. After all, the representatives of the people were elected from among and by the people.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm |
  6. Bill

    This generation of mine has had everything handed to them, created by the sacrifice of our earlier generations. This generation is only interested in "What's in it for me?". This mentality is eroding our ethics, which is allowing foreign interests tear down a great civilization. Power, greed, and unethical practices are the playbook of the day. All you have to do is read the "Oath of Office" for the highest office of President, and look back at what our President has done. When the Constitution gets in the way, that should be a very big red light for everyone to see. We need real people who are honest to run our country, but what are the chances of that. I do believe it's time to pay the check, before the foreign interests do it for us.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:30 pm |
  7. Ed Reed

    No, I'm not the least surprised. While we make fun of Banana Republics, our country is becoming more corrupt. A congressman pushes through a prescription drug benefit and as soon as it passes, he resigns from Congress to go to work for the pharmaceutical industry for $2 million per year and that was not illegal! It used to be said that what was good for General Motors was good for America. That is no longer true as corporations exert more control over our government for their benefit and not ours.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:31 pm |
  8. Suzanne

    It doesn't surprise me at all. There is a reason why people in authority in our government, in our media, in our churches, in our colleges... if every aspect of life are no longer trusted. This is also a reason the reason that I, my family and my closest friends are voting for Ron Paul. He is honest and the only person that we believe will truly do what he says he will do and turn this country 'right-side-up' again.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:35 pm |
  9. Ted in Portland

    Romney says he knows how to make a corporate structure profitable. The US economy and it's financial policies bear no relationship whatsoever to a corporate operation and never will. In that sense, I believe McCain has the edge over Romney in knowing where the inside track is. Romney has a spoiled brat rich kid bearing, and a self-effacing contentious pursuit of attempting to buy the office of President. Romney must first present some reason he is better or more capable than McCain in ALL respects, not just a beancounter.

    On the other hand, McCain could spend hours teaching Romney the power of humility and steadfastness to your principals, your fellow Americans and fellow party members.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:37 pm |
  10. Dave in Calgary

    Jack, it surprises me that 100% of government employees did not say this. But then I suppose the other 40% are the ones who are the worst offenders and thereby, speak for themselves as ethically challenged by responding as if they have not seen ethics violations. I work for a large municipal government and I see ethics violations regularly, at every level. Oh... but of course, I'm one of the good guys, Jack – ya gotta believe me.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:39 pm |
  11. William

    Nothing our government surprises me anymore. I'll be surprised when they actually change and start to do something about corruption.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:44 pm |
  12. Ralph

    No, Jack. President Bush, Cheney and their cronies are excellent examples of lack of ethics in our government on the "highest" levels.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  13. Jack McMenamin

    It doesn't surprise me that 60 % of government employees at all levels have
    seen ethics violations at work. Why would they want to make waves in a cushy job
    with benefits and retirement that is better than anything offered to us "Middle Class", and I use the term loosely, by companies in the private sector.
    The government's motto should be "Do as your Told or Else"

    January 30, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  14. W B in Las Vegas

    when I was in college I bought a text book titled "Ethics in Governnment"

    there was NOTHING printed on the pages!!!

    January 30, 2008 at 2:53 pm |
  15. Shelley

    That's part of the reason Americans have no trust in Washington right now. And it's just not one sided. It's Democrats and Republicans in Washington that are at fault.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  16. Will K

    Yes Jack, it does surprise me, it means only 40% of them are lying.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:55 pm |
  17. tco

    Surprised, no. Saddened, yes. The muck clearly flows downstream from Congress and the Administration and soils everyone.

    January 30, 2008 at 2:58 pm |
  18. Eugene in NorCal

    Let's do the math Jack. Ethics plus legislators = abuse of tax payer money. An increase in GS rating is directly proportional, to the amount of abuse and loss, of ethics. I have a had time using ethics and congress, on the same page. It's like water and oil. They don't mix.

    January 30, 2008 at 3:00 pm |
  19. Jeri

    Ethics, Santa, The Easter Bunny, all nice sounding words. Our Government is corrupt to the bone. We lost all concept of truth, Justice and Democracy when the Federal Reserve Bank came to be! A Government that spends beyond it's means! Clinton had us headed back to paying as we go but then, " Bush the Betrayer", came along and devised a way to open up the oil fields in Iraq, attack them! Until then they were limited to, Oil for food, by the UN! The only way to get it flowing again, lie to the American People and ATTACK! Who cares what it costs!!! By by Sanctions and now Exxon Mobile can get all the oil they want and guess what, up to $3.00 a gallon in two years! Ethics? Ethics doesn't exist any more!

    January 30, 2008 at 3:02 pm |
  20. judi

    There are no ethics or morals, for that matter, in our government. Everyone is out to get whatever they can for themselves before they're up for re-election. What surprises me is that we, the voters, continue to put these leeches in office year after year. It's really sad that this country has become so complacent that we accept these condidtions as the norm. Shame on us.

    January 30, 2008 at 3:05 pm |
  21. Tom A

    Am I shocked? No.

    How much of our tax dollars have gone to earmarks?

    When it comes to Washington, leave your ethics at the door.

    January 30, 2008 at 3:06 pm |
  22. Cody Weber

    I'm not surprised that 60% admitted it but why were the other 40% lying.

    Mark Twain said it pretty well...

    “It is curious – curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare”

    January 30, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  23. Marie Arlington Tx

    Not at all. Status quo says it's alright to say one thing then do another. Until we hold Washington accountable for their actions it will continue.

    The White House needs a good "spring cleaning" going all the way back to the first Clinton administration.

    January 30, 2008 at 3:20 pm |
  24. Bert D

    I am not surprised. And I wouldn't be surprised if that figure was 95% for private sector jobs where money almost always trumps ethics.

    January 30, 2008 at 3:22 pm |
  25. Thomas, FL

    Yet another reason to drastically cut the size of the government. Less government, less corruption.

    January 30, 2008 at 3:23 pm |
  26. Dave Brooklyn, NY

    Yes it does. If only 60% have seen it, that means that the other 40% are doing it. But my guess is that most of the 60% have seen it while looking in the mirror.

    January 30, 2008 at 3:24 pm |
  27. Julia from NJ

    Only 60%?! No way. Bush's administration alone should have brought that statistic up.

    January 30, 2008 at 3:31 pm |
  28. gigi

    What surprises me is that more are not caught. The FBI investigated my home town and as a ressult at least 4 went to prison. In my opinion, they didn't move up the ladder enough and get the mayor too.
    If this is happening at the local level, it is probably more prevelent at the state and national level. One needs to only look at G. Bush to know that at the national level government stinks.

    January 30, 2008 at 3:37 pm |
  29. Delmar

    Ethic violations,, don't people have to have ethics before you can violate them !!

    January 30, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  30. tco

    Why shouldn't they think ethics is a joke? After all, that's clearly what Bush and Cheney and many members of Congress think. (Impeach them all.)

    January 30, 2008 at 3:40 pm |
  31. Joy

    Actually, the percentage is probably higher, thanks to what this administration, Congress for the last 12 years, Senators that suposedly represent the American people have set as a deplorable example. Don't tell it can't be curbed! If people are fired on the spot, held accountable for their actions, fear losing their pensions, this would stop. The real problem is nobody cares and it's made evident to all! If the government can't control the government, how in the hell can they run a country. Totally absurd!!!!!

    January 30, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  32. Alan

    The fish rots from the head down. This President has done everything possible to stifle the very people who would identify these ethics violations, whistleblowers. He promised early on to have "the highest standards of integrity in government". Missed again...

    January 30, 2008 at 3:44 pm |
  33. Noah

    What surprises me is that 60% were ethical enough to be honest about their dishonesty.

    January 30, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  34. Nick E

    Not at all. This sort of thing has been going on since the beginning of time, we are now acknowledging it and taking action against it. FDR had a mistress, JFK's sexual indiscretions were legendary, however, Bill Clinton almost got impeached for doing less than they both did. No one ever cared back then, now we do. Times change. What's pleasantly surprising is that we are no longer turn a blind eye to bad behavior, we are actually making an attempt to do something to change it.

    Nick E, Manhattan, NY

    January 30, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  35. Ken KS

    Jack, there are a lot of dedicated and unselfish civil servants. It seems that the few bad apples taint to whole basket. As a federal civil servant, I once kept time on my boss and her boss on how long and how many times they went outside for their precious smoke breaks. One day, they, they racked up two hours , twelve minutes. An average day consisted of at least one hour. When I mentioned this to the top boss, he asked told me not to worry about it and to worry if I wanted a job. Enough said, I had a wife, four kids and a mortgage to worry about.

    January 30, 2008 at 3:50 pm |
  36. Karl from Colorado

    Part of being ethical is putting in an honest days work. If you can't get Congress or the Senate to get anything done why would anyone think the rest of the Government employees would be any different?
    If you want to change the ethics of our Government employees let's start by cleaning out the top.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:04 pm |
  37. Minda

    The fish rots from the head. While our government is sold to the highest bidder, the tax system serves the wealthy at the expense of the middle-class, our children are taught in inferior schools, our imports are full of contaminants, our President abuses the constitution, its all part of a pattern. The pattern is greed + influence – eltical standards = The federal government. When no one is held responsible for their actions, no action is responsible.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  38. Paulette Bent

    I'm surprised the percentage isn't higher. It probably is but everyone knows what happens to "Whistle Blowers." We are supposed to have watch dogs and checks and balances but the main concept to be remembered is that by nature Power Corrupts.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  39. marcus

    ONLY 60% PERCENT ?

    January 30, 2008 at 4:10 pm |
  40. Sid

    I have helped several different levels of government install sophisticated software for accounting and business operations. On every project I witnessed violations of basic business principles, shady accounting practices, delaying the project to stall updates and changes, and, overall, apathetic and wasteful government employees squandering tax dollars!

    January 30, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  41. Matt A.

    The other 40% are either lying or Blind.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:11 pm |
  42. earl illingsworth

    This type of behavior was created by the British Empire called "Nepotism", which caused and effected the revolution ,to bring about America! We were disdained and admonished by the actions of the "Redcoats", but sadly we've transfigured into the same thing we hated the most. You see folks ,the government 's bureaucracy in this great country of ours, is an incestuous orgy, a great big pool of idiots, that know longer know the difference between right and wrong. You gonna squel on your brother-in law, your second cousin, your wife's best friend,etc.,etc., etc.,you get the picture. Finally, I would like to narrate the ,"Big Heist ",by Congressman Jefferson from the great state of Louisiana, for freezing $100,000.00 in his office refrigerator, thinking all along it was Ice Cream Sandwiches,RICH! ANSWER, no it doesn't suprise me Jack!!!

    January 30, 2008 at 4:12 pm |
  43. Tom

    Apparently, those who didn't see any misconduct were either part of it or they were at lunch or asleep. And so it goes....

    January 30, 2008 at 4:12 pm |
  44. Allen L Wenger

    I was a civilian Financial Officer in the Department of Defense for 30 years. Although there were always some who abused their positions, this problem has become much worse over time. Maybe it was because so few of the guilty were ever held accountable or maybe, as a whole, we are just getting too selfish. It is very discouraging to see an individual use their position for personal gain and know you are powerless to stop it. To be told that regulations are only guidelines, by the people making the decisions, has a chilling effect on everyone in the work place. Our system is broken and I don't think it will ever be fixed again.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:12 pm |
  45. Bob

    I'd like to see corresponding statistics from the private sector before making any kind of judgements. I suspect this is more a problem with humans in general than with government.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:15 pm |
  46. Ron in Indiana

    Sounds like 40% of government employees are asleep on the job.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:16 pm |
  47. alfredo gomez

    Cafferty, the Democrats want to use government to bring about social change while the Republicans do not want government intervention in the lives of citizens. The whole political spectrum is covered thats why we never see real change.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:19 pm |
  48. Joe

    Yes it does surprise me. I would have thought it would be higher!

    January 30, 2008 at 4:20 pm |
  49. Jenny from New York

    Yes-it surprised me that the number's so low!

    January 30, 2008 at 4:21 pm |
  50. Ben

    The less I know about my government's secrets the better. I do want a clean soul and mind after all. How can you not expect this when America is being run by 95% of the wealth and 5% of the people?

    January 30, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  51. Stan Booker

    Suggestion: Obtain what data is available and ask the same question about workers in private industry/corporations. I dare you!

    January 30, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  52. William H. Cunningham

    I have been a democrat all my life, and I will vote for a democrat again this year.
    But nobody will change anything if they don't carry congress with them.

    If we don't do something to help the working man the middle class will be a thing of the past...

    January 30, 2008 at 4:31 pm |
  53. RK - CA


    No, and I doubt it matters there is so much of it going on.

    RK SD CA

    January 30, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  54. Jason

    Jack, these are americans working in government, not angels. They come from the same place as all americans: the over-fed, over-sexed, over-nannied and self-centered real world. The 60% is amazing considering that it's probably about 100% in private business.

    If you want leaders and bureauocrats who aren't corrupted by the real world, then you'll have to raise them from scratch in isolation for the sole purpose of governance and call them "the nobility" or "royalty". The next best thing is to try to create a sense of nobility in each american. I think they tried that once, but despite images from "Leave It to Beaver" It never really caught on.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  55. Matt from Georgia

    Absolute power corrupts- absolutely.

    As the old saying goes, Jack: Many politicians unfortunately have quite a lot in common with diapers- both need to be replaced periodically, and often for the exact same reason.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  56. Alex

    Jack, it's not getting ugly out there, it's getting ugly in here. The truth is, government can't really do anything about it. And yes, we do need to live in a stronger ethical culture. That includes ridding this country of murdering children in a mother's womb, making sure that marriage isn't destroyed because of some "change" theme, and making sure that we observe the real laws of compassion, kindness, and forgiveness. If that doesn't work, then we're really screwed.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  57. ams

    I am not really surprised, I thought it might be higher. I have found hard work, honesty and work ethics are not longer traits employers want. They want yes people, party animals and people who are willing to suck up!

    January 30, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  58. Patrick from York, PA

    Ethic violations occur at high levels in all sectors of the work force... public, private, and government. Is it truly that hard to make employees accountable and responsible for their actions? The fact is, the American people expect more from their government.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
  59. Alan

    It is no surprise at all. The whole world seems to be heading for a total lack of honesty and morality. The current administration in Washington could serve as the poster child for corruption and immorality. Their behavior serves as an example to the whole country and the whole world. This country once was held up as the prime example of goodness but no longer holds or deserves that position. I wish I could predict a change for the better but see nothing that would lead to the fulfilment of that wish.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:41 pm |
  60. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    No, Jack it doesn't surprise me and I'm a retired state government employee and lucky to get out with 5 years of employment. Government employees know they won't be fired because nobody wants the grief of hearings. And if you are a new hire don't talk about change because who have officially signed your pink slip.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  61. Greg from PA

    The fish stinks from the head down. At the head, the President sets the standard for ethics violations followed closely by the Supreme Court who anointed him King seven years ago. At the tail, I may lose my job because some clerk at the FBI hasn't processed my application for clearance that I sent in last July. As long as there is no accountability and those who see the violations keep quiet or cover them up, ethics violations will ruin all our lives.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:45 pm |
  62. al

    Your right on course, until it becomes easier to remove these greedy bums
    from the office they lie there way into, its going to continue.
    It insults my intelligence when I hear government officials, are going investigate
    government officials.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:52 pm |
  63. paul, W.KY

    No Jack, it does not surprise me; and in truth it should not surprise anyone that is not in a coma. When Congress pre-voted to pass their exclusive Constitutional authority to declare war to President Bush that should have been a clear signal that Congress was permanently out to lunch. This government was based on the concept that there must be a "balance of powers" within the governemnt. That can't happen when one branch is forever out to lunch! Yes, George II and gang did enormous damage; but the absent Congress can not be exempted from their failure to perform in a responsible Constitutionally mandated fashion. paul

    January 30, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  64. Dave

    The key is your statement "go uninvestigated". Seeing how the politicians and the media are all on the same team, do you expect anything else? I occassionally put forward and opinion on a blog, you, in the media, have the power to stir the pot to a much greater extent. Sadly though, the news is all about ratings and corporate needs. Todays investigative reporting amounts to a "mention" and then its on the next "gossip item". Where is the real concern?

    January 30, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  65. James Coley

    No, it doesn't surprise me. Politicians use their campaigns to spread just the right lies to get them voted, then they settle in to whatever set of policies they are interested in, not the people who elected them. I wish people would voice their opinion more than just on election day. We ought to impeach an official nearly anytime they don't follow through on their promises. These guys obviously have to be scared before they do their job the right way. They seem incapable of being decent otherwise.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  66. Karen

    Surprised? – not me. Our government mirrors our society in which a me take all, anti God mindset allows people to look the other way. It is really nothing new. We had tricky Dick and watergate, Vietnam, Kennedy and Clinton bedmates. Sin is sin and we should expect better of ourselves, and our government. This country needs backbone to bring on a cleanup, back to values, as in walk the walk not just talk the talk, revolution. The best beginning we could make is to vote against the established "Senators" and for change. Give change a chance and get involved. Stop ignoring it all and start by going to the polls and voting. Edwards is gone, so that leaves Obama or Romney. Yes we can change. We just have to stand up to our government and do it! VOTE!

    January 30, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
  67. David Harlow

    Doesn't surprise me. It's about the same percentage that sees ethic problems in the private sector.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
  68. bob from dover delaware home of the military morgue

    Does it surprise you that almost 60% of government employees at all levels say they’ve seen ethics violations at work?

    Not in the least. I took a 6 month fixed term job right out of college with the Federal Government and the whole engineering staff except me would go out and play golf on Thursday afternoons. Being young and innocent when they asked me to join I said Tax payer money writes my check and I just can't do it. To which I became an outcast for the remaining 2 months I was there.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:58 pm |
  69. SGT Pullum

    Corruption in our government has lingered through the ages of our history as a country. In my opinion, somebody should enforce ethical values through government programs for our politician as much as the government ethical standards for our military. We all are defenders of the constitution, we should have the same standards as politicians and servicemembers.

    January 30, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  70. bill gallant

    It doesn't surprise me at all, isn't there a question about lies 935 of the and missing Email by the two top criminals Bush and Cheney?????
    Old adage says it starts at the top and works it's way down , so the locals might as well join the charades. At Bush's conference today in California he said the economy is strong and there's no inflation what a joke he should go do some shopping or go look for work. What a lame duck excuse me I take that back I don't want to insult the ducks.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  71. Beth from Michigan

    It does not surprise me. To have a "strong ethical culture" you need a strong ethical leader, certainly unlike the one who currently occupies the White House. Reform must flow down from the top. If it comes up from the bottem it's called a revolution.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  72. Michael Kinney

    I thought When President declare War on Another Nation like IRAQ. That there was suppose to be where Congress give the approval after 90 days or so ? If that is correct then why has not congress aparove of it total at the begining. Is not President suppose to get Congress approval for a Long term ?
    Mike Kinnney

    January 30, 2008 at 5:04 pm |
  73. joe m

    no. the fact is that no one is really watching the people in this government. only when accountability carries with it real punishment will the people who manage and work in this government change their behavior. most of these people know they can get away with breaking the rules that they are suppose to uphold. in the past shame was a great deterent for people in power to act responsibly. today, most who work in government don't care a damd about shame or anything else.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:06 pm |
  74. Mike Boemmel

    Jack, It does'nt surprise me in the least, just look at what the U.S. Government has at the top for an example, G.W. Bush the man that got us into a 5 year (so far) and 1 trillion dollar war by lies and deceit, not to mention nearly 4,000 young men and women killed needlessly and all those permanently disabled. He has also all but sold out our country, given away millions of jobs, put us in debt for years to come and left it all up to someone else to clean up the mess, if that is possible now. Because of him and his administration this country will soon be reaching for third world status, there's more, alot more. Read this Mr. President, it's YOUR legacy. Mike – Gilmer, Texas

    January 30, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  75. Jane

    Jack, Why on earth would the people who work in government institutions be any different than those who work in corporate or small business or religious or charitable or sports institutions? Our outrage should be directed against All kinds of unethical behavior, in every nook of society. We should not get so caught up in targeting the big bad Washington wolf that we fail to think in terms of the underlying societal influences that create the kids who grow up to populate the institutions.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:10 pm |
  76. David,San Bernardino,CA.

    Government ethics is an on oxymoron! With the emphasis on MORON!

    January 30, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  77. annie

    I came up with a twist on a famous motto for my kids years ago when they hit the terrible two's stage, that sums up perfectly all levels of governmnent employees from the president right on down: "All for Me and Me for Me."

    January 30, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  78. Sharon

    I'm a little surprised the percentage of government employees who have seen ethics violations is so high. However, I think it can be contributed to human nature. People will lie, cheat and steal when they think they can get away with it. Even as a mother, I know my children behave differently when they know they are being watched and will be held accountable. Until we can build in a process of accountability and consequences, I don't think we can expect the behaviors to change.

    By the way, isn't a free press supposed to function as an accountability tool? Perhaps some of our current problems are due to the corporate interest that now control much of the press.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:16 pm |
  79. Matua

    Oh you're just now figuring this out? Corruption is rampant throughout our political system. The most putred part remains in the inequality of our Justice departments. After that , our State legislature is what needs change. We must hold these people responsible for their muffs and protest what is not acceptable. There also must be, citizen watchdog groups who have authority to strip the powers of those who continue to do our country dirty.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  80. James

    Ethics is a set of moral principles or values, but who says they have to be the same values shared by the rest of the nation. What suprises me is that people have actually reported these violations. Does that mean there might be a few good people in our government? Why aren't they running for President?

    January 30, 2008 at 5:21 pm |
  81. Ruth McInerney

    Why should we be surprised? People in government positions have the same lack of moral values as people in private sector positions. This country has been headed down this path for a long time.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:21 pm |
  82. Jorge from California

    I blame the Media... no one dares to talk about this!!! no ones has the courage to talk about it.... why no one is Asking Hillary Clinton about Peter Paul???? why they left This Big Corruption Scandal out of Main Media? Wolf don't have the courage to ask this questions... I want to hear it from you JACK!!! come on you are my voice!

    January 30, 2008 at 5:24 pm |
  83. Jim B. - NY

    It's no surprise 60% of government workers have witnessed ethics violations at work. I think you would find that percentage even higher in the private sector. The pervasive abuses in managment styles in both the government and private sector stem from a mimicking of the Bush Administration White House. It's like the old adage "I can't believe I've become like my parents". We do what we see our leaders do. We need a positive lead by example administration that does not lie as an ends to a means, and then does not rationalize their lies to bolster their reasoning and and rightousness of position. It's almost like O.J. Simpson truly believing he did not commit murder!!

    January 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  84. Brandon

    The only thing I am surprised over was that the percentage was not higher. Let's face it people, corporate greed and special interest groups have a stranglehold over our government and its politicians. When will this madness end?!

    January 30, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  85. Jeff in Connecticut

    For the last 7 years we've seen a total lack of ethics in government, most notably from the Executive branch. Daily we've been the recipients of lies & self-serving corruption. My only surprise is that only 60% have witnessed unethical behavior. One can only presume that means 40% of our civil servants may be corrupt. We can either hang our heads in shame or start hanging corrupt politicians. Let's start with George & Dick, eh?

    January 30, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  86. Matthew from Houston

    Not at all, Washington holds the keys to the doors, the combinations to the safes, and the security to monitor it all. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The only time that washington is held under scrutiy is during election years, anytime other than that, we don't care as long as our paychecks keep coming home. We've had impeachment opportunities and caught certain politicians red handed doing illegal actions in public. Until washington directly threatens us, our lives, our homes and our families, it's just another day at the office for them and for us.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  87. Kyle

    No that does not surprise me at all. Im just wondering how much more corruption the American people are willing to put up with before they start a revolution.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  88. John

    No Jack . I actually beleive that is a low estimate 60 %. I would be willing to gamble and say its closer to 99.9 % . But what do I know Im like the rest of Amercians just wanting the government to stand less between me an the sun !!
    Remove the boot from our necks and stop treating us like Mushrooms or consumers . That is why I dont want any of these people being my leader I just want a true represenative !

    Athens ,Ga

    January 30, 2008 at 5:31 pm |
  89. John from Calsbad, CA


    I am not surprised at all. None of these government employees have any accountability to us or to their superiors. The government as a whole needs accountability for not only ethics but performance. This statistic shows me that government is completely broken. If 60% of people saw ethical problems in business most of those folks doing that violation would be fired. We need accountability throughout but that will not happen until we take guaranteed jobs and the culture of mediocrity out of government.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:38 pm |
  90. Roland

    Only 60% say they've seen ethics violations at work? Really??? Are the other 40% blind?

    January 30, 2008 at 5:38 pm |
  91. Ralph

    Jack, not only am I not surprised, I am sure the percentage is much higher. Government and ethics is like trying to mix oil and water. Everyone ignores what is right, tries to get away with it and succeeds unless they offered up as scapegoats to protect those in even higher positions. The two best examples are President Bush and Cheney - ethical?I don't think so.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  92. Barrett from California

    I'm not surprised at all.

    All of these federal, state or local politicians are just following the Bush Administration's lead.

    As the saying goes, "monkey see, monkey do."

    I definitely don't condone political corruption but I understand why it is so prevalent at this time. The Bush Administration gets away with everything because the average American is too lazy, naive or maybe even to afraid to challenge it.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:42 pm |
  93. Katy Hill Prescott, Az.

    As a former postal employee I'm not surprised. The Postmistress went home and drank her lunch, the nephew she hired was a drug addict who came to work hih as a kite and her clerk would come still drunk on Saturday morning at 6am because she closed the bar down at 2am drove to the post office parking lot and slept in her car until the mail was delivered.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:54 pm |
  94. Ralph

    Not in the least. I typed all the citations for metals in my province in Vietnam. Seventy percent of them where as phoney as a 10 cent dollar. We often laughed out rears off at some of the outrageous lies. This was the Army. My dad was an honest government manager and felt ashamed to be working under Richard Nixon. Today values are so low that some kids think of Nixon as their hero. George W. Bush is even worse and what do we do about it? Nothing.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:55 pm |
  95. RFC

    Why should Government be any different from the population in general? They come from the gen. pop. and the same behavior is rampant in business, relationships etc etc...choose a topic.

    January 30, 2008 at 5:57 pm |
  96. Jonathan Wolf

    Are you kidding? Everybody in government, well known or insignificant, is nothing but politics-as-usual. I think that there should be a book called "Ethics for Dummies", and it should be required reading in their Political Science classes.

    What we have seen throughout these last two decades is the raiding of Social Security, a deficit higher than any nation, and unemployment higher than the 80s. Yet oil companies are making record profits?!? There has to be a government ethics violation if that's the case. I believe there's only one person running for president that has morals, and that's Ron Paul.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:00 pm |
  97. Mississippi Jane

    Yeah. I figured it would be at least 75%.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:01 pm |
  98. Jerry

    The only surprise is that the percentage is so low, I would have thought it would have been higher. Our elected officials and employees of our governments are basically a bunch of thugs that think they own the government and the american citizens work for them. Most are lazy as hell and it makes them mad if you ask one of them to handle some business for you.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:04 pm |
  99. Nick

    No it does not surprise me...the corruption, lying, stealing as to start somewhere.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  100. larry, Vermont

    Yes, we have to divide up our time like that, between our politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever. Unethical election practices equals unethical politicians.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  101. Ronald Holst

    why should any one be suprized about unethaical actions by any one in goverment for the janators to our elected officals we the people of this nation have becmoe a Nation oh HOPE , HOPING THAT we have honesty in goverment instead of demanding it I have been writting My Senatos and congress men hear from Texas and have told them I have giving up asking them to change things in this nation and have told them that as an american I am demanding that they make thise changes We the People Have elected them And We the people should stop Hoping that they do the right thing and demanding that they do And If they do not Throw them out untill we get some in who will.. After all it is We the people that Have the power to make them do what needs to be done .
    If we don't they wont.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:06 pm |
  102. Marc from WI

    Doesn't surprise me one bit. Just visit your local post office or DMV.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:07 pm |
  103. Kevin

    Doesnt suprise me at all. We let Presidents off Prejury... why not everyone else?

    January 30, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  104. Joel

    Not the slightest

    January 30, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  105. Casey, Minneapolis, MN


    January 30, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  106. stacy

    Jack,theres no way any one with half a brain could be surprised that we have a corrupt government as a matter of fact it's come to be expected from our government officials both federal and state.I also believe that the media is just as corrupt,but thats another topic to be discussed at another time. STACY

    January 30, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  107. Karen

    I thought Obama's legislation fixed all this?

    January 30, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  108. Chandra Anand

    No, It doesn't surprise me at all. And it will not surprise me in future also.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  109. Kathie

    Not at all surprised, I'm home now because I blew the whistle on some of the violations. Guess who they got rid of????????? Oh and yes, it's at our local level.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  110. Laura Thompson


    Are you surprised? Is the American people surprised? This says it all
    FIRE EVERYONE start FRESH !!!!!!!
    Enough already !!!!!!

    January 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  111. Dr. Hile

    Jack, I'm not shocked if that's what you're getting at. What really worries me is the 40% who lied about lying!

    Sterling, IL

    January 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  112. Jeff Ganus

    I am surprised at the percentages. I am surprised they are so low. But, then again, why risk your job when the ones showing NO ethics are probably your superiors.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  113. Alan

    Honestly, who CAN'T say that they have seen an ethics violation of some kind in a government office first hand? If you have stepped into one of these offices, chances are you saw something whether you knew it or not.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  114. Jim

    Jack, it surprises me more that such a high number of government employees would even recognize an ethics violation.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:11 pm |
  115. Kevin Haring

    No Jack, it does not suprise me at all. Our country has become so engulfed in lifes of athletes and cele-britneys that they have turned a blind eye to "boring" politics. They have let the government get away with what ever they want, and continue to re-elect them. Where's the incentive to do good? They have none and it does not suprise me.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  116. Tim H in PA

    No surprise at all, considering how the Republican Congress under Bush and the Bush Administration have conducted themselves with a complete lack of ethics from 2000-2006.
    Now that the Democrats are in control of Congress, they have done little to investigate the abuses committed. When will it end? Perhaps with the next election, but then again, perhaps not.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  117. Lisa Catmull

    Before we answer the question, let's get some perspective. What percentage of employees at non-government jobs see the same kind of dishonesty at work? No, I'm not surprised. I've seen abusive behavior of managers just while I'm standing in line at a store. The real question is how pervasive those things are in our culture, not just our government.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  118. Douglas from New Orleans

    I'm shocked to hear that 60% of government employees have seen ethics violations at work– I figured that it would have been MORE.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  119. Mary Hoehmann

    The only real surprise about that statistic is that, apparently 40% of government employees are working with their eyes closed.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  120. Monty

    The percentage at federal level for ethics violations is probably more egregious than any where else.
    Most likely they are under-reported because there are so few people with any ethical standards left in the fed. govt, they wouldn't recognize a violation if it painted itself red white and blue and saluted them. And the majority of those who do report are probably just pissed because they got trumped in dirty tricks by a competitor.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  121. Doug Johnson

    I am surprised that ONLY 60% say they have seen ethics violations. I suspect the other 40% of lying.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  122. Jeremy from Alabama

    Jack, It's not a surprise. The government is corrupt up, down, and sideways. Why would anyone think that ethics would mean anything to the govenment when the people they represent don't mean anything to them?

    January 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  123. Jay N. Cohen

    It surprises me! I thought it would be closer to 90%. It's a disgrace that people holding the highest offices in the country aren't held accountable for their unethical behavior and that especially includes the President and the Vice-President. They're supposed to be setting examples!

    January 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm |
  124. cj

    what is even more sad is that it is occurring in higher education- land grant institutions and students are seeing it. It is teaching the next generation some really bad ethics. Some of these institutions give a lot of hot air about caring about ethics and point to online trainings they offer etc. but it doesn't help when you see professors and senior administrative officials taking state and fed tax dollars to basically run their own consulting firms on campus and become fat cat tenured professors.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  125. Janice

    Amazing it's not higher. As long as we have a "get in while you can" culture there will be a "get it any way you can" attitude. It's back to lack of personal responsibility that seems to be fading away in our culture.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  126. Kelsey

    Why should anyone in the governmet care about ethics when the boss "George Bush" is always saving the people who get exposed?

    January 30, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  127. Rebecca

    Jack, it really does surprise me that this number is so very- low.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  128. John from Pacific Palisades

    Yes, I' surprised that 40% are lying.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  129. James

    Jack, I'm surprised that the number isn't higher. The type of people who work in government are simply the type of people who couldn't make it in the same job in the private sector. That being said, this level deception and incompetence is simply unacceptable. Out with the old, in with the new, eh? Not very likely.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  130. Brandon

    With that pay who wouldn't

    January 30, 2008 at 6:13 pm |
  131. Candy Thomson

    So how does this survey of public employees square with the private sector?
    If Enron, Blackwater and Halliburton are any indication, the private sector is just as lousy with liars and cheats as our government.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  132. Rebecca

    Does not surprise me at all – because everyone of us outside of government sees it everyday in our own jobs. Government is comprised of people just like us and they reflect the human condition. But the human condition can be persuaded to do better or much worse by an effective leader or group of leaders. That is the change we need.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  133. Marshall Spevak

    No it does not surprise me. 7 years ago it would. When the Bush administration continually had "ethical lapses" and did not get punished, we'll that was the precedent set. Then, when the republican congress covered for the Bush admin, I know we lost all hope of any integrity. Just think how hard they went after Clinton... only to protect much greater misdeeds. I guess it all started when they stole the election. Now that you know him and his actions, do you doubt it?

    January 30, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  134. Patrick Wright

    Abuse of the system is usually isolated but in this case it is "follow the leader" and it starts at the very top. I would chastise the Repubicans but I know the Dems will have their chance soon. For me, justice is the number one issue to this election!

    Patrick Wright
    San Diego

    January 30, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  135. Tom

    I'm surprised that only 40% are unethical enough not to anser honestly!

    January 30, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  136. Lee

    no one should be surprised at these findings. the govt is a reflection of its leaders.


    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  137. WC Olsen

    Not really, what does surprise me is that more was found on the State and local level. I would think our VP Dick C. would have accounted for upwards of 30% by himself on the Federal level.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  138. Molly

    It should be no surprise that there are so many ethical violations in government. They are just following the leadership of the current administration which has lied to us repeatedly about Iraq and has violated the civil liberties of Americans.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  139. James M. Blackford

    Yes, it surprises me that more don't open their eyes and see the waste, fraud, and abuse. As an employee of a federal contractor for five years, I saw far more than I could stomach. From fraudulent accounting practices easily documented to overtly bigoted management.

    We get the government we deserve. We've gotten sewage.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  140. Patty

    There are ethics violations which permeate all of American society. Business has a record for ethics violations that rivals government. Students have been found to cheat on exams and plagiarize writings at the same rate that government employees report ethics violations. I think it is time for all of our educational and cultural institutions to address morality and personal ethics.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  141. Barbara

    I am one of those state employees who has witnessed such conduct. The more you speak up the more you are isolated and retaliated again. I have six more years until I can retire, and if I won the lottery I would be out the door in a minute. This is a scandalous problem and it falls right in line with our need to shake up government status quo at all levels.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  142. Ira Kennedy

    What? Are they blind? Don't they watch the news? I've never actually seen President Bush autograph one of his signing statements but I am well aware most are, in fact, ethics violations. The air is choking with smoking guns.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  143. Dory


    It doesn't surprise me at all because it doesn't only happen in government. I was in fact an employee who spoke up against another employee who was doing something that was unethical. The employee in question was not fired until we lost a large account because of that employees behavior. Rumors spread that I was the one who let the account executives know that their was a problem so therefore it was my fault that we lost the account and the other employee lost their job. I got the silent treatment and the cold shoulder from folks who used to be my friend. I stayed an additional two months and then quit because I couldn't continue to work for a company that would allow and by allowing condone such behavior. Again, this is a problem in government and in the private sector. American's need to hold themselves and other up to the highest standards and it would be nice if the government would set an example in the future that this kind of activity will not be tolerated anywhere or by anyone.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  144. Sandra

    Not no but hell no we're not surprised. Between what we and our kids see between government, big business and the churches is it any surprise at the degree of disrespect there is in this country? Why not cheat on your taxes, take things you're not entitled to, and disrespect the law...those that are leading us and we're suppose to hold in such high reguard do it and get away with it everyday...so it must be okay to do.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  145. Paul V

    Yes there is so much ethic issues in the goverment ,, not even a funny issue
    But also and honestly, no will do anything No one will stop it
    The people in charge of taking care of it will turn the other cheek,,
    When you get that high up in a goverment weather its president, congress, Police, post master gen, does not even matter, The DMV , Welfare,, these jobs will be protected to these people whom hold them,

    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  146. ron lockridge

    jack, It does not surprise me about the lack of ethics in local, state and federal govt.,,,it is because of lack of honesty of leadership at the top of our govt..when the president and vice president won't even testify under oath about 9/11, and secret deals are made with Halliburton, cronies sentences are comutted, etc,
    a lack of ethics will follow..we need new, honest leaders..

    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  147. Carolynn

    It doesn't surprise me at all. It's human nature that if people go unpunished for their negative actions and are rewarded as opposed to punished than they will continue to act in a manner with those positive consequences. In so doing, they set an example and a standard for their peers to also act unethically.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:15 pm |
  148. Lu

    I'm not surprised. It is apparent to all Americans that the big money for election funds only goes to corruptible candidates with something in their past that can be used to insure their compliance to the special interests that shell out the money. And so, corruption breeds corruption all the way down the line. Sad.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:16 pm |
  149. Simon

    Sadly, it doesn't surprise me that the ehtics violations are so abundant. However it does surprise me that so many government employees were willing to admit it. Thats pretty risky since the "Protect America Act" doesn't expire until tommorow.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:16 pm |
  150. Newburgh, IN

    It is absolutely irrelevant to me that 60% of government employees have seen ethics at their workplace.

    What is surprising and relevant in this case is that fact no effort has been made to report it, no avenue provided for reporting these violations and that it continues to fester in our government.

    This is the peoples’ government and there should be a major outcry from the public to have such a staggering level of violation without any checking mechanism in place.

    Absolutely outrageous…

    January 30, 2008 at 6:16 pm |