Conflicts of Interest

One of the major areas of legal ethics deals with conflicts of interest, and what lawyers can do to get around them.  The integral part, regardless of how you approach the subject, is full client disclosure.

Why isn’t this true in politics, too?  Think of the American people as the “client” of their elected representatives.  They represent us, our best interests.  But when they start doing things that are difficult to explain how they serve our interests, shouldn’t they be forced to tell us why they are doing what they’re doing and what possible other interests they are serving?

For instance: Senator Arlen Specter (Wikipedia) apparently has significant ties to Comast, a cable company that is currently embroiled in a messy fight with the NFL over the NFL Network. 

Many have questioned Specter’s motives for pressuring the NFL. He responded to a question about his link to the cable company Comcast, which is battling the NFL over the NFL Network, by saying, “I’ve been at this line of work for a long time and no one has ever questioned my integrity.”  (Source)

Except now.  Don’t you think that Senator Specter owes the American people an explanation about why he has such a hard-on to mix into the NFL’s housekeeping, when it seems to blatant to anyone who thinks about it that he wants to stick it to the NFL on behalf of his second largest campaign contributor?

Is Congress going to investigate how every league handles the adminstration of its internal rules and punishments?  If Specter doesn’t like how the refs are calling penalties in the next Eagles game, is he going to call for a congressional investigation?  This is overreaching by congress, and stupidly embarassing at that.

Specter has a penchant for comparing this to the Mitchell Report.  Except he misses four very key factors that distinguish this: (i) Senator Mitchell was not an active member of the Senate at the time of the Report, (ii) Senator Mitchell was preparing the report for MLB, not Congress (iii) the mitchell report involved the use of drugs and other substances that is against the law and (iv) MLB ASKED HIM TO (not Congress). 

I don’t like the way the NFL has handled the SpyGate stuff either, to be perfectly honest.  I think it’s an emabrassment that they destroyed the tapes.  But nothing the Pats or the NFL did was against the law of the United States.  Taping isn’t illegal, it’s cheating within the confines of NFL rules (arguably).  Destroying tapes isn’t illegal, just stupid (the tapes aren’t “evidence” in the legal sense, that destroying them is “destruction of evidence”).  The NFL doesn’t owe the public anything on the SpyGate matter.  Senator Specter has said that, “[w]e have a right to have honest football games that are played according to the rules.”  No, you have no such right.  Certainly, as a market consumer of football games, my interest in continued consumption depends on contests that I think are fair.  But the NFL doesn’t owe me jack squat.  The NFL could decide to become WWNFL, make all the games and characters scripted, and see what happens.  They might lose billions of dollars in ticket, merchandise and TV revenue, but that would be a decision the NFL could make.  We don’t have any “rights,” and the good Senator should know that.  He should be able to separate rights from expectations based on the market and consumption.  He’s a senator for crying out loud; he should be aware of the concept of bsaic rights.  Fair football games isn’t in the bill of rights.

The NFL can make a decision that handling SpyGate by sweeping it under the rug is the best move for itself, and that market will determine whether it’s right, based on how many people tune out.  My guess, not many.  Congress has no place or right to get involved.  And I suspect Specter, in his heart of hearts, knows this. 

He is alone on this crusade, and leading a charge with no cavalry behind him (notice that the person with the power to call for such an investigation, Chairman Leahy, hasn’t).  And I think it’s well within the rights of the citizenry to question their representative about why (call it “redress of grievances” :)), and expect Senator Sepecter to come up with an answer that addresses all of these concerns, without dismissing them with a trite “nobody’s questioned my integrity before.”  And he should fully disclose the nature of his interest with Comcast and the NFL.


4 responses to “Conflicts of Interest

  1. I have a question, which I’m hoping someone has the answers to.

    Point-shaving is illegal, right? Why is it illegal? Does it have to do with gamblers who are unfairly losing their bets?

    The line of reasoning here, as I’m sure you see, is that you could stretch this argument to say that cheating by videotaping the other team can likewise unfairly skew the gambling line.

    Anyway, I agree with Noyam here.

  2. I think it’s illegal because you’re taking money to influence the outcome of the game. It’s a form of bribery/racketeering. What the policy thought behind it was, I’m not sure. But in terms of the law, I don’t think it has much to do with caring about the bettors.

    For instance, if a player, of his own volition, decided to screw with bettors and shave points just to f–k with the lines, would that be illegal, if he wasn’t taking money from bookies to do it? Probably not. There’s no law that says an athelete must try his hardest every game, right?

    So I’m not sure the law concerns itself with protecting gamblers (many of whom are gambling illegaly anyway).

  3. How come you don’t have a post up expressing your sadness over the weekend sweep of your beloved (but sucky) Yankees?

  4. How come you don’t have a post up expressing your sadness over the weekend sweep of your beloved (but sucky) Yankees?

    Because A) the Yankees suck and I said as much last week and B) two wins and a rainout isn’t a sweep.

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