Shapiro: Absurd Ethics Laws Hurt Job Creators

Posted February 19, 2012 at 7:59pm

Our national strength stems in part from tough ethics laws and a culture that abhors corruption, but reporter Amanda Becker’s Feb. 14 story (“Loopholes Allowed for Long Vegas Vacation”) underscores how absurdly imbalanced our system has become. We are cutting off the nose of legislators to spite the face of job creators. Our absurd ethics laws block legislators from contact with the real world of business and job creation. Arduous travel restrictions and bizarre trade-show participation rules prevent policymakers from connecting with entrepreneurs and government officials from other countries.

Roll Call’s reporting shows that disclosure rules allow transparency, but real transparency cuts the need to put foolish, cumbersome, outdated and harmful restrictions on government representatives engaging with the outside world.

American companies and events have worldwide competition, and we need our government on our side. To expand exports, we need to ensure that small businesses — which make up 80 percent of the exhibitors at the International Consumer Electronics Show — can reach foreign buyers without the expense and difficulty of exhibiting overseas. The lawmakers who attended CES in January decided to see first-hand the very things that will restore our economy: product innovation and business.

With more than 150,000 people from media, business, finance and government, including 35,000 international attendees, CES allows lawmakers to mingle with the people who are driving the American recovery. Byzantine ethics rules cause such activity to be viewed as evidence of corruption. To which I’ll ask your readers: Who will be a better lawmaker for our nation — one who gets out and meets American innovators, or one who never leaves the Beltway and the confines of his or her state or district?

— Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, Consumer Electronics Association