With general agreement that Congress is bought-and-paid-for by special interests, and with never-ending examples abounding of ethical breaches at the Federal level, I'd like to give you an example of the other side of that coin, and how "rules" can be taken to laughable extremes on the positive side.
This story is about Friend #1, who is the head of a major government agency in Washington. You'd know the name of the agency instantly, and might even be familiar with Friend #1's name. It's also about Friend #2, who we know through an entirely different set of connections, but who works in a high level job at the same agency, and who obviously also knows Friend #1. We are social friends with both men, but they are business associates of each other. Their relationship is cordial, but they don't often see each other socially.
A couple weeks ago we were having dinner with Friend #2 and his wife. He handed me a copy of the best-selling book written a few years ago by Friend #1. He said that he knew we would be seeing Friend #1 at an event this past weekend and he asked us to please have him autograph the book for him.
"Well, sure," I said, "but why don't you just take it to work and throw it on his desk?"
"It's against the law," said Friend #2. It could be considered engaging in commerce for personal gain on Federal property, and that's a no-no." He even put a post-it note on the book asking Friend #1 to add to the inscription, "Not signed at work."
I thought this was completely asinine, but we took the book along to the event and presented it to Friend #1, who really got a laugh out of it. But while he said that he certainly would have signed it at work, he also said that technically Friend #2 had a point. However, he did stop short of adding the "not signed at work" disclaimer to the inscription.
It's amazing that while some loot the public treasury for all they can get, the best and the brightest among Federal workers (like these two men) bend over backwards to avoid even a whiff of wrongdoing--and take those scruples to almost comic lengths.
Just a lesson that we shouldn't paint anything with too broad a brush.