December 22, 2011 •
Laws Found Constitutional After Citizens United
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a challenge to the city’s campaign finance laws.
The laws which prohibit corporate contributions to political campaigns and require candidates to disclose contributions from people and groups that do business with the city were found to not violate constitutional free speech rights and to appropriately address the risk of corruption.
The plaintiffs argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission made the laws unconstitutional. The Court rejected that argument, finding that Citizens United applies only to independent corporate expenditures, and not to contributions limits such as those enacted by New York City.
Photo of the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse by Americasroof on Wikipedia.
December 21, 2011 •
Bill Creates Ethics Panel and Impeachment Process
WASHINGTON, D.C.: By a 12-1 margin, the D.C. Council has passed an ethics bill that seeks to increase accountability for council members.
The bill includes provisions to establish a new three-member ethics panel, bar felons from serving on the council or as mayor, and grant powers to the D.C. attorney general to prosecute elected officials accused of ethical misconduct.
The legislation will be sent to Mayor Vincent Gray for his approval.
Photo of the John A. Wilson Building by Awiseman on Wikipedia.
December 19, 2011 •
Office to Review Local Gift and Conflict of Interest Regulations
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has requested the state’s 932 towns show his office their ethics regulations in an effort to bolster ethics in local government.
The Office of the Attorney General has begun reviewing local ethics measures addressing issues like gifts and conflicts of interest.
The goal is to gather the ethics information to make it public and provide the office with referral information for citizen calls and complaints.
The Attorney General has also has assigned public integrity prosecutors in all 13 regional offices to deal with investigations.
December 13, 2011 •
DiFiore Named Chair of New Commission
NEW YORK: Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced the appointment of 14 members to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Governor Cuomo chose Janet DiFiore, the District Attorney of Westchester County, to chair the commission.
The new agency replaces the Commission on Public Integrity, which was created in 2007 by the merger of the ethics and lobbying commissions. Under a law signed on August 15, the new commission came into existence yesterday.
The creation of the joint commission put operations of the prior agency on hold, except for collecting lobbying expenditure reports, financial disclosure reports by state employees, and conducting on-line ethical training courses. Any allegations of unethical conduct it has received will be transferred to the new commission.
Approximately 30 employees remain with the commission, about half the work force when the Commission on Public Integrity was formed in 2007.
December 12, 2011 •
Law Unconstitutionally Restricts Contributions to Committees Engaged Solely in Independent Spending
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Wisconsin law that set limits on contributions to groups that independently spend on political speech and permanently enjoined enforcement of the law.
The appeal was brought by the political action committee of Wisconsin Right to Life, which previously won a temporary injunction against enforcing the law during recall elections earlier this year.
The court found that after Citizens United v. FEC, W.S. §§ 11.26(4) is unconstitutional to the extent that it limits contributions to committees engaged solely in independent spending for political speech.
November 28, 2011 •
Session to Adjourn Tuesday
NORTH CAROLINA: A special session of the North Carolina General Assembly convened Sunday evening.
The session is scheduled to adjourn on Tuesday, November 29, 2011.
The session was called to consider bills vetoed by Governor Bev Perdue, revise redistricting plans, and address election law bills.
Photo of the North Carolina State Legislative Building by Jayron32 on Wikipedia.
November 21, 2011 •
Draft Seeks to Consolidate and Streamline Other Pending Proposals
The Council of the District of Columbia will soon consider legislation that would establish an independent ethics panel and reduce the amount of money council members can raise to help constituents. Council member Muriel Bowser has crafted draft legislation that seeks to streamline 10 separate reform proposals that have been introduced by council members in the aftermath of several ethics controversies.
The proposal sets up a three-member Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, prohibits lobbyists from offering discounted legal advice to council members, sets limits on how much the mayor and council chairman can accept from donors for transition and inaugural committees, and cuts by half the amount that council members can raise for constituent service funds. The proposal does not impose term limits or prohibit lobbyists from making political contributions as sought by other reform proposals.
November 16, 2011 •
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA: The Board of Ethics has released an advisory alert stating lobbyist and principal registration will not be required prior to January 3, 2012.
The first reporting period will be the first quarter of 2012, and the first expense report is due April 30, 2012.
Regulation No. 9, regarding lobbying, will become effective January 3, 2012. The Board of Ethics intends to recommend amendments to Regulation No. 9 to bring it into conformity with amendments made to Philadelphia City Code Chapter 20-1200 by Bill No. 110556.
In the event an online filing system is not available by January 3, 2012, an interim registration method will be provided by the Board of Ethics.
November 15, 2011 •
Ordinance to Address Conflicts of Interest and Improper Business Practices
WAYNE COUNTY, MICHIGAN: Wayne County will have a comprehensive ethics ordinance in place within the next 90 days, according to Wayne County Commission Chairman Gary Woronchak.
Commission attorneys are currently working on a draft of a Wayne County ethics ordinance. Hearings are expected in January, with final approval targeted for February.
The ordinance seeks to set enhanced standards of conduct for officials and employees and rules for disclosure designed to avoid conflicts of interest and improper business practices.
November 15, 2011 •
Board’s December Meeting to Address Specific Procedures
MINNESOTA: The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board released a memo concerning electronic filing of campaign finance reports. Electronic filing of campaign finance reports will be mandatory for most committees beginning with reports covering calendar year 2012. The electronic filing requirement does not apply to 2011 year-end reports.
Additionally, the waiver of electronic filing request process will be discussed at the Board’s December 2011 meeting.
November 8, 2011 •
Future Special Sessions Pending
The special session of the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned on Monday evening.
A joint resolution is expected to pass the House and Senate that would schedule a three-day special session on November 27.
It also sets special sessions in 2012 for February 16-18 and April 23-25 before the standard May 16 short sessions begins.
Photo of the North Carolina State Legislative Building by Jayron32 on Wikipedia.
November 1, 2011 •
Law Narrows Definition of Lobbying and Covers More Government Agencies
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA: Mayor Michael Nutter has approved a bill which alters restrictions on lobbyists to correct problems with the lobbying law approved last year. The original law was viewed as overly broad by many, including the Philadelphia Bar Association, which had threatened to fight it in court. This version more narrowly defines lobbying activity.
The new bill also expands the number of agencies covered under the law to include the Philadelphia School District, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation.
October 31, 2011 •
Charter Proposes Ethics and Lobbying Reforms
On November 8, Detroit voters will consider a city charter proposed to reform the city government by bolstering ethics and reducing corruption. The proposed charter creates a board of ethics and the office of inspector general to investigate alleged ethical or criminal violations.
The charter seeks to improve transparency by requiring lobbyists and contractors to reveal financial connections with elected officials. Additionally, public servants are prohibited from accepting a gift, honoraria, or anything of value from individuals or companies seeking to do business with the city and a company can be barred from doing business with the city if found to be involved in contractual bribery or corruption.
Photo of the Detroit skyline by Shawn Wilson on Wikipedia.
October 25, 2011 •
Current Ethics Commission under Investigation
SUFFOLK COUNTY, NEW YORK: The Suffolk County Legislature has approved two bills that would overhaul the county’s ethics rules. One bill would create a five-member board of ethics, to replace the three-member commission. The county executive would appoint two members, and the legislature’s presiding officer, majority leader, and minority leader would each appoint one member. All appointees would require confirmation by the legislature.
The other bill consolidates disclosure and ethics requirements into one section of the county code. The bills are awaiting action by the County Executive.
The Suffolk County Ethics Commission is currently under investigation as a grand jury determines if the County Executive attempted to influence actions of the commission, and if the commission disclosed confidential information.
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