September 21, 2010 •
Ethics News from Connecticut
The Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board will hold a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, September 23, 2010, at 1:00 p.m.
The meeting will take place at the Office of State Ethics, 18-20 Trinity Street in Hartford. The board is scheduled to discuss the feasibility of easing eligibility restrictions of members after it was recently reported an August meeting was forced to be canceled due to lack of quorum. The board is allotted nine positions; however, only six are presently occupied.
After news of the available positions and canceled meeting were reported, officials stated several Connecticut citizens had been in contact with the board about filling a vacancy. Before any new board member can be seated, the individual must first be determined to be a Connecticut voter, have not held or currently hold political office, and have not campaigned for election to political office in the three years preceding the appointment. Further, a board member is not permitted to hold office in any political committee or party, make contributions to state campaigns, be a state employee, be a lobbyist, or be in an organization wherein the purpose is to influence legislation or public agency decisions.
September 21, 2010 •
Campaign Finance News from Oklahoma
Ballot issue PACs allowed to receive contributions from other PACs
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has announced it will not enforce a law banning PAC-to-PAC transfers of funds in an instance where one PAC supports or opposes a ballot issue.
The commission recognizes the rule, as written, is unconstitutional because of the U.S. Supreme Court case “First National Bank of Boston v. Belloti”. The ethics commission will likely rewrite the rule in 2011.
September 17, 2010 •
News from Cook County
Commissioners tighten ethics rules – more news to come.
Cook County Commissioners have approved a series of ethics reforms focused on certain political contributions. Among the reforms is a provision requiring candidates for County Assessor to return contributions exceeding $1,500 from lawyers who appear before their office seeking reduced property values.
Additionally, fines for breaking county ethics rules have been increased tenfold; violators now face a maximum fine of $5,000. The board intends to clarify the county’s conflict-of-interest code after the upcoming election.
You can visit the Web site for the Cook County Commissioners.
September 14, 2010 •
Nominee to Be Named to G.A.B. Candidate Committee
Wisconsin State Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson will select a state Court of Appeals judge to fill a vacancy on the Government Accountability Board Candidate Committee.
The committee serves as the nominating body for members of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) and consists of four judges chosen from the state’s four Court of Appeals districts.
The board is charged by state law with the responsibility of developing lists of candidates to fill any vacancies which occur on the G.A.B. The names of candidates selected by the board are sent to the governor who makes a nomination which is then subject to final confirmation by the Wisconsin Senate.
Chief Justice Abrahamson will conduct the selection process on Wednesday, September 15 at 9:45 a.m. in the hearing room of the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Madison.
Photo of Madison, Wisconsin by Dori on Wikipedia.
September 7, 2010 •
Georgia Ethics Commission Issues Advisory Opinion No. 2010-06
The Georgia State Ethics Commission ruled that campaign candidate to candidate contributions must adhere to the limitations expressed under O.C.G.A. section 21-5-41.
The Commission determined the language in section 21-5-33(b)(1)(B) of the Georgia Ethics in Government Act which states a candidate is free to transfer excess contributions “without limitation to any national, state, or local committee of any political party or to any candidate” is not referencing an absence of limitation on such contributions, but is instead referencing the types of organizations to which such excess contributions may be contributed.
For further reading:
“Advisory Opinion – S.E.C. 2010-06,” by the Georgia State Ethics Commission.
This post is a follow-up to my previous article on Georgia campaign finance from August 30, 2010 – “Georgia Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion Coming,” by Joe May.
September 2, 2010 •
Lobbying News: Nevada
Nevada to Increase Lobbying Registration Fees for 2011.
The Nevada Legislative Ethics Commission has announced it will increase lobbyist registration fees for 2011. The fee has been set at $300 for paid lobbyists, triple the current amount. The fee for unpaid lobbyists will remain at $20.
According to the Lobbyist Registration Overview:
“The penalty for failure to file any monthly expenditure report(s) or to file late is $10 per day until the report(s) is submitted.”
If you have any questions, the Registration Office contact is (775) 684-6800.
Here is the overview from the Nevada Legislative Web site.
Photo by Ryan Jerz in Wikipedia.
September 2, 2010 •
Proposed Cuyahoga County Ethics Code to Be Debated
A draft ethics code for the new Cuyahoga County government will be the subject of a public meeting later this month.
The proposed Cuyahoga County ethics code is the product of a review conducted by a working group of volunteers who reviewed the ethics practices of 13 similar counties. The proposed code includes provisions for lobbyist registration and reporting, campaign finance disclosure, and “pay-to-play” provisions for public contracts.
The code calls for a new five person entity called the Cuyahoga County Ethics Board which will oversee ethics education and enforcement as well as a County Ethics Officer who would be empowered to render advisory opinions, process and initiate ethics complaints, and conduct investigations.
Finally, the new code provides for whistleblower protection for county employees who report suspected illegal or unethical conduct.
August 30, 2010 •
Georgia Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion Coming
The State Ethics Commission of Georgia is expected to issue an advisory opinion in the coming weeks concerning limits on campaign candidate to candidate contributions in the state.
Jim Walls, who runs the watchdog Web site AtlantaUnfiltered.com, has requested the opinion after language concerning such contributions and any limitations imposed was recently questioned before the State Ethics Commission. A vote by the Commission could remove caps on such contributions in the near future; however, if the vote were to remove the caps, it is expected to result in a bill being introduced before the state legislature to impose clear limits on these contributions.
For further reading:
“Ethics Commission to issue advisory opinion on campaign transfers,” by Walter Jones in the Rome News-Tribune.
“Law setting funding limits in elections could be gutted,” by Jim Walls in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Here is letter of request by Jim Walls to the State Ethics Commission of Georgia.
August 27, 2010 •
New Rules in Maine for Reporting Independent Expenditures
The Maine Ethics Commission adopted emergency rules to address regulations deemed “unconstitutionally burdensome” by a federal court last week. The new rules apply to political action committees, party committees, and other outside groups making independent expenditures.
Beginning September 7th, independent expenditures exceeding $250 must be reported within 48 hours of the expenditure. Starting on October 20th, independent expenditures exceeding $100 must be reported within 24 hours. Other reports of independent expenditures will be required on September 7th, October 12th, and October 19th.
Here is the Notice on Reporting Independent Expenditures on the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices Web site.
Photo by AlbanyNY on Wikipedia.
August 27, 2010 •
New Ethics Ordinance for Broward County
The Broward County Board of Commissioners has passed a new ethics ordinance.
Commissioners, their family members, and their staff will no longer be permitted to accept gifts from lobbyists registered with the county, employers of registered lobbyists, or vendors or contractors of the county. Commissioners will not be permitted to be employed as lobbyists or engage in lobbying activities before municipalities or other local government entities within the county.
Further, family members and office staff of a commissioner will not be permitted to lobby before the Board of County Commissioners or other local government entities within Broward County.
August 24, 2010 •
Will New Ethics Law Overwhelm the Georgia Ethics Commission?
The State Ethics Commission has noted worries over whether it will be able to effectively implement the requirements of the new ethics law passed by the state legislature in 2010.
Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman has pointed to a lack of resources available to the commission to provide the required oversight. Budget cuts have delayed technology upgrades despite an anticipated 1,000% increase in filings when the law takes effect in January, 2011. Further, the commission employed three investigators and three auditors a few years ago, but currently employs just one auditor and no investigators.
Kalberman has stated that the commission presently relies primarily on the press and outside sources to bring ethics violations to their attention.
For further reading here is an article in the Florida Times-Union: “Georgia Ethics Commission Aces Overload,” by Walter C. Jones.
And an article from GPB News: “Agency Doesn’t Have Funds to Enforce Ethics Law,” by Melissa Stiers.
Here is the State Ethics Commission Web site and the summary of upcoming 2011 changes to ethics law.
August 17, 2010 •
Ask the Experts – Do I need to report spending on legislators’ spouses?
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.
You can directly submit questions for this feature, and we will select those most appropriate and answer them here. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. I attended the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures. While there, I took a group of legislators from various states to dinner and picked up the tab. Most of the legislators were accompanied by spouses. In those jurisdictions requiring disclosure of this dinner expenditure, must I also disclose the amount spent on the spouse?
A. Almost all states requiring disclosure of food and beverage expenditures incurred on behalf of reportable officials also require disclosure of the amount spent on the official’s spouse or immediate family member. However, there are exceptions.
- In Idaho, the lobbying law does not require disclosure of expenditures for spouses and family members of legislators. However, it is common practice for lobbyists to report such expenditures anyway.
- In Michigan, food and beverage expenditures on behalf of spouses or family members are not reportable. However, travel expenditures greater than $725 on behalf of spouses or family members are reportable.
- In Montana, a principal is not required to report expenditures made on behalf of a spouse or immediate family member of a legislator, public officer, or employee.
- In Rhode Island, expenditures made on behalf of family members are not reportable as lobbyist expenditures, but are reported by elected officials.
- In Vermont, expenditures on behalf of a spouse or immediate family member are not reportable.
(We are always available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or e-mail us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need.) Our replies to your questions are not legal advice. Instead, these replies represent our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.
August 11, 2010 •
New Code of Ethics for Broward County
After a long wait, Broward County, Florida has a new ethics law.
A contentious meeting of the Broward County Commission has resulted in a new code of ethics law for the county. The new law bars county commissioners and family members from accepting lobbyist gifts. It also establishes a new Office of Inspector General.
For more coverage of this breaking news:
“Broward Ethics Reform Passes After Shouting Match,” by Carey Codd at CBS 4.
“Gnashing of teeth, tongue-lashing, and ethics reform,” by Brittany Wallman in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
August 2, 2010 •
News You Can Use – August 2
Three articles from the upcoming issue of News You Can Use.
Maine’s Clean Election Act is in question after a U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding Arizona’s clean elections program and a federal court decision in Connecticut:
“ME: Maine watching Arizona elections case,” by Kevin Miller from the Bangor Daily News.
Former Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom gets no plea deal because he refuses to participate in a sheriff’s work program:
“Ray Sansom Plea Deal Scrapped When Defendants Balk at Jail Gang Duty,” by Lee Logan and Steve Bousquet from the St. Petersburg Times
From Pennsylvania, Bonusgate staffer Stephen Keefer files a lawsuit in federal court:
“Acquitted Bonusgate Staffer Files Lawsuit,” by Brad Bumsted and Brian Bowling from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.