October 11, 2010 •
The city council is expected to vote on a new ordinance concerning the creation of an independent ethics commission at the next city council meeting.
During a recent session of the council Rules Committee, the measure received unanimous support, with similar support expected before the full council at their Tuesday, October 12, 2010 meeting.
The new ordinance not only creates an independent ethics commission, but also provides for the operation of an ethics hotline and the mandatory ethics training of all consolidated government officials within 90 days of being elected. The ordinance, if passed, would reinstitute ethics features similar to the city’s originally chartered Code of Ethics, which was removed in the early 1970’s reportedly due to potential conflicts with a new statewide ethics law adopted by the Florida legislature which covered all public officials.
Photo of Jacksonville skyline by Jonathan Zander on Wikipedia.
October 11, 2010 •
The Salt Lake County Democratic Party has filed a petition with the Utah Supreme Court asking it to intervene in the enforcement of state campaign finance law.
The plaintiffs allege the lieutenant governor’s office, which is charged by law to enforce the state’s campaign finance regulations, has taken no enforcement action against the 41 of 58 major county political parties which failed to submit their campaign finance disclosure statements by the recent August 31st deadline. The plaintiffs then turned to the Utah Attorney General asking for enforcement of the disclosure requirements.
The Attorney General’s office did not respond to the plaintiff’s enforcement request but later explained through a spokesman state law authorizes the lieutenant governor to act in matters touching upon campaign finance. For its part, the lieutenant governor’s office advises political parties to submit their financial disclosure statements even though state law does not specifically require them to do so.
According to Mark Thomas, elections director for the lieutenant governor, state law remains ambiguous on the question of the reporting responsibilities of county political parties; a question which will persist until state lawmakers clarify the law. “We would all like to get it better clarified,” Thomas said.
Photo of Salt Lake City by Skyguy414 on Wikipedia.
October 8, 2010 •
Impact article discusses the Tea Party and anti-incumbent political climate.
Elizabeth Bartz, President and CEO of State and Federal Communications, Inc. was quoted in Impact, the Public Affairs Council’s digital newsletter. The article is titled “Has the Tea Party Already Peaked? Some Say: Don’t Be Too Certain.”
According to Bartz, the topic of the National Conference of State Legislatures was not the Tea Party:
“Everybody was talking about health care,” says Bartz. “None of the people there were talking about the Tea Party or Sarah Palin or Ron and [Kentucky Republican Seante nominee] Rand Paul, or anything of that ‘anti-establishment’ stuff.”
October 8, 2010 •
Presidential Inaugurations from George Washington to Barack Obama.
The Library of Congress hosts a Web site of historical collections called American Memory. One of that site’s hidden gems is “I Do Solemnly Swear…”: Presidential Inaugurations. The Library of Congress has pulled 2,000 digital documents from their many divisions and includes transcripts of the speeches, as well as “diaries and letters of presidents and of those who witnessed inaugurations, handwritten drafts of inaugural addresses, broadsides, inaugural tickets and programs, prints, photographs, and sheet music.”
Would you like to see the hand-written copy of George Washington’s first inaugural speech? How about a photo from Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration? The site offers a series of 12 videos ,with Marvin Kranz, historical specialist in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress giving commentary.
Did you know the oath each president recites is in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution?
I love finding out about firsts and mosts, so I was delighted by the fun page of Precedents and Notable Events. George Washington had the shortest inaugural speech at 135 words and William H. Harrison had the longest with 10,000 words! The inauguration of James Polk was the first to be covered by telegraph, James Buchanan’s the first to be photographed, William McKinley’s the first to be filmed (silent movie), Herbert Hoover’s the first to be covered by talking newsreel, Harry Truman’s the first to be televised, and – you probably have guessed – Bill Clinton’s was the first to be broadcast live on the internet.
So have fun. I do solemnly swear you’ll love “I Do Solemnly Swear …” : Presidential Inaugurations!
October 8, 2010 •
They will be closed for Furlough Day and Columbus Day Holiday.
The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices will be closed on Friday, October 8, 2010 for a mandatory furlough day and Monday, October 11, 2010 in observance of Columbus Day.
The commission advises independent expenditure reports which are due by October 12, 2010 (the October Summary Report) may be submitted to the commission by fax. The fax number which may be used is: (207) 287-6775.
October 7, 2010 •
Court of Appeals Issues Stay of Decision Declaring Washington Law Limiting Late Campaign Spending Unconstitutional
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the decision in Family PAC v. McKenna, et al. which declared a Washington law limiting campaign contributions in the final weeks of ballot measure campaigns unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled last month that the Washington limit is an unconstitutional infringement on political speech. Late Tuesday, a panel of Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges blocked that ruling from taking effect while the state appeals.
The three-judge panel wrote “Washington and its voters have a significant interest in preventing the State’s long-standing campaign finance laws from being upended by the courts so soon before the upcoming election.” The Court also considered that Family PAC had failed to identify any contributions greater than $5000 that it expected to receive in the event the law would be overturned and appeared not to be participating in the upcoming general election, mitigating any harm that may come from the stay of the ruling. Family PAC was created shortly after last year’s legal deadline for large campaign contributions had passed. The committee said it had an offer for a large donation to finance political ads but could not accept the money because of the state law.
October 6, 2010 •
Federal investigators have unsealed an indictment against four Alabama legislators, three lobbyists, two casino owners, and two others for their participation in an alleged bribery and kickback scheme.
The indictment, the result of a months-long joint investigation by the FBI and the Alabama Attorney General’s office, accuses the business owners of hiring the lobbyists to conduct “a full-scale campaign to bribe and coerce state legislators and others into supporting pro-gambling legislation that they favored”, according to Alabama Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer in this CNN article.
The state senators named in the criminal complaint are Larry Means, James Preuitt, Quinton Ross, and Harri Anne Smith. Several of the charges levied carry maximum penalties of significant prison time and fines of up to $250,000.
Photo of a casino by Raul654 on Wikipedia.
October 6, 2010 •
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.
Q. As a registered lobbyist, I am often contacted by elected officials to make a corporate contribution to the officials’ charity of choice, foundation, or scholarship fund. Is this legal? Am I required to disclose these contributions on my lobbying reports?
A. This scenario happens more and more every day. Even though the official does not derive direct, political contributions for his or her campaign, such charitable contributions nonetheless result in positive exposure for the official, goodwill by the lobbyist, and beneficiaries that include the underprivileged, the sick, and the elderly. Furthermore, the monetary amount of corporate charitable donations can surpass the amount of permissible political contributions under campaign finance law.
Most states allow a lobbyist’s employer to make charitable contributions at the behest of an elected official and there are no reporting obligations. Some of the other jurisdictional requirements include:
FEDERAL: Pursuant to House and Senate Rules, charitable contributions made by a registered lobbyist at the behest or designation of a legislative member or employee are prohibited, unless the member or employee has designated the contribution to a charitable organization in lieu of an honorarium.
Please note, however, a charitable organization established by a person before that person became a covered official – and where that covered official has no relationship to the organization after becoming a covered official – is not considered to be established by a covered official.
NEW YORK: Charitable contributions made at the behest of a public official are not permitted.
NEW JERSEY and NEVADA: The charitable contribution is allowed but is not reportable as long as the contribution is not made in the official’s name.
CALIFORNIA: The contribution is permissible but must be reported by the official, not the lobbyist or the employer.
CONNECTICUT: The charitable contribution is permissible and is reported as a lobbying expenditure.
DELAWARE: The contribution is reported as a gift.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The contribution is reported as other.
WYOMING: The contribution is only reported if it exceeds $500.
UTAH: Charitable contributions given for a political purpose are reportable.
If clients who subscribe to our Executive Source Guide on Lobbying Laws™ have further questions about other jurisdictions, they can always check the particular jurisdiction in the online resources. Or, clients can call us if they have some special information need.
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.
October 5, 2010 •
Measure now in Senate
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the State Ethics Law Protection Act. H.R. 3427 would preclude the Federal Highway Administration from interpreting a state’s Pay-to-Play laws as conflicting with federal contract bidding requirements for federal-aid highway projects.
The measure has now passed to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
October 5, 2010 •
Court to Examine Long-standing Montana Law Banning Corporate Campaign Contributions
A Montana district judge will rule on a challenge to Montana’s nearly century-old, voter-passed restriction on direct corporate spending to support or oppose political parties or candidates. The Montana law is being challenged based upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s January ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturned a federal ban on corporate spending in political campaigns.
Attorneys for the State of Montana defended the law stating that a law enacted in 1912 should not be lumped with a law Congress enacted 90 years later under a one-size-fits-all federal rule. They added that corporations do speak freely in Montana elections under current law with nearly 200 political action committees active in state politics in the past decade and warned unlimited corporate campaign spending would drastically alter Montana’s current campaigns that rely on person-to-person contact.
October 4, 2010 •
Group challenges Florida campaign law in federal court
The Institute for Justice, a group which touts itself as the only libertarian public interest law firm in the nation, has filed a challenge to Florida’s campaign finance laws in federal court. The suit has been filed on behalf of four Sarasota, Florida residents seeking to pool their monetary resources to buy radio ads against a proposed state constitutional amendment on the November ballot. However, due to requirements to register as a PAC and disclosure requirements associated with such communications, the residents feel their First Amendment rights are being infringed upon.
This is not the first instance wherein the Institute for Justice has challenged a restriction on political speech in Florida, as they were previously successful in having declared unconstitutional Florida’s electioneering communication law in the case of Broward Coalition of Condominiums v. Browning.
Photo of U.S. Federal Courthouse in Tallahassee by Urbantallahassee on Wikipedia.
October 4, 2010 •
Improper Collaboration Alleged in Kansas Gubernatorial Race
The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has decided to move forward with an investigation against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Holland and the Kansas Moderate Majority, an unaffiliated PAC supporting Holland’s candidacy. A complaint filed with the commission alleges improper collaboration between Holland and the committee on an ad campaign targeting Republican nominee Sam Brownback’s support of a controversial tax reform.
If the Holland campaign and the Kansas Moderate Majority did illegally work together on these advertisements, it could be considered an in-kind contribution.The limit on this type of in-kind contribution is $2,000, a figure the advertisements likely exceeded.
Photo of Tom Holland from the Kansas Legislature Web site.
September 30, 2010 •
The premier social network connecting over 30,000 government innovators from federal, state, and local government.
Proclaiming itself to be the “Facebook for Government,” GovLoop is a Ning-based social network for people who work in government. With more than 30,000 members, GovLoop has a great deal to offer someone working in government. Do you want to host a blog, but don’t know how? GovLoop can host it for you, and it currently lists an impressive 7,020 blog posts.
There are lots of discussion groups and even a photo hosting service for pictures from government events, which they call “Govarazzi.” Govloop offers advice for better government management – everything from preparing staff for retirement, finding the latest information on cyber security and open government laws, and how to survive government performance audits.
Rich with information on the intersection between government and the latest of social media, you will be dazzled by what is offered: a Government-Related Twitter Hashtags Directory; a small but growing database of Federal Government New Media Contacts; and a list of Web 2.0 Governance Policies And Best Practices ranging from the United States Airforce to the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Governor of Massachusetts, and the City of Seattle! (And many more.)
GovLoop was founded in May 2008 by Stephen Ressler, who worked for Homeland Security. The group has become so successful that they co-hosted an event last July called Next Generation of Government Summit to “bring together rising government leaders at the federal, state, and local level.”
While you will find all kinds of valuable information for government work, it’s not all serious stuff. Among the 828 groups found on GovLoop, you will find Gov Gourmet, encouraging members to “feel free to discuss your latest restaurant find, that new recipe, food fad, or celebrity chef.” You will also find Italians in Government, Librarians in Government, and even Cats in Government (for cat lovers who want to talk about their cats).
You have to be a member to get to some of the good stuff, but there are lots of resources available to non-members as well.
September 29, 2010 •
Group says Rhode Island’s campaign finance law is unconstitutional.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has filed a federal lawsuit against the Rhode Island Board of Elections seeking to strike down Rhode Island’s campaign finance law. Citing extensively to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the plaintiffs allege Rhode Island law’s definition of a political action committee, its expenditure ban, and its expenditure reporting requirements are all unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi for declaratory judgments clarifying the extent to which state law’s $1,000 contribution limits on contributions by political action committees apply to them. NOM also seeks a declaratory judgment stating they are not subject to the extensive reporting requirements imposed by state law upon entities which make independent expenditures. An in-chambers conference regarding the lawsuit has been scheduled for Thursday, September 30th, 2010.
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