April 30, 2013 •
Joint Commission on Public Ethics Proposes Rule Changes
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) unveiled proposed changes to the ethics rules Tuesday, which could make it easier for lobbyists to conceal their donors and funders from the public. At its monthly meeting, JCOPE proposed changes to the gift regulations and the recently enacted source of funding regulations.
Under the source of funding regulations, lobbyists must disclose the names of anybody who provided them with funding in excess of $5,000 for lobbying purposes, but only if they meet a certain threshold. The current rules allow for a waiver of this requirement only if there is a substantial likelihood of harm. Under the proposed change, JCOPE would lower the standard to a reasonable likelihood or probability of harm.
Executive Director Ellen Biben said the current standard may be unconstitutional, thus necessitating the change. “The substantial likelihood standard may be constitutionally too high,” Biben said. “We agree.”
In the proposed change to the gift ban, JCOPE puts a concrete dollar amount on the term “nominal value.” Under current law, a lobbyist is prohibited from giving a gift to a public official and gift is defined as something worth more than nominal value. However, there is no dollar figure attached to the current definition of nominal value.
Under the proposed definition, nominal value will be defined as an item or service with a value of $10 or less. Therefore, if the proposed change is enacted, lobbyists will be prohibited from giving a public official a gift with a value in excess of $10.
In order for the rules to go into effect, JCOPE commissioners must approve the proposals. There is no set time table on when the commissioners will review the proposals and make a decision on their enactment.
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