HomeEssential Ethics / April 12, 2019

Essential Ethics

April 12, 2019

Latest Developments:

  • The Governor of New Mexico signed B. 3, a campaign finance measure.  Among other things, the measure revises campaign finance reporting deadlines and reporting thresholds, and revises the dates when an election cycle begins and ends.  It also defines “independent expenditure” and imposes reporting requirements on those expenditures.  The bill defines “legislative caucus committee” and establishes limits for contributions to those committees.
  • The San Diego Ethics Commission met this week.  Among the items on the agenda was a discussion of proposed amendments to the city’s lobby ordinance.  Those changes would expand reporting of activity expenses, and require that activity expenses that consist of salary paid to an official be reported in specified bracketed amounts.

In Case You Missed It:

  • Everybody Gets to Register!:   In an interesting development, the Associated Press and the New York Times reported that an investigation stemming from the Mueller probe has resulted in an indictment against former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig. Last month, Craig’s former law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom settled a civil suit for $4.6 million and “publicly acknowledged that it failed to register with the government for its work for the Ukraine.” That civil suit “laid much of the blame for the firm’s conduct on Craig…alleging he made several “false and misleading statements to the government, allowing the firm to avoid registration.” Craig denies having lied to the government.
  • Promises that cost nothing:  Politico reports that while “nearly one-fifth of the Democratic caucus” in the House pledged not to accept corporate PAC contributions,  lobbyists for many corporations have still found ways to engage these lawmakers with contributions. Various “Democratic lawmakers who have promised to steer clear of corporate PACs allow the same corporations’ lobbyists to write them personal checks — and in some cases even host fundraisers for them.” The issue has ignited a debate among some Democratic groups about what kind of contributions they deem acceptable to accept, based mostly on their sources. Some “Democrats on K Street are frustrated by what they view as arbitrary restrictions on which kinds of money lawmakers will take and which kinds are forbidden.”
  • Nobody’s Home:  Bloomberg has reported on the decline, since 2016, of enforcement staffers at the US Attorney’s for the District of Columbia, “which is responsible for policing the lobby industry.” The consequence is that 59% of the 3,800 Congressional referrals of potential lobby law violations between 2009-2018 “are still pending and could take years to resolve, according to a new government report.” For example, in 2016, 6 part time lawyers and 1 full time paralegal handled enforcement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act. In 2018, compliance enforcement numbered 1 part time lawyer, 1 full time paralegal, and 1 part time paralegal. This dearth of staff has enabled “so-called ‘shadow lobbyists’ [to] have long careers influencing Congress without ever registering or filing public reports.”