HomeEssential Ethics / April 16, 2024

Essential Ethics

April 16, 2024

Latest Developments:

  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued its 2023 Lobbying Disclosure Report. The report, based on audits of a random sample of 98 quarterly LD-2 reports and 160 LD-203 reports, concluded that its findings comport with findings in recent years. Notably, over 20 percent of filers still do not fully disclose former positions and, when non-filers are referred to the Department of Justice, the approach has been to encourage filing rather than to fine. All those audited complied with the JACK Act which requires disclosure of past criminal convictions.
  • Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs signed SB 1571, which requires that statewide candidates file campaign finance reports every quarter, rather than just the four quarters preceding a general election. The bill takes effect immediately.
  • The San Francisco Ethics Commission is proposing amendments to campaign finance regulations, including the acceptance of electronic signatures (ending the use of signature verification cards), new rules on home or office fundraisers, and rules regarding bank account location.  The Commission is expected to adopt the regulations at its next meeting.
  • The Colorado Court of Appeals, in Colorado Department of State v. Unite for Colorado, found that a group that spent $4 million on ballot measures in the 2020 elections was required to register and must pay a $40,000 fine for failing to do so, reversing the trial court. The lower court had found that registration was not required when spending was broken down among several issues. The Court of Appeals, however, found that a “major purpose” of the organization was ballot measure advocacy.
  • The Texas Ethics Commission is proposing a new Rule 26.1, which would require disclosure on social media ads that are posted for consideration. The rule likely will be adopted at the Commission’s next meeting.

In Case You Missed It:

  • Judge Requires 501(c)(4) Disclosure: According to the Washington Free Beacon, a U.S. District Court is requiring a nonprofit organization to open its books to a former executive who alleges the group inappropriately engaged in campaign and lobbying spending in 20 states. The whistleblower alleges the organization violated tax law and that she lost her job when she expressed concerns about the spending.
  • California Reporting Portal Delays Continue: Cal Matters reports that continued delays mean that the California Secretary of State’s campaign finance reporting system, “Cal-Access,” won’t be updated before the 2026 election. The current portal opened in June 2000; the current effort to update the system began in 2016.
  • Grassroots Lobbying – The New Approach in Washington: The Wall Street Journal (adapted from a new book, The Wolves of K Street) explains how tech companies have engaged their users to lobby the federal government on their behalf. The method replaces the old insider lobbying and campaign contribution approach to influencing government outcomes.
  • Free Trip from Foreign Government isn’t a Gift: The Mayor of Wichita argues that a trip to Switzerland, paid for by the Swiss government, isn’t a gift that would exceed the city’s $150 gift limit because Switzerland does not have any interest in matters before the Wichita government. Yahoo News (The Wichita Eagle) explains the “gray area.”