HomeEssential Ethics / AUGUST 10, 2018

Essential Ethics

AUGUST 10, 2018

Latest Developments:

A federal District Court Judge in Washington, D.C. issued a 113-page opinion invalidating a 38-year old Federal Election Commission regulation that required any person’s federal Independent Expenditure Report to only disclose contributors to the ad addressed by that report.  The Court instead held that the makers of an IE must disclose all of its contributors.  The decision’s implications for trade associations and nonprofits making any independent expenditures, and their donors, could be significant, and the Court stated that the FEC could enforce this requirement retroactively.  Pro-regulation groups hailed the decision as a blow to “dark money groups,” according to Politico.

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission has appointed another interim Ethics Administrator:  The Commission has appointed Florida attorney Daniel Carlton, Jr. as its new interim administrator.  The Wisconsin Law Journal reports that Carlton previously worked for the Florida Ethics Commission.  Wisconsin has struggled to find an acceptable leader since the demise of the old Government Accountability Board which occurred as a result of that board’s investigation of Gov. Scott Walker.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission meets next Thursday, August 16.  The Agenda, includes discussions about newly revised manuals and the use of Bitcoin for contributions.  The Commission will consider potential regulations about the use of Bitcoin at its September meeting and regulations for top donor disclosure under the Disclose Act at its October meeting.  Curiously, following appointment of a new Chair, none of the upstart subcommittees met in the past month.  Perhaps peace has returned to the Commission.

In case you missed it:

  • CNN reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has referred several possible violations of FARA to federal prosecutors in New York. The article infers that individuals who worked for the Podesta Group, Mercury Public Affairs, and Skadden Arps failed to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) while doing work for groups associated with Ukraine.
  • The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics has been called “a puppet controlled by the Governor.” City & State New York reports that since JCOPE has been in existence, it has found only two legislators guilty of misconduct, while prosecutors have convicted 15 legislators of crimes.  Cuomo’s opponents are calling for a new ethics structure; the article notes that both Cuomo and his predecessor, Eliott Spitzer, created new ethics commissions upon taking office.
  • Up North, there is a different approachCNBC reports that Mario Dion, Canada’s new Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner says that “My dream is that I will never be called (a lapdog).”  He says he would rather be criticized for being too harsh than for being too lenient.
  • NBC News asserts that the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. may be a “5-star conflict of interest.” Using public filings and social media sites, NBC analyzed spending at the hotel by the Republican Party, foreign governments, and federal agencies.  The report indicates that the hotel “continues to serve as a clubhouse for the (Trump) administration and its supporters.”


Our annual Essential Ethics Workshop will be held on Wednesday, September 5 at the University Club in Washington, D.C. from 12:30 – 2 pm.  We’ll be discussing new developments in political law, sharing experiences and best practices for responding to lobby audits, and discussing the potential changes to the Supreme Court’s campaign finance precedent in light of the upcoming appointment of a new Justice.   This event is free and open to all clients.  Contact Donna Flanagan for more information.