HomeEssential Ethics / August 17, 2023

Essential Ethics

August 17, 2023

Latest Developments:

  • The Federal Election Commission (FEC) Will Request Public Comment on Use of AI in Campaign Ads and Refrains From Advising on Whether a Leadership PAC Can Set Up Additional Accounts for Independent Expenditures: At its open meeting on August 10, 2023, the FEC granted a petition to publish a Notification of Availability in the federal registrar to request public comments on whether the prohibition on fraudulent misrepresentation should apply to deceptive Artificial Intelligence campaign ads. While the FEC previously denied a similar petition, unlike the prior one, the present petition contained language that technically complied with the requirements for a petition. The FEC also considered and denied a request for an advisory opinion made by Senator John Cornyn’s leadership PAC. The PAC, which uses an existing hard money account to make contributions to federal candidates, had requested permission to set up a second hard money account to solicit and receive contributions for the sole purpose of making independent expenditures.
  • City of Oakland Will Offer Lobbying Fee Waivers and Reductions and Require Lobbyist Training: At a City of Oakland Council meeting on August 9, 2023, councilmembers discussed proposed amendments to the Lobbying Registration Act and voted to accept staff recommendations and draft language. Effective next year, the city will codify the lobbying fees that were previously adopted by the council, fee waivers will apply to certain 501(c)(3) organizations that fall under an income threshold, a fee reduction will apply to certain small businesses and organizations, lobbyists will be required to complete an online training program, and the city’s Public Ethics Commission will be granted the authority to void lobbyist registrations based on failures to comply with the training requirements.

In Case You Missed It:

  • Florida Public Officials Allowed to Lobby Other Governments: The Miami Herald reports that a federal judge struck down a Florida constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2018, that prohibited state and local public officials currently in office from earning money by lobbying other governmental bodies. The judge left in place the six-year revolving door prohibition.
  • MS Attorney General Investigates Treasurer For MS Lieutenant Governor Campaign And PAC He CreatedThe Clarion Ledger reports that pursuant to a complaint, the Mississippi Attorney General is investigating the treasurer for State Senator Chris McDaniel’s campaign for lieutenant governor and a political action committee that he created last month for potential violations of the state’s campaign finance laws. While the press release issued by the Attorney General does not disclose the complainant, the article states that a lawyer for the campaign of McDaniel’s opponent sent a letter to the Attorney General requesting an investigation based on allegations that the PAC received most of its funding from out of state PACs that “appear to have taken money from corporations above what would be allowed under Mississippi law” and that these contributions could not be deemed allowable independent expenditures because of the treasurers roles both within the campaign and the PAC.
  • San Jose Grants Exemptions to Its Revolving Door Policy: San Jose Spotlight reports that since 2019, San Jose’s city council voted to grant a few exemptions to the city’s revolving door policy, which allowed former employees to engage in lobbying without having to wait a period of two years after leaving their city positions. According to the city clerk, San Jose does not currently track or keep a list of former employees who were granted exemptions.
  • Justice Thomas’ Friend Financed His Purchase of a Luxury RV: The New York Times reports that when Justice Clarence Thomas bought an RV in 1999 for $267,230, the purchase was underwritten and financed, at least in part, by a wealthy friend “who made a fortune in the health care industry.” Both Justice Thomas and his friend did not respond to questions about the loan, such as whether any amount was forgiven, and according to the article, their “silence serves to obscure whether Thomas has an obligation to report the arrangement under a federal ethics law…”