HomeEssential Ethics / August 5, 2022

Essential Ethics

August 5, 2022

Latest Developments:

  • A District Court Judge in Alaska dismissed a lawsuit “request[ing] to block campaign finance provisions of a ballot measure approved by Alaska voters in 2020, finding that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated a likelihood of success on their outlined claims.” The Anchorage Daily News reports that the challenged provisions concerned independent expenditure groups and includes “disclosure rules [the plaintiffs claim] are unconstitutional and burdensome…[such as] disclaimers required for ads and required reporting around contributions greater than $2,000 that are given to or received by independent expenditure groups.” The court noted that precedent establishes that “lower federal courts should ordinarily not alter … election rules on the eve of an election.” The decision is Smith et al v. Helzer et al.
  • The Texas Ethics Commission’s servers crashed upon receiving the campaign finance reports from a prominent gubernatorial candidate, although “the commission’s system [still] successfully processed approximately 3,500 such reports due” by the deadline. The Texas Signal reports that the commission attributes the failure to the submitted file’s size and has requested more than $700,000 in additional appropriations “to upgrade their dated equipment…warning that their servers will likely crash again in October, when reports are due.” No indication was given that other filings from PACs—or the regulated community generally—were affected.
  • The League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit against the city of Cupertino, CA over what it termed “[an] ‘overly broad and vague’ [lobby]…ordinance. [T]he League decided to take action because [as they argue] the law stifles watchdog groups from speaking out at public meetings.” According to the San Jose Mercury News, the confusion surrounding the law, passed in 2021, stems from the possibility that “nonprofits [and their board members and employees] can still be subject to ordinance if they’re lobbying for a ‘specific project, issue or person’ and have received monetary compensation for it.” The League maintains that this possibility threatens their rights to speech and association.

In Case You Missed It:

  • PAC Money Not Being Spent on Campaigns:  After an eminent journalist withdrew from the Oregon gubernatorial race due to the state’s strict residency requirements, he transferred his nearly one million dollars in campaign funds to a PAC headed by his wife. What is rather unique and interest about this move, as Oregon Public Broadcasting reports, is the use of the funds, which are entirely unrelated to any electoral or campaign finance purposes. As OPB writes, “the financial shift was a way [for the candidate] to distance himself from the money while still working on his plan for spending it: He wants to create an innovative loan program to help Oregonians pay for job training.”
  • Verbosely Under Reporting: Watchdog groups are criticizing U.S. House candidate Royce White’s quarterly finance report for including dense explanations yet simultaneously obscuring true sources of donations and questionable expenditures.  Heartland Signal reports that “the White campaign’s report was ‘unusually specific, listing every cup of coffee bought while on the campaign trail… [and yet still] does little to clarify where White’s campaign is spending its money.’” The group Public Citizen criticizes the campaign’s reports for using cryptic shorthand for expenditures and a flurry of end of quarter transfers [which are] often “use[d] to cloak the original source of funds, such as from corporations or foreign principals.”