HomeEssential Ethics / DECEMBER 14, 2018

Essential Ethics

DECEMBER 14, 2018

Latest Developments:

  • The Federal Election Commission met on December 13.  The agenda included a discussion of an opinion, as requested by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), on whether a Member of Congress may use campaign money to pay for cyber security for his or her personal devices; the measure had been deferred twice before. According to The Hillthe Commission voted unanimously to approve Sen. Wyden’s measure, which he brought forth after Google disclosed in September that several Senators’ email addresses were compromised by foreign hackers.
  • The Center for Responsive Politics is reporting on a last-minute move by Michigan legislators to that would move the authority over issues related to campaign finance from the Secretary of State to a bipartisan committee, composed of 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans, all appointed by the governor. Some see it as a move to take power away from the incoming Secretary of State that would create gridlock, while proponents contend it will promote fairness.

COGEL Bluebook:

  • The Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) met December 9 to 12.  The conference is designed for government ethics administrators from around North America.  Jason Kaune of Nielsen Merksamer will moderate a panel discussion entitled, “Campaign Finance Update: The ‘Must Know’ Litigation Developments,” with FEC Assistant General Counsel Charles Kitcher and Megan McAllen from the Campaign Legal Center.  Nielsen Merksamer edits an annual bluebook, compiled from government ethics administrators’ contributions and distributed at the conference.  The bluebook includes a synopsis of all major campaign finance litigation in the United States and Canada in the past year.  Nielsen Merksamer clients may obtain a free PDF of that publication by requesting a copy through their political attorney.

In case you missed it:

  • The state and its money are soon parted:  The Louis Dispatch is reporting that Missouri “paid more than $158,000 in October to a Texas law firm that successfully fought a state campaign finance law” requiring that campaign committees be formed no later than 30 days before an election. The payment of legal fees stems from the decisions of a federal district court and a federal appeals court which found that the state’s blackout period is an unconstitutional prior restraint on political speech in violation of the First Amendment. Missouri tried to enforce this provision in 2014 when the state contended that Missourians for Fiscal Accountability registered less than two weeks before the election.
  • No rest for the weary:  Politico reports that Rep-Elect Ross Spano has encountered difficulties hiring staff as he faces charges of campaign finance irregularities. Spano “recently admitted in a letter to the Federal Election Commission that he might have committed to campaign finance ‘violation’ in failing for two months to disclose $ 180,000” he accepted from two friends. Spano, “who personally loaned his campaign $ 174,500, says the funds he received were loans.” His former opponents have called for an FBI investigation and the House Ethics Committee may examine the case. Roll Call also reported on Spano’s past campaign finance issues.

Meeting Notices:

  • The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) meets next Tuesday, December 18.  On the agenda is a report from commission staff regarding the ongoing process to revise and update the lobbying application.
  • The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission also meets next Tuesday.  The agenda includes numerous areas of interest, including an action item to update the election filing deadlines in light of the new even-year election schedule.
  • The California Fair Political Practices Commission meets next Thursday, December 20.  Numerous enforcement matter are on its agenda, in addition to a report from the Enforcement Taskforce on its streamline program and warning letter protocol.