HomeEssential Ethics / JANUARY 18, 2019

Essential Ethics

JANUARY 18, 2019

Latest Developments:

  • The United States Supreme Court denied a petition to hear an appeal from the Ninth Circuit decision in Lair v. Mangan, a case that raised two issues:  (1) whether Montana’s base candidate contribution limits on individual and political committees are unconstitutional under the First Amendment; and,  (2) whether Montana’s aggregate candidate contribution limits from all political party entities are unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
  • The Washington State Supreme Court, in Washington v. Evergreen Freedom Foundation, ruled that an organization that provided free legal services to proponents of local ballot measures is required to file disclosure reports with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.  The organization must report the value of its services as an independent expenditure in support of a ballot measure.
  • Campaign Contribution Limits Increase:  A number of states have revised their campaign contribution limits for elections held in the new 2-year election cycle.  Among the states that have recently announced changes are:

Clients with access to campaign finance law summaries through the the Nielsen Merksamer Client Portal will find pertinent updated limits in each summary in the coming weeks.

  • The Wyoming Secretary of State announced a new online Lobbyist Registration System.  The new Lobbyist Center includes the registration portal, a real time list of registered lobbyists, and a variety of resources for interested people.  Amendments, terminations, and reports must still be submitted via email on a form that may be downloaded.

In Case You Missed It:

  • What Happens if Nobody’s Home?:  Politico reports that Democrats have expressed concern that the Federal Election Commission is closed for business during the government shutdown.  In a letter to the Chair of the FEC, Senate Democrats wondered whether the Commission is capable of exercising its core functions and brought up the fact that the agency’s computers were hacked during a 2013 shutdown.
  • More FARA Fallout from the Russia Investigation:  The U.S. Department of Justice continues to crack down on those who fail to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).  The Wall Street Journal reports that “big law” firm Skadden Arps has agreed to retroactively register under FARA and pay over the $4.6 million it made when it provided services to the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice in 2012.
  • New Congressional Members Embrace Leadership PAC Funds:  Roll Call details the widespread use of “leadership PACs,” which it calls “slush funds,” by incoming freshmen who campaigned against the influence of money in politics.
  • Oklahoma Ethics Shuns Leadership PAC Funds:  According to NewsOK, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission voted to ban state legislators from operating leadership PACs.  However, the legislature, which may veto Commission rules, is expected to reject the rule change.