HomeEssential Ethics / JANUARY 4, 2019

Essential Ethics

JANUARY 4, 2019

Latest Developments:

  • President Trump signed the JACK Act (“Justice Against Corruption on K Street Act of 2018”; 2896).  That measure requires federal lobbyists to disclose convictions for certain financial crimes on their lobbyist registration and quarterly reports.  Bloomberg has a rundown on the details of the measure and its implications.
  • North Carolina Lobby Regulation has flip-flopped.  In June, the North Carolina Secretary of State issued a letter notifying interested persons that lobby regulation was being transferred to the new State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.  On December 28, 2018 she advised stakeholders that the Secretary of State’s Lobby Compliance Division is once again operational, and has jurisdiction following a judicial decision.  The state board was ruled unconstitutional in October, according to the Charlotte News & Observer; the court’s order has now been implemented.  A new State Board of Elections and a separate State Ethics Commission are being established by 1029, which became law by veto override on December 27, 2018.  Section 3.4(b) of that measure specifically transfers authority over lobbyist registration back to the Secretary of State.
  • The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has released “Questions and Answers” as to how its proposal to require reporting of grassroots lobbying will work.
  • The Oakland Ethics Commission meets Monday, January 7.  According to its agenda, the Commission will elect new officers for 2019, and will select an ad-hoc member of the commission from a pool of 6 applicants.
  • The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission issued a reminder that, effective January 1, “some nonprofits that make contributions or expenditures in Washington election campaigns above certain thresholds” must register as incidental committees and disclose certain donors on a report.

In case you missed it:

  • No More Free Lunch:  The St Louis Post-Dispatch reports that there is quite literally no more free lunch at the state legislature.  Following adoption of a constitutional amendment by the voters that limited gifts to $5, free food and free tickets to events will be a thing of the past.  Jefferson City restaurants are bracing for the change, but at least one enterprising bar “is offering the ‘Clean Mo Cocktail,’ a concoction of rum and lime juice ‘topped with nothing, no garnish.’  The selling price is $4.63 down from the usual price of $8, to keep the drink under the $5 limit.”
  • New Ethics Commission Planned:  The Bismarck Tribune reports that a North Dakota legislator is seeking a bipartisan consensus for a bill draft that would create a state ethics commission, as required by a recently enacted state constitutional amendment.  The legislature has returned to the state capitol for a four-month session.  According to the article, there is a “plan to bring in expert witnesses from other states with experience creating an ethics commission.”
  • Federal Crackdown:  Federal Prosecutors may be poised for a crackdown on those who violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) following the conviction of two people by the Special Prosecutor.  The Hill reports that “Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has given federal prosecutors momentum to litigate alleged violations of what until last year was an obscure law governing foreign lobbying.”
  • California Crackdown:  The California Fair Political Practices Commission’s fine imposed on the Bay Area Rapid Transit District may signal a change in how local governments operate political campaigns.  Dan Walters reports in Cal Matters that a crackdown may be coming.
  • Reform in the South:  The Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission is nearing completion of a project that will provide several alternative proposals on different ethics issues to the state’s legislature, when it meets this March.  According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the legislature created the commission last spring following a scandal; the commission will hold a public hearing on January 31 on the proposed changes.
  • More Regulation:  The Colorado Sun reports that the incoming Secretary of State “is convening a working group to advise her on campaign finance reform as she prepares to take office Jan. 8.”  Dark money and disclosure gaps are her priority, according to the article.