HomeEssential Ethics / July 12, 2023

Essential Ethics

July 12, 2023

Latest Developments:

  • Minnesota Chamber Challenges State’s Foreign-Influence Ban in Federal Court: MPR News reports that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit in federal court, which seeks to block enforcement of the state’s law that imposes “legal penalties” on “companies…if they make independent expenditures or contribute to ballot question committees and have foreign ownership thresholds that meet or exceed state limits.” The Chamber is arguing that the law is an unconstitutional impingement on free speech rights and is preempted by federal law.
  • Mississippi Campaign Finance Reports Cannot Be Filed Electronically While New Filing System is Procured: Magnolia Tribune reports that the Mississippi Secretary of State’s online campaign filing system “is being disabled due to concerns over reliability.” The Secretary of State indicated that a new system will be procured and installed as soon as possible. However, in the meantime, campaign finance reports will need to be filed in-person or via fax, mail or email to CampaignFinance@sos.ms.gov.
  • Alabama Will Require Electronic Filing of Campaign Statements and Reports: Alabama Act No. 2021-314 goes into effect on August 1, 2023 and no longer allows the filing of campaign statements or reports with a “judge of probate.” Rather, the law will require electronic filing with the Secretary of State.
  • Rhode Island Raises Campaign Finance Reporting Threshold and Limits: Rhode Island enacted SB 846, which for campaign reporting purposes, defines the term “fair market value,” requires the reporting of contributors who gave more than $200 to candidates or PACs and raises the contribution limit for contributions from individuals and PACs to state candidates from $1,000 to $2,000 per calendar year. The new law goes into effect January 1, 2024.
  • Maine Enacts One-Year Revolving Door Ban for Former Executive Branch Employees: Maine enacted HP 871, and effective December 4, 2024, a former “classified service” or executive branch employee is prohibited from engaging in compensated lobbying for a period of one year after the termination of their employment.
  • Austin’s Ethics Commission Recommends Reforms to City’s Lobbying Ordinance: The Austin Monitor reports that the Austin Ethics Review Commission unanimously passed a resolution that recommends changes to the city’s lobbying law. First, the Commission recommends specifying that phone calls and virtual meetings (e.g., zoom meetings) count as meetings that could trigger the requirement to register as a lobbyist. Second, the Commission recommended shifting compliance review responsibilities from the City Auditor to the City Clerk’s Office so the City Auditor can focus on identifying “people who should be registered as lobbyists and aren’t.” Finally, the Commission recommended calling for “an audit [by the City Auditor] at minimum every three years.”

In Case You Missed It: 

  • Former Ohio Lobbyist Sentenced to Federal Prison for Role in $60 Million Bribery Scheme: The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Ohio issued a press release, announcing that the former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges was sentenced to five years in federal prison due to his involvement, as a lobbyist, in the $60 million bribery scheme that resulted in a 20-year sentence for the former Ohio House Speaker, Larry Householder. At trial, the jury found that Borges conspired to bribe a “501(c)(4) entity to pass and uphold House Bill 6, a billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout.”
  • Miami Mayor Subject to Federal Investigation: Miami Herald reports that the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, is under federal investigation for accepting $170,000 in payments from a real estate developer in exchange for his alleged efforts to change the city’s code in favor of the developer. This report is based on a review of documentation such as calendar invites, emails, and payment records.