HomeEssential Ethics / July 5, 2023

Essential Ethics

July 5, 2023

Latest Developments:

  • U.S. Senate Passes Bills Requiring Lobbyists Registered Under the LDA To Disclose Foreign Ownership or Influence: The United States Senate recently passed two bills that would require lobbyists, registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), to make additional disclosures if they are subject to foreign ownership or influence. S. 264, the Lobbying Disclosure Improvement Act, would require lobbyists to disclose whether they are utilizing the LDA exemption from the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). S. 829Disclosing Foreign Influence in Lobbying Act, would require lobbyists to disclose any government of a foreign country or foreign political party directing or supervising lobbying. These two bills have been received in the House, and Nielsen Merksamer will continue to monitor them and other related legislation.
  • Maine Enacts New Fines and Digital Disclosure Requirements: Maine enacted SP 647, which amends the state’s campaign finance and lobbying laws. Effective 90 days following the special session, among other amendments, the new law will impose a civil penalty (currently a “fine”) on candidates, legislators and lobbyists who violate reporting requirements. In addition, with respect to the mass distribution of text messages that expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate, campaign reports will require the disclosure of the name of the person who paid for or financed the message. Similarly, a PAC or ballot measure committee will be required to disclose the person who paid for certain digital communications that expressly advocate for or against an initiative or referendum.

In Case You Missed It:

  • Federal Prosecutions Result in Sentencing for Former Ohio House Speaker and Chicago Utility Executives: AP News reports that former Ohio House Speaker, Larry Householder, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being found guilty of orchestrating a $60 million bribery scheme; federal prosecutors had recommended 16 to 20 years. In another federal bribery case, utility executives in Chicago known as the “ComEd Four” are scheduled for sentencing in January of 2024.
  • Super PACs Are Operating On-The-Ground Alongside Campaigns: Politico reports that super PACs are “swimming in more money than ever…with more than $14 million in independent expenditures in the primary already.” They are also adopting a greater “on-the-ground presence” and, in certain cases, operating “side by side” with campaigns and engaging in candidate fundraising.
  • Election Watchdog Files Complaint Alleging Illegal Foreign Contributions to DeSantis Campaign: Miami Herald reports that an election watchdog organization filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign for accepting illegal contributions from a foreign entity, a Canadian hedge fund. While the hedge fund is based in Toronto, it lists its U.S. Office in Florida, and a representative of the fund stated that the company was in full compliance with U.S. laws governing political donations because the contributor entity was “incorporated under the laws of the state of Delaware, and the contributed funds are from our domestic operations and administered by executives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.”
  • Alabama’s Ethics Commission Will Expose Complainants Against Public Officials: AL.com reports that a new Alabama law, which goes into effect in September, will require the state Ethics Commission to inform “a person under investigation who filed the complaint that sparked the probe.” Legislators who support this new law said that public officials should know the identity of their accusers, but the former executive director of the Ethics Commission shared his concern that once the law goes into effect, few whistleblowers will step forward and “unethical behavior will go unreported.”