HomeEssential Ethics / JUNE 15, 2018

Essential Ethics

JUNE 15, 2018

Latest Developments:

The United States Supreme Court says it’s “OK” to wear your “political” T Shirt to the Polls.  In Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, the court (in a 7 to 2 decision) struck down Minnesota’s ban on wearing political apparel at a polling station as a violation of the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment.  The court indicated that a state could prohibit forms of campaign advocacy at the polling place, but found Minnesota’s ban too broad.  The ban on “political” apparel was used to initially bar a voter with a T shirt containing a Tea Party Patriots’ logo and the words, “Don’t Tread on Me,” and a button that said, “Please ID Me.”

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Missouri law that required committees to form and register at least 30 days before an election.  In Missourians for Fiscal Responsibility v. Klahr, the court found that that the restriction “prohibits (or at least significantly burdens)” political speech.  The Missourians group had formed 14 days before an election, in violation of the Missouri statute.  The court noted that the only legitimate governmental interest for restricting campaign finances is preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption.  The time restriction was not narrowly tailored and did not address that issue.

The San Francisco Ethics Commission meets Friday, June 15.  The agenda includes a discussion about future priorities.  Among the 20 items on the “Policy Prioritization Plan” are reviews of the lobby code, expenditure lobbying, the major developer disclosure program, behested payments, and the lobby regulations.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission meets next Thursday.  Among the agenda items:

  • Bob Stern is asking the Commission to sponsor legislation this year to make the Chair of the Commission a part-time position by January 2019. He states that he “made a mistake” in making the Chair a full-time position when he drafted the original Political Reform Act initiative.
  • Staff is asking the Commission to consider Regulation 18700.2 at its August meeting. That regulation would determine when an official has a financial interest in a parent, subsidiary, or otherwise related business entity for purposes of the Political Reform Act’s conflict of interest provisions.
  • Commissioner Audero of the California Fair Political Practices Commission resigned following the resignation of the Chair. The Sacramento Bee reports that Commissioner Audero has been appointed by as the U.S. Magistrate for the Central District of California.  Her departure leaves in doubt how the two-person subcommittees will function.  The Commission is down to only three sitting members of a 5-member panel.
  • In response to commissioners’ request, staff is proposing that the Commission hold its September meeting at Los Angeles City Hall.

In case you missed it:

  • The S. Justice Department released 49 opinions regarding the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). These opinions date back to 2010 and provide guidance as to when registration is required under FARA.
  • Colorado Politics reports that a federal district judge in Colorado has barred private complaints against political speech. Under the state’s campaign finance laws, any person who believes that a campaign finance violation has occurred may file a written complaint which must be referred to an administrative law judge within three days.  In Holland v. Williams, a mom who placed ads in the local paper that criticized the Common Core education curriculum and urged citizens to vote in a school board election, but did not urge or oppose any particular candidate, became the subject of a complaint that the mom had not registered as a political committee.  The court found the enforcement provisions to be unconstitutional. The law purported to regulate core political speech because it was content-based, and the statue failed the “strict scrutiny” test.
  • The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved amendments to the city’s Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code, which take effect on June 30, 2018. Among other things, the changes increase disclosure requirements, revise pay-to-play provisions, expand the class of persons who may bring a private attorney general action and collect fees and costs, and impose new duties on public officials regarding conflicts and recusals.