HomeEssential Ethics / June 19, 2023

Essential Ethics

June 19, 2023

Latest Developments:

  • The State of California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) Adopted SB 1439 Regulations: On June 15, 2023, the FPPC held a meeting to adopt final regulations on the application of SB 1439, which expanded the reach of California’s pay-to-play restrictions to local elected officials. While the Commissioners discussed nuanced issues, such as the application of SB 1439 to “strong mayors,” the Commissioners agreed that the issues raised should be handled on a case-by-case basis and not through the current rule-making process. They ultimately adopted regulations with the understanding that, in all likelihood, they will need to revisit them in the future. FPPC counsel also assured the Commissioners that his staff was preparing educational materials for members of the regulated communityThe FPPC is expected to post the final regulations on its website soon.
  • Colorado Enacts Contribution Limits for Municipal Elections: Colorado’s governor signed into law HB 23-1245, and for elections on or after January 1, 2024, the maximum aggregate contributions that any one person, including a political party, and excluding a small donor committee, may make to a candidate for municipal office per election is $400. The maximum limit for small donor committees per election is $4,000. The new law also requires specific disclosures. 
  • New Jersey Governor Signs Executive Order to Implement the Elections Transparency Act: New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, signed Executive Order No. 333, amending prior executive orders to align with the newly enacted Elections Transparency Act and also defining relevant terms. As we previously reported, the Act overhauled the state’s pay-to-play and campaign finance laws. For further details regarding the law changes, please contact your Nielsen Merksamer attorney. 
  • Minnesota’s Campaign Finance Board Requests Input From Regulated Community: The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board released a memo to the regulated community, requesting suggested topics that the Board should address in its administrative rules. Suggestions should be emailed to Rules@state.mn.us by no later than June 26, 2023.
  • The State of Washington Adjusts Deadline for Grassroots Reporting: Governor Jay Inslee signed into law HB 1317, and effective July 23, 2023, the deadline for a sponsor of a grassroots campaign to file with the Public Disclosure Commission is adjusted from 30 days after becoming a sponsor to within five days of publicizing the campaign, or within 24 hours of publicizing if it is publicized 30 days before or during a regular legislative session. The new law also requires certain disclosures relating to contributors and spending on advertisements.


  • Nielsen Merksamer is thrilled to announce the promotion of Jay Carson to partner in the firm’s Bay Area office and the promotion of Victoria Rodriguez from legislative analyst to associate in the firm’s Sacramento government law practice.

In Case You Missed It: 

  • San Francisco Ethics Commission Fines Political Committee Nearly $30,000:The San Francisco Standard reports that the San Francisco Ethics Commission fined an independent expenditure committee nearly $30,000 for its failure to report over $1 million in spending. Between 2018 and 2019, the committee allegedly “bounced between city and state classification…even though 98.5% of its contributions went to support city candidates and ballot measures.”
  • California Elected Official’s Spouse with Her Own Career (Related to Politics) Draws Scrutiny: The Los Angeles Times reports that according to financial and lobbying disclosures, during the years Anthony Rendon served as Assembly Speaker, his wife’s consultancy business for nonprofits “boomed” with one nonprofit paying her business “nearly $600,000 over the last year and a half as it lobbied lawmakers on bills related to housing, homelessness and public safety.” Rendon’s wife, Annie Lam, is not a lobbyist, and Rendon’s voting record shows that his support for Lam’s nonprofit client is mixed. Moreover, the article notes that Lam’s work is legal, but when spouses of public officials receive payments from nonprofits, they are subject to scrutiny because, as the former chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission stated, “it comes right down to…a question of whether or not it’s impairing the ability of the elected official to be impartial and to make decisions that are in the best interest of the state when there is a financial impact on him.”
  • The Democratic Party of Oregon Will Return Illegal $500,000 Campaign Contribution: The Chronicle reports that the Democratic Party of Oregon (DPO) announced it will return the illegal $500,000 campaign contribution it received last fall from an executive at a bankrupted cryptocurrency exchange. The executive directed DPO to falsely attribute the contribution to another party, a crypto payment processor, and DPO complied. As a result, the Oregon Secretary of State fined DPO $15,000, and the State Department of Justice is considering a criminal investigation. Although most of the illegal contribution was spent last year, DPO will tap into “contributions from some of the state’s most powerful Democrats” to return the full amount.