HomeEssential Ethics / JUNE 22, 2018

Essential Ethics

JUNE 22, 2018

Latest Developments:

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission raised lobby registration fees by $100 to $250, beginning July 1.  According to The Oklahoman, the increase follows a dispute with the state’s legislature which gave the commission no general fund monies for support for the upcoming fiscal year.  The commission will be forced to fund all of its operations from fee income during the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams issued new Campaign and Political Finance Regulations on June 19, 2018, following a federal court decision in Holland v. Williams last week, as reported here.  The new rules include a different procedure for filing complaints that allege a violation of campaign and political finance laws. (See Rule 18 of the new regulations.)  Complaints are no longer sent to the Office of Administrative Courts within 3 days, but instead are reviewed and may be investigated by the Secretary of State’s Office.  Someone deserves an award for responsive governmental action – these new rules were adopted as emergency regulations exactly one week after the federal district court issued its opinion.  The Denver Post reports on the details.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission met Thursday, June 21, 2018.  Following the resignation of the Chair and her most vocal opponent, the Commission returned to a more collegial form.  Among the agenda items discussed:

  • The Ad Hoc Committee on Enforcement has 15 members who have volunteered to participate.
  • The Commission debated whether Bitcoin and other virtual currencies should be acceptable as campaign contributions and whether the nature of crypto currencies is as cash or as property. (See the action of the federal Office of Government Ethics, below).  Staff will continue to research the issue.
  • The Commission voted to support 3 bills pending before the legislature: AB 664 (prohibits spouse compensation from campaign funds), AB 2155 (ad disclosures), and AB 2880 (contracts with local ethics agencies).
  • Bob Stern’s request that the Commission sponsor legislation year to make the Chair of the Commission a part-time position did not have the unanimous support required to move forward, and the concept was referred to the Subcommittee on Law and Policy for further study. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Commissioners essentially deadlocked on the matter.

The United States Office of Government Ethics has issued Guidance that virtual currencies must be disclosed as “property.”  Virtual currencies (such as Bitcoin) are not true legal tender and, as such, federal officers and employees must disclose their holdings in these crypto currencies.  As an investment asset, holding a virtual currency may create a conflict of interest, according to the Guidance, dated June 18, 2018.

The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) meets next Tuesday with a very light agenda.

In case you missed it:

  • The New York Times reports on the phenomenon of consultants who peddle influence failing to register as lobbyists. Tightening the rules has resulted in more lobbyists deregistering and becoming shadow lobbyists who purport to be political strategists or consultants rather than lobbyists.
  • Kansas SB 394 takes effect July 1, 2018. That bill broadens the definition of lobbying to include most lobbying of the executive branch (not just rules and regulations) and administrative matters in the judicial branch.  The bill will cover procurement lobbying, with minor exceptions.  It also increases the executive branch gift of a meal provision from $25 to $40 to match the general legislative lobbyist gift limit.
  • Misuse of Expertise: A Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, who authored a book on corruption in the state, has been indicted on 22 federal corruption charges.  Law and Crime reports that Justice Allen Loughry has been charged with, among other things, using a government credit card for personal use and taking a historical Supreme Court desk to his house for use in a home office.