HomeEssential Ethics / June 26, 2023

Essential Ethics

June 26, 2023

Latest Developments:

  • The Federal Election Commission (FEC) Votes Against Requesting Public Comment on Use of AI in Campaign Ads: At its open meeting on June 22, 2023, the FEC discussed a petition requesting guidance that the prohibition on fraudulent misrepresentation of campaign authority broadly applies to deliberately deceptive Artificial Intelligence campaign ads. At issue was whether the FEC should publish a Notification of Availability (NOA) in the federal registrar to request public comments on the petition. Commissioner Dickerson made a case against publication of the NOA based on his view that the FEC lacked authority over parties that are not acting “on behalf” of candidates, and the motion to publish the NOA failed in a 3-3 vote.
  • The State of California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) Posted SB 1439 Regulations: On June 21, 2023, the FPPC posted to its website the final regulations on the application of SB 1439. As previously reported, the FPPC is also in the process of corresponding preparing educational materials for members of the regulated community.
  • Connecticut’s Code of Ethics Will Apply to Officers-Elect: Connecticut’s governor signed into law SB 1151, and effective October 1, 2023, with respect to the Code of Ethics for public officials and lobbyists, a “public official” includes an “officer-elect.” Among other changes, the new law also prohibits public officials from entering into certain government contracts and requires specific disclosures for client lobbyists.

In Case You Missed It: 

  • In 2022, Lobbying Spending in Washington D.C. Reached a Record High: Bloomberg Government reports that lobbying spending in Washington D.C. reached a record $4 billion in 2022, and according to the article, that’s likely because Congress was “so active” with Democrats controlling both chambers. For 2023, as lawmakers shift their attention to re-election, lobbying activity may decrease. 
  • Justice Alito Went on Vacation with Billionaire Who Later Brought Matters Before the Supreme Court: ProPublica reports that in 2008, Justice Samuel Alito went on a luxury fishing vacation in Alaska with billionaire Paul Singer, a Republican megadonor, and following this trip, Singer “repeatedly asked the Supreme Court to rule in his favor in high-stakes business disputes.” According to the article, Justice Alito did not disclose the 2008 trip on his annual financial disclosures even though Singer flew him to Alaska on a private jet. In response to a list of questions from ProPublica, Justice Alito wrote an op-ed, defending his failure to report the trip because justices commonly view “accommodations and transportation for social events” as nonreportable gifts.
  • Another L.A. City Councilmember Faces Criminal Charges: The Los Angeles Times reports that City Councilmember Curren Price, who allegedly had “a financial interest in development projects that he voted on”, was charged with counts of embezzlement, perjury and conflicts of interest. Based on the felony complaint, Price’s wife, as founder of a consulting firm, received payments totaling over $150,000 from developers before Price voted to approve their projects, and Price failed to disclose his wife’s income on financial disclosure forms. Moreover, Price is also accused of using public funds to pay for his current wife’s healthcare while he was still legally married to another woman. As the article notes, “Price is the fourth current or former council member to face criminal charges in four years.” 
  • New Jersey Governor Appoints Four Commissioners to the Election Law Enforcement Commission: The New Jersey Monitor reports that New Jersey Governor, Phil Murphy, unilaterally appointed four commissioners to the Election Law Enforcement Commission board, which sat empty for an 11-week stretch since the enactment of the Elections Transparency Act in early April. The former commissioners resigned because they believed the Act “defanged the agency,” partly because it slashed the statute of limitations on campaign finance investigations. However, the new appointments give the Commission “a full cohort of commissioners for the first time since 2011.”
  • Judge Allows North Carolina Special Interest Caucuses to Raise Campaign Funds: WIS News reports that a U.S. district judge permanently blocked the enforcement of a South Carolina law that bars special interest caucuses from influencing the outcome of an election or ballot measure (g., fundraising or campaigning on behalf of members). In response to the judge’s order, one member of the House Ethics Committee, which was responsible for upholding this law, stated, “this blows a hole…in the law of South Carolina as it relates to dark money…”
  • Pennsylvania Lawmakers Request Ethics Investigations Into Game Control Board’s Secret Meetings With Casino Lobbyists: Spotlight PA reports that Pennsylvania lawmakers requested that the attorney’s general office and the state Ethics Commission investigate the state Game Control Board’s private meeting with lobbyists for a large casino, which was not disclosed on public logs as required by ethics rules. Earlier in the year, Spotlight PA had reported that the lobbyists “embarked on an intense, behind-the-scenes effort to get the Gaming Control Board” to assist them in getting skill games, which compete with casino slots, banned in the state.