HomeEssential Ethics / MARCH 15, 2019

Essential Ethics

MARCH 15, 2019

Latest Developments:

  • The Governor of Arkansas signed B. 256 (Act 342) to prohibit state constitutional officers and legislators from registering as a lobbyist in any jurisdiction while serving as an elected official in the state.  The measure takes effect 90 days after adjournment.
  • The United States House of Representatives passed the Democrat’s signature ethics reform bill, HR 1, on a party-line vote.  But Bloomberg News reports that Senate Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t “plan to even bring it to the floor here in the Senate.”
  • The Governor of Montana announced his support for SB 326, a bill just introduced that would ban campaign contributions by domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations.  The Helena Independent Record reports that, “The bill would ban political spending by corporations considered to be ‘foreign influenced,’ which is determined by ownership.”

In Case You Missed It:

  • Lobbying Washington is Evolving:  According to Washingtonianlobbying in the Trump era is changing to suit the audience of one:  the President.  Total spending on lobbying is way up – to $3.8 billion.  The form of the lobbying now includes targeted twitter ads, both in Washington and at Mar-a-lago, ads in newspapers that Trump reads, and hiring TV pundits to appear on Fox News.
  • Losing the Money Game in Las Vegas:  The Nevada Independent reports that former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson, who resigned last week, plead guilty to charges in federal court, including that he used about $249,000 in campaign contributions for personal use.  The long-time Las Vegas politician may have embezzled nearly a half million dollars, according to authorities, who said the actual amount was “indiscernible.”  Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 33 months.
  • Las Vegas Lobby Games:  The Las Vegas Review-Journal investigated the Clark County Clerk’s lobby registration system, and found lax enforcement of lobbyist registration and disclosure reporting requirements.   “On hundreds of occasions last year lobbyists may have failed to disclose communications within five days of meeting with a commissioner as required by law,” the Review Journal “Lobbyists, who are responsible for turning in the forms, properly recorded more than 500 meetings with commissioners last year. But the Review-Journal’s analysis found more than 300 meetings with lobbyists that appeared on commissioners’ calendars and check-in logs had not been disclosed.”
  • Same Game Result, but with a Soccer Stadium:  The Miami-Dade Ethics Commission dismissed a high-profile complaint against a stadium development group that includes David Beckham, after finding that “almost nobody in Miami-Dade County was complying with or enforcing the disclosure law,” according to the Miami Herald.  Registration forms reportedly failed to ask the right questions of registrants.  The result is that investigators are working “with the county clerk and municipalities to fix their registration processes to improve transparency.”
  • Right to Rise Deflated by Foreign Money:  The Jeb-related PAC, Right to Rise, was fined $390,000 for accepting a contribution from American Pacific International Capital, whose owners are Chinese.  According to Mother Jones, “Neil Bush initially solicited the money from two Chinese nationals—Gordon Tang, the chair of APIC, and Huaidan Chen, a board member.”
  • More Foreign Money Investigations:  CNBC reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is probing whether a $100,000 contribution to the Trump Victory PAC actually came from a Malaysian fugitive who is believed to be living in China.  Jho Low transferred $1.5 million to LNS Capital, whose owner later made the $100,000 donation.  The Justice Department is investigating whether there is a linkage; Low denies any knowledge about the contribution by LNS Capital’s owner.
  • Foreign Money Criminal Court Battle:  The United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments this week in the cases of two men convicted of campaign finance violations.  Politico reports that the men argued that the “federal law banning campaign donations by foreigners is unconstitutional when applied to non-federal elections, at least with respect to foreigners who have significant ties to the U.S.”
  • Michigan Dark Money:  The Detroit News reports that “Progressive Advocacy Trust is one of at least five local Democratic Party slush funds that have operated in the shadows since at least 2002,” and has avoided all disclosure requirements by engaging only in issue advocacy.  The group spent more than $2 million to help elect Governor Gretchen Whitmer.  The spending “triggered outrage from progressive activists and cries of hypocrisy as the Democratic party (sic) publicly pushes for transparency and campaign finance reform.”
  • JCOPE Structure Ripe for Remodeling?:  The New York State Legislature is – once again – reviewing the structure of ethics administration in the state, according to New York Newsday.  At least a half dozen bills have been introduced to replace or reform the Joint Committee on Public Ethics.
  • Revolving Harassment Door:  The Albany Times-Union details what happens when a lawmaker who was accused of sexual harassment becomes employed by a lobbying firm.  The former lawmaker is barred by revolving door laws from registering as a lobbyist for 2 year; but that has not stopped him from working for a lobbying firm.  A Sexual Harassment Working Group, made up of former legislative staffers touched by harassment, called attention to the lobby firm employee, who represents several clients.
  • Lobbyist Entertainment Gone Awry:  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a group of Kansas lobbyists and legislators, including the House Speaker and Rep. Susan Concannon, R-Beloit, were kicked out of the White Linen Restaurant and banned from returning as the group was drinking heavily and “rowdy enough to upset those dining at other tables.”  The Topeka Capital-Journal notes that “On Yelp, every rating is a 5 except for one by Susan C. on March 2, who wrote: ‘Extremely rude management is not worth tolerating for the good food.’”