HomeEssential Ethics / MARCH 8, 2019

Essential Ethics

MARCH 8, 2019

Latest Developments:

  • The Hawaii State Ethics Commission announced that its new Lobbying Electronic Filing System is now available.  The new system permits e-filing of lobbyist registrations and expenditure reports.
  • The New York State Senate unanimously passed S 3167, which would ban procurement contractors from contributing to officeholders and candidates for offices that oversee contracts with the contractor during a restricted period.  The bill moves to the State Assembly for consideration.  According to S. News and World Report, the Governor and Assembly Democrats have their own ethics reform measures, all of which arise following several pay-to-play scandals in the state.
  • The Oregon Government Ethics Commission met this week, and among the agenda items (Item 20) was a stipulated settlement with the former First Lady, Cylvia Hayes.   The former First Lady agreed to pay a fine of $44,000 for using her position for personal profit.  However, The Oregonian reports that the Commission unanimously rejected the stipulation.  The article notes that the former First Lady is in bankruptcy court and the fines will not likely be collected.
  • The Mayor of Los Angeles approved City Council Ordinance 18600, which requires that city procurement contractors disclose any contracts or sponsorships with the National Rifle Association.  The ordinance provides exceptions for a number of contractors, including pension and other investment contracts, single-source contracts, and urgent needs.  The NRA promised a lawsuit, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In Case You Missed It:

  • Mueller’s Teammate goes to Bat for FARA:  Reuters reports that Brandon Van Grack, a prosecutor who has been with Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, will lead a team of attorneys and staff who have been tasked with enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).  Assistant Attorney General John Demers said the mission of the team is to “make sure the FARA law, which requires disclosure of lobbying on behalf of foreign interests, is more aggressively enforced,” according to the article.
  • Big Bucks before Blackout:  The Orlando Sentinel reports on the tradition of making huge campaign contributions on the evening before the start of a 60-day blackout period during the state’s legislative session.  The article cites theme park owners, utilities, “big sugar,” and tobacco interests as the largest donors.  “Those millions of dollars in donations help drive a largely hidden agenda,” according to the article.
  • High Maintenance Legislators:  California lawmakers received over $810,000 in meals, travel, and other gifts last year.  The Los Angeles Times details some of the more interesting educational travel and gifts that legislators accepted during the past year.
  • High License Fee, so Cannabis Campaign Contributions Banned:  According to the Hartford Courant, the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission has ruled that marijuana growers are barred from making campaign contributions under the ban on contributions from procurement contractors, based on their licenses from the state.  Declaratory Ruling 2019-01 reasons that the state growing licenses cost more than $50,000, thus the licensees are subject to state contractor restrictions. However, cannabis dispensaries, which do not pay high fees, are not prohibited from making contributions.
  • Deadbeat Violators:  According to The State, in Columbia, South Carolina, lobbyists, politicians, and other groups owe the South Carolina State Ethics Commission more than $2.4 million in fines that the state may never collect.  “’The Ethics Commission has limited legal tools to collect from people,” the article says, quoting a former attorney for the commission.
  • Everyone Needs a Lobbyist: A software start-up company in New Hampshire, EchoRidge, is developing a platform that will connect individuals and small groups with lobbyists, according to the Concord Monitor.  The CEO of EchoRidge points out that, “If you want to accomplish something, lobbying can make it happen.”  The article further states that the goal is to help people “find a cause, develop legislation to help that cause, then hire lobbyists to get it passed.”  The company reportedly has a pilot project in California with churches seeking money for assistance to aged-out foster children.  The program is “Facebook meets Kickstarter meets Upwork, except it’s all politics,” according to the CEO.
  • Loss of a Gadfly:  One of California’s more erudite politicians has resigned from the San Francisco Ethics Commission, calling it “not very effective,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.  Nonagenarian Quentin Kopp, a former San Francisco Supervisor, California State Senator, and Superior Court Judge, referred to the commission as, “ineffective and a waste of taxpayer money.” “I don’t think anyone is afraid of the Ethics Commission who is in competitive political life in San Francisco,” he said.  He plans to spend his time working on a November ballot measure to limit campaign contributions from persons with land-use decisions before the city. The measure “would also prohibit limited liability corporations and limited partnerships from donating to campaigns,” according to the article.