HomeEssential Ethics / MAY 25, 2018

Essential Ethics

MAY 25, 2018

Latest Developments:

The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics met Tuesday, May 22, 2018.  Among the agenda items discussed:

  • The Executive Director reported on three legislative proposals, including one to require lobbyist disclosure of campaign fundraising activity, one to impose accomplice liability for violations of ethics laws, and another that would enhance penalties for violators including permitting debarment of lobbyists for failure to file required reports. The latter proposal would also extend the “look-back” period for repeat offenders from 5 years to 10.  The Executive Director noted that three proposals from 2017 were introduced as bills, although the Commission has not taken a position on any of them.  The 2018 proposals, as with the prior year, are simply staff suggestions that are put out for public discussion.  The Commission did not take any formal action to endorse any of the current proposals.
  • The Commission unanimously adopted amendments to four regulations pertaining to Financial Disclosure Statements.

The Oklahoma Legislature adjourned on May 3, 2018.  Under the unique provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution, Ethics Rule amendments proposed by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission that were not rejected by the state’s legislature become statutes and are operative upon adjournment.  Changes include:

  • Documents that are required to be filed electronically are due on the date specified, and the deadline is no longer extended to the next business day after a weekend or holiday, under amended Rule 1.4. For example, lobbyist reports that were due on Saturday, May 5 technically were due on that day, not on the following Monday.
  • PACs that have made a contribution to a candidate may make a post-election contribution if the aggregate does not exceed the $5,000 contribution limit. Under the former version of Rule 2.33, only PACs that did not make any contribution to that candidate were permitted to make any post-election contribution.

In case you missed it:

  • US News and World Report tells us that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld Montana’s campaign reporting requirements. In Montanans for Community Development v. Mangan, the court found that the appellant’s claim that the law was vague, overbroad, and unconstitutional as applied to MCD was without merit.  The court found, among other things, that the disclosure requirements are substantially related to a sufficiently important governmental interest.
  • The Digital Advertising Alliance, an organization that establishes and enforces social media advertising guidelines, has announced a new set of guidelines for political advertising, according to the Wall Street Journal. Ads that advocate the election or defeat of a candidate for federal and certain statewide elections must include a link to a site with additional detail about who placed the ad, their contact information, and the details of their political spending and contributions.
  • The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Justice Department is cracking down on violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). According to the AP’s article, the Justice Department has not changed any interpretation of FARA, but is stepping up enforcement of the act.
  • On May 17, 2018, an all-Republican panel of the Texas Court of Appeals, Third District in Austin, issued a ruling in Sullivan v. Texas Ethics Commission.  In 2012, the Ethics Commission found that conservative commentator Sullivan, who contacted officials to influence legislation for compensation in his role as President of Empower Texans, failed to register as a lobbyist and fined him $10,000.  Sullivan sought to dismiss the matter under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), which protects citizens who speak on matters of public concern from retaliatory lawsuits.  The court found the statutes must be harmonized and held that the TCPA did not apply; it coexists with the lobby registration statute.