HomeEssential Ethics / May 31, 2023

Essential Ethics

May 31, 2023

Latest Developments:

  • California SB 1439 Withstands Initial Legal Challenge: In the lawsuit filed by a coalition seeking to invalidate SB 1439 on the grounds that expanding California pay-to-play rules violates both the California Constitution and the First Amendment, the California Superior Court judge issued a tentative ruling upholding SB 1439, which was affirmed on May 25th. The ruling denies the coalition’s motion for judgment on the pleadings and grants the Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”) motion for judgment on the pleadings without leave to amend. The Chair of the FPPC issued a statement that the FPPC is “gratified with the outcome” and will continue to “work to fully implement the changes to Section 84308 of the Political Reform Act consistent with the Legislatures intent.” The coalition has the right to appeal the decision to the California Court of Appeal for the Third District.
  • Montana Enacts Campaign Finance Reform: Effective immediately, Montana SB 393 no longer requires the following: (1) campaign treasurers to be registered voters in the state, (2) unopposed candidates to file 48-hour reports, and (3) the disclosure of certain debts on 48-hour reports. The new law also revises reporting requirements for incidental committees.

In Case You Missed It: 

  • Undisclosed Donors Allow Ron DeSantis To Fly On Private JetsThe New York Times reports that Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been traveling around the country, and in some cases, internationally, on private jets funded by donors “with business interests” in Florida or donors who are “shielded from the public by a new nonprofit.” For example, the article reported that a Florida political committee, which is registered as a social welfare organization under Section 501(c)(4) of the federal tax code and therefore not required to disclose its donors, received seventeen contributions for DeSantis’ political travel from nine donors since November of last year.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Continues to Reverse Corruption ConvictionsReuters reports that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed fraud convictions for two real estate developers and a former state university official involved in an alleged corruption scheme related to former New York Governor Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” revitalization initiative. This reversal is in line with the Court’s previous reversals of wire fraud convictions and makes it more difficult for federal prosecutors to prove fraud under federal corruption law.
  • Lobbying Firms With Business Before New York City Fundraised For The Mayor’s 2021 CampaignSpectrum News NY1 reports that lobbying firms, with business before New York City, raised more than $341,000 for Eric Adams’ 2021 mayoral campaign, but were not disclosed on Adams’ campaign finance reports. Since the campaign paid for fundraising events where the lobbyists were hosts, it was not legally required to report the lobbyists as intermediaries and the donations could also be matched with public funds. A representative of a nonprofit dedicated to government transparency called this a “giant loophole in the city’s campaign finance laws…which is just an invitation for pay to play.”
  • “Teacher Appreciation” Doughnuts Funded by Campaign Rejected As A Political Stunt: Virginia Mercury reports that Amanda Batten, a Virginia state representative with a record of voting against collective bargaining rights for teachers, distributed almost 1,000 doughnuts to public school teachers in her district, after which she faced significant pushback from a local teachers union and a school division’s staff who viewed the delivery as a political stunt. Noting that the doughnut boxes indicated that they were “paid for and authorized by friends of Amanda Batten,” the school division’s strategic communications director emailed Batten to inform her that the division’s policy requires advance approval before any materials are distributed by non-school organizations.