HomeEssential Ethics / NOVEMBER 16, 2018

Essential Ethics

NOVEMBER 16, 2018

Latest Developments:

  • The Washington, D.C. City Council’s budget trailer measure, Act 22-422, includes the “Board of Ethics and Government Accountability Amendment Act of 2018 (Title I, Subtitle I of the Act).  That act, among other things, switches the district from semiannual lobby reports to quarterly lobby reports due on the 15th of January, April, July, and October.  Those reports must include “a precise description of the subject matter” of all written or oral communications, including the bill, resolution, contract, or other legislation related to the lobbying efforts.  The act also revises the definition of “administrative decision.”
  • The California Fair Political Practices Commission met Thursday, November 15.  As described in the Agenda, the Commission adopted new gift limits, campaign contribution limits, and officeholder account limits.  The new limits are based on changes to the Consumer Price Index, and apply to activity in 2019-2020.  The changes include an increase of the gift limit to $500.
  • The Federal Election Commission met Thursday, November 15, but generally put off any decision about the two opinions pending before the Commission.  The two opinions on the Agenda pertained to (1) permitting the provision of security software to protect personal electronic devices from cyber threats for free, without being an impermissible campaign contribution, and (2) permitting the use of campaign funds to pay for cyber security measures for a U.S. Senator’s personal devices and accounts.
  • Anne Arundel County (County Seat:  Annapolis), Maryland enacted Bill No. 80-18, a comprehensive amendment to it ethics law; the measure takes effect on December 6, 2018.  Among other things, it permits the County Ethics Commission to suspend or revoke lobby registrations for certain violations, provides a 2-year statute of limitations for that action, and provides a process for reinstatement.  It deletes a gift exception for tickets to charitable, cultural, or political events.  The measure also provides for the proration of compensation reportable for lobby activities and places limits on persons who assist the county in creating procurement specifications.

In case you missed it:

  • The Election is Over – Let the Lawsuits Begin:  North Dakotans for Public Integrity, which promoted North Dakota Measure 1, the state’s newly enacted ethics reform, is planning to stay in business because “it’s anticipating legal challenges by opponents,” according to the Bismarck Tribune.  The Tribune notes that while objections come from business interests like the Chamber of Commerce, diverse groups from the ACLU to the Catholic Church have also criticized aspects of the measure.

Meanwhile, according to the St. Louis Dispatch, the same groups that tried to keep the Clean Missouri initiative off the ballot are “mulling further legal action aimed at stopping the reforms.  ‘We fully intend to oppose Clean Missouri any way we can,’ said Dan Mehan, executive director of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.”

  • The Election is Over – Buy Your Inaugural Tickets Now:  Massachusetts does not have a limit on contributions to inaugural committees, but Governor Charlie Baker is voluntarily limiting contributions to $25,000.  The Boston Globe reports that “Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito officially reopened their inaugural committee on Tuesday, state campaign finance records show. But it had already begun soliciting cash in the days before…”  (This serves as a reminder to check with your political law attorney before making contributions to an inaugural committee.  Limits and prohibitions vary by state.)
  • The Election is Over – But Don’t Talk to the Lobbyist:  David Beckham’s soccer team won an election in Miami that gives his group the right to negotiate to turn a city-owned golf course into a major league soccer stadium, according to the Miami Herald.  But a day after the election, an ethics complaint stopped that process.  The Miami Herald also reports that the complaint filed with the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission alleges that the member of Beckham’s group who registered as a lobbyist failed to complete a required lobbyist ethics training course before urging city commissioners to place the measure on the ballot.  “City Attorney Victoria Mendez instructed city commissioners and employees not to take any meetings or phone calls from officials from the team,” according to the article, until the complaint is resolved.
  • Banks want to be in the Money Game:  New Jersey bankers filed suit over a century old ban on banks’ contributions to, or expenditures in connection with, candidates and political parties.  Yahoo Finance reports that in New Jersey Bankers Assn. v. Grewal, the 88 members of the bankers association want to be able to make contributions to state and local candidates and to political parties.  The ban was enacted when Woodrow Wilson was Governor.
  • Maybe not the Alamo, but…: The Texas Tribune reports that the Texas Ethics Commission is under attack!  In Empower Texas, Inc. v. Texas Ethics Commission, a Texas appellate court found that the plaintiffs had sufficient grounds to challenge the authority of the Commission.  Empower Texas alleges that the Commission’s exercise of statutory authority is unconstitutional – that it does not have the power to regulate campaigns and contributions.  A lower court had dismissed the matter in 2016, but the appellate court’s action revives the suit.