HomeEssential Ethics / NOVEMBER 9, 2018

Essential Ethics

NOVEMBER 9, 2018

Latest Developments:

  • Election Day Results: Several States provided voters with the opportunity on Election Day to vote on ballot measures that covered, gifts, campaign contributions, redistricting commissions, public officials’ conduct, and lobbyist activity.  NPR has a discussion of the most important issues contained within these measures.  The election results are summarized below:
  • Arizona Proposition 306 [Passed]: Prohibits statewide and legislative candidates for office from transferring funds from public financing accounts (“clean election accounts”) to either political parties or tax-exempt 501(a) organizations that can engage in activity to influence elections. The measure also removes the Citizens Clean Election Commission’s exemption from rule-making requirements, thus making that commission’s regulations subject to the state’s Administrative Procedures Act. (Yes – 56% with 99% of precincts reporting.)
  • Colorado Amendment 75 [Failed]: Provides that if a statewide or legislative candidate contributes one million dollars or more to his or her own campaign, other candidates in that race may accept five times the normal campaign contribution limit. (No 66% with 100% of precincts reporting.)
  • Colorado Amendment Y and Amendment Z [Both Passed]: These two measures on the ballot would create congressional and legislative redistricting commissions, respectively.  The Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission and the Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission would each be composed of four Democrats, four Republicans, and four independents, selected in a process conducted under the supervision of three retired judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. (Yes 71% for both, with 100% of precincts reporting.)
  • Florida Amendment 12 (Constitutional Revision 7) [Passed]: Expands current restrictions on lobbying. State and local public officials would be banned from lobbying for six years.  Those officials are currently banned for two years after leaving office.  The measure would also prohibit public officials from lobbying another government agency while currently holding a public office.  The proposal would additionally ban public officeholders and their families and businesses from receiving a “disproportionate benefit” as a result of their status as an officeholder.  That term would be defined later by the state’s ethics commission.  (Requires 60% vote for passage; Yes 79% with 99% of precincts reporting.)
  • Massachusetts Question 2 [Passed]: Establishes a 15-member citizens’ commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the United States Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same Constitutional rights as human beings and that campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated.  The measure, among other things, states that, “Citizens United v. FEC presents a serious and direct threat to our democracy.”  (Yes 71% with 99% precincts of precincts reporting.)
  • Michigan Proposal 2 [Passed]: Creates an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to redistrict both congressional and legislative districts.  The Secretary of State would be responsible for providing support services to the commission.  At least four commissioners must be Democrats, at least four must be Republicans, and at least five would be unaffiliated voters.  Public officials, party officials, and lobbyists would be ineligible to serve on the commission. (Yes 61% with 100% precincts of precincts reporting.)
  • Missouri Amendment 1 [Passed]: Revises state law on lobbying, gifts, campaign finance, redistricting, and public records. Lobbying: legislators and legislative employees would have to wait two years before becoming a paid lobbyist.  Gifts: legislators and legislative employees may not accept gifts of more than five dollars in value. Campaign finance: establishes cash contribution limits for legislative candidates ($2,500 for Senate candidates; $2,000 for House candidates) for each election cycle, prohibits disguising the source of contributions, and prohibits fundraising on public property. Redistricting: creates the “non-partisan state demographer,” who would be selected by the State Auditor and the majority and minority leaders in the State Senate for a five-year term to redraw district maps. Public records: legislative records are considered public records; all legislative proceedings would be subject to laws governing public access.  (Yes 62% with 99% precincts of precincts reporting.)
  • New Mexico Constitutional Amendment 2 [Passed]: Creates a seven-member State Ethics Commission that would investigate and adjudicate complaints concerning standards of ethical conduct for state officers and employees of the executive and legislative branches of government, candidates or other participants in elections, lobbyists, and government contractors.  (Yes 75% with 100% precincts of precincts reporting.)
  • North Carolina Legislatively Referred Constitutional Amendment (House Bill 4) [Failed]: Removes the Governor’spower to make appointments to the Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement and reduces the board from 9 members to 8.  Those 8 would be split, with four Republicans and four Democrats, all appointed by the legislature.  (No 62%, with 99% precincts of precincts reporting.)
  • North Dakota Initiated Constitutional Measure 1 [Passed]:  Establishes a five-member North Dakota Ethics Commission selected by the Governor and the majority and minority leaders in the State Senate; the commission could adopt ethics rules. The measure also prohibits gifts from lobbyists to public officials, with certain exceptions, prohibits lobbyists from delivering campaign contributions from others, and prohibits public officials from lobbying for two years after leaving office.   It bans contributions from foreign entities and persons as well as personal use of campaign contributions, and requires that reports of campaign expenditures over $200 be electronically accessible to the public.  (Yes 54%, with 100% precincts reporting.)
  • Oklahoma State Question 798 [Failed]: Provides that the Governor and Lieutenant Governor be elected on a single joint ticket beginning in 2026.  (No 54%, with 100% precincts reporting.)
  • South Dakota Constitutional Amendment W [Failed]: Requires lobbyist registration and disclosure, prohibits gifts from lobbyists to senior public officials, with some exceptions, and prohibits lobbyists from delivering contributions made by others.  Prohibits contributions in the State Capitol building, contributions by foreign governments, personal use of campaign contributions, and use of state property by public officials for personal gain.  Prohibits corporations and labor unions from making campaign contributions to state or local candidates.  Establishes election-cycle contribution limits for candidates ranging from $500 for State Representative or local offices to $4,000 for Governor.  Replaces the old board with a new State Government Accountability Board as an independent commission appointed by the Governor and Supreme Court, and empowered to adopt ethics rules.

The initiative would also require voter approval for any substantive changes to a voter-approved initiative or referendum. This measure was proposed in response to the state legislature repealing Initiative 22, a campaign finance and election-related measure approved by voters in 2016. Initiative 22 was an initiated state statute, which meant that the legislature was able to repeal or amend it. This 2018 initiative is a constitutional amendment and can’t be repealed or amended without voter approval.  (No 55%, with 100% precincts of precincts reporting.)

  • South Dakota Initiated Measure 24 [Passed]: Prohibits contributions to ballot question committees from non-residents, out-of-state political committees, and entities that haven’t filed with the Secretary of State’s office for the preceding four years.  (Yes 56%, with 100% precincts reporting.)
  • Utah Proposition 4 [Passed]: Establishes the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission to recommend revised congressional and legislative districts following a federal census or other specified events.  The chair of commission would be appointed by the Governor, and the other six members would be appointed by various legislative leaders.  Proposed maps would be submitted to Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court who would determine if the maps meet certain criteria. The approved maps would be submitted to the legislature for its approval.  (Yes 50.6%, with 100% of precincts reporting.)
  • Boston, Massachusetts enacted a new Lobby Ordinance. The measure requires annual registration with, and quarterly reporting to, the new Municipal Lobbying Compliance Commission.  Those who lobby 25 hours or less in a quarter or who receive less than $2,500 during a quarter would be exempt.
  • The Federal Election Commission meets next Thursday, November 15. The Commission’s Agenda includes a discussion of only one version of the draft advisory opinion that would permit the provision of security software to protect personal electronic devices from cyber threats for free, without being an impermissible campaign contribution.
  • The California Fair Political Practices Commission meets next Thursday, November 15. The agenda includes adoption of new gift limits, campaign contribution limits, and officeholder account limits.

In case you missed it:

  • Repackaging PACs: Corporate PACs are rebuilding their image according to Politicoafter a midterm election that saw a large number of candidates refuse to accept corporate PAC money.  The National Association of Business PACs points out that “the real villain in politics is unchecked spending by super PACs and mystery donors, not the more-regulated fundraising committees attached to businesses and trade groups.”  The group is seeking to raise the limit on the amount a PAC can contribute to a single candidate.
  • Can you Build a Fence to Keep Money Out?: The South Dakota Measure passed Tuesday (see above) that prohibits out-of-state contributions for ballot measures is likely to face a challenge.  The Rapid City Journal interviewed sources from Americans for Prosperity, Common Cause, and Ballotpedia, among others, about the measure.  Most are skeptical about a state’s ability to restrict out-of-state ballot measure contributions; some are willing to say the measure is “clearly unconstitutional.”
  • Vacation Time in D.C.: Monday and Tuesday of election week was vacation time for many lobbyists in Washington, D.C., according to Politico.  “Members of Congress are getting help before Election Day from a tiny but influential subset of on-the-ground volunteers: Washington lobbyists eager to help their old bosses — and perhaps their own careers.”  Many lobbyists took vacation time and spent the past weekend in states across the country knocking on doors to help turn out voters.
  • Too Many Lobbyists up North?: The CBC reports that Canadian Senators “are being lobbied more than ever — and some are feeling overwhelmed.”  One Senator complained that “lobbyists have been given ‘too much time and too much importance.’”  A representative of the lobbyists’ trade association countered that “lobbyists also offer politicians practical advice, flag provisions that might be unworkable, point out unintended consequences, and offer recommendations to close loopholes.”