HomeEssential Ethics / OCTOBER 12, 2018

Essential Ethics

OCTOBER 12, 2018

Latest Developments:

  • The Federal Election Commission provided advice on how to report independent expenditures following the decision in CREW v. FEC. The advice applies to persons other than political committees that make independent expenditures aggregating more than $250 in a calendar year for a particular election.
  • In California, the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (agenda), Los Angeles City Ethics Commission (agenda) and the San Francisco Ethics Commission all meet during the week of October 15.
  • The Washington State Court of Appeals upheld a $319,281.58 fine imposed on Food Democracy Action! for concealing its activity during an election. In State of Washington v. Food Democracy Action!, the court found that the organization solicited and received over 7,000 contributions totaling nearly $300,000 to support Initiative 522.  The organization, in turn, contributed large lump sums to the Yes on I-522 campaign; that campaign reported the amounts as contributions from Food Democracy.  After the election, when the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission began an investigation, Food Democracy registered as a political committee and filed a disclosure report listing its contributors.  I-522 would have required GMO disclosure labels, but narrowly failed passage in the 2012.
  • The Oklahoma Ethics Commission meets Friday, October 12. The Commission’s agenda includes a continuing discussion of proposed amendments to three ethics rules that concern: (1) coordination, (2) expenditures to influence legislation, and (3) candidate committee to candidate committee transfers.
  • CPA-Zicklin announced the release of its 2018 Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability. The annual publication analyzes and scores political disclosure and accountability policies and practices of leading U.S. public companies.

In case you missed it:

  • What Happens When There’s no Deadline in the Ordinance: The Fort Meyers New-Press reports that an audit by the Lee County (Florida) Clerk of the Court found that 60 percent of registered lobbyist failed to file required quarterly or annual statements of their activity.  [Editor’s note:  Nielsen Merksamer clients who subscribe have access to the Nielsen Merksamer Summary of Lee County, Florida Lobby Law, which includes information on the deadline to file lobbyist reports in Lee County.]
  • Murky MoneyPolitico describes the technique of political spending against opponents timed so that disclosure of the source occurs only after the election is over.  The method relies on creating a Super PAC right after a reporting deadline has passed and raising and spending all the money before the next reporting deadline, which is often after the election occurs.  The article points out that Super PACs created between October 18 and November 6 won’t have to file reports until after the midterm election.  An alternative technique is to borrow money, spend it, and seek contributions after the election.
  • Money and GamesThe Federalist Society reports that the “’no duh’ school of campaign finance regulation suffered another welcome correction in September.”  Last week we noted that the Philadelphia Inquirer wants the state legislature to enact new restrictions following a U.S. District Court’s decision in Deon v. Barasch that the state’s ban on contributions from gaming interests is too broad and therefore unconstitutional.  The Federalist Society points out that the same code section was previously struck down by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2009, but the legislature’s response was to simply add language to the Gaming Act describing what it thought was a compelling state interest, rather than amending the challenged statute and tailor it.
  • The Public has to Guess: According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, a 2016 change to the lobby laws which brought about electronic filing also stripped away the requirement that gifts of less than $100 to lawmakers be disclosed.  As a result, many of the biggest spending lobbyists do not reveal who received food and beverage or other gifts.