HomeEssential Ethics / October 14, 2022

Essential Ethics

October 14, 2022

Latest Developments:

  • A US District Court Judge this week dismissed a Department of Justice suit accusing casino magnate Steve Wynn of being “an agent of the People’s Republic of China…[and] seek[ing] an injunction forcing him to register as such under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).” The suit stems from “conversations with members of the Trump Administration regarding the PRC’s interest in the return of an unnamed Chinese businessperson, who fled China in 2014 and sought political asylum in the United States….[with the DOJ] alleging that Wynn traded these lobbying efforts for favorable treatment of his casino business in Macau.” While the ruling stresses that the decision applies to civil, not criminal action, it concluded that “longstanding court precedent bars the Justice Department from requiring foreign agents to retroactively register once they are no longer doing the work in question.” The Wall Street Journal provides more coverage.
  • A Texas State Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit in Sullivan v. Texas Ethics Commission, affirming the constitutionality of the Commission itself and upholding a political fine levied against Michael Sullivan, the former head of a political non-profit. Importantly, the court “reaffirmed the agency’s authority to enforce election laws, which Sullivan had called into question in the suit, claiming it violated the separation of powers principle because it’s a legislatively appointed office with executive power to discipline.” The Houston Chronicle provides more coverage.

In Case You Missed It:

  • Undeterred from Campaign Contributions in Anaheim: The Voice of OC reports on the staggering sums spent in this year’s Anaheim municipal elections by the very businesses implicated in recent city-wide corruption and campaign finance scandals. One major entertainment and resort company with a city-focused PAC has already spent at least $1.3 million on its “preferred candidates…[including] hundreds of thousands of dollars for internet ads and direct political mailers to bolster their campaigns. Notably given that the former mayor was at the center of one of the recent Anaheim scandals, the PAC in question and the city chamber of commerce “haven’t spent money on the race.”
  • Slap on the Wrist for Illegal Campaign Contribution: The Colorado Springs Gazette reports on the imposition of a $1,000 fine by the Secretary of State on Colorado Springs Forward for a nonprofit’s illegal campaign contribution to two El Paso County commissioner candidates. The Gazette notes that state “law prohibits corporations from contributing to candidates or political parties. Additionally, the $5,000 contributions were over the $2,500 campaign donation limit a county candidate may receive under state law.” An affiliated PAC routinely makes campaign contributions, which an agent for that organization claims was the source confusion about who could make the donation. Critics contend that the fine was nominal at best and that the existence of the PAC demonstrates the organization was sufficiently familiar with state campaign finance laws.
  • Alleged Illegal Coordination in the Last Frontier: The Alaska Public Offices Commission has decided to hold an emergency hearing as to whether the incumbent governor illegally coordinated with a non-profit organization to make political expenditures favoring his current reelection campaign. The Anchorage Daily News reports that government watchdog groups filed a complaint claiming that the governor “schemed ‘to improperly subsidize his campaign’ using public funds and coordinating”. The group points to the fact that the head of the nonprofit was simultaneously listed as the treasurer for the governor’s campaign earlier in the year. The governor’s “campaign responded by asking that the complaint be dismissed” while the complainants want to keep the nonprofit from ”spending the $3 million it has in its account going into the final month before Election Day”.