HomeEssential Ethics / October 28, 2022

Essential Ethics

October 28, 2022

Latest Developments: 

  • A US Federal District Court in Illinois blocked two campaign finance reforms recently enacted in that state. The laws affected judicial elections, with one “prohibiting a judicial candidate from receiving contributions from any ‘out-of-state person’…[while the] second provision prohibits an independent expenditure committee…from accepting contributions from any single person in a cumulative amount that exceeds $500,000.” The judge’s memorandum explained that “[t]he plaintiffs have shown that they have no adequate remedy at law and will suffer irreparable harm” if the restrictions remained in effect for the upcoming elections.
  • The DC Office of Campaign Finance ruled this week that a City Council candidate misused funds she received from the District’s public election funding program and ordered her to return the money. The issue arose when the candidate paid for poll that surveyed the candidate performance for another City Council race (for which she was not the candidate). The results of the poll were said to have improperly influenced that election when several like-minded candidates dropped out of the race en masse, ostensibly to not split the vote. DCist has more.
  • A Superior Court in King County, Washington imposed a more than $24 million fine on a major tech company for hundreds of violations of the state’s campaign finance disclosure and transparency laws. The company repeatedly declined to disclose the information state law requires of political ads on its social media platform. NPR has more analysis.

In Case You Missed It:

  • Ethics Reform on the Horizon in Hawaii: The Honolulu Civil Beat reports that the Hawaii Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct released several suggestions which would impose additional requirements on lobbyists and those trying to influence lawmakers. Among the recommendations are “proposals…[which] would mandate annual ethics training for lobbyists, require them to disclose a list of bill numbers they are trying to influence and prohibit them from giving gifts to legislators and government employees.” The suggestions come on the heels of “two former lawmakers…[being] charged with taking bribes in order to influence legislation” earlier this year and increasing concerns about “lawmakers’ outside business interests.” Observers note that “the question remains how far lawmakers will be willing to go in imposing more rules on themselves.”
  • When Agencies Aren’t Doing Their Job: Local media reports that Starr County, Texas may not be maintaining or even collecting campaign finance reports, as it required to under state law. The discovery arose when a local judicial candidate filed a records request with the county for his opponent’s campaign finance report and “the county said in response…that it does ‘not currently retain’ the reports’”. Outside groups then officially requested other county level campaign finance reports, only to be given the same response. The article notes that this finding calls into question “whether candidates are filing reports at all and whether the county ever maintained the reports to begin with”.