HomeEssential Ethics / OCTOBER 5, 2018

Essential Ethics

OCTOBER 5, 2018

Latest Developments:

  • The Illinois First District Court of Appeal upheld Cook County’s restrictions on campaign contributions from lobbyists and persons seeking official actions from the county. In Berrios v. Cook County Board of Commissioners, the County Assessor and a private attorney doing business before the assessor’s office challenged those restrictions.

Ballot Measures to Watch in November:

Several states around the country have political law measures on the November ballot.  These measures include various changes to campaign contribution limits, lobbyist gifts, revolving door provisions, and creating or revising ethics commissions or redistricting commissions.

  • Arizona Proposition 306: Prohibits candidates for office from using public financing accounts (often called “clean election accounts”) to give funds to either political parties or tax-exempt 501(a) organizations that can engage in actions to influence elections. The measure would also remove the Citizens Clean Election Commission’s exemption from rule-making requirements.
  • Colorado Amendment 75: Creates the ability for candidates to accept five times as much in contributions to their campaigns as is normally allowed only if another candidate contributes $1 million or more to his or her own campaign.
  • Colorado Amendment Y and Amendment Z: These two measures on the ballot would create congressional and legislative redistricting commissions.
  • Florida Constitutional Revision 7: Expands current restrictions on lobbying for compensation by former public officers, creates restrictions on lobbying for compensation by currently serving public officers, provides exceptions, and prohibits certain abuse of public office for personal benefit.
  • Massachusetts Question 2: Establishes a 15-member commission that to recommend constitutional amendments related to corporate personhood and political spending. The commission would be required to report on political spending in Massachusetts and the ability of states to regulate corporations, and to draft proposals for constitutional amendments. The commission would also be tasked with recommending that personhood does not include corporations and with overturning Citizens United v. FEC.
  • Michigan Proposal 2: Creates the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission that would draw both congressional and legislative district lines. Selection process occurs through the secretary of state’s office, with 13 commissioners randomly selected from a pool of registered voters. Four members would self-identify with each of the two major parties, five would be unaffiliated/independent. Current and former elected officials, lobbyists, and party officers would not be eligible.
  • Missouri Amendment 1: Reforms lobbying, campaign finance, redistricting, and public records. Lobbying: legislators and legislative employees have to wait two years before becoming a paid lobbyist and both could not accept gifts above $5 in value. Campaign finance: establishes cash contribution limits for legislative candidates and candidate committees for each election cycle, prohibits disguising who contributions are from, and prohibits fundraising on public property. Redistricting: governs legislative redistricting by creating a non-partisan state demographer position who would be selected through a special process and draw maps to present to the legislature. Partisan fairness and competitiveness would be two of the criteria. Public records: legislative records are considered public records.
  • New Mexico Constitutional Amendment 2: Creates a seven-member state ethics commission tasked with investigating alleged violations of ethical conduct by state officials, executive and legislative employees, candidates, lobbyists, government contractors, and others as provided by law.
  • North Carolina Legislatively Referred Constitutional Amendment (House Bill 4): Removes the governor’spower to make appointments to the Bipartisan State Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement, meaning legislative leaders would make all eight appointments to the board.
  • North Dakota Initiated Constitutional Measure 1:  Establishes a 5-member ethics commission selected by the governor and state senate, bans campaign contributions from foreign entities and people, creates lobbyist restrictions, establishes conflict of interest regulations for public officials, and requires that campaign finances be publicly accessible.
  • Oklahoma State Question 798: The governor and lieutenant governor would be elected on a joint ticket starting with the 2026 election.
  • South Dakota Constitutional Amendment W: Restricts lobbyist gifts to politicians, bans foreign money in SD elections, toughens ethics law enforcement, reduces special interest money in SD elections, and removes the ability of the legislature to overturn a ballot measure passed by the public.  The initiative would replace the existing ethics and accountability commission with a seven-member accountability board with new provisions determining board member selection and expanded duties and authorities of the board—including authority over members of the legislature. The initiative would also establish campaign finance and lobbying restrictions, require voter approval for any substantive changes to a voter-approved initiative or referendum, require voter approval to make alterations to the state’s initiative and referendum process, and constitutionalize the simple majority requirement for the approval of initiatives and referendums on the ballot. 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.
  • South Dakota Initiated Measure 24: Bans out-of-state 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.
  • Utah: Establishes a commission to draw both congressional and legislative districts in the redistricting process. The commission would have seven members and needs at least five members to approve between one and three maps that are submitted to state Supreme Court chief justice who determines if the maps meet the criteria. Then the approved plans are submitted to the legislature for approval. The measure establishes criteria ranked in order of importance.

In case you missed it:

  • Bright Lights in a Legislative Black-out Period: Despite a ban on contributions from lobbyists and their employers to legislators in North Carolina during the legislature’s session, com reports that two co-CEOs of a company that employs seven lobbyists managed to give $41,000 to legislators during the period.  Under a so-called “loophole,” CEOs and PACs are not expressly covered by the ban which prohibits contributions from lobbyists and the corporations or others that employ the lobbyists.  More than $1.1 million flowed into legislators’ campaign accounts during the six-week session.
  • The Odds may be Stacked: The Philadelphia Inquirer has called on the Pennsylvania legislature to enact some kind of limits on contributions following a U.S. District Court’s decision in Deon v. Barasch that the state’s ban on contributions from gaming interests was too broad.  The Inquirer noted that the state has no limit on campaign contributions and cited a study that links the presence of casinos to an increase in public corruption.
  • Follow the Money: NPR reports on the “outside money” spent both in favor and in opposition to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
  • Panem et CircensesMeanwhile, Roll Call details the calls for Sen. John Kyl to recuse himself on voting for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The Judicial Crisis Network, which reportedly has spent more than $12 million in favor of Kavanaugh, reported paying Kyl for federal lobbying last year while he was a lobbyist at Covington & Burling, a position he held until his recent appointment to replace the late Sen. John McCain.