HomeEssential Ethics / SEPTEMBER 21, 2018

Essential Ethics

SEPTEMBER 21, 2018

Latest Developments:

  • The Oklahoma Ethics Commission, at its meeting on Friday, September 14, unanimously adopted Ethics Rule Amendment 2019-03, which consists of revolving door provisions that prohibit elected officials and agency heads from lobbying for two years following their service. The rule change will take effect in 2019, following the adjournment of the legislature, if the legislature does not affirmatively reject the rule.
  • The California Fair Political Practices Commission met Thursday, September 20. Among other things, the Commission voted to issue an opinion that polls do not require a disclaimer if not intended to influence voters.  In addition, the Governor of California has signed and vetoed laws affecting state political law.  Contact Nielsen Merksamer with any questions.
  • The Federal Election Commission announced that the Supreme Court, on Tuesday, September 18, lifted the Chief Justice’s stay of a lower court ruling in Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, v. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington, et al, a campaign finance case relating to disclosure.
  • The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed as premature American Action Network’s (AAN) appeal of the district court holding that the amount a group spends on electioneering communications presumptively counts towards deeming that group has a major purpose of nominating or electing candidates and, therefore, that it must register as a political committee.  The Court relied upon the “final judgment rule” to dismiss the case, rather than reaching the merits.  The Court’s dismissal means that Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics (CREW) will be able to proceed with its own private attorney general suit against AAN which alleged that AAN failed to register and disclose donors as a political committee based on ads run in 2010.

Reminder – PLI Coming to San Francisco October 4 and 5:

PLI will hold a repeat performance of the popular Corporate Political Activities 2018:  Complying with Campaign Finance, Lobbying and Ethics Laws in San Francisco on October 4 and 5.  The program will be webcast. The keynote speaker will be Richard Hasen, election law blogger, renowned professor, and author.  For more information, check out the full program here.   Nielsen Merksamer clients and California Political Attorney Association members receive a discount.  Please contact a political law attorney at the firm for additional information.

In case you missed it:

  • The Rules Apply to EveryoneCNN reports that federal prosecutors are considering criminal charges against both former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig and his then law firm for failure to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).  The investigation grew out of the probe by Robert Muller and apparently relates to activities by Paul Manafort, who sought the law firm’s help for Ukraine.  The firm reportedly received $4.6 million in fees through the Manafort connection.  According to CNN, Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and former Republican Congressman Vin Weber are also under investigation for FARA violations.
  • But Congress isn’t Concerned: Congress had great interest in updating and strengthening FARA in the period after Paul Manafort was indicted.  However, according to PoliticoCongress has lost its enthusiasm for overhauling FARA, with Mike Johnson (R-La.), a leading proponent of reform, declaring that, “There’s these very fierce efforts to maintain the status quo.”  FARA legislation appears dead for the year.
  • Put Away those Quill Penscom reports that the United States Senate is finally moving to electronic filing of campaign reports for U.S. Senate candidates.  If the President approves a bill pending on his desk, candidates would file electronically with the Federal Election Commission, rather than paper filings with the Secretary of the Senate.
  • My Way or No Highway: According to CBSSacramento, the California Fair Political Practices Commission is reportedly investigating whether campaign rules were violated when Caltrans employees or contractors distributed fliers opposing Proposition 6, a ballot measure that would repeal gas tax hikes enacted last year.  Laurie Berman, Director of Caltrans, stated the personnel identified in a complaint filed by proponents of the measure were Caltrans private contractors and that “the Department does not condone political advocacy or the distribution of campaign information on work project sites and is contacting its contractors to remind them of this.”  The article notes that, “Construction companies and unions representing construction workers, who stand to benefit from more road work, are among the biggest funders of the campaign to defeat Proposition 6.”