HomeEssential Ethics / September 23, 2022

Essential Ethics

September 23, 2022

Latest Developments:

  • The United States Senate defeated S 443, otherwise known as the so-called “DISCLOSE Act” on a 49-49 party-line vote. The Act would have “provide[d] for additional disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, Super PACs and other entities.” According to the lead sponsor, it would also contain “a ‘stand by your ad’ provision requiring…organizations to identify those behind political ads – including disclosing…top five funders at the end of television ads.” The Washington Post reports more.
  • The Governor of California signed AB 2127, which authorizes digitally signed reports, including lobby reports, to the Secretary of State (SOS) to be accepted via email and not require an additional paper filing to serve as the true and original copy. The bill is meant to provide a solution while the SOS office develops a new e-filing system. The CA Fair Political Practices website provides additional guidance for digital signatures.


Lobbying in New York State?   Like many jurisdictions, New York requires lobbyists to attend ethics trainings, and NY State changed its training process earlier this year. Instead of logging in through the old online portal, the new Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government has released a slide deck on their website that lobbyists need to review before signing an affirmation form. Lobbyists who complete the course via the online portal this year will still be credited for completion, but the state recommends using the new training slides and affirmation form if there are any issues with the online portal. https://ethics.ny.gov/ethics-lobbyists-training


On October 5 from 1- 2 PM ET, please join Nielsen Merksamer’s Joel Aurora and other practitioners for an ABA webinar titled, “Is the Tide on Campaign Finance Disclosure Quietly Shifting? A Look One Year After Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta.”  This panel will discuss the state of nonprofit disclosure laws one year after Bonta, examining the outcome of challenges to campaign finances laws that were brought in the case’s aftermath and the surprising ways courts have applied the new Bonta standard of review in election law cases.  Click here for more information and to sign up.

In Case You Missed It:

  • “Frank(ed)” Communication in Congressional Ads:  The Hill reports on a growing trend of sitting members of Congress taking advantage of the long-standing practice of “franked communications” (by which Congressmembers officially connect with their constituents by mailers, television/radio ads, and even the internet) in their reelection bids. While taxpayer funded franked communications are part of a long-standing practice of constituent communication, a rule change at the end of the last Congress moves the blackout for these communications to 60 days before an election, down from 90 days.  Now, voters are seeing scores of television, social media, and internet ads which are strikingly similar to campaign commercials, often touting an incumbent’s accomplishments on the most salient electoral issues. Critics contend “[it] giv[es] incumbent members an advantage in elections on the taxpayers’ dime,” while others note that a bipartisan commission reviews all communications.
  • Nonprofits Also Have Public Contract Ethics Concerns: According to the Los Angeles Times, a public corruption probe concerning Pay-2-Play and favoritism issues in awarding contracts has been taken over by the California Department of Justice in an effort to avoid political controversy between the elected Sheriff and the subject of the investigation, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. According to the TimesKuehl allegedly funneled “contracts worth more than $800,000” to an anti- domestic violence non-profit run by her friend and used her influence to extend the contract “without a competitive bid or analysis…[even though] the hotline [the non-profit was commission to develop] was a ‘complete failure’”. Additionally, facts presented to the court “detail campaign contributions Kuehl received from [the director of the nonprofit] and others associated with the nonprofit, alleging that ‘the donations can be seen as having been given for payment in return for the future awarding of the’ hotline contracts.”