HomeEssential Ethics / SEPTEMBER 28, 2018

Essential Ethics

SEPTEMBER 28, 2018

Latest Developments:

  • A State Court in Nashville has enjoined Tennessee’s Pre-Election Blackout Period: In Tennesseans for Sensible Election Laws v. Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance et al, 18-0821-III, plaintiffs sought to make contributions within 10 days of an election but were faced with the threat of criminal prosecution.  According to The Tennessean, on Wednesday, September 26, the judge enjoined the law prohibiting political action committees from making campaign contributions to candidates within 10 days of an election.  The state plans to appeal.
  • The California Fair Political Practices Commission issued a regulation banning contributions by cryptocurrency. The Commission expressed skepticism based on the ability to money launder cryptocurrencies and the lack of oversight of those cryptocurrencies.

Reminder —  PLI is 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:

  • Junketeer’s Remorse: Rollcall reports that the U.S. Department of Justice has indicted a man for unlawfully funneling money from an Azerbaijani oil company through a nonprofit to pay for a congressional fact-finding trip to Azerbaijan.  Ten lawmakers and more than 30 aides took the trip in 2013.  Federal provisions permit members of congress to take educational trips paid by nonprofit organizations, but not by private entities.  Kevin Oksuz, who is now a fugitive, is an American citizen who ran the nonprofit organization and took money from an oil company operated by the Azerbaijani government.  Congressional members and their staffs were forced to return gifts received during the trip.
  • Concern about Contributions from Canada: A Canadian company is accused of illegally contributing to Oregon candidates and PACs through a US subsidiary.  According to the Bend Bulletin, the company is trying to build a LNG plant in Coos Bay along with a pipeline and says the contributions are from U.S. activity.  The Oregon Elections Director says state law doesn’t address subsidiaries of foreign companies, but indicates that federal is applicable.  Federal rules require that contributions come from a separate segregated fund.
  • Meanwhile Canada Aspires to Higher Ethics: Canada’s House of Commons’ Ethics Committee has launched a review of the country’s Lobby Act and the Conflict of Interest Act.  The Ottawa Globe and Mail reports that the announcement of the study “comes on the heels of a Globe and Mail analysis of Liberal Party fundraising records, which found more than 200 instances of lobbyists attending Liberal fundraisers since early 2017, when the party said it would be imposing tight restrictions on the attendance of lobbyists.”
  • Orange is the New Dark: The Voice of OC reports that nearly $3 million in so-called dark money has flowed into hotly contested house races in Orange County, California, with much more expected to flow before the election.  Once a bastion of California Republicans, four Republican seats are viewed as battlegrounds.  At least 14 different nonprofit organizations or PACs have spent money, most of which are based out-of-state.  Some money can be traced to out-of-state billionaires, including Sheldon Adelson and Charles Koch on the Republican side, and George Soros and Michael Bloomberg on the Democrat side.
  • Bama Reform: The Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission will vote on proposals to reform state law at its October meeting.  com reports that, among other things, the Commission will consider redefining who is a lobbyist employer.  The current law defines the term “principal” as a business or person who employs a lobbyist. The Commission will seek to clarify which individual employees and board members of a business that hires a lobbyist are considered principals (lobbyist employers).
  • Private Jet Travel OK for Hawkeye Governor: The Des Moines Register reports that Governor Reynolds has been cleared by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board of any wrongdoing in accepting 9 trips on private aircraft.  “The board voted to dismiss the complaints against Reynolds, concluding the flights were ‘legitimate in-kind campaign contributions and allowable under Iowa’s gift law.’”
  • Still No Money for Ethics: The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled against the Oklahoma Ethics Commission in its effort to force the state legislature to provide more funding to the Commission.  NewOK reports that the court indicated that the Commission must follow the same budgetary procedure as other state agencies.