HomeEssential Ethics / September 9, 2022

Essential Ethics

September 9, 2022

Latest Developments:

  • A US Federal District court convicted former Atlanta city official Mitzi Bickers in the latest development of a pay-to-play scandal which also ensnarled two city contractors and the former mayor. The DOJ alleged that “Bickers sold sensitive, non-public information to…[two contractors] that was critical to their ability to obtain certain valuable contracts.” The contractors then funneled money to Bickers by paying her cash “up-front” to secure a contract and also paid “’kick-backs,’ where Bickers instructed…[the contractors] to inflate the cost of their work with the City so that…[they] could then pay Bickers a percentage of what they earned.” The implicated contractors previously pleaded guilty to bribery and money laundering and were sentenced to prison terms
  • A Washington State Superior Court Judge ruled that a prominent social networking company failed to adequately comply with state political advertisement disclosure law.The law in question “requires campaign advertisers, including entities….that host political ads, to make information about Washington political ads that run on their platforms available for public inspection in a timely manner.” The court agreed that the platform committed hundreds of violations since 2018 and faces fines of up to $10,000 per violation, or up to three times that amount if intentional.
  • A US District Court in Indiana approved the sentencing for a former Delaware County contractor who entered into plea bargain in June. The contractor bribed a local party officer and funneled money to a sanitary district official “to illegally contribute to [a former mayor’s] campaign”, for favorable consideration for public contracts. The judge “ordered…[the contractor] to pay $104,750 in restitution to the…sanitation district. In lieu of a prison sentence, he’ll spend two years on probation.” Local media provides more details.


Nielsen Merksamer invites you to join our PLI Post-Conference Briefing. We will share the top take-aways from the conference to help guide your campaign finance, lobbying disclosure and government ethics compliance programs in the year ahead. We will provide topics and ask for your feedback in emails leading to our workshop. For more information, please contact agibbons@nmgovlaw.com for details and RSVP.

In Case You Missed It:

  • FEC Says “Zuckerbucks” Not Campaign Contributions:The Washington Post reports on unanimous bipartisan votes the Federal Election Commission made last month rejecting complaints made against a tech mogul’s more than $400 million contributions to local jurisdictions ostensibly made to improve voting infrastructure and turnout in 2020. The contributions had become controversial, with numerous objections claiming that the donations constituted excess contributions and even a “failure to register as a political committee” which favored one party’s turnout over another. These arguments were rejected, with representatives for the tech mogul contending that these contributions “were made in full compliance with the law to…ensure that residents could vote regardless of their party or candidate preference.”
  • Can Federal Criminals Lobby in Massachusetts?: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court considered this week a Commonwealth law that prohibits former officials from registering as state lobbyists for ten years if they were convicted of a state Courthouse News Service reports that the case involves former state House speaker Salvatore DeMasi who, in 2011, was convicted in federal court for accepting bribes and subsequently served a prison sentence. When DeMasi attempted to register as a lobbyist afterward, his filing was rejected given his conviction—a decision that DeMasi challenged. However, the trial court ruled against the denial, “[b]ecause the statute discusses state convictions only…[finding that] a federal corruption conviction does not prevent a former official” convicted of a federal crime from lobbying.” The case notwithstanding, DeMasi successfully registered as a lobbyist last year given that the 10-year period in question lapsed.
  • Grand Canyon State Considers Disclosure Referendum: Local media reports that a ballot initiative requiring independent expenditure committees disclosure of true source of funds will appear on the November ballot. If approved, it “would require that anyone making independent expenditures of more than $50,000 on a statewide campaign or $25,000 on a local campaign disclose the names of the “money’s original sources.” The initiative defines “‘original source’ as the person or business who earned the money that was contributed.”