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Personal financial disclosure laws require public servants to reveal information about their finances, relationships, professions and income. Many elected and appointed office-holders at the local, state and federal level must abide by versions of these provisions, which are different from campaign finance disclosures.
All but three states - Idaho, Michigan and Vermont - require state legislators to file personal financial disclosures, also called statements of economic interest. Most states require lawmakers to state their occupation, the sources of their income, the names of corporations in which they hold a position such as director or officer, the addresses of their property, the names of creditors and debtors and names of businesses in which they hold a financial interest. Actual amounts or value ranges are necessary in approximately one-third of the states. More than two-thirds mandate the release of information about each member's spouse and dependent children.
Over half the states require disclosure of any connections filers or their family members have with the state or state subdivision agencies, and some require disclosure of associations with lobbyists. In most states, legislators don't have to name their clients because such information is considered privileged and revealing it could constitute a breach of a professional ethics code. In those where such a disclosure is required, exceptions are allowed.
States are evenly split on whether or not legislators should be allowed to accept honorariums for their speaking efforts. In half, they are prohibited if offered in connection with a legislator's official duties. Most states that prohibit honorariums allow reimbursement for travel, lodging and necessary expenses. In the other half, honorariums are allowed or are not specifically addressed in statute. Many states require lawmakers to disclose the sources and value of any gifts or honorariums they receive.
Here are key issues covered by these documents:
- Client identification requirements
- Creditor and debtor requirements
- Criminal penalties for public corruption or violation of ethics laws
- Gift and honorarium requirements and restrictions
- Household member requirements
- Income requirements
- Lobbyist connections
- State connections