Ethics in the News 2011
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CALIFORNIA. Good government groups are asking for more information as to why the Fair Political Practices Commission has been without an executive director for four months. Citing insufficient funds to hire for the job, vacated by Roman Porter this summer, the Commission’s chair and another staffer have been performing some of the director’s duties. California Common Cause is asking for “governing principles” to outline how the duties are being performed and for a hiring timeline.
The Sacramento Bee. December 9, 2011. http://www.sacbee.com/2011/12/09/v-print/4110849/the-buzz-unfilled-job-at-californias.html
GEORGIA. Over the past six months, the state ethics commission has undergone much transition, from new leadership in the executive director position to changes in the division of labor and employee responsibilities. The new, recently appointed director was tasked with more administrative and less investigative responsibilities, hired an auditor, contracted with an attorney for advisory opinions and will be hiring an attorney and IT director. The commission duties have been split into three divisions: administrative, investigative and compliance-education. Ethics commissioners and the chairs of the legislative ethics committees expressed full faith in the new director, though Georgia Common Cause has been critical of delayed investigations and workload issues as a result of the transition.
Atlanta Journal Constitution. November 25, 2011. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/ethics-commission-deals-with-1240621.html?printArticle=y
ILLINOIS. Former Governor Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison – the longest sentence handed down to any of Illinois’ four convicted former governors. In his appeal to the court for leniency, Blagojevich admitted to breaking the law and making mistakes, saying “I caused it all, I’m not blaming anybody…I was governor and I should have known better and I am just so incredibly sorry.” He is expected to appeal the conviction.
9News.com. December 7, 2011. http://www.9news.com/news/article/234457/188/Blagojevich-gets-14-years-in-prison-for-corruption
KANSAS. Lobbyist spending in Kansas grew in all but two of the past 10 years. The Wichita Eagle examines lobbyist spending and how the state’s laws compare nationally.
Wichita Eagle. December 4, 2011. http://www.kansas.com/2011/12/04/2127014/whos-paying-to-influence-kansas.html
MAINE. A legislator is charged with seven violations of Maine’s clean elections law. The ethics commission found that the lawmaker transferred public money into his personal bank account, used the money for personal expenses and submitted false documents to investigators. The violations spur civil penalties, but the commission will not issue penalties until the attorney general finishes his investigation. The legislator’s attorney stated that he will continue to cooperate with the investigation and did not feel it would interfere with the member’s ability to serve in the legislature.
The Morning Sentinel. December 1, 2011. http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/legislator-faces-ethics-investigation_2011-11-30.html
MARYLAND. The Senate President formally requested that a legislative ethics committee investigate the actions of a member who was recently acquitted of federal conspiracy and bribery charges. The legislative committee likely will examine his alleged failure to fill out financial disclosures and conflict of interest issues.
WMAL. December, 2011. http://wmal.com/Article.asp?id=2339443
Editorial: Sen. Currie deserves more than a slap on the wrist.
The Washington Post. November 22, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/sen-currie-deserves-more-than-a-slap-on-the-wrist/2011/11/22/gIQAizhLmN_print.html
Opinion: How does this conflict with my interest?
Carroll County Times. November 16, 2011. http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/community_times/perspectives/how-does-this-conflict-with-my-interest/article_761a667a-107d-11e1-8f2a-001cc4c03286.html
MASSACHUSETTS. Former speaker DiMasi began serving an eight-year sentence in federal prison after being convicted of extortion, honest services fraud and conspiracy. He plans to appeal the ruling and maintains his innocence.
The Boston Channel. November 30, 2011. http://www.thebostonchannel.com/politics/29882490/detail.html
NEVADA. Opinion. But it’s all we’ve got. “The state ethics commission is on a list of possible targets being examined by the Sunset Subcommittee, a body created to review state government and recommend places to trim.”
Review Journal. November 27, 2011. http://www.lvrj.com/opinion/but-it-s-all-we-ve-got-134553848.html
NEW JERSEY. Opinion: Time for a “clear and concise” ethics code for New Jersey?
NJ.com. December 5, 2011. http://blog.nj.com/centraljersey_impact/print.html?entry=/2011/12/time_for_a_clear_and_concise_e.html
NEW YORK. State law allows public officials to be reimbursed for legal fees with public funds, should criminal charges against them be dropped. Former Senate Majority Leader Bruno plans to ask for this reimbursement after a federal appeals court reversed an eight count indictment against him. The Times Union examines examples of the application of this provision over time.
Times Union. December 5, 2011. http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Bruno-and-Boyland-could-get-legal-costs-reimbursed-2343874.php
NORTH CAROLINA. The House Minority Leader requested that the legislative ethics committee investigate the actions of another member in his involvement with two non-profit organizations. The attorney for the member in question criticized the request, claiming that it is based on media coverage and motivated by partisanship.
Canadian Business Network. November 17, 2011.
SOUTH CAROLINA. The state ethics commission clarified the process used to calculate the value of flights used for the gubernatorial campaigning. The Senate President stated that the opinion might prompt further ethics reform when the legislature convenes in 2012.
Post and Courier. November 18, 2011. http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/nov/18/plane-speaking-by-ethics-panel/
VIRGIN ISLANDS. A legislative-commissioned audit found that over the past few years the legislature engaged in “highly questionable practices” and mismanagement of funds. The audit uncovered undocumented and unaccounted for travel expenses and cash advances for legislators, no-bid contracts, missing equipment and bonuses paid to staff. No specific legislators were named in the audit, though several current members stressed the need to regain the public’s trust, and one mentioned he would work on a package of ethics legislation.
Virgin Islands Daily News. December 3, 2011. http://virginislandsdailynews.com/news/28th-legislature-senators-respond-to-scathing-audit-1.1240406#axzz1fhj9TqBf
WASHINGTON, DC. The D.C. Council tentatively approved broad ethics reform legislation. Among the noteworthy provisions is the creation of an ethics commission with the power to penalize violators of the ethics code and a call for the expulsion of any member with a felony conviction. One member of the Council, who voted for the measure, had his home raided by the FBI and IRS earlier in the month. The official is being investigated due to allegations that the member used his position to divert public funds to his own private foundation, and then used the funds for personal expenses.
Washington Post. December 6, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-council-gives-preliminary-approval-to-ethics-reform-package-embattled-member-votes-yes/2011/12/06/gIQANowEaO_story.html
December 5, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-council-gives-preliminary-approval-to-ethics-reform-package-embattled-member-votes-yes/2011/12/06/gIQANowEaO_story.html
December 2, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/harry-thomas-home-searched-by-law-enforcement/2011/12/02/gIQABjDlKO_story.html
WEST VIRGINIA. The state ethics commission opined that the legislature should examine whether or not members of licensing boards should be allowed to serve as officers in professional organizations that have businesses with such boards.
Watchdog.org. December 2, 2011. http://westvirginia.watchdog.org/3798/west-virginia-ethics-commission-seeks-answer-from-legislature-on-licensing-board-rules/
NATIONAL. Three congressional staffers were fired after a blog and other media outlets reported on tweets they made that insulted their boss, referenced drinking on the job, and complained about their work. The congressman’s office reported the staffers clearly “crossed a line.”
The Hill. December 8, 2011. http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/198269-three-congressional-staffers-canned-after-tweets-reveal-in-office-partying-?page=2#comments
ALABAMA. In the wake of changes to state gift laws and lobbyist spending limits, the Alabama ethics commission has been deluged with requests to certify certain events as “allowable exemptions” to the law. Under the recent changes, lobbyists must abided by a $25 per meal, $150 per year spending limit and are prohibited from taking lawmakers on certain outings – though exceptions are made for “work sessions, economic development functions, educational events and receptions and dinners that are widely attended events.” The director of the commission stated that the parameters that are now in place are a “monumental improvement over the past,” and legislative leaders have also agreed that the law seems to be decreasing lobbyist influence.
The Birmingham News. November 6, 2011. http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2011/11/alabamas_new_ethics_law_fails.html
OPINION: Loopholes in our ethics laws.
Anniston Star. November 8, 2011. http://annistonstar.com/bookmark/16317952-Loopholes-in-our-ethics
FLORIDA. Tea Party activists and some state legislators are disappointed in the Governor’s failure to pursue ethics reform. The Governor has issued several ethics-related executive orders, but some of them have been rescinded due to separation of powers issues, and has been silent on the issue of legislative reform. SB 552 is generating some discussion among the Tea Party Network – the bill would prohibit legislators from voting on any bill that would provide a “special private gain or loss” to the member or a relative, or that would affect a certain business or board contacts.
The Miami Herald. November 10, 2011. http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/10/v-print/2496592/scott-push-on-ethics-reform-dead.html
ILLINOIS. The Legislative Inspector General found that no rules were broken when legislators and staff voted for absent members on the floor. The LIG’s investigation was prompted by a request from the Governor, who claimed that there was “wrongdoing” and “monkey business” during the vote on a utility rate increase. At least 18 members were called off the floor for a budget briefing when roll call occurred, and many returned to see that their votes had been cast in favor of the hike, either by staff or seat mates. Some stated from the floor that they had been recorded incorrectly, though the changed votes did not affect the fate of the bill. The practice of voting for seatmates is not officially allowed, but occurs. The LIG found that while the rule was violated, there was no evidence of “malicious intent” or “conspiracy by House leaders or bill sponsors.
Chicago Sun Times. October 29, 2011. http://www.suntimes.com/news/8477882-418/legislative-watchdog-agrees-to-investigate-buttongate-vote-flap.html
The Republic. November 9, 2011. http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/7ca22a9e87274ae3b79834ed4bdfa5b0/IL--Quinn-Absent-Legislators/
Chicago Tribune. November 10, 2011. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-11-10/news/ct-met-button-gate-20111110_1_piece-of-smart-grid-legislation-lawmaker-voting-ethics-violation
IOWA. The House Majority Leader is contesting an ethics complaint filed against her with the chamber’s ethics committee. The complaint alleges that she is acting as a lobbyist for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) while serving as a member. The legislator says that she is not a lobbyist and that state statutes and the House Ethics Code exempt public officials from the definition of lobbyist while performing the duties and responsibilities of their offices.
The Globe Gazette. November 7, 2011. http://globegazette.com/news/local/upmeyer-challenges-validity-of-ethics-complaint/article_77700b30-09a5-11e1-96e1-001cc4c002e0.html
MARYLAND. A state senator was acquitted of charges of federal extortion and bribery. Despite the court’s ruling, Maryland Common Cause and jurors have said that the senator violated state ethics laws. Common Cause is requesting the Senate censure the member for failing to disclose employment. The Senate President stated that the Committee on Legislative Ethics should examine his conduct, though the legislature does not convene until January.
Baltimore Sun. November 9, 2011. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-11-09/news/bs-md-currie-ethics-20111109_1_currie-case-ethics-counsel-censure
Gazette.net. November 11, 2011. http://www.gazette.net/article/20111111/NEWS/711119548/1034/currie-still-must-overcome-dark-cloud&template=gazette
In the wake of the senator's acquital, many are calling for requirements to allow online accessibility of financial disclosures.The Senate President said he supports such requirements. When the Committee on Legislative Ethics meets, it plans to examine this recommendation and research the issue of incomplete and tardy financial disclosures.
Maryland Gazette. November 11, 2011. http://www.gazette.net/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20111111/news/711119560/1029/currie-case-could-lead-to-disclosure-changes&&template=PrinterFriendlygaz
MISSOURI. The state supreme court is hearing arguments as to whether or not legislators violated the constitution in passing ethics reform legislation in 2010. A lower court ruled that the law violated the constitution’s single-subject requirement for legislation. The court struck all provisions of the bill except one that dealt with purchasing, which was the original purpose of the bill. The opposition is arguing that the purpose of the bill was ethics, because the intent of the purchasing-related changes was to help avoid conflicts of interest. Should the law be struck down, reforms that allow the ethics commission to initiative investigations, criminalize vote trading for executive branch jobs and obstruction of ethics commission investigations, and change campaign finance rules would all be voided.
Stltoday.com. November 10, 2011. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/political-fix/missouri-supreme-court-hears-challenge-to-ethics-reform-law/article_739196b8-0bcc-11e1-a6d6-001a4bcf6878.html
NORTH CAROLINA. A federal appellate court upheld North Carolina’s ban on lobbyist political contributions.
Beaufort Observer. November 8, 2011. http://www.beaufortobserver.net/Articles-NEWS-and-COMMENTARY-c-2011-11-08-256848.112112-Fourth-Circuit-upholds-N-Cs-restrictions-against-lobbyists-political-contributions.html
OKLAHOMA. The Speaker of the House formed a standing ethics committee and charged it with forming ethics standards for members and evaluating ethics questions in legislative business. The committee’s formation comes after a recommendation from the House Special Investigative Committee, which stated that a permanent ethics committee would “instill confidence that the House of Representatives will deal with ethics complaints in an expeditious, fair and consistent matter.”
The Bixby Bulletin. November 8, 2011. http://bixbybulletin.com/news/house-ethics-committee-formed/article_b4873a48-0a4f-11e1-8194-001cc4c03286.html
NATIONAL. A poll conducted by The Hill found that 85 percent of registered voters believe that a politician’s conduct in his or her private life is as important as how he or she might behave as a public official.
The Hill. November 7, 2011. http://thehill.com/polls/192045-personal-behavior-seen-as-critical-to-how-they-cast-ballot-say-voters
ARKANSAS. The Arkansas Public Law Center has filed a lawsuit against two legislators, the state auditor, the treasurer and officials of the House and Senate who disburse expense payments for legislators, claiming that the practice of accepting reimbursement for undocumented mileage and office expenses violates the state constitution.
Arkansasnews.com. September 26, 2011. http://arkansasnews.com/tag/arkansas-public-law-center/
HAWAII. The Ethics Commission is investigating “missing” lobbyist gifts to legislators, leading to feelings of aggravation among some members.
Hawaii Reporter. October 12, 2011. http://www.hawaiireporter.com/ethics-inquiry-angers-maui-legislator/123
ILLINOIS. Midway through a two week veto session, the House passed HB 3813, which would prevent a loophole that allows union officials from “double dipping” pensions. The measure was introduced after a series of articles highlighting the issue.
Stltoday.com. October 27, 2011. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/illinois/article_40cf3418-00c5-11e1-af91-001a4bcf6878.html?print=1
KANSAS. After the legislature eliminated the use of public funds to pay for water coolers in members’ offices, the Ethics Commission ruled that legislators can use campaign funds to cover the costs. The commission formed its opinion based on a provision in state law that allows political donations to be used for “the expenses of holding public office.”
Baldwin City Signal. October 4, 2011. http://signal.baldwincity.com/news/2011/oct/04/ethics-commission-says-legislators-can-use-campaig/
KENTUCKY. EDITORIAL: Blatant cause of unethical conduct. “The legislative ethics commission should press for stronger remedies and adopt a more aggressive stance on ferreting out conflicts of interest…(and) the General Assembly should pass legislation…to ensure private contractors conducting public work open the relevant portions of their books.”
Kentucky.com. October 13, 2011. http://www.kentucky.com/2011/10/13/1918933/blatant-cause-of-unethical-conduct.html
MARYLAND. Testimony continues in the trial of a state senator who was charged in U.S. District Court of using a consulting contract with a grocery chain to mask an extortion scheme, whereby he allegedly accepted $245,000 over five years In exchange for legislative favors. The senator failed to list the job on disclosure forms.
NEW JERSEY. OPINION: Special session on ethics will have to wait. During election season, the Republican Governor is calling for a special session on ethics but the Democratic Legislature has not been responsive.
North Jersey.com. September 22, 2011. http://www.northjersey.com/news/opinions/130333108_Special_session_on_ethics_will_have_to_wait.html
NEW YORK. COMMENTARY: Many questions linger about state ethics panel. “New York government, elected and otherwise, currently lacks a watchdog to monitor ethical conduct.”
Times Union. October 17, 2011. http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/LeBrun-Many-questions-linger-about-state-ethics-2220733.php
The legislature and governor’s office are vetting candidates for the 16 member Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which aims to be open for business in mid-December. Concerns remain over the make-up of the commission, the two month delay in establishing JCOPE, the preparedness of the new commissioners, the selection of an executive director, and the degree to which the commission will be effective.
Gotham Gazette. October 27, 2011. http://www.gothamgazette.com/print/3627
TEXAS. The Texas Ethics Commission and its activities will be reviewed in 2012 by the nonpartisan Sunset Advisory Commission, three years earlier than expected. Some argue that the commission is “toothless” by design and that having the legislature appoint Commission members is problematic. Others say the Commission has done well in expanding its work with scarce resources since its inception 20 years ago. The Sunset Advisory Commission’s report is due in March.
Texaswatchdog.org. October 27, 2011. http://www.texaswatchdog.org/2011/10/toothless-texas-ethics-commission-fails-the-public/1319667922.story
WASHINGTON. The Legislative Ethics Board has dismissed claims that a legislator who created and ran a nonprofit violated state ethics laws, including receiving illegal gifts and receiving donations from lobbyists. In its ruling, the Board warned the legislator that the nonprofit could raise “ethical concerns” and conflict of interest issues in the future. The legislator was also accused of using state resources to run the organization, but the Board determined the issue was not germane to the investigation.
Herald.net. September 19, 2011. www.heraldnet.com/article/20110919/BLOG13/110919687/-1/news01
WASHINGTON, DC. The District’s Council is reviewing and debating many ethics reform proposals. At a recent committee meeting members heard from 30 entities during seven hours of testimony, where they listened to proposals for an ethics commission, public campaign financing, more aggressive disclosure provisions and penalties, and suspension of certain legislative privileges for any council member indicted for a felony. The committee’s chair plans to use a “transformative approach” with respect to ethics reform, and is considering splitting the current Board of Elections and Ethics into two separate entities. Opponents of this plan argued that such a move would dilute already scarce resources for the board. The full Council could vote on a plan as early as November or as late as the beginning of the new year.
DCist.com. October 27, 2011. http://dcist.com/2011/10/dc_council_debates_ethics_proposals.php
NATIONAL. OpEd: A law misused for political ends. "The Hatch Act of 1939 was intended to keep improper politics out of the federal workplace. At its best, it prevents people in political power from abusing their positions. It prohibits coercion by a government supervisor — such as pressuring employees to volunteer for or contribute to a campaign — and shields the civil service and the federal workplace from politicking.But at its worst, the law prevents would-be candidates in state and local races from running because they are in some way, no matter how trivially, tied to a source of federal funds in their professional lives."
The New York Times. October 30, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/31/opinion/the-hatch-act-a-law-misused.html
ARIZONA The Senate Ethics Committee adopted rules which eliminate any prosecution role the committee would have had in formally investigating an ethics complaint against the former majority leader. Instead, the burden has been placed on the state senator who filed the complaint.
AP in Houston Chronicle. September 20, 2011. http://www.chron.com/news/article/Arizona-Senate-panel-sidesteps-prosecution-role-2179079.php
CONNECTICUT The General Assembly has established Twitter and Facebook accounts, utilizing social media to solicit public comments from constituents. The challenge for government entities using social media is to ensure that open meeting and sunshine laws are followed. Pam Greenberg of NCSL highlights the continued relevancy of transparency laws, and the fact that it is the responsibility of each individual entity to ensure they are compliant with state requirements.
Governing. September 19, 2011. http://www.governing.com/blogs/view/connecticut-general-assembly-puts-social-media-to-work.html
FLORIDA The state ethics commission voted to ratify an agreement with a former state representative who failed to file a financial disclosure within 60 days after leaving office. The ethics commission did not recommend a penalty because it does not have jurisdiction over legislators. Only the state house can impose a penalty, which may be impossible because the former official is no longer in the legislature.
The Miami Herald. September 9, 2011. http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/09/09/2399157/hasner-ethics-commission-reach.html
GEORGIA The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that lobbyists spent nearly $100,000 on lawmakers during the roughly two-week long special legislative session in August.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. September 10, 2011. http://www.ajc.com/news/lobbyists-spent-nearly-100-1165549.html
HAWAII The state ethics commission executive director, supported by the ethics commission, reiterated his position that members of legislative task forces are state employees and therefore, subject to the state ethics code.
Honolulu Civil Beat. September 22, 2011. http://www.civilbeat.com/posts/2011/09/22/12946-hawaii-ethics-director-responds-to-brouhaha-over-task-force-members/
KENTUCKY Editorial: “The Legislative Ethics Commission made clear that from now on lawmakers must disclose all sources of income, including gambling...From now on, legislators are on notice that what the Internal Revenue Service considers income should be reported on the financial disclosures required of them by the ethics law.”
Kentucky.com. September 22, 2011. http://www.kentucky.com/2011/09/22/1892066/welcome-clarity-on-lawmaker-disclosure.html#ixzz1ZAXBTsfh
Due to lack of jurisdiction, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission chose not to pursue a complaint filed by a candidate for secretary of state against the incumbent secretary of state, for allowing homeless people to vote without acquiring an address.
NKY.com. September 21, 2011. http://cincinnati.com/blogs/nkypolitics/2011/09/21/ethics-commission-declines-to-rule-on-homeless-voter-issue/
In its annual report, the Legislative Ethics Commission recommended various changes to state ethics laws which would apply to the conduct of legislators, lobbyists and political candidates. The changes, among other things, would prohibit lobbyists from giving as much as a cup of coffee to a state lawmaker. All three gubernatorial candidates favor such changes.
Houston Chronicle. September 12, 2011. http://www.chron.com/news/article/Gubernatorial-candidates-favor-stricter-ethics-law-2166816.php
WFPL News. September 5, 2011. http://www.wfpl.org/2011/09/05/state-ethics-commission-recommends-changes/
The Legislative Ethics Commission dismissed the Kentucky Democratic Party’s complaint against the senate president for failing to include gambling winnings as a source of income on filed disclosure reports.
Courier-Journal.com. September 6, 2011. http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20110906/NEWS0106/309060061/Ethics-complaint-over-David-Williams-gambling-winnings-dismissed
NEW JERSEY Gov. Chris Christie calls on state lawmakers to act on ethics proposals he made in September 2010.
New Jersey News Room. September 19, 2011. http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/christie-calls-on-legislative-democrats-to-act-on-his-government-ethics-proposals
AP in Chron.com. September 19, 2011. http://www.chron.com/news/article/NJ-gov-calls-on-lawmakers-to-move-ethics-bills-2177356.php
SOUTH DAKOTA The Argus Leader explores South Dakota’s standards for governing the conduct of public officials after critics claimed that a former governor’s board appointment represented a conflict of interest. According to NCSL, South Dakota is one of nine states that does not have an ethics commission. Some officials see the benefits of tightening state ethics rules while others believe the rules are sufficient until proven otherwise.
Argus Leader.com. September 11, 2011. http://www.argusleader.com/article/20110911/NEWS/109110331/Ethics-rules-state-workers-weak-critics-say
WASHINGTON The Legislative Ethics Board dismissed allegations of ethics violations against a state representative regarding his nonprofit. The board, however, cautioned the lawmaker that future activities could trigger ethical concerns.
The Herald. September 19, 2011. http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20110919/BLOG13/110919687/-1/news01
WEST VIRGINIA The state ethics commission gave its approval to draft legislation that would allow notice of public meetings to be published online, rather than in the State Register. The commission also ruled that public officials and employees traveling on state business may not accept passes to health clubs or fitness centers from hotels or motels that lack on-site exercise facilities.
The Charleston Gazette. September 1, 2011. http://wvgazette.com/News/201109011572
NATIONAL The Office of Government Ethics plans to eliminate an exception to the rule that allows government employees to attend widely attended events, such as Capitol Hill receptions, annual trade shows, seminars and other legislative policy days unless they are speaking at the event.
Politico. September 21, 2011. http://wvgazette.com/News/201109011572
Government Executive.com. September 21, 2011. http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0911/092111cc1.htm
The Institute for Global Ethics applies the analogy of an economic recession to the state of ethics in the United States, using public opinion polls to determine that rates have declined enough to “qualify as an ‘official’ ethics recession.” The institute concludes that “if ethics is, as many people agree, a matter of core values such as honesty, fairness, and responsibility, then Congress indeed has lapsed into moral decline.”
Ethics Newsline. September 19, 2011. http://www.globalethics.org/newsline/2011/09/19/ethics-recession
ALABAMA A jury declined to convict any of the nine defendants in a corruption trial that involved gambling legislation, businessmen, lobbyists and current and former lawmakers. In response to the alleged corruption, the state legislature passed various ethics laws last year. According to Peggy Kerns, director of the Ethics Center at NCSL, these will provide effective tools to the state ethics commission.
The Wall Street Journal. August 12, 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904823804576502733825957612.html
CALIFORNIA Roman Porter, executive director of the Fair Political Practices Commission, has announced that he will leave his post in October. Gov. Jerry Brown appointed a new chairwoman six months ago, and by tradition, the executive director leaves when a new chair is appointed.
Los Angeles Times. August 16, 2011. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/california-politics/2011/08/ethics-officer-roman-porter.html
ILLINOIS Opinion: “Half a world away, Illinois government is regarded as a case study in corruption…Better disclosure won’t mean much, though, unless the General Assembly adopts a code of conduct that isn’t itself a waste of paper. The inspector general is right: ‘These rules should not be merely aspiration goals.’ We’ve all seen how that works.”
Chicago Tribune. August 27, 2011. http://www.ongo.com/v/1702714/-1/39B53FEE2D6F2D72/legislative-ethics-theyre-only-suggestions
NEBRASKA In at least 28 states, it is illegal to hold fundraisers or accept campaign contributions during legislative session, but not in Nebraska. “These lobbyists and special interest groups may have legislation pending. To have leverage at this time really raises questions” says Peggy Kerns, director of NCSL’s Ethics Center.
Omaha.com. August 19, 2011. http://www.omaha.com/article/20110819/NEWS01/708199897
TENNESSEE According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Tennessee is one of four states that does not allow its state ethics commission to investigate complaints of ethics violations. This responsibility falls to the attorney general.
Missouri News Horizon. September 11, 2011. http://missouri-news.org/midwest-news/tennessee/ethics-commission-keeps-complaint-numbers-under-wraps/7501
NEW YORK Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law establishing a new 14-member Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which will oversee ethics law compliance by lawmakers, statewide elected officials, executive branch and legislative employees, and registration and conduct of lobbyists.
AP in the Wall Street Journal. August 15, 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/APc2da03d25ded42f3a28f31adc99bb8c0.html
ALABAMA A judge in the state house vote-buying trial dismissed one charge of bribery against a casino owner and a lobbyist.
Al.com. August 1, 2011. http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2011/08/judge_tosses_one_charge_agains.html
CONNECTICUT The Governmental Accountability Commission referred three finalists to Governor Daniel Malloy for the position of executive director of the new Office of Governmental Accountability (OGA). Gov. Malloy has until September 1 to appoint an executive director.The OGA combines nine state watchdog groups into a single agency.
The Connecticut Mirror. August 1, 2011. http://ctmirror.org/story/13449/watchdog-panel-gives-malloy-three-choices-new-executive-director
KENTUCKY Two major gubernatorial candidates were accused of violating state ethics laws, each by the chairmen of opposing political parties.
AP in Hearald-Dispatch.com. August 1, 2011. http://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/briefs/x45172099/Beshear-Williams-facing-ethics-complaints
Courier-Journal. August 1, 2011. http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20110801/NEWS01/308010029/Democrats-charge-David-Williams-should-reported-gambling-winnings
MAINE A state senator who has agreed to become the executive director of a sportsmen’s lobbying group will resign his position as a member of the Maine Senate in December. While state law does not prohibit a legislator from acting as a lobbyist, the practice would constitute a conflict of interest.
Bangor Daily News. August 3, 2011. http://bangordailynews.com/2011/08/03/politics/senator-to-step-down-in-october-to-lead-sportsmen%E2%80%99s-lobby/
NATIONAL A federal judge denied a motion to dismiss bribery charges against a Maryland senator who did not disclose his work as a consultant on ethics disclosure forms and for whom he improperly used his public position. Although he was indicted in September, the senator was reelected in November.
Gazette.Net. August 9, 2011. http://www.gazette.net/article/20110809/NEWS/708099995/1124/1124/judge-denies-motion-to-dismiss-currie-charges&template=gazette
ALABAMA Editorial:“Can you unbreak the law once you’ve broken it? And if you can’t, does saying it was all just a mistake count for something?" A political action committee created by former Gov. Bob Riley broke the new law banning PAC-to-PAC money transfers.
Al.com. July 26, 2011. http://blog.al.com/birmingham-news commentary/2011/07/our_view_the_republican_state.html
FLORIDA For the second month in a row, the state ethics commission has decided not to pursue fines against public officials covered by the statute of limitations. The commission voted to send more recent cases to collection agencies.
Tallahassee.com. July 29, 2011. http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20110730/CAPITOLNEWS/107300321/Florida-Commission-Ethics-writes-off-almost-160-000-fines
OKLAHOMA NewsOK analyzes lobbyist spending and finds that six of the ten lawmakers receiving the most in meals and gifts from lobbyists during this year’s session were freshman legislators.
NewsOK.com. July 30, 2011. http://newsok.com/oklahoma-lobbyists-are-paying-attention-to-freshman-lawmakers/article/3590586
SOUTH CAROLINA Recently fined by the state ethics commission and facing a state grand jury investigation for possible criminal prosecution, the lieutenant governor maintains that he will not resign.
The State. July 27, 2011. http://www.thestate.com/2011/07/27/1912166/ard-says-he-wont-quit.html
ALABAMA A new ethics law, adopted in December, authorizes the state ethics commission to initiate an investigation when a public official or employee is suspected of using his or her office for personal gain. Previously the commission had to wait until someone else filed a formal complaint before it could act. This power may be exercised at the commission’s first meeting since the beginning of the bingo corruption trial, which alleges that legislators and state employees have been paid in return for furthering bingo legislation.
Tuscaloosa News.com. July 22, 2011. http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20110722/NEWS/110729945
A lobbyist testified that she offered two state senators campaign contributions to vote in favor of a gambling bill.
Al.com. July 19, 2011. http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2011/07/lobbyist_says_she_offered_two.html
Montgomery Advertiser. July 19, 2011. http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20110720/NEWS02/107200342/Lobbyist-testifies-she-offered-senator-2M
In response to the bingo hearings and allegations that lobbyists paid state legislators for favors, a state senator wrote a pledge of financial transparency and mailed it to all state legislators, requesting their signatures.
Anniston Star. July 15, 2011. http://www.annistonstar.com/view/full_story/14709560/article-Sen--Gerald-Dial-creates-pledge-against-lobbyists%E2%80%99-favors?instance=home_news
CALIFORNIA At the request of the Fair Political Practices Commission’s chairwoman, Gov. Brown reclassified the commission’s general counsel position from a civil service post to a political appointment and appointed the chairwoman’s selection for the position. Some worry that the governor has too much influence over the independent body.
The Sacramento Bee. July 21, 2011. http://www.sacbee.com/2011/07/21/3783602/jerry-brown-assumes-uncommon-influence.html
GEORGIA A new law which took effect this year assesses late fees up to $11,000 for lobbyists who miss filing deadlines. However, during the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers included a waiver option which would exempt some late-filers from paying anything.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 2, 2011. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/lobby-late-fees-add-996290.html
HAWAII The Civil Beat analyzes gift disclosure filings.
Honolulu Civil Beat. July 11, 2011. http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/07/11/12001-hawaii-lawmakers-accept-more-than-137000-in-gifts/
MAINE Opinion: “Maine law does not specifically prohibit lobbyists from serving in the Legislature (even though it should)…When voters elect someone to represent them in the state Legislature, they shouldn’t have to question whether that legislator is listening to the people who elected him or the ones who sign his paycheck.”
Morning Sentinel. July 20, 2011. http://www.onlinesentinel.com/opinion/editorials/easy-ethics-question-can-one-man-serve-2-masters__2011-07-19.html
A senator who has agreed to become the executive director of a sportsman’s lobbying group would like to keep his senate seat to work on tax reform for as long as possible. He has met with the state ethics commission and after meeting with the lobbying group’s board, will announce when he will resign. State law does not prohibit a legislator from acting as a lobbyist, but the practice is frowned upon.
MPBN. July 21, 2011. http://www.mpbn.net/Home/tabid/36/ctl/ViewItem/mid/3478/ItemId/17328/Default.aspx
Bangor Daily News. July 18, 2011. http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/18/politics/future-sportsmen%E2%80%99s-group-director-wants-to-keep-maine-senate-seat-but-will-he/
MASSACHUSETTS The House of Representatives sent a proposal that calls for restructuring the ethics committee, requires lobbyists to wear badges and bans discussion of pending contracts with state agencies, to the legislative committee for study. Some legislators argue that there is no need for such changes, and that previously introduced reforms resolve the problem.
Boston.com. July 20, 2011. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/07/20/mass_house_cuts_debate_on_proposed_ethics_changes/
The 52 lawyers who serve in the state legislature face numerous potential conflicts of interest, either in appearance or substance.
Boston.com. July 4, 2011. http://articles.boston.com/2011-07-04/news/29736712_1_legislators-potential-conflicts-law-practices
OKLAHOMA The state ethics commission voted to open five separate investigations into possible rule violations.
News OK. July 20, 2011. http://newsok.com/oklahoma-ethics-commission-orders-5-investigations-into-possible-violations/article/3587010
NEW YORK Gov. Cuomo is expected to sign the ethics overhaul package shortly, beginning the 120 day timeline for the creation of the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The existing Public Integrity Commission will no longer be responsible for issuing advisory opinions and conducting investigations.
Times Union. July 13, 2011. http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Ethics-overhaul-nearing-reality-1463558.php
SOUTH CAROLINA A new law caps late filing fees for late financial disclosure reports at $5,000 per form. The law also allows the state ethics commission to file criminal charges against debtors.
WSPA. July 14, 2011. http://www2.wspa.com/news/2011/jul/14/law-gives-ethics-commission-more-clout-ar-2112625/
TENNESSEE According to the executive director of the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, a fundraiser at the governor’s mansion was legal. Lawmakers are prohibited from accepting contributions during the legislative session, but political parties can raise funds for party operations and certain political activities.
Chattanooga Times Free Press. July 20, 2011. http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2011/jul/20/tennessee-gop-finds-loophole-in-campaign-law/
WEST VIRGINIA The state ethics commission debated, but did not vote on a request for an advisory opinion seeking an exception to the health club ban for individuals traveling on government business. Public employees are prohibited from accepting many perks and benefits while traveling.
The Charleston Gazette. July 14, 2011. http://wvgazette.com/News/201107141459
Watchdog.org notes that the state ethics commission, responsible for enforcing lobbyist laws, could put lobbying data online by the end of 2011. The organization highlights the National Institute on Money in State Politics’ new report, a “50-State Assessment of Lobbying Expenditure Data,” which offers a comprehensive look at lobbying laws and oversight agencies.
West Virginia Watchdog.org. July 6, 2011. http://westvirginia.watchdog.org/3051/w-va-ethics-commission-in-no-hurry-to-post-lobbying-data-online/
NATIONAL A representative from North Carolina who was previously the subject of an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), proposed an amendment to the 2012 Legislative Branch appropriations bill which would cut the independent ethics agency’s budget by 40 percent. A coalition of government watchdog groups urged lawmakers to oppose the amendment, citing the House’s need for OCE to retain credibility with the public.
Politico. July 21, 2011. http://www.politico.com/blogs/glennthrush/0711/Watt_moves_to_slash_budget_for_Office_of_Congressional_Ethics_by_40_percent.html
Opinion: “While a certain level of dysfunction is likely inevitable in any ethics process in any legislative body, there is a way forward that should once again be put on the table. That is to get the Ethics Committee out of the business of investigation all together. The original proposal for the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics…proposed housing the investigative function of ethics complaints with the OCE. The Ethics Committee’s role would be the business of adjudication.”
The Hill. July 22, 2011. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/lawmaker-news/173027-an-ethics-process-badly-in-need-of-reform
ARIZONA Numerous sports teams have provided legislators free tickets to their sporting events. State lobbying laws allow lawmakers to accept tickets as long as they are offered to an entire committee, chamber or legislature.
AZCenteral.com. June 26, 2011. http://www.azcentral.com/sports/cardinals/articles/2011/06/26/20110626arizona-cardinals-tickets-lawmakers.html
FLORIDA The state Commission on Ethics walked away from nearly $200,000 in fines owed by public officials because of elapsed statutory limits on collecting the penalties. Former public officials owe an additional $300,000 for fines accumulated between 2001 and 2006.
The Palm Beach Post. June 17, 2011. http://www.postonpolitics.com/2011/06/ethics-panel-drops-pursuit-of-almost-200k-in-fines/
ILLINOIS Former Governor Rod Blagojevich was found guilty of 17 of 20 counts of corruption.
The Washington Post. June 27, 2011. http://capitolchat.areavoices.com/2011/06/21/hoffman-tweet-complain-dismissed/
MASSACHUSETTS House representatives are proposing to reform of the House Code of Ethical Conduct which governs representatives and their staff. The proposal would prohibit lobbyists from entering the house chamber and would require them to wear identification badges. It would also create disclosure requirements for house members or staff who are arrested or indicted, would forbid them from contacting public entities about procurement decisions and would treat sexual harassment and discrimination as ethical issues. The proposal will be filed during the next formal session of the house.
Medfield Patch. June 27, 2011. http://medfield.patch.com/articles/state-rep-winslow-joins-republican-caucus-in-effort-to-strengthen-ethics-code-of-conduct
State House News Service. June 22, 2011. http://www.statehousenews.com/video/11-06-22ethics/
The Boston Globe. June 22, 2011. http://articles.boston.com/2011-06-22/news/29690692_1_ethics-reform-house-ethics-ethics-laws
Former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi was convicted of seven of nine counts against him, including extortion and conspiracy to defraud citizens. He is the third consecutive speaker of the house to be convicted in federal court. Codefendant and lobbyist Richard Mc Donough was also found guilty on seven of eight counts, including conspiracy, mail and wire fraud.
Telegram.com. June 23, 2011. http://www.telegram.com/article/20110623/NEWS/106239381/1052
The Boston Globe. June 15, 2011. http://www.boston.com/Boston/metrodesk/2011/06/dimasi-convicted-corruption-cognos-case/Z2vjNXEnRTasRoZ8TICBDP/index.html
MINNESOTA A senate ethics committee has dismissed a complaint about a state senator’s tweet after the senator fulfilled the requirements that the committee established.
Capitol Chatter. June 21, 2011. http://capitolchat.areavoices.com/2011/06/21/hoffman-tweet-complain-dismissed/
MISSOURI Lobbyists buy food for lawmakers almost every day the House and Senate meet, generally spending more than $400,000 per year feeding lawmakers.
STLToday.com. June 26, 2011. http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_a4f8ad9a-25f6-5ea7-bc45-af408abe87a7.html
NEW JERSEY A legislative ethics committee has voted to draw up charges against an assemblyman for the “appearance of impropriety.”
NJ.com. June 28, 2011. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/06/nj_legislative_ethics_committe.html
ALABAMA Editorial: “[The legislature] passed meaningful, fairly strong ethics and campaign-finance laws, including giving the state Ethics Commission subpoena power that bolsters their ability to investigate allegations against public officials, banning money transfers between political action committees that hide from the public who funds candidates’ campaigns, and preventing lawmakers from “double-dipping” by holding another job with a state agency or public school, college or university.”
Al.com. June 12, 2011. http://blog.al.com/birmingham-news-commentary/2011/06/our_view_the_just-concluded_se.html
CONNECTICUT SB 1009, which would consolidate nine government agencies, including ethics oversight entities, passed in the senate. Concerns over new Office of Government Accountability’s independence have emerged because the governor would be responsible for appointing its executive administrator.
AP in The Boston Globe. June 1, 2011. http://www.boston.com/news/local/connecticut/articles/2011/06/01/lawmakers_take_up_consolidation_of_conn_watchdogs/
GEORGIA Over the last three years, the Government Transparency and Finance Commission, the state’s ethics commission, has lost forty percent of its budget and seven of its eight positions, including the executive and deputy directors and all commission lawyers.
Atlanta News Hub. June 20, 2011. http://www.atlantanewshub.com/local/house-speaker-ralston-says-its-too-soon-to-fret-over-ethics-commission-cuts/
Ledger-Inquirer. June 17, 2011. (Editorial) http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2011/06/17/1619925/so-georgia-has-tough-ethics-laws.html
HAWAII According to the state ethics commission, all 51 house representatives filed their public financial disclosers by June 1. The session ended May 5, but the deadline for filing disclosures was not until May 31.
Honolulu Civil Beat. June 3, 2011. http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/06/03/11420-most-hawaii-house-reps-file-disclosures-after-legislative-session/
MINNESOTA The ethics subcommittee determined that a senator “had reason to know” that a tweeted statement misrepresented another legislator’s position and was therefore a violation of senate rules. The subcommittee asked that the Twitter message be deleted.
Twin Cities.com. June 16, 2011. http://www.twincities.com/politics/ci_18292192?nclick_check=1
NEVADA Editorial: “The court’s ruling will hopefully reinforce elected officials’ understanding of the law. The bottom line is that the public has an overriding right to good government, and conflict-of-interest rules are just common sense.”
Las Vegas Sun. June 14, 2011. http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/jun/14/editorial/
Editorial: “The [Supreme Court] ruling could easily force half of some local government bodies to sit out multiple votes on matters of community importance. The question is, will the Ethics Commission start telling elected officials when they can and cannot vote?”
Las Vegas Review-Journal. June 14, 2011. http://www.lvrj.com/opinion/u-s-supreme-court-rules-in-nevada-case-123798999.html
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected a First Amendment challenge to a Nevada law that barred officials there from either voting or advocating on issues in which they had a conflict of interest. The court determined that when legislators vote, they are not exercising a personal right, but one that belongs to the people. Justice Scalia acknowledged that nearly all states have some type of voting recusal law, which compel public officials to abstain from voting on matters in which they have a conflict of interest. The Supreme Court returned the case to the Nevada Supreme Court for exploration of two other possible challenges.
The Wall Street Journal. June 14, 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303714704576383593580194506.html
The New York Times. June 13, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/us/politics/14scotus.html
Reno Gazette-Journal. June 13, 2011. http://www.rgj.com/article/20110613/NEWS/110613005/US-Supreme-Court-upholds-ethics-law-against-Sparks-councilman-Carrigan
Las Vegas Sun. June 13, 2011. http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/jun/13/us-supreme-court-ethics-1st-ld-writethru/
Opinion: The U.S. Supreme Court’s review “will be an important decision because the Court is confronted with an issue it has not squarely addressed before: whether a government official’s vote on a legislative or quasi-judicial matter…is “speech” protected by the First Amendment or whether it is conduct that can be curtailed.”
Honolulu Civil Beat. June 11, 2011. http://www.civilbeat.com/posts/2011/06/11/11564-do-elected-officials-with-a-conflict-of-interest-have-a-right-to-vote-anyway/
NEW YORK A New York Times review found that over the past five years, the state has awarded more than $7.4 billion in contracts to clients of law firms that employ state legislators. Although these contracts represent a fraction of the $200 billion awarded by the state, they represent many potential conflicts which the new ethics law does not address.
The New York Times. June 13, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/nyregion/albany-money-flows-to-clients-of-firms-that-employ-legislators.html
State lawmakers passed ethics measures which require legislators to reveal how much they earn from outside businesses and the names of their clients who do any business with the state. It provides for the creation of a statewide database of lobbyists and contractors that can cross-check legislators’ disclosures. The bill also contains a provision to create a 14-member Joint Commission on Public Ethics, authorized to initiate investigations and recommend penalties to an existing oversight agency. Also included is a provision to increase penalties for crimes related to public office, including one that would relieve a public official of his pension if convicted of such a crime.
Thomson Reuters News & Insight. June 13, 2011. http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/New_York/News/2011/06_-_June/Ethics_bill_passed_by_New_York_lawmakers/
Times Union. June 7, 2011. http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Ethics-reform-warts-and-all-1412515.php
Opinion: “New laws designed to clean up Albany…are a lot better than what New Yorkers have now, and that makes this agreement among the governor and legislative leaders something to celebrate…If New Yorkers want better and stronger rules, they need to make that clear to the members as they spend time in the district this summer.”
Times Herald-Record. June 8, 2011. http://www.recordonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110608/OPINION/106080322
The Commission on Public Integrity determined that a health care consultant who is close to Gov. Cuomo did not violate state lobbying laws when he contacted state officials seeking more Medicaid funding on behalf of a Queens hospital. The New York Public Interest Research Group, which filed the complaint, disagreed with the findings and is asking the commission to reconsider.
The New York Times. June 5, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/06/nyregion/cuomo-health-adviser-didnt-break-rules-ethics-panel-says.html
The Legislative Ethics Commission found reasonable cause that an assemblyman who mixed his job as a lawmaker with his private role in a local health care facility had a conflict of interest and thus violated ethics laws. Federal prosecutors charged the house member and a state senator in what they called a “broad based bribery racket.” Both remain members of the legislature.
AP in the Times Union. May 31, 2011. http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/NY-ethics-board-finds-Boyland-had-conflict-1403611.php
RHODE ISLAND Opinion: “[Two legislators] have introduced bills that would let voters decide, in November 2012, whether they want to restore [the] Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction…Let’s allow voters to return Rhode Island to what was long understood to be the rules of the road for state legislators.”
The Providence Journal. June 12, 2011. http://www.projo.com/news/efitzpatrick/edward_fitzpatrick_12_06-12-11_FDOIFEK_v37.2f6c0fc.html
TEXAS A state senator is requesting that Gov. Perry veto his own legislation. A provision added to HB 1616 at the last minute would require the state ethics commission to dismiss complaints when officeholders or candidates claimed they made mistakes in good faith, no matter the monetary amount or alleged violation. According to one watchdog group, under the amendment, disclosure becomes close to voluntary.
American-Statesman. June 2, 2011. http://www.statesman.com/news/texas-politics/texas-senator-seeks-veto-of-his-own-ethics-1515625.html
WASHINGTON Editorial: “All public employees must abide by a strong code of personal ethics. The best way to ensure that happens is to keep legislative and executive ethics boards independent and allow investigators to do their work absent of outside influence.”
The Olympian. June 13, 2011. http://www.theolympian.com/2011/06/13/1685045/recent-case-highlights-the-need.html
ALABAMA Editorial: “Gov Bentley signed a law that guarantees funding for the Alabama Ethics Commission…We commend lawmakers and the governor for ensuring that this agency can continue to act on the people’s behalf to ensure our public officials and employees act ethically.”
Dothan Eagle. May 25, 2011. http://www2.dothaneagle.com/news/2011/may/25/editorial-ethics-courts-and-money-ar-1888151/
ARIZONA Gov. Brewer called for clarification of the state’s financial disclosure laws, but believes that public officials should be allowed to accept incidentals, gifts and travel – even if paid for by special interests.
East Valley Tribune. May 17, 2011. http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/arizona/politics/article_a94520fc-80b9-11e0-bde0-001cc4c03286.html
Following the Fiesta Bowl investigative report, advocacy groups and elected officials are calling for ethics law reform. According to Natalie O’Donnell Wood, of NCSL’s Ethics Center, scandal often convinces legislators that changes need to be made.
AZCentral.com. May 1, 2011. http://www.azcentral.com/news/election/azelections/articles/2011/05/01/20110501fiesta-bowl-financial-disclosure-laws.html
CALIFORNIA SB 18, a gift ban bill that would have prohibited lobbyists and their clients from giving specific gifts to legislators and their family members, died in a Senate committee. The ban would have barred lobbyists from paying for golf games, skiing and tickets to sporting events, concerts and amusement parks.
LA Times. May 27, 2011. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/27/local/la-me-gifts-20110527
CONNECTICUT To help streamline the government, Gov. Malloy has proposed merging nine oversight agencies, including the Office of State Ethics, the Freedom of Information Commission and the Elections Enforcement Commission, into a new Office of Government Accountability. Critics are concerned about the potential loss of independence and resources.
Ctpost.com. May 26, 2011. http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Malloy-s-plan-to-merge-watchdog-agencies-draws-1397889.php
FLORIDA After the Statewide Grand Jury issued its report: “A Study of Public Corruption in Florida and Recommended Solutions,” a few ethics reform bills were introduced, but none passed.
St. Petersburg Times. May 20, 2011. http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/legislature/what-grand-jury-florida-legislature-fails-to-pass-essential-ethics-reform/1170808
The state ethics commission dismissed two citizen-filed complaints against Gov. Scott, concluding that they were legally insufficient to warrant investigation. The conflicts of interest complaints were related to the governor’s ownership stake in Solantic, a chain of urgent care clinics.
AP in The Miami Herald. May 18, 2011. http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/05/18/2222721/fla-ethics-panel-rejects-complaints.html
GEORGIA Opinion: “The problem with Georgia’s ethics laws isn’t that they could and should be stricter, although that’s true. No, the real problem is that too many lawmakers act as if the law is the only word on what is and isn’t ethical…Witness the upgraded frequent flier status… from Delta Air Lines… a company seeking an extension of the partial exemption on sales tax for jet fuel it’s enjoyed since 2005.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution. May 18, 2011. http://blogs.ajc.com/kyle-wingfield/2011/05/18/delta-perks-expose-georgia-lawmakers-weak-ethics/
On the final day of the legislative session, lobbyists spent $27,500 on state lawmakers. Lobbyists reported spending nearly $1 million on legislators, their families and staff during the session.
Atlanta-Journal Constitution. May 11, 2011. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/sessions-over-but-lobbying-939257.html
MAINE L.D. 1541, submitted on behalf of the Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, calls for increasing the penalties for violations of disclaimer requirements, from $200 to $5,000 and maximum penalties for late campaign finance report filings for PACs whose spending is greater than $50,000. L.D. 1260 calls for a one year “cooling off” period between legislative service and lobbying.
The Portland Press Herald. May 17, 2011. http://www.pressherald.com/news/committee-will-review-campaign-finance-bills_2011-05-17.html
MARYLAND Gov. O’Malley signed legislation creating a Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government. The bill’s lead sponsor would like the committee to hear testimony from experts with organizations interested in transparency and open government, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Maryland Daily Record. May 23, 2011. http://thedailyrecord.com/2011/05/23/panel-created-to-improve-state-government-transparency/
MINNESOTA A tweet from a senator gave rise to a complaint of an ethics violation.
Star Tribune. May 19, 2011. http://www2.dothaneagle.com/news/2011/may/25/editorial-ethics-courts-and-money-ar-1888151/
MISSOURI A state representative whose debts to the state ethics commission prevented him from taking office when the General Assembly initially convened, again owes the commission for failing to file a campaign report more than a month after its due date.
The Kansas City Star. May 18, 2011. http://www.kansascity.com/2011/05/18/2886106/missouri-state-rep-leonard-hughes.html
NEW YORK The unintended consequence of redrafting state lobbying laws in 2007 has been a significant reduction in businesses for Albany restaurants and caterers. While restaurants and caterers lobby for a return to pre-2007 lobbyist spending limit, legislators argue for the value of legislative receptions , and Common Cause reiterates that the focus should be on changing the culture of special access where large corporations with deep pockets can afford pricey entertainment and access to lawmakers, while average constituents cannot.
Times Union.com. May 23, 2011. http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Eateries-Make-ethics-law-easier-to-swallow-1391139.php
NORTH CAROLINA Two distinct proposals, HB 710 and SB 772, seek to combine the functions of various ethics oversight agencies into a single entity. Cost concerns factor in to consolidation efforts.
Charlotte Observer. May 5, 2011. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/05/05/2272845/gop-moves-to-strengthen-ethics.html
WISCONSIN The Government Accountability Board unanimously decided to dismiss all ethics complaints against both Republicans and Democrats that resulted from the political maneuvering during the debate over Gov. Walker’s union rights bill. The board explained that it is responsible for enforcing the Ethics Code, not judging political actions or positions.
AP in the Boston Herald.com. May 18, 2011. http://www.bostonherald.com/news/national/midwest/view/20110518ethics_complaints_over_wisconsin_union_bill_dismissed/
NATIONAL According to iWatchnews.org, a project of the Center for Public Integrity, eight former members of Congress are now working for organizations that engage in lobbying.
CBS News. May 16, 2011. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20063384-503544.html
ARIZONA Public officials and advocacy groups are encouraging an overhaul of the state’s lobbying and financial disclosure laws after a Fiesta Bowl investigative report unveiled a tradition of lawmakers accepting gifts from the bowl behind closed doors. “Often, it’s a scandal that finally convinces legislators that something needs to be done,” said Natalie O’Donnell Wood, program principal at the NCSL Center for Ethics in Government.
AZ Central.com. May 1, 2011. http://www.azcentral.com/news/election/azelections/articles/2011/05/01/20110501fiesta-bowl-financial-disclosure-laws.htmlGov. Brewer called for clarification of the state’s financial disclosure laws, but believes that public officials should be allowed to accept incidentals, gifts and travel – even if paid for by special interests.
East Valley Tribune. May 17, 2011. http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/arizona/politics/article_a94520fc-80b9-11e0-bde0-001cc4c03286.html
GEORGIA Forty-seven state legislators owed the state money for filing campaign finance reports late or failing to file them at all. According to Stacey Kalberman, Executive Secretary of the State Ethics Commission, her agency doesn’t have the resources for mailings, including notices to those who have failed to file disclosures on time.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. May 8, 2011. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/nearly-50-legislators-owe-938501.html
HAWAII Twenty ethics-related bills were introduced during the 2011 legislative session. Only one, appropriating funds to pay for the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, passed.
Honolulu Civil Beat. May 9, 2011. http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/05/09/10732-session-wrap-gifts-were-focus-of-ethics-debate/
KENTUCKY The Legislative Ethics Commission criticized a state senator who missed six out of eight mandatory ethics sessions. Legislators are required by law to spend three hours in ethics training every January.
Lexington Herald-Leader. May 11, 2011. http://www.kentucky.com/2011/05/11/1736576/state-senator-apologizes-for-missing.html
MASSACHUSETTS As the federal public corruption trial of the former House Speaker continues, Gov. Patrick may be called to testify.
AP in Boston.com. May 5, 2011. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/05/05/mass_gov_to_testify_at_ex_speakers_trial_1304617096/
NEW JERSEY Banning “double dipping” remains a key issue in Gov. Christie’s ethics reform plan as thousands of single-job public workers have been laid off. An estimated 2,205 employees in state, county and local governments and schools held multiple jobs in New Jersey in 2010.
My Central Jersey.com. May 7, 2011. http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20110507/NJNEWS10/305070016/Somedouble-dippers-see-jump-public-paychecks
NEW YORK In a speech at Buffalo State College on his “People First Tour,” Gov. Cuomo continued to push for new ethics regulations. He dismissed the idea that any reform should apply to both legislative and executive branches of government.
Albany Times Union. May 16, 2011. http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/The-carrots-or-the-sticks-1380877.php
Buffalo News.com. May 12, 2011. http://www.buffalonews.com/city/politics/article421274.ece
The State Commission on Public Integrity issued its annual report for 2010, detailing total lobbyist spending, among other things. Also in the report: the Commission issued more than 180 formal and informal opinions clarifying and applying ethics laws in 2010.
Empire State News. May 6, 2011. http://www.empirestatenews.net/News/20110506-4.html
Senate Democrats plan what they claim will be the first ethics discussion in which New Yorkers will be able to comment through the internet. The forum will use technology that will likely include Twitter.
AP in The Wall Street Journal. May 3, 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/AP46028f013f5942be8a0bb17748350b56.html
PENNSYLVANIA An analysis of statements of financial interest which state legislators are required to file with the state ethics commission, reveals that they collectively received more than $150,000 in gifts, paid travel and hospitality. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eleven states have banned legislators from accepting any gifts, while others set a monetary threshold over which gifts must be reported.
PA Independent. May 8, 2011. http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110508/NEWS90/105080328
A state senator defended two overseas trips he took last year, which were highlighted in an Associated Press report on state legislators’ recently filed ethics report. According to the senator, the trips were for professional development and were paid for by the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership and the Legislative Leadership Institute Academy of Foreign Affairs, not by taxpayers or lobbyists.
Beaver County Times. May 4, 2011. http://www.timesonline.com/news/local_news/pippy-defends-overseas-trips/article_bf658ba7-33fd-51ad-8a39-a7813c3ebe8b.html
VIRGINIA A former member of the Virginia House of Delegates was convicted of bribery and extortion, essentially selling his legislative services for money. His term of service ended after 21 years, in 2009.
The Virginian-Pilot. May 14, 2011. http://hamptonroads.com/2011/05/va-ethics-rules-questioned-wake-federal-case
WEST VIRGINIA The state ethics commission concluded that the agency does not have the authority to prevent a legislative attorney from using a loophole to evade the new “revolving door” prohibition in the state’s Ethics Act. The law would not apply to the individual if he was classified as an independent contractor rather than a per-diem employee. The commission expressed its disappointment at the individual’s desire to circumvent the new law.
The Charleston Gazette. May 5, 2011. http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201105051591
GEORGIA Rather than using certified e-mail service to notify filers that there may be a problem with their disclosure reports, state lawmakers are requiring the State Campaign Finance Commission to use more costly certified snail-mail. The commission’s request for $130,000 to cover the extra cost was met with a $30,000 counter by the Senate, which was later removed from the budget altogether.
The Marietta Daily Journal. April 21, 2011. http://www.mdjonline.com/view/full_story/12884744/article-Legislative-larceny-on-state-ethics?instance=secondary_story_left_column
KANSAS The state Governmental Ethics Commission voted to approve an advisory opinion sought by a state senator. The commission decided that the senator’s company could accept the contract in question with certain limitations.
KansasWatchdog.org. April 14, 2011. http://kansas.watchdog.org/6657/ethics-advisory-opinion-sought-by-senator-julia-lynn/
MARYLAND A Capital News Service analysis of state ethics filings found that about five percent of the total registered lobbyists in the state accounted for nearly 47 percent of all money spent on wining and dining lawmakers during the 2011 session.
Maryland Reporter. April 25, 2011. http://marylandreporter.com/2011/04/25/big-lobbying-shops-can-afford-to-wine-and-dine-legislators-nonprofits-priced-out/
NEVADA The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether a legislative vote is free speech protected by the Constitution and whether lawmakers may be forbidden from voting on matters that appear to involve a conflict of interest. The case stems from a 2007 decision by the state ethics commission that a city councilman violated the ethics code by voting for a development in which he had a conflict of interest. The councilman appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, who ruled in his favor.
NPR. April 27, 2011. http://www.npr.org/2011/04/27/135778737/top-court-hears-protected-speech-arguments
NEW JERSEY A state ethics panel dismissed multiple allegations of ethics violations against a state assemblyman. The panel will further consider whether his advocacy role before state agencies while serving in the legislature is a conflict of interest.
NorthJersey.com. April 26, 2011. http://www.northjersey.com/news/042611_State_ethics_panel_clears_Rumana_of_several_allegations_still_to_hear_conflict_complaint.html
NORTH CAROLINA A House bill would reign in “pay-to-play” practices by limiting political contributions from anyone who receives a direct financial benefit from a state contract worth more than $25,000.
Charlotte Observer. April 23, 2011. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/04/23/2243486/bill-strikes-at-pay-to-play.html
OKLAHOMA The state ethics commission may be able to avoid furloughs despite a five percent budget cut for the coming fiscal year if it is allowed to keep an additional $10,000 in fees paid by candidates who filed late campaign reports.
NewsOK. April 16, 2011. http://newsok.com/oklahoma-ethics-commission-may-get-to-keep-more-fees/article/3559118?custom_click=rss
OREGON The Government Ethics Commission fined f ive lobbyists from an Oregon legislative advocacy firm for failure to file registration and multiple quarterly spending reports as required by state ethics law.
StatesmanJournal.com. April 23, 2011. http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20110423/STATE/104230323/Lobbyists-fail-file-reports
The House unanimously approved HB 3446, an ethics reform bill intended to prevent state lawmakers from using their positions to win higher-paying jobs within the government. This “revolving door” law would require former legislators to wait at least one year after leaving office before they could seek work in state agencies.
KTVZ.com. April 20, 2011. http://www.ktvz.com/news/27616643/detail.html
SOUTH CAROLINA House Bill 3183, a proposal to strengthen ethics and lobbying laws, passed with a unanimous vote and was sent to the Senate. The legislation, written by the state ethics commission, would broaden the definition of family member as it applies to conflicts of interest; prohibit lobbyists from lobbying activity if they owe a fine for failing to register or file disclosure forms; expand the commission’s capacity to prosecute noncompliance with reporting requirements and cap fines at $5,000.
The Nerve. April 18, 2011. http://thenerve.org/Comments/11-04-18/House_Bill_Tightens_Ethics_Lobbying_Rules.aspx?searchid=3f2d0d6a-01c9-422e-83ae-1e645c89b40a
ALASKA The Senate State Affairs Committee removed two provisions from an ethics bill which would have allowed lawmakers to campaign while on legislative business and use their mailing lists for political purposes.
AP in the Anchorage Daily News. April 1, 2011. http://www.adn.com/2011/03/31/1785392/committee-forwards-amended-legislative.html#
ARIZONA Many state lawmakers filed amended disclosure reports acknowledging that they accepted gifts of more than $500 from Fiesta Bowl representatives after the release of an investigative report commissioned by the Special Committee of the Fiesta Bowl. According to state lobbying law, legislators may accept free lodging and travel, such as Fiesta Bowl-sponsored trips, as long as lawmakers report such gifts in their financial disclosures. Peggy Kerns, director of the Ethics Center at NCSL, said that most other states have an independent commission or agency charged with reviewing disclosure forms and ensuring compliance with the law.
The Arizona Republic. April 6, 2011. http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2011/04/06/20110406fiesta-bowl-gift-filing-concerns-rise.html
COLORADO Upon determining that there was no probable cause to proceed, a legislative ethics panel dismissed an ethics complaint against the state Senate majority leader and recommended that per diem rules be clarified.
The Denver Post. April 13, 2011. http://www.denverpost.com/legislature/ci_17831785
Opinion: The bipartisan state budget compromise includes cutting the budget of the Independent Ethics Commission, “reducing the commission’s staff from two to one…The legislature should protect against lengthy delays in IEC rulings and help prevent future ethics violations from happening by restoring the proposed cuts to the IEC’s budget.”
Huffington Post. April 6, 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/luis-toro/colorado-iec-budget-cuts_b_845566.html
GEORGIA Opinion: “The obvious problem with Georgia’s lobbyist disclosure requirements is that it does not require lobbyists to report what they spend on members of lawmakers’ staffs or other unelected bureaucrats.” Peggy Kerns, director of the Center for Ethics in Government at NCSL, knows of no other state with such an exception.
Ledger-Enquirer. April 7, 2011. http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2011/04/07/1528637/a-yawning-political-loophole-in.html#
The state ethics commission adopted a new interpretation of lobbying disclosure law, advising lobbyists that they need not report money spent influencing public employees. The commission encouraged lawmakers to pass legislation to require such disclosure. Peggy Kerns, of NCSL, is not aware of any other state that requires lobbyists to report money spent on officials but not on employees.
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. April 5, 2011. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/decision-shields-some-lobbyist-898366.html
HAWAII The House Judiciary Committee killed a bill that would have permitted legislators and state employees to solicit and accept unlimited fundraiser tickets and invitations from nonprofit organizations, even if the gifts were meant to influence official action.
Star Advertiser. April 1, 2011. http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/hawaiinews/20110401_Lawmakers_quash_gifts_bill.html
IDAHO The Center for Public Integrity analyzes positive trends toward greater financial disclosure, citing a bill that would have required legislators to submit an annual financial disclosure form. The bill unanimously passed the Senate and had support from the governor, but died in the House.
The Center for Public Integrity. http://www.publicintegrity.org/blog/entry/1685/
MICHIGAN The Center for Public Integrity finds positive trends toward greater financial disclosure in the state, as the House passed a financial disclosure bill in March, and Attorney General Cox, who is preparing to run for governor, proposed his own ethics measures.
The Center for Public Integrity. http://www.publicintegrity.org/blog/entry/1685/
MISSOURI Ethics legislation expanding the power of the state ethics commission, passed during the 2010 legislative session, was struck down by a judge who ruled that it violated free-speech rights and a state constitutional prohibition of rolling numerous topics into a single piece of legislation. The attorney general plans to appeal the decision.
News-Leader.com. April 1, 2011. http://www.news-leader.com/article/20110401/NEWS06/104010356/Ruling-rejects-campaign-finance-laws
NEVADA Opinion: “There's no way to prohibit lawmakers from jobs that create conflicts, aside from switching to a full-time Legislature, paying a full-time wage and prohibiting outside employment. Nevada's current system, with giant loopholes and vague statutes, seems to be…an invitation to mischief, which leads to mistrust, which breeds apathy and cynicism.”
Law Vegas Review-Journal. April 10, 2011. http://www.lvrj.com/opinion/lawmakers-bad-behavior-119558519.html?ref=519
Midway through the legislative session, the state Senate had not formed an Ethics Committee to review complaints against its members. After the Las Vegas Sun inquired about the committee, Senate leadership named members and a chairman. A 2009 Supreme Court decision which eliminated legislative oversight by the Nevada Ethics Commission requires that complaints be directed to chamber ethics committees instead.
Las Vegas Sun. April 6, 2011. http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2011/apr/06/session-half-over-senators-can-see-ethics/
NEW MEXICO Governor Martinez signed a new ethics law that prohibits state and local government employees from taking a job with a company if they previously participated in contracting with the business.
Bloomberg Businessweek. April 7, 2011. http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9MF1TE81.htm
NEW YORK Governor Cuomo and the Legislature are moving forward with negotiations on ethics law reform, although they have yet to reach a deal.
LoHud.com. April 6, 2011. http://www.lohud.com/article/20110407/NEWS05/104070389/Group-N-Y-Senate-Democrats-offers-comprehensive-ethics-bills
NY Daily News. April 4, 2011. http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/2011/04/gov-cuomo-and-assembly-speaker-sheldon-silver-make-a-deal-on-state-ethics-refo
PENNSYLVANIA A bipartisan group of legislators is proposing to create a state Public Integrity Commission which would have the power to investigate public officials and employees in all branches of government. The existing Ethics Commission’s duties would be incorporated into the new commission.
Philadelphia Inquirer. April 6, 2011. http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/119306834.html
Eight defendants have been sentenced in the Bonusgate corruption case. The two latest, a husband and wife, must perform community service and pay fines and restitution for illegal bonuses they received in addition to serving in a work release program and being on probation.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 6, 2011. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11096/1137266-454.stm
RHODE ISLAND State lawmakers are considering a state Constitutional amendment that would reinstate the ethics commission’s power to investigate and prosecute legislators who violate ethics law.
The Boston Globe. April 11, 2011. http://www.boston.com/news/local/rhode_island/articles/2011/04/11/ri_lawmakers_to_review_gap_in_ethics_oversight/
VERMONT The Center for Public Integrity analyzes trends toward greater financial disclosure, but finds Vermont unlikely to propose new legislation in the near future, citing a general feeling that a high level of disclosure is unnecessary in a state with such a modest population.
The Center for Public Integrity. http://www.publicintegrity.org/blog/entry/1685/
WEST VIRGINIA Ethics commissioners are concerned that some public employees may take steps to circumvent “revolving door” provisions of a new ethics law which is scheduled to take effect July 1.
The Charleston Gazette. April 7, 2011. http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201104071421
WISCONSIN Gov. Walker is coming under fire for the hiring of the son of a lobbyist whose employer contributed to his campaign.
Chicago Tribune. April 4, 2011. http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/news/local/chibrknews-wis-gov-under-fire-for-hiring-of-lobbyists-son-20110404,0,6164241.story
CONNECTICUT Editorial: The Office of State Ethics chose “to embrace a hyper-technical legal interpretation that makes a mockery of law, ethics, and sensible efforts to secure our democracy” when it interpreted an annual basketball game between state legislators as a possible violation of state ethics rules.
Connecticut Law Tribune. March 28, 2011. www.ctlawtribune.com/getarticle.aspx?id=40008
FLORIDA The Senate President pulled Senate Bill 86 from the agenda only to announce later that it would get its hearing. The ethics bill would require legislators to recuse themselves from voting on a bill in which they have a conflict of interest.
The Ledger. March 27, 2011. http://www.theledger.com/article/20110327/NEWS/110329530?Title=Dockery-Ethics-Bill-Back-on-Legislative-Agenda-
The Miami Herald. March 22, 2011. http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/22/2128513/why-did-senate-president-mike.html
HAWAII Editorial: “The public needs to weigh in loudly to tell our legislators that no matter how hungry they are, promoting their own self-interest is simply wrong.”
Star Advertiser. March 22, 2011. http://www.staradvertiser.com/editorials/20110322__Freebies_compromise_legislators_and_those_who_give_them.html#
Lawmakers who received free invitations to attend a private reception must now pay to for their tickets in order to be in compliance with the state Ethics Code.
Hawaii Reporter. March 18, 2011. http://www.hawaiireporter.com/lawmakers-must-pay-to-attend-event-featuring-inouye-lahood/123
KENTUCKY The Kentucky Optometric Association invited all members of the General Assembly to a reception after a bill allowing Optometrists to perform new procedures passed this year. According to the executive director of the Legislative Ethics Commission, such receptions do not violate state ethics laws as long as all members are invited.
Courier-Journal. March 23, 2011. http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011303230136
OHIO The legislative inspector general for the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee has determined that a state senator may keep his part-time position for the city of Brecksville since it is not considered a public office.
Cleveland.com. March 18, 2011. http://www.cleveland.com/sunstarcourier/index.ssf/2011/03/state_sen_frank_larose_okd_to/5804/comments-newest.html
TENNESSEE The state Ethics Commission is unable to hold meetings to enforce state ethics laws because four positions of its six-member board are currently vacant. Governor Haslam and the House Speaker are each responsible for appointing two members
Knoxnews.com. March 21, 2011. http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2011/mar/21/tennessee-ethics-commission-panel-short-by-four/?partner=RSS
TEXAS Using records made public by the state Ethics Commission, The Texas Tribune has unveiled its new lobbyist directory, which provides extensive information on lobbyists’ clients, contact information and spending since 2009.
The Texas Tribune. March 15, 2011. http://www.texastribune.org/texas-lobbying/lobby-and-lobbyists/texas-lobbying-directory-details-spending-clients/
WASHINGTON Proposed House Bill 2028 would merge the Executive Ethics Board and the Public Disclosure Commission as a consolidation tactic that would save money for the state.
The Olympian. March 31, 2011. http://www.theolympian.com/2011/03/30/1598560/plan-calls-for-merging-ethics.html
NATIONAL The Washington Post examines the dearth of rules governing what lobbyists can do once hired into top policy positions in the legislative world, offering numerous examples of both Republican and Democratic representatives who employ former lobbyists on their personal staffs.
The Washington Post. March 17, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/lobbyists-flock-to-capitol-hill-jobs/2011/03/04/ABh7eAn_story.html
ALABAMA Legislators are proposing the addition of the word “corruptly” to the gift ban portion of the new ethics law, which prohibits giving anything to public officials in attempt to influence official action. According to the executive director of the Ethics Commission, the legislation would avoid prosecution over unintentional actions.
AP in The Washington Examiner. March 11, 2011. http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/2011/03/new-alabama-ethics-law-get-legislative-fix#
Upon request of a legislative oversight committee, the state Ethics Commission issued an advisory opinion clearing a senator to work for a law firm that does business with the state. The general counsel for the commission also provided the senator a letter outlining how he and the law firm could best avoid ethics violations.
The Huntsville Times. March 4, 2011. http://blog.al.com/breaking/2011/03/ethics_commission_opinion_clea.html
In his State of the State address, Gov. Bentley recognized that ethics laws passed in December will forever change the way state government operates. He cited the new subpoena power granted to the Ethics Commission as one reason that the commission must be given the resources it needs to enforce new laws, vowing to fully fund the Ethics Commission in order to ensure an ethical state government.
The Wetumpka Herald. March 4, 2011. http://www.thewetumpkaherald.com/news/article_fc3cd952-46a4-11e0-9b9f-001cc4c03286.html
ALASKA The Select Committee on Legislative Ethics dismissed a complaint against a state representative because it was filed by a member of the public. The committee also issued two advisory opinions regarding conflict of interest and legislators lobbying other legislators.
Alaska Public Radio Network. March 10, 2011. http://aprn.org/2011/03/10/subcommittee-addresses-ethics-related-questions/
Senate Bill 89 is raising concerns because it would allow lawmakers to campaign while travelling on state funds and permit them to use legislative mailing lists for re-election efforts.
The Anchorage Daily News. March 1, 2011. http://www.adn.com/2011/02/28/1728568/ethics-bill-would-let-legislators.html#
ARKANSAS Budget bills, including appropriation bills and legislation to increase funding for the state ethics commission, passed in the House by an 86-0 vote.
Stuttgart Daily Leader. March 8, 2011. http://www.stuttgartdailyleader.com/newsnow/x1344947301/Ark-lawmakers-pass-appropriation-bills
CALIFORNIA A first-year legislator who conceded to having committed ethics violations will continue to serve on the Assembly Legislative Ethics Committee. The Assemblyman was unaware of any conflicts of interest, which occurred more than a year prior to his election.
The Sacramento Bee. March 2, 2011. http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/02/michael-allen-to-stay-on-ethics-committee.html
FLORIDA Editorial: “Florida needs stronger laws to govern the behavior of its public officials.”
Orlando Sentinel. March 6, 2011. http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2011-03-06/news/os-ed-long-odds-session-030611-20110304_1_ban-text-messaging-legislative-session-force-utilities
GEORGIA In a recent advisory opinion, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission interpreted a provision drafted by the General Assembly to mean that any person who meets with state legislators to discuss or attempt to influence legislation must register as a lobbyist if that individual is compensated by another. The opinion has raised concern about its effect on the ability of the public to interact with elected officials, especially given that the lobbyist registration fee is $300.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. March 7, 2011. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/commission-expands-definition-of-864286.html
The Augusta Chronicle. March 5, 2011. http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/government/2011-03-05/commission-bill-defines-lobbyists
HAWAII Senate Bill 994, introduced at the request of the State Ethics Commission, is based largely on the federal nepotism law and would prohibit state employees from hiring or promoting their relatives. Hawaii law does not currently address nepotism, although laws on fair treatment and conflict of interest are applicable in certain instances.
Star Adviser. March 11, 2011. http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/20110311_Bill_to_ban_nepotism_in_hiring_for_state_jobs_clears_key_hurdle.html
Numerous ethics bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate this legislative session. Many have died. Those that have passed their respective houses include:
HB 250: Would allow the ethics commission to employ or retain its own attorneys.
HB 468: Would creates standards for the selection of county ethics commission members to ensure impartiality.
HB 827: Appropriates funds to provide for the expenses of the Ethics Commission, among other things. Approved by both House and Senate, sent to Gov. Abercrombie.
SB 671: Original Intent: Would increase disclosure requirements for lobbyists, lobbyist events, contractual relationships with legislators and campaign contributions. Would require governor, lieutenant governor and legislators to file financial disclosures by January 31.
Amended Intent: Would exempt from restrictions on gifts under the ethics code invitations or tickets to charitable events from a charitable entity, whether or not the charitable entity is the host of the event.
Honolulu Civil Beat. March 11, 2011. http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/03/11/9524-bill-watch-only-4-ethics-bills-still-alive/
The Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee voted to keep proposed Senate Bill 671, which would have allowed state employees to accept gifts of up to $200 from anyone, alive. The Committee chairman vowed to work with the state Ethics Commission to create an exception for legislators to accept invitations to charitable events at no cost.
Star Adviser. March 2, 2011. http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/20110302_Critics_tear_into_proposed_ethics_bill.html
NEW YORK Gov. Cuomo wants to require lobbying groups to disclose their financial backers. Under Cuomo’s plan, any organization that spends at least $50,000 and three percent of their total expenditures on lobbying, would be required to disclose any donor who contributes $5,000 or more.
NY Daily News. March 13, 2011. www.nydailynews.com/.../2011-03 13_cuomo_wants_lobbying_groups_to_disclose_financial_backers.html
Gov. Cuomo reiterated his commitment to either pass and enforce ethics reform, or to form a Moreland Commission on public integrity. While some argue that the use of such a commission would raise separation of powers issues, others claim that as long as the governor frames his charge to the commission appropriately, it would be legal.
The Empire. March 11, 2011. http://empire.wnyc.org/2011/03/even-more-on-moreland-commissions/
The New York Observer. March 10, 2011. http://www.observer.com/2011/politics/cuomo-reminds-lawmakers-he-has-moreland-act-his-sleeve
Eight people, including a state senator, an assemblyman and a lobbyist, were changed in a broad-based bribery racked.
AP in The Wall Street Journal. March 10, 2011. http://online.wsj.com/article/APd3144e8fab6d48f28ee46bbe7269e832.html
RHODE ISLAND Secretary of State Mollis is holding a workshop for lobbyists and their clients to review financial reporting, campaign finance and ethics laws.
Gov Monitor. March 8, 2011. http://www.thegovmonitor.com/world_news/united_states/rhode-island-helps-lobbyists-become-familiar-with-reporting-requirements-47389.html
ALASKA A measure introduced by a state Senator would permit lawmakers to use legislative mailing lists for campaign purposes and participate in certain political activities while on state travel.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. February 20, 2011. http://newsminer.com/bookmark/11523018
ARKANSAS The House passed HB 1284, implementing a one year “cooling off” period before lawmakers can become lobbyists.
Arkansas House of Representatives. February 14, 2011. http://www.arkansashouse.org/news/2011/02/14/snow-ethics-legislation-center-stage
CONNECTICUT Gov. Malloy’s proposal for merging five “watchdog” agencies into an Office of Governmental Accountability is being met with concern by agency directors. The executive director of the Office of State Ethics voiced concern about potential internal conflicts of interest and problems of public perception.
Connecticut Law Tribune. February 28, 2011. http://www.ctlawtribune.com/getarticle.aspx?ID=39734
FLORIDA Editorial: “Florida’s state government is broken. Florida needs lawmakers who can focus more independently on the state’s long-term future and less on raising money and angling for their next political job.”
St. Petersburg Times. February 24, 2011. http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/fixing-a-broken-government/1153642
GUAM Senators took part in ethics training, which is required for all elected officials, government appointees and unclassified employees.
Kuam.com. February 15, 2011. http://www.kuam.com/story/14038618/2011/02/16/senators-take-mandated-ethics-training
HAWAII Proposed amendments to a bill intended to strengthen and clarify lobbyist regulation law have been changed to allow lawmakers to accept a gifts up to $200, even if “it can reasonably be inferred that the gift is intended to influence the legislator or employee in the performance of the legislator’s or employee’s official duties or is intended as a reward for any official action.” The executive director of the state ethics commission believes that such a change would harm the public’s perception of ethical state government.
Hawaii Reporter. February 28, 2011. http://www.hawaiireporter.com/ethics-bill-allows-gifts-to-legislators/123
IDAHO HR 2, a measure to amend House ethics rules, passed in a unanimous vote. Among other things, the amendment specifies that only a member of the House may submit an ethics complaint, requires complaints be heard in closed sessions and kept confidential until the committee has found “probable cause” that a violation has occurred.
The Spokesman-Review. February 15, 2011. http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/boise/2011/feb/15/house-votes-unanimously-amend-ethics-rules/
KANSAS Gov. Brownback and legislative leaders met with the Governmental Ethics Commission to discuss state ethics issues. Among topics discussed were the Governor’s desire to give excess money from the Inaugural Committee to charities, the House Speaker’s request for additional ethics training and budget challenges facing the commission.
Kansas Watchdog. February 16, 2011. http://kansas.watchdog.org/6378/governor-legislative-leaders-meet-with-ethics-commission/
MINNESOTA Recording equipment failed during the closed-door portion of a Senate ethics panel hearing on a complaint against a state Senator. In the closed session, the committee decided not to pursue further investigation. “The movement across the country is for these types of actions to be more transparent” said Peggy Kerns, of the National Conference of State Legislatures. “These committees are always balancing the right of the accused with the right of the public to know.”
StarTribune.com. February 12, 2011. http://www.startribune.com/politics/local/116014134.html
NEW MEXICO Editorial: “New Mexicans are demanding, and rightfully so, more transparency and higher ethical standards from their public servants.” HB 480 would increase the criminal penalties for public corruption and HB 517 would require great financial disclosure from legislators.
NMPolitics.net. February 24, 2011. http://www.nmpolitics.net/index/2011/02/major-ethics-reform-needed-now-%E2%80%93-legislators-can-lead-the-way/
NEW YORK Disclosure requirements and the establishment of an independent ethics commission are two issues blamed for stalling state ethics reform.
Democrat and Chronicle.com February 20, 2011. http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20110221/NEWS01/102210313/New-ethics-push-faces-old-foes-Albany
NORTH DAKOTA State legislators are not required to disclose conflicts of interest unless they relate directly, individually, uniquely and substantially to a bill. Both House and Senate rules require that members disclose possible conflicts of interest prior to voting on a bill; however, the practice has decreased over time.
Bismarck Tribune. February 19, 2011. http://www.bismarcktribune.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_803ede60-3b8f-11e0-af99-001cc4c03286.html
RHODE ISLAND A House member is pushing for a constitutional amendment to reinstate the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction over the General Assembly. The commission previously had jurisdiction over lawmakers, however in 2009 the Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers were immune from ethics complaints based on their core legislative duties.
The Boston Globe. February 15, 2011. http://www.boston.com/news/local/rhode_island/articles/2011/02/15/ri_lawmaker_urges_amendment_to_close_ethics_gap/
WISCONSIN The director and general counsel of the Governmental Accountability Board issued a statement in response to numerous complaints the Board has received requesting investigations into what he referred to as “political controversy.” The statement reiterated that “the G.A.B. is an independent, non-partisan agency…[that] has no authority over procedural rules of the Legislature.”
NBC15.com. February 24, 2011. http://www.nbc15.com/home/headlines/Government_Accountability_Board_Receiving_Complaints_116853013.html
ALABAMA Ethics questions emerged around the “double dipping” section of the new ethics laws and a state senator’s relationship with a Montgomery law firm up for a state contract. The Senator consulted with Ethics Commission Director Jim Sumner prior to being hired by the law firm, but the chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Contract Review Committee still wants an advisory opinion from the ethics commission or the attorney general’s office.
The Huntsville Times. February 4, 2011. http://blog.al.com/breaking/2011/02/new_state_senator_says_questio.html
According to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, bimonthly reports filed with the State Ethics Commission show that lobbyists spent more than $250,000 on legislators in January. The AJC analysis finds that lobbyists spend the most on leaders in the House and Senate.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. February 3, 2011. http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/lobbyists-drop-quarter-million-827312.html
ARKANSAS Identical ethics bills that passed through the House and Senate would impose a “cooling off” period of one year before a former legislator could become a lobbyist. The bill would only apply to lawmakers elected or re-elected after the measure becomes effective. Gov. Beebe will sign the bill into law, but said that he would prefer a two year ban applicable to all legislators.
AP in Bloomberg. February 7, 2011. http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/115314934.html
IDAHO The Speaker of the House proposed a bill that would prohibit citizens from filing ethics complaints in addition to closing initial ethics hearings to the public. The bill would define an ethics violation as abuse or serious neglect of legislative duties.
IdahoReporter.com. February 8, 2011. http://www.idahoreporter.com/2011/house-speaker-wants-to-tweak-ethics-process-deny-citizen-complaints/
ILLINOIS Confusion about the rules developed to carry out a 2009 law to regulate lobbyist activities has prompted the Secretary of State’s office to clarify that lobbyists are not required to disclose all conversations they have with public officials. Lobbyists are required to file expense reports bimonthly.
The State Journal-Register. February 13, 2011. http://www.sj-r.com/state/x1055390294/Secretary-of-state-clarifies-lobbyist-rules
Reform groups are hoping for more detailed reporting requirements on statements of economic interest from political candidates and elected officials.
The State Journal-Register. February 6, 2011. http://www.sj-r.com/top-stories/x687474944/Reform-groups-hope-for-more-ethics-legislation-in-Illinois
KANSAS Prior to taking office, a house member must finish paying the fees and fines he owes to the state Ethics Commission.
The Kansas City Star. February 8, 2011. http://www.kansascity.com/2011/02/08/2642326/rep-elect-hughes-pays-most-of.html
MAINE The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices is recommending that a Virginia PAC be fined $41,000 for campaign finance violations which occurred during the last two weeks of the 2010 election.
Bangor Daily News. February 5, 2011. http://new.bangordailynews.com/2011/02/05/politics/468737/
NEVADA An audit conducted by the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau in an attempt to increase oversight of consultant contracts, raised questions about the fiscal responsibility of the rates state agencies are paying former employees hired as consultants. Around 111 current and former employees were identified as independent contractors for the state and at least one contractor billed the state for 25 hours’ work in one day.
Las Vegas Review-Journal. February 7, 2011. http://www.lvrj.com/news/state-workers-get-big-bucks-as-part-timers-115466654.html
NEW YORK Editorial: Gov. Cuomo “needs to deliver a tough and comprehensive reform package to the Legislature and challenge lawmakers from both parties to approve it swiftly.” New York “needs a fair campaign financing system…an independent redistricting commission to finally end gerrymandering and make elections more competitive.”
The New York Times. February 11, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/opinion/12sat2.html
OKLAHOMA Multiple legislators have filed bills this year to better regulate lobbyists paid with public money. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, twelve states have placed various bans on spending public money on lobbying. Oklahoma state law does not require state employees to register as lobbyists, even if they are involved in the same activities as private-sector lobbyists.
The Oklahoman. February 13, 2011. http://newsok.com/oklahoma-agency-lobbying-activities-often-on-taxpayer-dime/article/3540430#
PENNSYLVANIA An energy company drilling in Pennsylvania paid for the Senate President Pro Tempore to travel to and attend the Super Bowl. The state’s ethics law allows legislators to accept such offers as long as they report annual spending that exceeds $650.
AP in Pennlive.com. February 13, 2011. http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/02/gas_driller_pays_pennsylvania.html
The trial of two sisters, one a legislator, one a Supreme Court Justice opened with accusations that the state senator used state resources for years for her own and her sister’s political campaigns.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. February 11, 2011. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11042/1124650-454.stm
SOUTH CAROLINA The Ethics Commission has cited the Lt. Governor for incomplete, late, and missing campaign finance reports and is requiring that he pay $100 for each of the three violations. The commission has also requested that he explain almost $25,000 in campaign expenses since he took office.
The State. February 10, 2011. http://www.thestate.com/2011/02/10/1688112/ethics-panel-cites-sc-lt-gov-on.html
WISCONSIN Gov. Walker’s plans to attend the Super Bowl have been approved by the Ethics Division of the state Government Accountability Board because the Governor bought the tickets at face value, with campaign funds and he intends to engage in campaign activities while there
Journal Sentinel. February 4, 2011.http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/115314934.html
ALABAMA Around 200 lobbyists attended the first of four training sessions offered by the Ethics Commission on the 2010 Ethics Law updates. All of the state’s 654 registered lobbyists are required to attend one training session in order to lobby the Legislature.
The Gadsden Times. January 19, 2011. http://www.gadsdentimes.com/article/20110119/NEWS/110119812
Editorial: The Anniston Star. January 28, 2011.
ARKANSAS The House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem plan to file identical bills that would impose a ‘cooling off’ period for legislators. The legislation would prohibit a legislator from becoming a lobbyist for one year after leaving office.
Arkansas News. January 30, 2011. http://arkansasnews.com/2011/01/30/after-past-defeats-backers-of-ethics-reform-confident-of-success/
CONNECTICUT Recent ethics scandals involving multiple state senators have prompted renewed calls for the creation of a permanent committee to investigate complaints of legislator misconduct. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 18 states have such standing committees.
The Connecticut Mirror. January 18, 2011. http://www.ctmirror.org/story/11189/ethics-commitee
FLORIDA The executive director of the Commission on Ethics is advising the commission to abandon efforts to collect more than $300,000 in penalties from state officials who failed to file financial disclosure forms on time. Many of the fines accumulated more than four years ago, outside what the commission considers to be its statute of limitations for collecting penalties.
The Miami Herald. January 26, 2011. http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/01/26/2034849/state-ethics-commission-may-forgo.html
KANSAS The Governmental Ethics Commission found that lobbyists’ spending increased by 20 percent in 2010 compared to the year before.
Associated Press. January 26, 2011. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-01-26/kan-lobbyists-report-record-spending-for-2010.html
MASSACHUSETTS An Associated Press review of lobbying records found that in 2010, gambling interests spent more than $3 million lobbying state legislators.
Associated Press. January 19, 2011. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-01-19/casino-groups-spent-3m-lobbying-mass-lawmakers.html
NEW HAMPSHIRE The financial disclosure of a House member revealed that he earns a salary as executive director of, and a political consultant for, the New Hampshire Democratic Party. House Republican leaders have asked for an investigation into whether such employment violates the state Constitution. The Monitor found numerous cases of businesses owned by or employing legislators that could present similar conflicts of interest.
Concord Monitor. January 30, 2011. http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/237171/chandler-too-was-political-consultant
NEW YORK The State Commission on Public Integrity issued an advisory opinion announcing that the 30 day recusal period, set forth in a previous advisory opinion (No. 06-01), does not apply to State officers or employees who are targeted for layoffs or who are subject to a vertical ‘bump’ downward or relocation. Any State officer or employee in such circumstance who pursues possible post-government employment opportunities is still required to recuse himself or herself from any issue related to any private entity with which he or she has communicated about employment possibilities for the duration of his or her state employment or until accepting another state position.
Commission on Public Integrity. December 15, 2010. http://www.nyintegrity.org/pubs/2010/121510_press.html
Editorial: “…as a purveyor of a new, transparent Albany, [Gov. Cuomo] should make certain that all groups – supporting him or opposing him – reveal their donors.”
The New York Times. January 18, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/19/opinion/19wed3.html
OHIO A study by Ohio Citizen Action reported that over the past two years, more than half of campaign money raised by legislators came from lobbyists. Catherine Turcer, director of the group’s Money in Politics Project, argues that more meaningful disclosure is necessary, as lobbyists are required to disclose who they wine, dine, and give gifts to, but are not required to disclose campaign contributions.
Cincinnati.com. January 18, 2011. http://news.cincinnati.com/article/AB/20110118/NEWS0108/101190360/Report-Lobbyists-largest-statehouse-contributors
OREGON In a proposal to Gov. Kitzhaber, Treasurer Ted Wheeler suggests that ethics investigations are a “terrible use of public funds” and recommends that state employees should be protected from ethics charges when conforming to a state agency’s policies.
The Oregonian. January 29, 2011. http://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/01/treasurer_ted_wheeler_says_leg.html
SOUTH CAROLINA The Senate voted to override a gubernatorial veto on a bill, H. 4542, which amends the state Ethics Act. This change allows the Ethics Commission to publicly disclose ethics cases upon a finding of probable cause that a violation of the law has occurred, including investigations, inquiries, hearings, and relevant documents. The Senate also passed resolution S. 326, which requires the Senate’s Ethics Committee to abide by the same disclosure requirements. The House may consider a similar resolution.
The Nerve. January 20, 2011. http://www.thenerve.org/Comments/11-01-20/Big_Change_Senate_Passes_Ethics_Reform.aspx?searchid=ca329fbe-5df7-4051-8fe0-d641923a9c8a
The Nerve. January 25, 2011. http://www.thenerve.org/Comments/11-01-25/House_Might_Follow_Senate_on_Ethics_Rules.aspx?searchid=3fb9bd6d-11c0-4b5d-9aa3-27019f538c5b
TENNESSEE Gov. Haslam signed executive orders demonstrating his commitment to ethics. No. 2011-01 requires employees of the executive branch to annually submit the same financial disclosures as the legislative branch. No. 2011-02 mandates ethics training for employees of the cabinet and executive branch departments.
The Chattanoogan.com. January 16, 2011. http://www.chattanoogan.com/articles/article_192443.asp
UTAH A disputed House District boundary is the center of a controversy which has caused leaders of the House to determine that a House member doesn’t live in the district he was elected to represent and therefore is prohibited by the Utah Constitution from serving in the Legislature.
The Salt Lake Tribune. January 19, 2011. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/51073506-76/frank-district-state-utah.html.csp
WEST VIRGINIA The House of Delegates unanimously passed HB 2464, an ethics bill which would require public officials and candidates to file more detailed financial disclosure statements, and would establish a one year ‘cooling off’ period for lawmakers and state officials prior to becoming lobbyists. The measure would also require the Ethics Commission to post disclosure statements online.
The Charleston Gazette. January 19, 2011. http://wvgazette.com/News/201101191160
ALABAMA Twenty six state legislators were allowed special access to buy face-value tickets to the South eastern Conference Championship game.
The Huntsville Times. January 6, 2011. http://blog.al.com/breaking/2011/01/legislators_get_special_access.html
CONNECTICUT A state senator who won re-election in November pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sixth-degree larceny and resigned from the Senate.
The Hartford Courant. January 5, 2011. http://articles.courant.com/2011-01-05/news/hc-thomas-gaffey-in-court-20110104_1_government-action-fund-meriden-democrat-13th-senate-district
DELAWARE One of several pre-filed bills would close the “revolving door” that allows lawmakers and government officials to immediately start lobbying upon leaving their official posts. Violations of the proposed law would be an unclassified misdemeanor. According to NCSL, more than 30 states have some form of restriction on former legislators.
WGMD.com. January 6, 2011. http://www.wgmd.com/?p=15325
FLORIDA Gov. Rick Scott signs an executive order adopting a tougher ethics code less than an hour after taking office.
Forbes. January 4, 2011. http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2011/01/04/business-us-scott-executive-orders-florida_8237290.html
IDAHO The House Ethics Committee scheduled an executive session which will be closed to the public, for preliminary review of two ethics complaints submitted by citizens. According to House ethics rules, citizens cannot submit complaints. However, if the committee finds the complaints to be valid, a House member will most likely file a complaint for review.
The Spokesman-Review. January 11, 2011. http://www.spokesman.com/blogs/boise/2011/jan/11/house-ethics-committee-hold-first-closed-meeting-heres-why/
ILLINOIS A law that went into effect January 1 caps the amount of money that businesses, unions, PACs, and individuals can contribute to political parties, candidates, and PACs. It also requires candidates to file campaign expenditure and contribution reports every three months instead of every six months.
The Southern.com. January 2, 2011. http://www.thesouthern.com/news/local/state-and-regional/f606c7e4-1631-11e0-ad7f-001cc4c002e0.html
KENTUCKY Sen. Kathy Stein plans to file ethics bills that would ban lobbyist spending on legislators and candidates, prohibit PACs and lobbyist employers from making campaign contributions during regular legislative sessions, and require the commission to dismiss an ethics complaint if publicly disclosed by the complainant.
Courier-Journal.com. January 5, 2011. http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20110105/NEWS01/301050066/Sen-Kathy-Stein-plans-legislative-ethics-transparency-bills
Nearly 670 organizations and businesses, represented by 641 lobbyists, have registered with the Legislative Ethics Commission as employers of lobbyists for the 20011 legislative session.
WFPL News. January 3, 2011. http://www.wfpl.org/2011/01/03/more-than-600-lobbyists-signed-up-for-general-assembly/
MAINE Among the recommendations proposed by the executive director of the state ethics commission is a change that would allow the ethics commission to initiate investigations of possible violations of legislative ethics on its own, even if a complaint is not filed.
Morning Sentinel. January 3, 2011. http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/ethics-staff-suggesting-changes_2011-01-02.html
MASSACHUSETTS Editorial: A 3 ½ year sentence imposed on a former state Senator for taking $23,500 in bribes is a “warning sign to politicians in Massachusetts who continue to treat actual crimes as little more than venial sins.”
The Boston Globe. January 8, 2011. http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/ethics-staff-suggesting-changes_2011-01-02.html
MISSOURI A house member who owes nearly $20,000 in ethics fees and fines was not present as the state’s legislative session opened, nor has he been sworn into office. He will be entitled to take his seat after paying the fines and fees.
The Kansas City Star. January 6, 2011. http://www.kansascity.com/2011/01/06/2566106/missouri-lawmaker-wont-be-seated.html
NEVADA The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on recusal laws in Nevada as part of a decision on whether states may prohibit government officials from voting on issues where they appear to have a conflict of interest.
The New York Times. January 7, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/us/politics/08scotus.html?_r=1
NEW HAMPSHIRE Republican house members have accused and attempted to remove the Democratic House floor leader, who is also executive director of the state Democratic Party, for allegedly acting as an advocate for the Democratic Party, taking fees, and filing legislation that benefits the Party. Democratic legislators have condemned Republican accusations, calling for due process. The House Subcommittee on Elections is scheduled to hold a hearing on Thursday.
Concord Monitor. January 11, 2011. http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/233508/dems-call-for-due-process
NEW MEXICO Commentary:“There is one area of policy on which the new governor and legislators in both parties should be able to agree – the need for comprehensive campaign and ethics reform.”
NMPolitics.net. January 10, 2011. http://www.nmpolitics.net/index/2011/01/time-for-comprehensive-campaign-and-ethics-reform/
NEW YORK In his State of the State address, Gov. Cuomo called for a transformation of the ethical environment in Albany, declaring “it’s time to pass ethics reform and it is time to pass ethics reform now.”
LegislativeGazette.com. January 7, 2011. http://www.legislativegazette.com/Articles-c-2011-01-07-73916.113122-Gov-Cuomos-State-of-the-State-address.html
Gov. Cuomo issued an executive order requiring his staff and top state officials to participate in an ethics course offered by the Commission on Public Integrity. The order does not extend to legislators.
Times Union. January 3, 2011. http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Off-to-ethics-school-for-Cuomo-staff-933324.php
TEXAS The Texas Observer analyzed campaign data filed with the Texas Ethics Commission and found that numerous legislators use campaign money to pay for their “luxuries lifestyles.” In Texas campaign money can legally be used for travel as long as it is connected to state business in some way. The Observer also found that a few legislators violated the law by using campaign money for personal expenses.
Texas Observer. January 16, 2011. http://www.texasobserver.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=17251:lifestyles-of-the-corrupt-and-elected&Itemid=1951
WEST VIRGINIA A top priority in the House is passing an ethics bill that would expand disclosure requirements for public officials, restrict officials from becoming lobbyists within one year of leaving office, and require the Ethics Commission to post online the filings of statewide and legislative officials and candidates beginning in 2012.
Charleston Daily Mail. January 13, 2011. http://www.dailymail.com/ap/ApTopStories/201101130934
WYOMING A complaint against a House member submitted to the Wyoming House and Attorney General’s office is currently under review. The procedure for such a complaint is unclear because the Attorney General’s authority does not extend to investigations of alleged violations of the ethics and disclosure act.
Trib.com. January 2, 2011. http://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/article_17978086-0e81-59ab-bb7d-19dd88482da1.html