Conflict of Interest Definitions

9/30/2019

Ethics rules governing legislators may prohibit or require the disclosure of matters that may create a conflict of interest or present the appearance of a conflict, such as if a lawmaker represents others before the state or hires a family member.

The range of circumstances that could create a conflict are too numerous to provide a list for each possible scenario. General definitions help fill in the cracks left between more specific rules of conduct. Each state and territory provides a definition of a conflict of interest that aims to be broad enough to capture a range of possible apparent breaches of the public trust while being specific enough to provide guidance.

All states address potential conflicts of interests for legislators by constitution, statute, or rule. Definitions usually specify that a legislator may not have a personal or private financial interest in votes or other legislative duties. The following table provides each state's definition of conflict of interest.

This table is intended to provide general information and does not necessarily address all aspects of this topic. Because the facts of each situation may vary, this information may need to be supplemented by consulting legal advisors. All content is up to date through 9/30/2019.

The box allows you to conduct a full text search or type the state name.

"Conflict of Interest" Defined
STATE STATUTE
Alabama

A conflict of interest involves any action, inaction, or decision by a public official or public employee in the discharge of his or her official duties which would materially affect his or her financial interest or those of his or her family members or any business with which the person is associated in a manner different from the manner it affects the other members of the class to which he or she belongs. Exclusions: A loan or financial transaction made or conducted in the ordinary course of business; An occasional non-pecuniary award publicly presented by an organization for performance of public service; Payment of or reimbursement for actual and necessary expenditures for travel and subsistence for the personal attendance of a public official or public employee at a convention or other meeting at which he or she is scheduled to meaningfully participate in connection with his or her official duties and for which attendance no reimbursement is made by the state; Any campaign contribution, including the purchase of tickets to, or advertisements in journals, for political or testimonial dinners, if the contribution is actually used for political purposes and is not given under circumstances from which it could reasonably be inferred that the purpose of the contribution is to substantially influence a public official in the performance of his or her official duties. Ala. Code § 36-25-1.

 

A conflict of interest shall exist when a member of a legislative body, public official, or public employee has a substantial financial interest by reason of ownership of, control of, or the exercise of power over any interest greater than five percent of the value of any corporation, company, association, or firm, partnership, proprietorship, or any other business entity of any kind or character which is uniquely affected by proposed or pending legislation; or who is an officer or director for any such corporation, company, association, or firm, partnership, proprietorship, or any other business entity of any kind or character which is uniquely affected by proposed or pending legislation. Ala. Code § 36-25-5.

Alaska
A conflict of interest exists if "the legislator or a member of the legislator's immediate family has a financial interest in a business, investment, real property, lease, or other enterprise if the interest is substantial and the effect on that interest of the action to be voted on is greater than the effect on the general public of the state. Alaska Stat. Ann. § 24.60.030.
Arizona
A conflict of interest exists if a public officer has "a substantial interest in any contract, sale, purchase or service to such public agency." Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 38-503. “Substantial interest” means any non-speculative pecuniary or proprietary interest, either direct or indirect, other than a remote interest. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 38-502.
Arkansas
A conflict of interest may exist if a legislator "is required to take an action in the discharge of his or her official duties that may affect his or her financial interest or cause financial benefit or detriment to him or her, or a business in which he or she is an officer, director, stockholder owning more than 10% of the stock of the company, owner, trustee, partner, or employee, which is distinguishable from the effects of the action on the public generally or a broad segment of the public." Ark. Code Ann. § 21-8-803.
California
"No public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest." Cal. Gov't Code § 87100. Subsequent statutory sections provide additional details and prohibitions regarding conflicts of interest.
Colorado
A member who has a personal or private interest in any measure or bill proposed or pending before the general assembly, shall disclose the fact to the house of which he is a member, and shall not vote thereon. Colo. Const. art. V, § 43.
Connecticut
A conflict of interest exists if a legislator "has reason to believe or expect that he, his spouse, a dependent child, or a business with which he is associated will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss, as the case may be, by reason of his official activity." No conflict of interest exists if he or she "does not have an interest which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest and of his responsibilities as prescribed by the laws of this state, if any benefit or detriment accrues to him, his spouse, a dependent child, or a business with which he, his spouse or such dependent child is associated as a member of a profession, occupation or group to no greater extent than any other member of such profession, occupation or group." Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 1-85.
Delaware
Conflict of interest exists if a legislator has a personal or private interest in any measure or bill pending in the General Assembly or if a "personal or private interest in a measure or bill... which tends to impair a legislator's independence of judgment in the performance of his or her legislative duties with respect to that measure or bill." Del. Code Ann. tit. 29, § 1002.
District of Columbia
A conflict of interest exists if an official uses "his or her official position or title, or personally and substantially participate, through decision, approval, disapproval, recommendation, the rendering of advice, investigation, or otherwise, in a judicial or other proceeding, application, request for a ruling or other determination, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest, or other particular matter, or attempt to influence the outcome of a particular matter, in a manner that the employee knows is likely to have a direct and predictable effect on the employee's financial interests or the financial interests of a person closely affiliated with the employee." D.C. Code Ann. § 1-1162.23.
Florida
A conflict of interest exists if there is "any matter that the officer knows would inure to his or her special private gain or loss." "'Special private gain or loss' means an economic benefit or harm that would inure to the officer, his or her relative, business associate, or principal, unless the measure affects a class that includes the officer, his or her relative, business associate, or principal." Fla. Stat. Ann. § 112.3143.
Georgia
"'Conflict of interest' means an individual has multiple interests and uses his or her official position to exploit, in some way, his or her position for his or her own direct, unique, pecuniary, and personal benefit." Ga. Code Ann. § 45-10-90.
Guam
Conflict of interest may exist when an official action directly effects: a business or undertaking in which the official has a financial interest; a private undertaking if engaged as legal counsel, advisor, consultant, representative or other agency capacity. 4 G.C.A. § 15205.
Hawaii
Prohibition on conflicts of interest prohibit legislators from assisting "any person or business or act[ing] in a representative capacity before any state or county agency for a contingent compensation in any transaction involving the State... [or] for compensation to secure passage of a bill or to obtain a contract, claim, or other transaction or proposal in which the legislator or employee has participated or will participate as a legislator or employee..." Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 84-14.
Idaho
"'Conflict of interest' means any official action or any decision or recommendation by a person acting in a capacity as a public official, the effect of which would be to the private pecuniary benefit of the person or a member of the person's household, or a business with which the person or a member of the person's household is associated, unless the pecuniary benefit arises out of the following: An interest or membership in a particular business, industry, occupation or class required by law as a prerequisite to the holding by the person of the office or position; Any action in the person's official capacity which would affect to the same degree a class consisting of an industry or occupation group in which the person, or a member of the person's household or business with which the person is associated, is a member or is engaged; Any interest which the person has by virtue of his profession, trade or occupation where his interest would be affected to the same degree as that of a substantial group or class of others similarly engaged in the profession, trade or occupation; Any action by a public official upon any revenue measure, any appropriation measure or any measure imposing a tax, when similarly situated members of the general public are affected by the outcome of the action in a substantially similar manner and degree." Idaho Code Ann. § 74-403.
Illinois
Illinois prescribes a four-factor test to determine whether a conflict of interest exist, referred to as a "conflict situation." The four factors are: "a. whether a substantial threat to his independence of judgment has been created by the conflict situation; b. the effect of his participation on public confidence in the integrity of the legislature; c. whether his participation is likely to have any significant effect on the disposition of the matter; d. the need for his particular contribution, such as special knowledge of the subject matter, to the effective functioning of the legislature." 5 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 420/3-202.
Indiana
A public servant commits "conflict of interest" if he or she "knowing or intentionally: (1) has a pecuniary interest in; or (2) derives a profit from; a contract or purchase connected with an action by the governmental entity served by the public servant." "'Pecuniary interest' means an interest in a contract or purchase if the contract or purchase will result or is intended to result in an ascertainable increase in the income or net worth of" the public servant or a dependent." Ind. Code Ann. § 35-44.1-1-4.
Iowa
Conflicts of interest occur when a legislator engages in "outside employment or an activity that involves the use of the state's or the political subdivision's time, facilities, equipment, and supplies or the use of the state or political subdivision badge, uniform, business card, or other evidences of office or employment to give the person or member of the person's immediate family an advantage or pecuniary benefit that is not available to other similarly situated members or classes of members of the general public." Iowa Code Ann. § 68B.2A.
Kansas

A conflict of interest occurs when a legislator is substantially involved in the preparation of or participated in the making of a contract with a person or business in which the legislator, an associated business or a family member has a substantial interest. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-233.

 

“Substantial interest” includes an ownership interest of $5,000 or 5% of any business, compensation of $2,000 or more from any business or businesses, gifts valued aggregately of $500 or more, holding a position of officer, director, associate, partner or proprietor of any business, or receiving fee-based compensation from a business amounting to $2,000 or more. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 46-229.

Kentucky
Definitions of a conflict of interest include: a personal or private interest in any measure or bill proposed or pending before the General Assembly (Ky. Const. § 57); using influence as a member of the General Assembly in any matter which involves a substantial conflict between personal interest and duties in the public interest; using official position or office to obtain financial gain for oneself, family members, or associated businesses; using official position to secure or create privileges, exemptions, advantages, or treatment for oneself or others in contravention of the public interest; using public resources for private gain, unless authorized by law; using public resources for partisan political campaign activity. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 6.731.
Louisiana
A conflict of interest exists if a legislator has a "personal substantial economic interest" in a transaction that involves a governmental entity. La. Stat. Ann. § 42:1112.
Maine
"A conflict of interest includes: A. When a Legislator or a member of the Legislator's immediate family has or acquires a direct substantial personal financial interest, distinct from that of the general public, in an enterprise that would be financially benefited by proposed legislation, or derives a direct substantial personal financial benefit from close economic association with a person known by the Legislator to have a direct financial interest in an enterprise affected by proposed legislation; B. When a Legislator or a member of the Legislator's immediate family accepts gifts, other than campaign contributions duly recorded as required by law, from persons affected by legislation or who have an interest in an entity affected by proposed legislation and the Legislator knows or reasonably should know that the purpose of the donor in making the gift is to influence the Legislator in the performance of the Legislator's official duties or vote or is intended as a reward for action on the Legislator's part; C. Receiving compensation or reimbursement not authorized by law for services, advice or assistance as a Legislator; D. Appearing for, representing or advocating on behalf of another before the Legislature, unless without compensation and for the benefit of a citizen; E. When a Legislator or a member of the Legislator's immediate family accepts or engages in employment that could impair the Legislator's judgment, or when the Legislator knows that there is a substantial possibility that an opportunity for employment is being afforded the Legislator or a member of the Legislator's immediate family with intent to influence the performance of the Legislator's official duties, or when the Legislator or a member of his immediate family stands to derive a personal private gain or loss from employment, because of legislative action, distinct from the gain or losses of other employees or the general community; and F. When a Legislator or a member of the Legislator's immediate family has an interest in legislation relating to a profession, trade, business or employment in which the Legislator or a member of the Legislator's immediate family is engaged and the benefit derived by the Legislator or a member of the Legislator's immediate family is unique and distinct from that of the general public or persons engaged in similar professions, trades, businesses or employment." Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 1, § 1014.
Maryland
"An interest of a member of the General Assembly conflicts with the public interest if the legislator's interest tends to impair the legislator's independence of judgment." Md. Gen. Provis. § 5-512.
Massachusetts The prohibition on conflicts of interest may apply when a public official,"in the discharge of his official duties would be required knowingly to take an action which would substantially affect such official's financial interests, unless the effect on such an official is no greater than the effect on the general public." Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 268A, § 6A.
Michigan
A conflict of interest may exist if a legislator is "interested directly or indirectly in any contract with the state or any political subdivision thereof." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.302. "Interested" is defined as "a pecuniary interest." Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.304.
Minnesota
Disclosures of a conflict of interest are required when a public official "who in the discharge of official duties would be required to take an action or make a decision that would substantially affect the official's financial interests or those of an associated business, unless the effect on the official is no greater than on other members of the official's business classification, profession, or occupation." The term "financial interest" is defined as any ownership or control in an asset which has the potential to produce a monetary return. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 10A.07.
Mississippi

The code section dealing with conflicts of interest, in the statement of policy section, refers to "any effort to realize personal gain through official conduct, other than as provided by law, or as a natural consequence of the employment position." Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-4-101. More specifically, "No public servant shall use his official position to obtain, or attempt to obtain, pecuniary benefit for himself other than that compensation provided for by law, or to obtain, or attempt to obtain, pecuniary benefit for any relative or any business with which he is associated." Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-4-105.

 

Additional details regarding Mississippi's conflict of interest provisions are located at Miss. Code. Ann. § 25-4-101 et seq.

Missouri
Prohibition on conflict of interest prevents a legislator from acting or refraining "from acting in any capacity in which he is lawfully empowered to act as such an official or employee by reason of any payment, offer to pay, promise to pay, or receipt of anything of actual pecuniary value paid or payable, or received or receivable, to himself or any third person, including any gift or campaign contribution, made or received in relationship to or as a condition of the performance of an official act, other than compensation to be paid by the state or political subdivision." The limitation extends to the disclosure of confidential information and acts for the benefit of family members." Mo. Ann. Stat. § 105.452.
Montana
Conflicts of interest may occur when a legislator's "personal or private interest that would directly give rise to an appearance of impropriety as to the legislator's influence, benefit, or detriment in regard to the legislative matter." Mont. Code Ann. § 2-2-112.
Nebraska
"A member of the Legislature who would be required to take any action or make any decision in the discharge of his or her official duties that may cause financial benefit or detriment to him or her, a member of his or her immediate family, or a business with which he or she is associated, which is distinguishable from the effects of such action on the public generally or a broad segment of the public." Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 49-1499.
Nevada
A conflict of interest may exist when a reasonable person in the public officer's situation would lack independence of judgment regarding a matter due to: the public officer's acceptance of a gift or loan; a significant pecuniary interest; or the public officer's commitment in a private capacity to the interests of another person. Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 281A.420.
New Hampshire
"'Conflict of interest' means the condition in which a legislator has a special interest in any matter which could directly or indirectly affect or influence the performance of the legislator’s official activities." N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14-B:1.
New Jersey
The New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law, which defines various forms and prohibitions against conflicts, is codified as N.J. Stat. Ann. § 52:13D-12 et seq. Refer to this section and NCSL’s other surveys on specific types of conflicts of interest for more information.
New Mexico
A conflict of interest is the use of powers or resources of public office to "obtain personal benefits or pursue private interests," as opposed to using those powers or resources "only to advance the public interest." N.M. Stat. Ann. § 10-16-3.

New York

A conflict of interest exists if a legislator has any interest or engages in any business, transaction, or professional activity, or incurs any obligation, which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his or her duties in the public interest. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 74.

North Carolina

Without using the term "conflict of interest," state law prohibits a legislator from using their public position in an official action that will result in "financial benefit to the covered person or legislative employee, a member of the covered person's or legislative employee's extended family, or business with which the covered person or legislative employee is associated." Excludes benefits that would be of no greater extent than those received by other citizens of the state. N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 163A-211. Additionally, disqualifying conflicts of interest are limited to conflicts that are "of such significance that the conflict of interest would prevent a public servant from fulfilling a substantial function or portion of the public servant's public duties." N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 163A-219.

North Dakota

A conflict of interest occurs if a legislator "has a direct and substantial personal or pecuniary interest in a matter before that... [legislative body]." N.D. Cent. Code Ann. § 44-04-22.

Ohio

"A potential conflict of interest exists if the private interests of the person, as indicated by the person's disclosure statement, might interfere with the public interests the person is required to serve in the exercise of the person's authority and duties in the person's office or position of employment." Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 102.02.

Oklahoma

Generally, a conflict of interest is when a member of the legislature engages in activities or has interests which "conflict with the proper discharge of their duties and responsibilities." Okla. Const. art. V, § 21. The Ethics Commission, which promulgates ethics rules, provides a definition of conflict of interest through a provision on state officer impartiality. A conflict of interest may exist for a state officer or employee if 1) knowledge exists of a particular matter that is likely to have a direct and predictable effect on the material financial interests of the state officer or employee or a family member, 2) a person with whom he or she has a business relationship, excluding routine consumer transactions, is a party to such matter, 3) circumstances would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of relevant facts to question his or her impartiality in the matter. "Material financial interest" is further defined in the rule. Rule 4.7 (Current as of 9/30/2019).

Oregon

"'Actual conflict of interest' means any action or any decision or recommendation by a person acting in a capacity as a public official, the effect of which would be to the private pecuniary benefit or detriment of the person or the person's relative or any business with which the person or a relative of the person is associated." "'Potential conflict of interest' means any action or any decision or recommendation by a person acting in a capacity as a public official, the effect of which could be to the private pecuniary benefit or detriment of the person or the person's relative, or a business with which the person or the person's relative is associated, unless the pecuniary benefit or detriment arises out of the following: (a) An interest or membership in a particular business, industry, occupation or other class required by law as a prerequisite to the holding by the person of the office or position. (b) Any action in the person's official capacity which would affect to the same degree a class consisting of all inhabitants of the state, or a smaller class consisting of an industry, occupation or other group including one of which or in which the person, or the person's relative or business with which the person or the person's relative is associated, is a member or is engaged. (c) Membership in or membership on the board of directors of a nonprofit corporation that is tax-exempt under section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code." Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 244.020.

Pennsylvania

“'Conflict' or 'conflict of interest.' Use by a public official or public employee of the authority of his office or employment or any confidential information received through his holding public office or employment for the private pecuniary benefit of himself, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated. The term does not include an action having a de minimis economic impact or which affects to the same degree a class consisting of the general public or a subclass consisting of an industry, occupation or other group which includes the public official or public employee, a member of his immediate family or a business with which he or a member of his immediate family is associated." 65 Pa.C.S.A. § 1102.

Puerto Rico

"Conflict of interest. A situation in which the personal or financial interests of the public servant, of persons related to him/her, or of the contractor or suppliers is, or could reasonably be in contravention of the public interest." 3 L.P.R.A. § 1755.

Rhode Island

A conflict of interest exists if a legislator has an interest which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his or her duties or employment in the public interest and of his or her responsibilities as prescribed in the laws of this state, if he or she has reason to believe or expect that he or she or any person within his or her family or any business associate, or any business by which the person is employed or which the person represents will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss, as the case may be, by reason of his or her official activity. RI ST § 36-14-7.
South Carolina A conflict of interest may exist if a legislator makes, participates in making, or attempts to use public office "to influence a governmental decision in which he, a family member, an individual with whom he is associated, or a business with which he is associated has an economic interest." S.C. Code Ann. § 8-13-700.

South Dakota

A conflict of interest may exist if a public officer has an interest in or derives a direct benefit from any contract 1) with the state agency to which the public officer is attached for reporting or oversight purposes that requires the expenditure of government funds; 2) with the state that requires the approval of the authority, board, or commission and the expenditure of government funds; or 3) with a political subdivision of the state if the political subdivision approves the contract and is under the regulatory oversight of the authority, board, or commission, or the agency to which the authority, board, or commission is attached for reporting or oversight purposes. S.D. Codified Laws § 3-23-1.

Tennessee

In lieu of defining a conflict of interest, Tennessee law requires legislators and candidates to disclose various economic interests that may constitute a conflict of interest. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-50-502.

Texas

A conflict of interest may exist if a legislator has a "direct or indirect interest, including financial and other interests, or engage in a business transaction or professional activity, or incur any obligation of any nature that is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of the officer's or employee's duties in the public interest." Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 572.001.

Utah

"'Conflict of interest' means an action that is taken by a regulated officeholder that the officeholder reasonably believes may cause direct financial benefit or detriment to the officeholder, a member of the officeholder's immediate family, or an entity that the officeholder is required to disclose under the provisions of this section, if that benefit or detriment is distinguishable from the effects of that action on the public or on the officeholder's profession, occupation, or association generally. Utah Code Ann. § 20A-11-1602.

Vermont

"'Conflict of interest' means an interest of a member that is in conflict with the proper discharge of his or her official duties due to a significant personal or financial interest of the member, of a person within the member's immediate family, or of the member's business associate. 'Conflict of interest' does not include any interest that is not greater than that of any other persons generally affected by the outcome of a matter." Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 3, § 1222.

Virginia

Under conflict of interest provisions, a legislator who has a personal interest in a transaction shall disqualify himself from participating in the transaction. Va. Code Ann. § 30-108. “Personal interest” means a financial benefit or liability accruing to a legislator or to a member of his immediate family. Va. Code Ann. § 30-101.
Virgin Islands A conflict of interests exists if a legislator "will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss, as the case may be, by reason of his official activity. 3 V.I.C. § 1103.

Washington

A conflict of interest exists when a state officer has "an interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in a business or transaction or professional activity, or incur an obligation of any nature, that is in conflict with the proper discharge of the state officer's or state employee's official duties." Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 42.52.020.

West Virginia

Conflict of interest provisions, in detail, describe various types of conflicts at W. Va. Code Ann. § 6B-2-5 et seq. Generally, a conflict of interest may exist if a public official knowingly and intentionally uses his or her office or the prestige of his or her office for private gain or gain of another, excluding incidental gains. W. Va. Code Ann. § 6B-2-5.

Wisconsin

The conflict of interest prohibition applies to conduct that, and is therefore defined as, a legislator "taking any official action substantially affecting a matter in which the official, a member of his or her immediate family, or an organization with which the official is associated has a substantial financial interest." Wis. Stat. Ann. § 19.46.

Wyoming

A conflict of interest occurs if a legislator "requests or receives any pecuniary benefit, other than lawful compensation, on any contract, or for the letting of any contract, or making any appointment where the government employing or subject to the discretion or decisions of the public servant is concerned." Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-5-106.