Almost all states provide external oversight of their ethics laws through an ethics commission established in statute or in the constitution. In the states that do not have ethics commissions, oversight is provided through other state agencies such as the secretary of state or the office of the attorney general. Additionally, almost all state legislatures have some semblance of an ethics committee, which provides internal oversight on ethics rules and laws.
Ethics commissions represent the public’s interest and have a similar purpose: to ensure that groups under their jurisdiction follow state ethics laws. As regulatory entities, ethics commissions have various powers and duties, including investigating complaints of violations of ethics laws, providing advisory opinions to individuals under the commission’s jurisdiction, and offering ethics training. Many commissions have the power to prosecute and/or levy sanctions on the offender.
Ethics committees also ensure compliance with laws and rules and perform many of the same functions as commissions. Most committees only have jurisdiction over the legislature, but a few oversee lobbyist activities. Nearly all committees are composed of legislators only, making it imperative that committee members uphold the public’s trust.