Ethics in the News 2016

12/22/2016

ETHICSEthics in the News is a monthly summary of ethics and lobbying-related articles during 2015 and 2016, compiled by NCSL's Center for Ethics in Government.

Note: The links to these articles are provided for information purposes only. NCSL does not endorse any views these news stories provide. Links more than two weeks old may no longer be active. If you are interested in reading an article whose link is inactive, please contact the newspaper in which the story was published.

December

Federal – The Office of Government Ethics (OGE), the agency within the executive branch that oversees conflict of interest compliance, recently published revised gift rules applicable to executive branch employees that become effective January 1, 2017.  Although most of the revisions were minor, the OGE did make a few notable changes.  Those changes, including a new requirement that agency ethics officials make a written determination before any executive branch employee can attend a “widely attended gathering” (WAG), such as a banquet dinner…. View story.

Florida - It’s “back to school” for Florida lawmakers hoping to make their mark in the state Legislature next year as they descend upon Tallahassee for “Legislator University” held this week at the Florida Capitol. State lawmakers are brushing up on what, exactly, goes into being a legislator beyond the title and the fancy personalized plaque sitting on their desks. View story.

Georgia - Watchdogs at the State Capitol are concerned that a growing number of people who lobby for or against legislation are avoiding registering with the state and disclosing their activities. “There is nothing wrong with lobbying,” Stefan Ritter, state ethics commission executive director, said. “But the public should be able to look at who is lobbying.” View story.

New Mexico – A new and expansive piece of legislation that would provide a place to file complaints against local, as well as state-level, public officials will be among the ethics-related measures greeting lawmakers next month. The proposed 12-member Public Accountability Board, like previously proposed ethics commissions, would investigate and rule on complaints against public officials and employees, candidates, lobbyists and government contractors. View story.

New York - State officials who claim exemptions from a new income disclosure law won't have to reveal that privacy protection on their annual financial disclosure forms, JCOPE, the state's ethics and lobbying watchdog, decided Tuesday. After the Joint Commission on Public Ethics' executive director, Seth Agata, suggested the option of requiring the disclosure, the commission voted unanimously to stick with current rules, which exempt lawmakers from disclosing their legal clients. View story.

North Carolina – The state Senate has signed off on legislation that creates a single board to oversee the state's ethics, lobbying and elections administration. Republican sponsors insist it is aimed at creating a bipartisan panel to oversee all decisions on lobbying, elections and ethics rules. But that eight-member board would need six votes to take any action, something critics say would bog it down and make it less able to act. View story.

South Dakota – A South Dakota judge put on hold a voter-approved government ethics overhaul Thursday, handing a victory to foes who have criticized the wide-ranging new law as an unconstitutional, unworkable mess. Circuit Judge Mark Barnett issued a preliminary injunction at the request of a group of two dozen Republican lawmakers and others who filed a lawsuit against the state challenging it. Barnett's decision to delay the law's implementation could be appealed to the state Supreme Court. View story.

A judge has ruled that a South Dakota anti-corruption package approved by voters cannot be separated into different parts. Circuit Judge Mark Barnett ruled Wednesday that leaving only part of the measure in effect would be inappropriate, since it was a comprehensive package. The judge has issued an order blocking the entire law from taking effect. View story.

Washington - The last time a legislative ethics panel held a hearing in Washington state 22 years ago, it involved a public official allegedly using state offices and a state computer to aid his nonprofit. This time, it’s about what a state lawmaker can and can’t post on Facebook. View story.

November

Alabama - A few months after securing the conviction of House Speaker Mike Hubbard under the state ethics law, Attorney General Luther Strange’s office solicited input about the law and its application to groups covered by it. View story.

Arkansas - Democrats continued filing proposals for transparency and ethics laws Friday, including bills that would ban loans by lobbyists to lawmakers and a Senate version of a bill to allow victims of bribed judges to pursue civil lawsuits under state law. Both bills are sponsored by Sen. Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis. They follow incidents involving lobbyist loans and purported judicial bribery over the past two years. View story.

Connecticut - The largest amount of money spent lobbying state lawmakers in 2015 was focused on healthcare issues, according to the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, which released a report Wednesday that showed businesses, hospitals and other special interests spent $50.1 million a year ago to influence legislation. View story.

Federal – Facebook is talking more about ethics than the economy. While most polls show that voters' top concerns are the economy and national security, the top policy issue discussed on Facebook on Election Day was government ethics, according to data released by the social media site. View story.

The United States Office of Government Ethics has issued a new regulation overhauling requirements for the executive branch ethics program. The new ethics rules come at a time when both Democrats (68%) and Republicans (78%) say they have “not too much” or “no confidence” at all in elected officials to act in the best interests of the public while still showing trust in the military, medical scientists, and scientists, according to the Pew Research Center. View story.

For the first time in nearly 25 years, federal employees have new guidelines for accepting gifts from outside sources. The general rule of thumb still applies, but the Office of Government Ethics wants federal employees to reach for a higher standard. The final rule, which OGE published Nov. 18, updates gift acceptance policies that haven’t been changed since 1992. View story.

Florida – The new rules of the Florida House of Representatives, among other things, will increase the ban on former members lobbying their colleagues from two years to six years, and prohibit state representatives from flying in aircraft owned, leased, or otherwise paid for by lobbyists. That’s according to a final copy of the rules, released Thursday by incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran. View story.

Kentucky – In the first 10 months of this year, Kentucky state government has approved more than $170 million in taxpayer assistance to businesses that are locating, expanding, or training employees in the state, according to the Legislative Ethics Commission. View story.

Maryland - The Maryland State Ethics Commission updated its Electronic Lobbying Reporting system to enable the Ethics Commission to accept electronic payments. This service integrates the Ethics Commission’s Electronic Lobbying Reporting system with a web-based and mobile-ready electronic payment processing service that allows users to pay for annual registration with a credit or debit card. View story.

Massachusetts - Months after it was first offered, a proposed task force to look at ethics laws has received approval from both branches of the Legislature with a narrowed-down focus. The Senate on Monday passed a resolve (H 4627) that would establish a 13-member task force to review ethics laws and rules governing state, county and municipal employees, with a report due March 15. View story.

New York – Numerous states and cities have experienced a cascade of criminal and ethical violations by public servants in recent years. What can policy makers and professionals who interact with city and state government agencies and legislatures do to limit conflicts of interest? City & State Reports and NYU Wagner on Oct. 31 presented a robust one-day conference that looked closely at how public officials, corporations, attorneys, lobbyists, nonprofits, and the public can work to create incentives, policies, and programs that can prevent problematic interactions with state and city government. View story.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics is hitting the State Advisers LLC lobbying firm with a $180,000 fine for what it says is the company’s failure to file mandated registration reports dating back to 2011. They said they had earlier tried to settle for $62,000 but the firm never paid up and continued to miss their filings. View story.

Rhode Island – Voters have approved a constitutional amendment giving the Rhode Island Ethics Commission the power to investigate state lawmakers and sanction them when they act improperly. Tuesday’s yes vote on Question 2 restores oversight the commission once had over the General Assembly, but which was lost in a 2009 court ruling. View story.

South Dakota – The sprawling reform package, known in South Dakota as Initiated Measure 22, was designed to limit the influence of outside money in state government. The 34-page law, narrowly passed by voters Nov. 8, creates strict new rules on lobbying and fundraising and establishes an independent ethics commission. View story.

October

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands – The Office of the Public Auditor reminded all employees of CNMI government agencies, branches, departments, autonomous agencies, and public corporations not to use office hours and their resources on political activities. Public Auditor Michael Pai said their office has received complaints on alleged violations of the CNMI Government Ethics Code Act of 1992 where government employees are allegedly involved in political activities during work hours and using government resources. View story.

Federal - Federal employees at General Schedule 13 or below would no longer be required to automatically submit financial disclosure statements, according to a new proposed rule from the Office of Government Ethics. “The revised regulations will permit the designated agency ethics official to make those determinations for employees who are GS-13s or below and meet the criteria stated in the proposed rule,” OGE said. The ethics rule applies to non-manager federal employees who may contribute to an agency’s policy, procurement or acquisition. View story.

Kentucky – Lobbyists and the businesses and organizations that employ them spent $15 million in the first eight months of 2016, and lobbying spending is on track to eclipse previous Kentucky spending records. The record for lobbying spending was set last year, when $19.3 million was spent. If spending continues at its current pace, at least $5 million will be spent in the last four months of the year, sending the 2016 total to an all-time high of $20 million. View story.

Massachusetts - House Speaker Robert DeLeo thinks it’s time to update the state’s ethics laws. He wants to make sure the language is clear and easy to understand.  A legislative committee heard public testimony on Speaker DeLeo’s proposed legislation to create an 11-member Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government. View story.

Missouri – Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, spent this past legislative session working to improve the ethics in Missouri's legislature. Those efforts were met with mixed success, and political scientists question whether the end result will have much impact. View story.

New York - The agency that sets rules for lobbying New York state government wants to consolidate all rules and advisory opinions in the same place for the first time, and enhance disclosure requirements for the $243 million-a year industry. Seth Agata, director of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), said the new guidelines would allow rule makers to capture more information about lobbyists' activities, including the interests of funders when lobbyists are hired by third parties. The guidelines also track lobbyists' use of social media."These regulations will ensure that the public has access to more and better information about the people and entities behind those attempts at influencing decisions that affect us all," Agata said in a statement. View story.

Rhode Island – The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island is opposing a move to increase ethics oversight at the state legislature. A ballot measure would restore some powers to the state Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission is a body tasked with investigating complaints of corruption, abuse of power, or potential conflicts of interest in state and municipal government. View story.

Rhode Island voters will be asked Nov. 8 if they want to give the state Ethics Commission the power to investigate legislators. Government watchdog group Common Cause is leading the charge to get it approved. "The General Assembly is the most powerful branch of government in Rhode Island and right now, there's no police on the beat making sure they don't engage in conflicts of interest," said John Marion of Common Cause. View story.

While it may appear that the ethics referendum on the November ballot has little opposition, a powerful group, the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is claiming that passage of the referendum does little to curb Legislative mischief, and much to impair legislators’ ability to represent their constituents “fully.” View story.

September

Alabama - A Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for legalizing marijuana is challenging an Alabama law that requires those who lobby the Legislature to travel to the state for in-person training on the ethics law. Maggie Ellinger-Locke, legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project, sued the Ethics Commission and other state officials in federal court in Montgomery on Wednesday. Read more.

California - A former California lawmaker was sentenced Monday to a year in federal prison for helping his brother, a state senator, hide bribe payments he got for supporting legislation.  View story.

Idaho - What the Idaho Legislature will do when it takes up the matter of an extramarital affair between two Republican lawmakers will push the body into uncharted waters.  Out there, on a sea of concern for institutional integrity, evolving public attitudes on morals bob alongside still-standing-but-seldom-enforced state laws against adultery.  View story.


Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article102434957.html#storylink=cpy

Kentucky - A first-term Republican in the state’s House of Representatives has apologized and says he will reimburse the Legislative Research Commission for postage after he sent cards emblazoned with the state’s seal soliciting votes in his 74th House District. View story.

Maryland - Ethics staff for the General Assembly are conducting a preliminary investigation into Del. Dan K. Morhaim's ties to the medical marijuana industry, according to three people with direct knowledge of the inquiry. The preliminary work precedes an Oct. 19 meeting of the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, where some of Morhaim's colleagues in the legislature will vote on whether to launch a full investigation into his conduct. Morhaim pushed to legalize medical marijuana in the state, advocated for the rules governing the industry and was a paid consultant for a company awarded two of the lucrative licenses to grow and dispense the drug. The investigation would consider whether he violated any state ethics laws. Read more.

Missouri - Ending the free flow of lobbyist gifts to Missouri lawmakers sat atop the legislative agenda heading into the 2016 session. And for a while, it looked destined for success. The Missouri House passed a gift ban just three weeks into the 2016 session, sending it to the Senate with four months to hammer out the details. In the end, many think it never really stood a chance. The bill ultimately died on the Senate floor, watered down and mired in amendments. Read more.

New Mexico - The New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office is reviewing an ethics complaint by a Republican state representative who alleges a Catholic charity behind the controversial New Mexico Truth advertisements broke state law by failing to report spending on the ads as lobbying activity. Read more.

New York - Governor Cuomo recently signed into law the highly anticipated "Ethics Reform Plan." The new law amended or added statutory provisions in four primary areas: (1) lobbying source of funding disclosures; (2) disclosures by tax exempt organizations; (3) independent expenditures related to campaign contributions; and (4) registration requirements for political consultants. Many of the changes take effect in late September, therefore, advocacy groups, political consulting firms, and other incorporated or unincorporated entities that lobby or contribute to New York political campaigns should quickly become familiar with the new requirements, particularly those dealing with disclosure and registration. Read more.

Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania’s government ethics agency said Tuesday a retired state Game Commission official who had once been considered for the agency’s top job agreed to pay a $75,000 ethics fine over his side business helping land owners negotiate natural gas drilling leases.The State Ethics Commission said the penalty was imposed as part of a consent agreement with William Capouillez, who in 2014 was among several people being looked at to become the hunting agency’s executive director. Read more.

Rhode Island - Supporters of restoring the R.I. Ethics Commission’s original authority over General Assembly members have the wind at their backs heading into the fall, based on a survey they commissioned that shows overwhelming support for the move. The poll conducted by Fleming & Associates on behalf of the Rhode Island Coalition for Ethics Reform found 78% of Rhode Island voters say they would vote to approve Question 2 on the November ballot, which would amend the state’s constitution to undo a 2009 R.I. Supreme Court decision that restricted the Ethics Commission’s ability to police legislative conflicts of interest. Read more.

Utah - The David Eccles School of Business Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, the Daniels Fund and the Community Foundation of Utah honored nine companies, nonprofits and government agencies at the third annual Utah Ethical Leadership Awards on Sept. 9, 2016. More than 30 organizations applied for the awards, and winners and finalists were announced at a breakfast award ceremony in the Bill & Pat Child Family Community Hall in the University of Utah Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building. Read more.

August

Kentucky - Kentucky’s legislative leaders approved a job classification plan and an updated personnel policy manual for the 320-person legislative staff on Wednesday – reforms suggested in a 2014 audit that found a severe dissatisfaction among the staff.  View story.

New York -  Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Wednesday that will install changes to the state's ethics laws. Government-reform advocates wanted him to veto the package he helped craft.  View story.

Washington - A state ethics panel is questioning whether Washington lawmakers should file fundraising reports for money they receive to help them attend national political conventions, like those that took place last month in Cleveland and Philadelphia.  View story.


Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article96067957.html#storylink=cpy

July

New Mexico - New Mexico is one of only eight states in the country that lacks an independent ethics commission.  Legislation introduced (but not passed) during 2016's legislative session was noted in Common Cause New Mexico's 2015-2016 Legislative Summary.  View story.

 A 2014 ethics complaint against former New Mexico state Sen. Phil Griego that triggered a secretive internal investigation and ultimately led to Griego’s resignation from the Senate was filed by ex-Rep. Stephanie Maez.  View story.

South Carolina - First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe was given the go-ahead Wednesday by the state Supreme Court to proceed with a grand jury investigation of legislative ethics in the wake of the long-concluded Bobby Harrell case. Since Mr. Pascoe and State Law Enforcement Director Mark Keel were ready to do so in March, there should be no further delay in resolving those lingering issues too.   View story.

H.3186 provides for more expansive statements of economic interests for public officials and others who are required to make these filings under the Ethics, Government Accountability, and Campaign Reform Act.   View story.

Tennessee - Tennessee House leaders have set an Aug. 5 deadline for representatives to sign two separate petitions calling for a special session.  The first petition is aimed at expelling scandal-ridden Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, about whom a number of state Capitol interns, staffers and lobbyists accused of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior in an investigation by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery.  View story.

June  

Alabama -   A jury on Friday found Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard guilty on 12 counts of public corruption — agreeing with prosecutors' assertions that the Republican used the power and prestige of his political offices to benefit his companies and clients.  View story.  

Speaking in sharp tones, Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard on Wednesday squared off with a state prosecutor over $2.3 million in business and investments Hubbard's companies received and emails Hubbard sent to his political mentor-turned-lobbyist asking for help finding a job.  View story.

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard took the witness stand in his own defense at his ethics trial Tuesday, saying he took precautions to obey state law with contracts his companies received and made "not a cent" from campaign work steered to his printing company.  View story.

New Mexico -  A judge ordered the New Mexico Legislature to turn over 15 subpoenaed documents to prosecutors as they pursue fraud charges against a former senator, the latest volley in a standoff about what correspondence and conversations among lawmakers and their advisers can be disclosed in court.  View story.

The state Legislative Council Service is asking a judge to nullify all subpoenas issued to legislators and legislative staff members in the corruption case of former state senator Phil Griego.  View story.

New York -  Two weeks after lawmakers left Albany, New Yorkers still have their doubts when it comes to ethics reform in the state legislature.  View story.

Amid a flurry of last-minute deal-making, state lawmakers Friday announced agreements to tighten ethics laws and extend Mayor de Blasio’s control of city schools by a year.  View story.

State legislators are close to agreeing on a plan under which elected officials would lose their pensions if found guilty of crimes related to their office.  View story.

As the state legislative session draws to a close, an ethics reform bill is being held up in the Assembly.  View story.

South Carolina -  For 65 years, volunteer League of Women Voters members have been committed to making democracy work in South Carolina and for the past four years, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina (LWVSC) has joined legislative supporters and other reformers to improve the transparency and accountability of our government through ethics reform. During the last hours of the 2016 session, the South Carolina General Assembly finally passed two ethics reform bills. Both are very significant steps toward better government.  View story.

Gov. Nikki Haley traveled to Easley on Thursday to sign two legislative ethics reform bills into law and to credit Sen. Larry Martin with getting the long-sidelined bills passed this year.  View story.

Lawmakers took a victory lap after passing ethics reform last week. But some political watchdogs say that while there are good things in the small steps taken, there’s much more that should be done.   View story.

After four years of debate about how to strengthen the state’s ethics laws, S.C. lawmakers may pass two changes to the rules governing public officials’ behavior later this month.  View story.


Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/the-buzz/article81851692.html#storylink=cpy

South Carolina lawmakers are steps away from stopping legislators from investigating themselves on ethics complaints.  A House-Senate panel on Tuesday ironed out their differences on one bill that would give an independent state ethics commission the power, for the first time, to investigate ethics complaints against lawmakers and determine whether a possible violation occurred.  View story.

May

USA - In nearly every corner of the world in recent years, from the Arab Spring to Latin America and many places in between, political turbulence has made clear that governments are unwise to shrug off their citizens’ growing concerns about corruption. It is a poison that erodes trust, robs citizens of their money and their future and stifles economic growth in the places that need it most.   View story.

Alabama  - What's been called "Alabama's trial of the century" got underway Monday against state House speaker Mike Hubbard, who's up against nearly two dozen felony corruption charges.  The Republican lawmaker was indicted 18 months ago on 23 criminal counts for a list of alleged violations. Among them, using his position of power and influence for personal gain and to benefit his businesses.  View story.

Illinois - Gov. Bruce Rauner has provided additional manpower after St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly asked him to reinstate the Illinois State Police’s Public Integrity Unit, which was disbanded in 2013 due to budget constraints. View story.

Kentucky - Companies and special interest groups spent an all-time high of $9.53 million lobbying Kentucky’s 2016 General Assembly, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission reported Tuesday.  View story.


Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/politics-government/article80972602.html#storylink=cpy

Missouri - Missouri lawmakers who want to become lobbyists soon will have to wait six months after their terms end under legislation signed Friday by Gov. Jay Nixon. View story.

Lobbyists could each pay for $40 worth of food per lawmaker per day under a proposal unveiled Wednesday by a Missouri senator that would impose the state’s first limits on lobbyist gifts. Sen. Dave Schatz’s plan would ban most gifts — such as sports tickets, travel or spa services — to lawmakers and public officials but would still leave them with a healthy limit for meals. It also would allow for honorary plaques worth up to $50 and would allow lobbyists to spend as much as they would like on meals if all lawmakers and statewide elected officials are invited three days in advance. View story.

When Missouri's 2016 legislative session began, top lawmakers were talking about the need for ethics reform.  As the clock ran out on the session, the Show Me State's ethics laws for lawmakers had been strengthened — but not as much as many had said was necessary.  View story.

New Jersey - In an effort to stem public corruption scandals, the state Senate on Monday unanimously passed a bill that would require all New Jersey elected officials undergo ethics training as soon as they're elected. View story. The bill (S84) mandates elected officials take the training within six months of their first term. Officials who skip out on the ethics education would face a $5,000 fine. View story.

New York - Corruption plaguing the state Legislature is reason to pass new laws to address the ongoing problem, New Yorkers said in a poll released Tuesday. The Siena College poll interviewed over 800 registered New York voters and found that 97 percent said it was important to pass new laws addressing corruption in state government.  View story.

State Assemblyman Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, on Wednesday announced he and Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, R-Troy, introduced legislation intended to “drain the swamp” of political corruption in Albany.  The legislation would restrict political contributions from companies bidding on government contracts, drastically reduce maximum contributions to candidates and political committees and impose eight-year term limits for legislative leaders.  View story.

With just a few weeks left until the end of the legislative session, a new poll finds New York voters are still craving reform in state government, and they’d rather not see a new law to expand state gambling by legalizing daily fantasy sports.  View story.

Rhode Island - As the Rhode Island General Assembly winds down for the year and lawmakers prepare to launch their re-election campaigns, Democratic leaders are dropping hot-button social issues as they search for a resolution to the ethical quandaries that have overshadowed the State House in recent weeks.  View story.

One week after the resignation of a key lawmaker, House and Senate leaders on Tuesday put their combined support behind a proposal to strengthen the state Ethics Commission and its oversight of the legislature.  View story.

South Carolina - In an effort to bring trust back into the Statehouse, members of the S.C. House and Senate are poised to agree on legislation that would create an independent panel to investigate lawmakers accused of wrongdoing.  View story.

Texas - For the past 20 years, state lawmakers could rely on a Texas statute to thwart political opponents from using video and audio recorded on the House and Senate floor in attack ads. That could soon change. A tea party House candidate challenging one of Speaker Joe Straus’ lieutenants in a runoff is suing the Texas Ethics Commission to strike down a law barring the use of footage produced by the Legislature in political ads. That includes archived audio and video from the floor of the House and Senate, along with committee hearings. View story.

April

Kentucky  - Businesses, organizations, and legislative agents spent $7.5 million lobbying in the first three months of the 2016 General Assembly, and if April spending continues at that pace, total spending for the session will easily eclipse the previous spending record of $8.8 million, set in 2012.  View story.

Louisiana - Looking at recent lobbying reports, one would think that Louisiana Rep. Chris Broadwater has been lavished with dinners from lobbyists. But as Broadwater noted in a recent House committee meeting, he didn’t attend many of the events where his name is listed in lobbyist disclosure reports and he wasn’t treated to nearly all the fancy steak dinners that were ascribed to him. View story.

Missouri - Missouri lawmakers, including those currently in office, would need to wait six months after the end of their terms before lobbying in the Capitol under a tentative compromise reached Wednesday by legislative negotiators. The proposal to end the revolving door of lawmakers-to-lobbyists - legislators can immediately lobby their former colleagues after leaving office - is part of a broader push to revamp ethics following the resignations of two former lawmakers who left office last year amid allegations of inappropriate behavior toward interns. View story.


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/the-buzz/article73936037.html#storylink=cpy

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday signed the first ethics bill to reach his desk since sexually-charged scandals last year led two members of the Legislature to leave office and spurred a drive to tighten the state's loose laws on the conduct of lawmakers. View story.

Missouri lawmakers aren’t quite ready to give up lobbyist freebies. Same goes for five- and six-figure campaign checks.  But they have passed bills prohibiting lawmakers from serving as paid political consultants while in office, forcing lawmakers to wait six months after their term ends before becoming paid lobbyists and establishing restrictions on use of campaign funds by former legislators. View story.

New Hampshire - Lawmakers who want to testify as members of a special interest group will have to disclose their role in that organization as a potential conflict of interest before they appear before a Senate or House committee, according to a 5-1 vote of the Legislative Ethics Committee on Monday. View story.

New Mexico - Former New Mexico state Sen. Phil Griego pleaded not guilty on Monday to fraud and bribery charges in a long-simmering political scandal over his role in the sale of a state-owned building. View story.

New York - For the past two weeks state legislators have been preoccupied by the New York presidential primary. View story.

New York's ethics commission reports registered lobbyists spent a record $243 million last year trying to influence state and local governments, up 17 percent from the year before. View story.

Uber and Lyft are poised for a lobbying push to bring the transportation technology companies to upstate New York. View story.

North Carolina - State Treasurer Janet Cowell sought the opinion of the State Ethics Commission before she agreed to serve on the board of directors of e-commerce technology company ChannelAdvisor. The commission, in a formal advisory opinion issued Feb. 12, ruled that the State Government Ethics Act did not prevent her from serving on corporate boards of directors or from accepting “compensation, food and beverages, and travel expenses directly related to that service.” View story.

Oklahoma - Lee Slater is resigning as executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Slater, 72, is retiring after three years in the leadership position at the panel, which is in charge of monitoring campaign finance reporting and investigating ethics complaints against public officials. View story.

Rhode Island - State Senator James Sheehan, who has been pushing for ethics reform, said this week there is "new hope" for a constitutional ethics amendment that would restore the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission over the core legislative acts of the members of the General Assembly. View story.

South Carolina - The South Carolina Senate is slated to begin debating a bill this week that would change how ethics complaints against legislators are investigated and also strengthen income-disclosure requirements. View story.

The South Carolina Senate's effort to pass an ethics overhaul imploded Thursday when a key provision requiring legislators and other government officials to disclose their private sources of income was derailed. View story.

After years of debating, the South Carolina Senate has passed a package of ethics reforms.  View story.

Tennessee - The multimillion-dollar business of influencing Tennessee's Legislature saw increased payments to lobbyists and a jump in expenditures by their clients on wining and dining last year, according to new figures compiled by the Tennessee Ethics Commission. View story.

Vermont - A state Senate committee is about done with its work on a bill to create a new state ethics commission, but there are challenges. Among them: The commission wouldn’t have any authority over the ethics of lawmakers. Key legislators say the state Constitution requires that the Legislature police itself and not delegate that authority to any other part of government. View story.

Virginia - The executive director of Virginia's ethics council has been shown the door just as the organization he helped build really gets rolling, apparently because some of the legislators who relied on him for advice thought he was an attorney.  View story.

March

Federal - OGE’s staff is hard at work preparing for the second National Government Ethics Summit here in Washington, D.C., on March 8-10, 2016. On March 7, 2016, OGE will also present a full-day symposium to provide beginner and advanced training for hundreds of government ethics officials who review financial disclosure reports. View story.

Kentucky - A total of 658 businesses and organizations were registered to lobby in the first month of the 2016 General Assembly and together with their legislative agents, they spent over $2.3 million on their lobbying efforts in the first four weeks of the session. View story.

Missouri - The Missouri Senate this week unanimously passed a bill that aims to restrict donations from campaign funds of legislators who become lobbyists. “It’s more about what you can do — if you decide to become a lobbyist — what you can do with your campaign funds,” Senate Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, told reporters late Thursday afternoon. “As you hear me say all the time, when you talk about ethics bills, it’s a lot about what passes and what doesn’t pass the smell test. And, you know, the ability to go into lobbying and then have a campaign account that’s active that you can use to dish out to people, is just not right.” View story.

Legislative ethics reform has been one of the Senate’s and House’s primary points of focus during the Second Regular Session of the 98th General Assembly. Obviously, any plan of attack that aims to improve Missouri’s ethical standards is going to be vast, nuanced and thorough. The General Assembly has been utilizing a targeted plan of attack to address this issue by introducing what are known as single-subject bills — specific, targeted legislation that can be combined with other pieces to address a problem as a whole. View story.

New Jersey - The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee adopted legislation sponsored by Senators Anthony Bucco and Christopher “Kip” Bateman to combat and prevent egregious violations of public trust and the illegal spending of taxpayer dollars by requiring all local officials to complete a training program on the Local Government Ethics Law. View story.

New York - A group of prominent public relations firms filed suit in federal court on Tuesday against New York State’s top ethics panel to stop it from putting into effect a recently adopted rule requiring disclosure of efforts to get editorial columns written for causes. View story.

A state assemblywoman from suburban Buffalo was punished on Wednesday after an ethics investigation found that she had sexually harassed a staff member in her office. View story.

State Assembly Democrats have introduced legislation that would increase public disclosure requirements for groups that lobby in New York. The bill, according to officials, would also specifically exempt from the definition of lobbying any communications with news outlets, including editorial boards. View story.

Ohio - DeWine OKs language for Ohio amendments on ethics. . . . The proposal has several provisions related to the General Assembly. They include a two-year ban on former legislators doing business with the legislature; limiting legislative salaries to no more than the median household income in the state; requiring the retention of legislative records for four years, and granting taxpayers standing to file lawsuits to compel legislative compliance with the state constitution. View story.

Oregon - Take The World's quiz on open government and open records in Oregon! View story.

Vermont - A Senate committee gave the go-ahead Tuesday to a bill that would create a State Ethics Commission.  The vote was 5-0 in the Government Operations Committee.  View story.

Wisconsin - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos made two appointments to the state's new Elections and Ethics Commissions on Friday. Vos selected former state Rep. Pat Strachota for the Ethics Commission, and Republican National Committeeman Steve King for the Elections Commission. The commissions will replace the Government Accountability Board starting June 30. Members will be political appointees and former judges chosen by legislative leaders and the governor. They'll oversee ethics, campaign finance, lobbying and elections in the state. View story.

February

Alaska - Former Gov. Sean Parnell’s legislative director has launched a lobbying career, registering her first client just after the conclusion of a legally required year-long waiting period. View story.

California - A bill that strengthens California’s conflict of interest laws and restores public trust and accountability was introduced today by Senator Tony Mendoza. SB 1011 will strengthen the conflict of interest law by expanding the definition of family and what constitutes a financial conflict of interest for public officials when voting on government contracts before any governmental body, board or commission of which that public officer is a member. View story.

Federal - The Senate Ethics Committee released its annual report this week declaring that for the ninth straight year, it imposed no disciplinary sanctions against anyone in 2015. Since 2007, the committee has received 613 allegations of wrongdoing and has summarily dismissed more than 90% of them. View story.

Kentucky – Who spent the most money on lobbying in January? There are 671 companies and associations registered to lobby the Kentucky General Assembly. View story.

Missouri - House Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) and Sens. Jill Schupp (D-St. Louis) and Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) addressed the need for ethics reform for the General Assembly. The panel was speaking to reporters at the 26th annual Missouri Press Association and The Associated Press Day at the Capitol. View story.

Sen. Ed Emery, a Lamar Republican whose district includes Cass County, supported House Bill 1979, which the state Senate passed last week. The bill held that politicians must wait until the end of their term before becoming lobbyists. View story.

Ethics reform running into resistance in the Missouri Senate. View story.

New Mexico - A measure to give New Mexico an independent ethics commission passed its second test unanimously Tuesday afternoon, but not without long debate. The bill, carried by Rep Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, establishes a body of nine people charged with weighing ethics complaints submitted to them against state government officials, employees and government contractors. View story.

State senators are beginning discussion on a proposed constitutional amendment to establish an independent ethics commission that would have the authority to investigate allegations of civil violations by state elected and non-elected officials. View story.

The New Mexico Legislature has abandoned efforts in an election year to establish an ethics commission that would oversee the conduct of public officials, lobbyists and state contractors. A proposed constitutional amendment to create an independent ethics agency died in a Senate committee on Tuesday after amendments were suggested that would rein in its authority to penalize violations and publicly disclose some ethics complaints. View story.

New York - Just days after expanding the definition of lobbyist to include some PR professionals, New York regulators are asking to what extent social media use could be considered lobbying. View story.

Frustrated by a lack of action in the legislature on ethics reform, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef put forth a new set of proposals that she says will clean up Albany’s culture of corruption. View story.

South Carolina - Lawmakers on Tuesday will discuss the case of former House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who last year was asked to repay more than $113,000 in campaign funds the panel ruled were misspent. Harrell said Monday he was not sure if he will attend the meeting and did not want to comment further. View story.

Virginia - The Senate Rules committee is where they change the rules. And on Thursday, with little fanfare, senators began the process of making significant changes to the rules governing one of the most controversial pieces of legislation passed last year: Ethics reforms embedded into the Conflict of Interest Act covering state and local government officials and legislators. View story.

Wisconsin - The first announced appointee to the new state ethics commission is the secretary of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, state officials said Tuesday. View Story.

January

Florida - Public corruption in the state is on the decline, according to government watchdog Integrity Florida. Still, the group says, there’s still work to be done to hold elected officials accountable. View story.

Tallahassee lobbyists would face stricter oversight and legislators would face new limits on outside employment under an ethics bill that moved ahead in a Senate committee Tuesday. The proposal faces a long road to passage and must clear three more committees before reaching the Senate floor. View story.

Hawaii - A high-profile nonprofit organization that advocates for health and human services in Hawaii has agreed to pay a $2,000 penalty to settle charges it violated the state’s lobbying law by failing to disclose its lobbying-related expenditures over the past three years, according to a summary of the case made public last month by the Hawaii State Ethics Commission. View story.

Kentucky - Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan who recently secured the convictions of two top New York lawmakers, on Wednesday said the blame for corruption lies not only with bad actors but also with the “good people” who don’t try to stop it. Mr. Bharara’s speech at the Kentucky General Assembly’s annual ethics training was his first before a full state legislature. It came at the request of Kentucky state officials. View story.

Missouri - Following a legislative session plagued by scandal and gridlock, new leaders in both the Missouri House and Senate have pledged to work together more cooperatively on issues, including ethics reform. View story.

Missouri lawmakers could lock horns over new lobbying rules. View story.
New Mexico - Governor Susana Martinez will be adding ethics bills to the agenda for the upcoming legislative session.  View story.

New York – The opening of New York State’s 239th legislative session looked and sounded very much as it has in years gone by, what with its ceremonial prayers, promises of hard work and bipartisan cooperation, and all manner of handshakes, hugs and how-ya-beens. Yet under the bonhomie was a distinct sense of what was different — and missing — from the annual first-day swirl: Sheldon Silver and Dean G. Skelos, the Democrat who led the Assembly and the Republican who led the Senate. Both men were recently convicted on federal corruption charges. View story.

Legislation geared toward reforming ethics in state government passed in the Senate on Tuesday. The bill would set into eight-year term limits for leadership positions in the Senate and Assembly and would limit the number of consecutive years a legislator can serve as a committee chair. The measure passed in the Senate last year, but died in the State Assembly. View story.

An advisory opinion that would expand the scope of individuals regulated by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics has gained support and inspired opposition from those already registered with the commission and those who might be. The state’s top ethics agency is seeking to require consultants and public relations professionals who are paid to influence the passage of legislation to disclose information about how much they’re being paid and what bills they’re attempting to pass or defeat. View story.

South Carolina - Ahead of the start of the 2016 legislative session next week, lawmakers and budget experts from across the state met with South Carolina news reporters to preview topics expected to arise in the coming year. Funding for transportation infrastructure improvements, ethics reform and education remain top issues. View story.

South Dakota - The South Dakota Legislature will consider a variety of topics in their upcoming session, including the creation of an ethics commission.  View story.

Washington - Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has proposed a bill to establish a one-year lobbying prohibition for former high-ranking state officials. The update to state ethics laws would also require disclosure of where former officials are employed after state service. Under current law, many state officials and employees can leave a state job on Friday and start work on Monday as a lobbyist paid to influence former colleagues. View story.

Ethics in the News | 2015

December

California. Whitney Secor Ayers, the new Orange County vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC) has been warned twice this year about violating the county’s ex-employee ethics policy on lobbying, according to interviews and emails obtained by Voice of OC. View story.

Federal. It’s been more than seven years since the three major federal ethics agencies were last reauthorized. Members of a House panel on Wednesday expressed hope they could remedy that situation, but they first demanded that the agency heads justify their roles and display more aggressiveness in tackling misbehavior at agencies such as the Veterans Affairs Department and the Secret Service. View story.

Maine. Maine’s ethics commission on Wednesday assessed its first penalty under a 2006 law that requires lobbyists to disclose who they are representing when testifying before a legislative committee. View story.

Missouri. As he gears up for a state senate seat race against fellow Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, pre-filed just four bills Tuesday. Rowden’s bills all encompass lobbying reform. Lobbying has become a sensitive issue in Jefferson City the past year as scandals have rocked the capital and increased reporting and outcry on how candidates use lobbying firms to finance their campaigns. Others have denounced what they see as a “revolving door” between politicians and lobbyists, as politicians leave the Capitol to join lobbying firms. View story.

New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday briefly previewed what may be included in his 2016 ethics and campaign finance reform package, including making closure of the "LLC loophole" a priority. View story.

North Carolina. A Republican state House member has filed an ethics complaint against a fellow Republican, House Rules Chairman David Lewis of Dunn, over legislative maneuvering that might have benefited a friend and campaign donor of Lewis. View story.

Washington. OLYMPIA — A state ethics board this year imposed a hard limit on how many free meals state lawmakers may take from lobbyists: 12 a year. Now, questions have arisen that vex special interests, politicos and bellies alike: What counts as a meal? View story.

Wisconsin. The soon-to-be-eliminated Government Accountability Board promises a smooth transition to the new elections-and-ethics commissions Governor Scott Walker approved Wednesday. View story.

November

Federal. Government ethics dominates Facebook chatter before debate. Government ethics was the most-discussed political topic on Facebook within the last month, the company said on Tuesday. View story.

Florida. If adopted by the Florida Legislature and signed into law, the Misuse of Public Office Act would reduce state attorneys' legal burdens to prosecute public officials for bribery, bid-rigging and fraud. Government contractors also would be defined as "public servants" who are subject to corruption laws. View story.

Missouri. Nixon, legislative leaders share quest for stiffer ethics laws. Since taking office in 2009, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has regularly called for stricter ethics laws for public officials – and a return of the state’s campaign-donation limits, which were repealed in 2008. View story.

New Mexico. Once again, there is a call for ethics reforms. Last week, House Democrats convened a news conference — held in front of Duran’s former office — to announce they will be sponsoring specific bills to try to root out and punish government corruption in the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 19. View story.

New York. In late October 2015, the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) released a draft Advisory Opinion that would overturn a nearly 20-year-old ethics opinion regarding political activities by public office holders and their employees. This proposal could have a significant impact on campaign fundraising practices for some New York State office holders and candidates. View story.

North Carolina. Two ethics complaints filed against Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this year have been thrown out by the North Carolina State Ethics Commission. View story.

Oregon. Gov. Kate Brown's promise to pass public records reforms next year — fallout from the scandal that toppled Gov. John Kitzhaber — seemed to take on new urgency when Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum appointed a task force last month to take up the fight. View story.

South Carolina. Lawmakers are giving former state House Speaker Bobby Harrell one month to prepare his argument for the Legislative Ethics Committee that using campaign funds to cover his legal fees isn't illegal. View story.

Texas. The Texas Ethics Commission has set its sights on large lump sum payments to consultants from campaigns and political action committees — six-figure totals, on occasion, that are disclosed on campaign finance reports only as “consulting” or “consulting fees.” View story.

October

ALABAMA.  The Alabama Ethics Commission recently revised an earlier decision and made it clear that legislators cannot lobby other state officials on behalf of their employers.  In September, the Commission had ruled differently holding a legislator could advocate and vote on issues back by her employer so long as there was no direct financial interest involved.  View story.

MISSOURI.  Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri is calling for bipartisan work on ethics reform.  When legislators return to work in January, they will be presented with a series of ethics reforms for their consideration.  View story.

NEW YORK. Uber Technologies spent $369,000 between January and June of this year on lobbying expenses in New York, according to documents filed by the company with the state Joint Commission on Lobbying Ethics. View story.

NORTH CAROLINA. North Carolina's State Ethics Commission got a little extra taxpayer money from the General Assembly to catch up on its duties of scrutinizing thousands of government officials for potential conflicts or missteps. View story.

VIRGINIA.  The Governor’s Commission to Ensure Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government voted unanimously to adopt a set of eight new recommendations for the 2016 legislative session.  The panel also recommended new limits on gifts from personal friends, an outright ban on the personal use of campaign funds and widening the ban on political fundraising during legislative sessions to include veto sessions and special sessions lasting more than one day.  View story

WISCONSIN.  The Wisconsin legislature is considering a proposal to eliminate the Government Accountability Board (GAB) which was intended to provide an independent body to investigate violations of the state’s ethics and election laws.  The proposal is to replace the current GAB with an independent commission made up of appointees from the legislative leaders of both parties as well as former local election clerks to be appointed by the governor.  View story.

 
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