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Ethics in the News 2020

November 26, 2020

Ethics in the News is a monthly summary of ethics and lobbying-related articles published in 2020, 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.


Federal - Ethics rules can complicate plans to go work for the government or recruit from the government. View story.

During his candidacy, President-elect Joe Biden was the first presidential candidate to be statutorily obligated to file a transition team ethics plan with the General Services Administration (GSA), pursuant to the Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019. View story.

A coalition of over 170 good government, racial justice, voting rights, environmental and other groups released a report on Tuesday outlining immediate actions the incoming Biden administration should take to bolster public disclosures and shore up ethics policies. View story.


Europe - Making Artificial Intelligence ethical, safe and innovative: MEPs approved proposals to address long-term opportunities and legal challenges posed by AI in the area of ethics, civil liability and intellectual property. View story.

North Dakota - Just a little more than a year into their existence, the State’s Ethics Commission has already passed new anti-gift rules for lobbyists and lawmakers. But with the session only a few months away, they’re looking to other states for how to handle conflicts of interest. View story.


California - The Ethics in Government Act (EGA) is found in California’s Government Code Title 9, which concerns political reform, Chapter 9.5, related to ethics. Section 89500 specifies that the chapter is known as the Ethics in Government Act of 1990. Chapter 9.5 contains the following four articles: Article 1 Honoraria, Sections 89501 – 89502; Article 2 Gifts, Sections 89503 – 89503.5; Article 3 Travel, Section 89506; Article 4 Campaign Funds, Sections 89510 – 89522. View story.


Federal - A law prohibiting obstruction of Congress does not apply to schemes targeting the House’s Office of Congressional Ethics, a federal appeals court declared Tuesday. View story.

Vermont -  The Vermont State Ethics Commission is seeking public input on a draft code of ethics for elected and public officials. Two legislative bills asked the panel to submit a draft to the Legislature, which it plans to do in the fall. View story.


Montana - The Montana speaker of the House has denied a request by a watchdog group asking a Republican state lawmaker be investigated for an ethics violation, saying the Legislature is not in session, the issue is likely moot and the official had made the proper disclosures. View story.

New Mexico - The state Court of Appeals has ruled that part – but not all – of New Mexico’s anti-corruption law is too vague to be enforced. View story.


Worldwide - Governments worldwide have responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with sweeping constraints on freedom of movement, including various forms of isolation, quarantine, and ‘lockdown’. Governments have also introduced new legal instruments to guarantee the lawfulness of their measures. View story.

Federal - Many people argue their point of view by claiming it is in the U.S. Constitution. The founding document thus becomes one of the most frequently cited to make a point, yet mostly unread. The next time someone claims their viewpoint is from the Constitution, ask them to tell you where specifically it can be found.

There is a good reason that Congress has such a low approval rating. Many Americans believe that the bigger the check, the more influence a corporation or person can have on a politician. View story.

The FBI served a warrant to GOP Sen. Richard Burr as part of its investigation into his sale of stocks ahead of the market crash due to the coronavirus, according to reports. ... Sens. Burr, R-N.C.; Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.; Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga.; and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; their spouses or advisers sold stocks around the time lawmakers received briefings about the severity of the coronavirus, financial disclosure forms showed. View story.

The Supreme Court will face its most politically potent case of the term on Tuesday when the justices hear arguments in a landmark dispute over access to President Trump’s financial records and tax returns. View story.

Colorado - Colorado Senate hopeful and former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is under fire for a controversy surrounding an ethics investigation into travel during his tenure as governor. View story.


Federal - We Need Ethical Banking In The Era Of COVID-19. In the current environment of medical and economic uncertainty, we all find ourselves desperately seeking safety and stability.  In such times of uncertainty, cash is king. And who are those fortunate enough to be trusted with that cash? Big banks.

Georgia - A split Georgia ethics commission on Tuesday backed a 30-year-old state law that bans legislators from raising campaign money until a legislative session is over. The commission voted 3-2 for an advisory opinion that says lawmakers can’t raise money while the  General Assembly’s session is suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. View story.

Illinois - There was some tangible legislative fallout from the coronavirus outbreak last week. The task force charged with making recommendations for beefing up state ethics laws missed its end of March deadline for delivering its recommendations. 


United States - Congress moves to end its crisis over insider trading on outbreak. View story.

This is an opportunity to take an introspective look at yourself, to think about what you most value, to consider how you will live a meaningful life. View story.

Connecticut - The latest executive order from Gov Lamont suspends limitations on gifts that were enacted after the corruption scandal that sent John Rowland to prison in 2005. It also takes limits off political campaign contributions. Lamont says he needs the flexibility to accept donations of protective medical equipment and other items during the coronavirus crisis. View story.

Maryland - Maryland’s House of Delegates has passed a package of campaign finance reform legislation aimed at preventing corruption and helping the State Board of Elections investigate wrongdoing. View story.

New Hampshire - A committee in the New Hampshire House is unanimously backing a bill to require lawmakers to recuse themselves when they have a “special interest” in a bill's outcome.

New York - As federal, state and local governments grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak, a number of jurisdictions have modified certain ethics, lobbying and campaign finance requirements in response to the crisis. View story.


United States - When the Gallup organization surveys Americans each year on which occupations they rate highest for honesty and ethics, the same profession has topped the list for 18 years: nursing. As a registered nurse for more than two decades and a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) for the last dozen years, I am grateful for the trust patients place in us — but I also know that it’s time to modernize the way we view the role nurses play in the healthcare team. View story.

California - Ethics in the California Legislature is an important topic. As such, both houses of the Legislature have their own ethics committees. The Senate has adopted an official Code of Conduct for its members, while the Assembly has not. Nonetheless, both houses have extensive ethics and conflicts of interest rules, and both are bound by constitutional and statutory ethics rules as well. View story.

Kentucky - The Kentucky House voted Friday to strengthen the legislative ethics code by adding sexual harassment to the list of violations. View story.

Maine - A Republican member of the state ethics commission has stepped down, leaving the panel with just three of the five members it is authorized to have as Maine heads into the 2020 election cycle. View story.

New Mexico - New Mexico’s new Ethics Commission reported Friday it had received no complaints so far about ethical lapses and potential corruption involving public employees, contractors, lobbyists, and political candidates. View story.

Vermont - Senators moved a step closer Thursday to creating a code of ethics for state officials and lawmakers, but approving that code and giving teeth to an ethics commission created three years ago remain at least a year away. View story.


Illinois - Illinois lawmakers hear more about how to address conflicts of interest in government (testimony from NCSL Nicholas Birdsong).

Illinois legislators say they expect ethics reform to be among the top priorities in the upcoming session after a federal investigation shook up the state in 2019. View story.

Kentucky - The top two leaders of Kentucky’s General Assembly say they’re tired of hearing lies. House Speaker David Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers are considering a rule change that would require witnesses who testify during legislative committee meetings to be sworn in under oath, possibly subjecting them to perjury charges if they lie. View story.

Maryland - Reports of discrimination in the State House complex were down last year, according to an annual report reviewed by lawmakers on Friday. View story.

New Mexico - New Mexico voters ended decades of debate in 2018 by approving an independent ethics commission to investigate allegations of wrongdoing against state officeholders and others. View story.

In a November 2018 referendum, New Mexicans voted by a more than 75% margin to approve an amendment to the state constitution creating an independent ethics commission. With the advent of the new year, the State Ethics Commission begins its work. View story.

North Dakota - The new director said he will use his background as an attorney and ethics counselor for the National Guard to help the commission create rules and procedures for handling complaints of ethical misconduct. View story.

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