Compliance Notes - Vol. 3, Issue 28
RECENT LOBBYING, ETHICS & CAMPAIGN FINANCE UPDATES
We read the news, cut through the noise and provide you the notes.
Welcome to Compliance Notes from Nossaman’s Government Relations & Regulation Group – a periodic digest of the headlines, statutory and regulatory changes and court cases involving campaign finance, lobbying compliance, election law and government ethics issues at the federal, state and local level.
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Campaign Finance & Lobbying Compliance
Senator Raphael Warnock's (D-Ga.) use of campaign funds to cover legal expenses for a lawsuit relating to his time as a church pastor is raising questions about whether the transactions violate federal rules governing the personal use of campaign funds. While the allegations date back 17 years ago and do not involve Senator Warnock as a member of Congress or a candidate for office, his campaign maintains the expenditures were permissible because the lawsuit was filed while he was in office. (Natalie Allison, POLITICO)
Missouri: Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) signed a new law that includes the Personal Privacy Protection Act, which prevents government agencies from forcing nonprofits to disclose their donors, volunteers or supporters and allows certain limited liability companies (LLCs) to contribute to candidates. The provision, which goes into effect on August 28, also closes any records or lists maintained by public agencies that contain the identity of supporters. Exceptions are allowed during litigation when there is a demonstrated "compelling need" and the information would not be disclosed outside of those named in the lawsuit. Exceptions also apply for the Missouri Ethics Commission, which may subpoena the information during investigations. (Tessa Weinberg, Missouri Independent)
Oklahoma: An investigation by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission into the fundraising efforts of an Oklahoma political action committee (PAC), the Republican Senatorial Committee, resulted in a settlement agreement. The PAC will pay a total of $62,750 to the state's general revenue fund, including a $25,000 civil penalty and a $37,750 fine (the value of the impermissible contributions accepted by the PAC). The PAC, which has supported candidates for the state senate for almost 20 years, also agreed to dissolve. (Barbara Hoberock, Tulsa World)
Government Ethics & Transparency
Hawaii: Former Hawaii lawmaker J. Kalani English (D) was sentenced to more than three years in prison and fined $100,000 for accepting thousands of dollars in bribes to influence wastewater policy. English was arrested in January 2021 after an FBI investigation revealed he accepted more than $18,000 in cash and gifts, including meals and hotel rooms, in exchange for influencing the course of wastewater legislation. English must report to a federal detention center on August 16. (Blaze Lovell, Honolulu Civil Beat)
Elections & Ballot Measures
Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an immediate order rejecting the state's GOP challenge to a new law that expands early voting options and makes no-excuse mail voting permanent. The GOP argued that the new law, the VOTES Act, is unconstitutional and that expanded mail voting is vulnerable to fraud. On the other hand, the Attorney General argued that the GOP failed to articulate a plausible claim that the VOTES Act poses a threat to secure voting. The court will issue a full opinion explaining its reasoning at a later date. (Erin Doherty, Axios)
Oregon: Oregon's Secretary of State's Office confirmed that an initiative petition discouraging legislative walkouts received enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The proposal is meant to severely curtail the ability of the minority party to freeze legislative action by walking out of the Capitol. Under current procedural rules set out in the state constitution, for a legislative chamber to conduct business, two-thirds of the chamber's lawmakers must be present. If the measure passes, it will prevent lawmakers with 10 or more unexcused absences in a legislative session from seeking reelection. (Dirk VanderHart, OPB)