Compliance Notes - Vol. 3, Issue 36
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
Washington: A court ruled Facebook's parent company Meta repeatedly and intentionally violated Washington's campaign advertising transparency law and must pay penalties that have yet to be determined. The court also denied Meta's attempt to invalidate the decades-old transparency law, which the attorney general's office has repeatedly sued Meta for its failure to abide by. Washington's transparency law requires sellers of advertisements, such as Meta, to disclose the names and addresses of political ad buyers, the targets of such ads and the total number of views of each ad. Sellers of advertisements must also provide the information to anyone who asks for it. Meta, however, has repeatedly objected to these requirements, arguing that Washington's law is an "outlier" that "unduly burdens political speech" and is "virtually impossible to comply with." The court rejected Meta's arguments, finding the company had failed to show it could not comply. (Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times)
Government Ethics & Transparency
Attorney General Merrick Garland changed longstanding agency policy by implementing new restrictions on the political activities of political appointees at the Department of Justice (DOJ), including restricting their participation in partisan political events. Previous DOJ policy permitted political appointees to attend partisan events in their personal capacities if they obtained approval and participated passively, but Garland's announcement banned such participation, even for private events. Previous DOJ policy also allowed political appointees to attend partisan events during presidential election years when close family members were running for office, but Garland's new policy also eliminated that exception. Amid intense public scrutiny, Garland emphasized the need to maintain public trust and ensure politics do not affect or compromise the agency's work. (Zach Schonfeld, The Hill)
New York: The committee tasked with reviewing nominations for New York's new ethics and lobbying oversight panel rejected three out of 10 nominations while confirming seven others. The New York State Independent Review Committee (IRC) unanimously rejected the nomination of Gary Lavine, a former longtime commissioner on New York's prior ethics body, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The IRC also failed to reach a consensus on Robert Torres, a retired state Supreme Court justice with over 25 years of judicial experience, and Attorney General Letitia James's sole appointee to the body, nominee Emily Jane Goodman, who also previously served as a state Supreme Court justice. The lawmakers who appointed the rejected nominees could either select new nominees for the IRC’s review or challenge the rejections of their initial nominees in court. (Chris Bragg, Albany Times Union)
Elections & Voting
New Mexico: A judge ordered that Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, who was convicted of participating in the January 6 Capitol riot, be removed and disqualified from serving in public office, making Griffin the first public official in more than 100 years to be barred from serving under a constitutional ban on insurrectionists holding office. The judge ruled that under the 14th Amendment, Griffin is barred from serving as an elected official because he took part in the "insurrection after taking his oath." Even though Griffin did not personally engage in violence, he aided the riot by inciting, encouraging and normalizing violence and delayed Congress' election-certification proceedings by trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds. Erin Doherty, Axios)
Wisconsin: A federal court struck down the Wisconsin Election Commission's guidance requiring absentee ballots to be returned by the voter without assistance from a third party or agent, ruling that Wisconsin voters with disabilities have a right to assistance when returning their absentee ballots. The court determined the commission's guidance violated Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act, which entitles those with disabilities the right to have assistance when voting. (Harm Venhuizen, Associated Press)