Compliance Notes - Vol. 4, Issue 25
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
New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy exercised his power under a new campaign finance law to appoint four new commissioners to New Jersey’s campaign finance watchdog agency, the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). The bipartisan slate of new ELEC members includes former state bar association president Tom Prol, former Assembly member Ryan Peters, former deputy attorney general Norma Evans and local prosecutor Jon-Henry Barr. Prol, the chairman, will serve a three-year term along with Peters. Evans and Clark will serve two-year terms. (AP News)
North Carolina: A federal judge gave former North Carolina congressional candidate Lynda Bennett 12 months of probation and ordered her to pay a fine and fee totaling $7,600 for a campaign finance violation related to a loan from a family member. Prosecutors alleged Bennett borrowed $25,000 from a family member in late 2019, representing that she needed the money for personal expenses. According to prosecutors, shortly after depositing the money, Bennett caused $80,000, including the $25,000 in loaned funds, to be transferred into her campaign committee. Prosecutors alleged Bennett reported through her campaign the entire $80,000 was a loan using her personal funds rather than disclosing some funds came from another person. Bennett pleaded guilty to one count of accepting contributions in the name of another in March, which is a felony. (AP News)
Government Ethics & Transparency
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) issued a warning letter against White House press secretary Karine Jean‐Pierre for violating the Hatch Act when she referred to “mega MAGA Republican officials who don’t believe in the rule of law” ahead of November’s midterm elections while acting in her official capacity. The Hatch Act restricts government employees from engaging in partisan political activities. While the Chief of the OSC Hatch Act Unit stated in a letter that Jean‐Pierre violated the Hatch Act prohibition against using her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election, OSC did not pursue any disciplinary action against Jean‐Pierre. (Rebecca Falconer, Axios)
California: The Los Angeles County District Attorney charged Los Angeles Councilman Curren Price in a pay-to-play scheme for allegedly having a financial interest in projects that he voted on and having the city pay for medical benefits for his now-wife while he was still married to another woman. Price, who stepped down as the council’s president pro tempore and relinquished all other leadership responsibilities, is facing five counts of embezzlement of government funds, three counts of perjury and two counts of conflict of interest. (Rebecca Falconer, Axios)
Arizona: The Arizona Supreme Court ruled a law criminalizing per-signature payment is constitutional, unanimously agreeing the law doesn’t violate the First Amendment rights of petition circulators. The court determined the law was not broadly restrictive. (AP News)
Ohio: If voters pass State Issue 1 this August, Ohio would set some of the highest hurdles for citizen-initiated state constitutional amendments in the country. State Issue 1 would increase–from 50% to 60%–the percentage of state voters whom would have to vote “yes” to pass future proposed amendments. The proposal also would weed out potential citizen-initiated amendments. It would make it more difficult for those amendments to qualify for the ballot in the first place by requiring amendment campaigns to gather a minimum number of voter signatures from all 88 Ohio counties, compared to 44 counties now. State Issue 1 also would eliminate a 10-day “cure period” during which amendment campaigns can collect additional signatures if their first batch falls short. (Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland.com)