Summary of New Campaign Finance, Ethics & Lobbying Laws Nationwide

National Law Review: “The New Year brings with it new laws governing campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics. Below we highlight some of the major state and federal laws that took effect on or around January 1. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but highlights some of the most significant changes that are new for 2015. In addition to the new laws outlined below, many state legislative sessions are starting up. Some states prohibit campaign finance activity during the session, so proceed with caution.”

VT House Creates First-Ever Ethics Panel

Seven Days; “The panel will be charged with investigating complaints of ethical violations committed by House members and will be empowered to recommend disciplinary actions to the body as a whole. The five-member committee will also oversee the creation of a new, online database disclosing members’ employment and board service.”

“Ethical issues loomed large last year after retired Wall Street banker Bruce Lisman and the advocacy group he founded, Campaign for Vermont, proposed a far-reaching set of recommendations for increased disclosure within state government. In response, Smith appointed Sweaney, who chairs the House Committee on Government Operations, to lead a group studying the House’s policies.”

NC Leaders Push Ethics Reforms, Disclosure

News Observer: “Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue and House Democratic Leader Larry Hall of Durham said legislation would be introduced to ban outside earned income, including deferred compensation, for elected state officials, and require more detailed disclosure of financial interests, similar to federal reporting requirements.”

MO SoS Proposes Ethics, Lobbying, Campaign Finance Overhaul

Sedalia News Journal (1/5): “Secretary of State Jason Kander today announced legislation to overhaul Missouri’s worst-in-the-nation ethics, lobbying and campaign finance laws. The comprehensive approach is contained in a series of bills filed on Kander’s behalf by Representatives Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City), Randy Dunn (D-Kansas City), Tracy McCreery (D-Olivette) and Jon Carpenter (D-Gladstone).

“Provisions in the bills include campaign contribution limits, a ban on lobbyist gifts to elected officials and their staff, improvements in transparency, mandatory ethics training for state officials, an end to the legislator-to-lobbyist revolving door, whistleblower protections for individuals reporting wrongdoing and stiffer criminal penalties for obstructing ethics investigations.”

“Current Missouri law allows politicians to accept both unlimited campaign contributions and unlimited lobbyist gifts. Kander’s plan would prohibit politicians from collecting six-figure donations and free sports tickets. It would also put an end to the political money laundering practice of a campaign receiving contributions from a political action committee that is funded primarily by one person who has already reached his or her contribution limit by creating the presumption that a law has been broken. It places the burden on the politician to prove otherwise.

MO Leg. Introduces Lobbying, Disclosure Reforms as Outside Groups Push Gift, Contribution Limits

Columbia Tribune: “The bill filed Tuesday by Rowden would ban gifts, bar legislators from working as lobbyists for two years after they leave office and prevent them from soliciting lobbying jobs while in office. It also would require subcontracting lobbyists hired by principal lobbyists to disclose the actual client being served and make it illegal for the governor to offer jobs in exchange for votes on legislation. He addresses campaign finance issues by requiring that legislators and statewide elected officials disclose donations greater than $500 within 48 hours during legislative sessions. Rowden’s proposal would control anonymous campaign funding by not-for-profit companies by requiring any not-for-profit that spends more than 25 percent of its budget on politics to disclose all of its donors. The seven bills filed today, four by Rowden and three by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, cover many of the same issues but do not include a ban on lobbying gifts. Instead, Barnes filed bills for faster and more detailed reporting.”

Following Bipartisn Scandals, MO May Consider Ethics Reforms

Columbia Tribune: “In October, the Kansas City Star reported House Speaker Tim Jones, House Majority Leader John Diehl and three other lawmakers were treated to a $3,000 meal Aug. 1 while attending an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in Dallas. Seven lobbyists who split the bill reported the meal as being provided to the ‘entire General Assembly’ while five others reported it was provided to the lawmakers who actually attended.”

“Later that month, the New York Times, in an investigation of lobbying influence on state attorneys general, reported Koster dropped an investigation of deceptive advertising practices by the makers of 5-Hour Energy drink after being lobbied at a meeting of the Democratic Attorneys General Association in Santa Monica, Calif.

“Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard of Joplin, in the only bill he has filed for the upcoming session, addresses issues raised in those reports. His bill would bar out-of-state travel and entertainment paid for by lobbyists and would require invitations 48 hours in advance for any meal or entertainment reported as being provided to the full House, Senate or both.

“Other provisions in Richard’s bill would bar lawmakers from hiring colleagues as political consultants and make retiring lawmakers wait two years before taking a job as a lobbyist.”

WI Ethics Comm. Chief Refutes Assembly Speaker’s Criticisms, Calls for Legislators to Work with Commission

The Star: Republican Assembly Speaker Robin, “Vos likes that the board, which the Legislature created in 2007, is led by six former judges appointed by the governor to staggered six-year terms. But he feels these judges are being manipulated by [general counsel Kevin] Kennedy and other staff into serving as ‘a rubber stamp.'”

“Board Chair Thomas Barland finds Vos’ criticism ‘grossly exaggerated and sensationalized.’ Gerald Nichol, a board member since 2008, says he’s “never felt misled” by staff. Both praise Kennedy, whom only the board can remove.

Barland, a former Republican lawmaker, laments that in his five years on the GAB ‘no member of either house of the Legislature has contacted me before making public calls for changes in how the board operates.’ Nichol, a former Republican district attorney, sees a need to tweak some GAB rules but is likewise miffed that lawmakers ‘never come to us’ for input.”