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.
Please enjoy this installment of Compliance Notes.
Campaign Finance & Lobbying Compliance
Arizona: Republican Sen. T.J. Shope said he plans to investigate how Gov. Katie Hobbs hired a private security guard while she was the state’s top election official and a gubernatorial candidate last year without disclosing the payments on campaign finance reports. State law requires candidates to disclose in-kind contributions, such as services or goods that don’t involve a monetary donation directly to a campaign. Hobbs, however, distinguished that the security officer was hired to protect her in her official capacity as secretary of state and not a campaign expenditure. (Stacey Barchenger, Arizona Republic) (subscripton required)
Indiana: The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that state law bans unlimited corporate contributions to independent political action committees, or super PACs, even as the state acknowledges such a ban would be unconstitutional. The court ruled that because the law specifically lays out which groups corporations can give to and at what limits, corporations therefore can’t contribute anything to super PACs since they are not mentioned. The court acknowledged that both sides expect the federal court to stop the state from enforcing the ban. (Brandon Smith, IPB News)
Nevada: The Washoe County Board of County Commissioners voted to adopt an ordinance requiring paid lobbyists to identify themselves when providing public comment at commission meetings. The final ordinance is a stripped-down version of a draft presented in August, which would also have required lobbyists to register with the county each year and disclose their clients. Now, lobbyists must disclose their status when providing public comment before the commission, but they are still not required to register with the county. (Kristen Hackbarth, This Is Reno)
Government Ethics & Transparency
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and his wife were indicted last week for bribery in connection with their relationship with three New Jersey businessmen, according to prosecutors and court records. The indictment alleges that Menendez and his wife accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for using” the senator’s “power and influence to ... seek to protect and enrich” the businessmen. The indictment also alleges that Menendez “provided sensitive U.S. government information” that “secretly aided” the government of Egypt. Menendez resigned from his post as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but said he will not resign his Senate seat. (Erin Doherty, Axios and Erin Doherty, Axios)
Arizona: The Citizens Clean Elections Commission adopted a rule that adds new disclosure requirements for political advertisements on air and in print. While existing laws already require political ads to list a disclosure of who paid for it, the new rule requires those disclaimers to spell out the three largest sources of funds that bought the ad. The rule also lists the required size and time the disclosure must be visible. (Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services)
Missouri: Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher faces allegations he threatened to terminate the employment of a nonpartisan legislative staffer who resisted his months-long push to hire a private company to manage constituent information. Last week, Dana Miller, chief clerk of the House since 2018 and a chamber staff member since 2001, wrote in an email to a GOP lawmaker about “threats made by Speaker Plocher concerning my future employment.” Miller noted Plocher made statements to her “connecting this contract with campaign activity,” suggesting Plocher’s motivation was his 2024 campaign for lieutenant governor, and expressed that she had “growing concerns of unethical and perhaps unlawful conduct.” In a statement to The Independent, Plocher insists that every action he took while pushing for the House to consider contracting with a private company was “open and transparent” and in the interest of “delivering efficient services to Missourians.” (Jason Hancock, Missouri Independent)
Ballot Measures & Legislation
Missouri: A Cole County judge ruled that the Secretary of State’s summary statements of six initiative petitions seeking to enshrine the right to abortion in the state Constitution were “argumentative” or unfairly biased and rewrote the ballot titles himself. The judge wrote that the problematic phrases include statements that the initiatives would allow “dangerous, unregulated and unrestricted abortions,” that abortion would be allowed “from conception to live birth” and could be performed by anyone “without requiring a medical license” or “potentially being subject to medical malpractice.” The Secretary of State’s office said it would appeal the ruling. (Rudi Keller, Missouri Independent)
Wisconsin: A bipartisan group of lawmakers revived a push to implement ranked-choice voting and nonpartisan blanket primaries in Wisconsin. Under the bill, U.S. House and Senate candidates would compete in a single statewide primary regardless of their political party, with the top five finishers advancing to the general election. Voters in the general election would then rank candidates in order of preference, a system that ensures winners are chosen by a majority. Supporters of ranked-choice voting say it will decrease polarization by pushing candidates to appeal to more than just their party and will encourage independent and third-party candidates. Critics say the system is too complicated and could be abused by voters who want to game it. Ranked-choice voting has been adopted in Maine and Alaska and proposed in numerous state legislatures in recent years. (Harm Venhuizen, AP News)