Weekly Recap Ethics News and Trends – February 17, 2014

by Best Best & Krieger LLP
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Public servants with the utmost integrity also need to be aware of what is happening ethically around the state. In today’s climate, every public agency’s image is impacted by the missteps or misconduct of others. Below you’ll find a sample of recent news stories about ethical principles, values, and ethics laws. One of the best practices available to all of us is to learn from the mistakes or stories of others.

Here is a sample of the stories from February 8th to February 14th:

STATE LEGISLATURE

California bill would ban lobbyists from hosting fundraisers

Laurel Rosenhall, The Sacramento Bee, February 12, 2014

Several potential changes to California ethics rules and regulations are proposed in Assembly Bill 1673, a package of legislation also called the “Political Conduct, Ethics and Public Trust Acts of 2014.” Be sure to follow AB 1673’s progress through the state Legislature in the upcoming weeks.

Reacting to this week’s announcement that a Sacramento lobbyist is paying a six-figure fine for making illegal campaign contributions by hosting lavish political fundraisers at his home, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia introduced a bill Wednesday to ban the practice. Assembly Bill 1673 would prohibit lobbyists from hosting fundraising parties at their homes and offices.

California Senate panel to come up with new ethics, campaign laws

Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, February 12, 2014

Another effort out of the state Legislature to address recent ethics violations in California.

With the state Legislature rocked by multiple scandals, the leader of the Senate has assembled a group of lawmakers to examine the state’s decades-old ethics and campaign laws. The Senate Ethics Working Group was formed by Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

FPPC

Record-setting fine hits Sacramento lobbyist Kevin Sloat

By Laurel Rosenhall, The Sacramento Bee, February 12, 2014

This case highlights a contradiction in California’s lobbying and campaign finance laws: lobbyists are prohibited from donating to candidates running for offices they are registered to lobby to, but they act under a separate section of law that allows anyone to host campaign fundraisers that cost under $500 at their home or office without triggering a reportable contribution.

Sacramento lobbyist Kevin Sloat has set a new record in California, agreeing to pay the state a fine of $133,500 – the largest ever for violating state laws that regulate lobbyists. Sloat’s agreement with staff of the Fair Political Practices Commission says he acknowledges providing wine, liquor and cigars at numerous political fundraiser he hosted at his house – items that counted as nonmonetary campaign contributions, which are prohibited from lobbyists.

Kevin Sloat fallout hits California Secretary of State race

By Laurel Rosenhall, Merced Sun-Star, February 12, 2014

Thirty-seven politicians received warning letters from the FPPC for holding political fundraisers at Kevin Sloat’s home, which included non-monetary contributions from Sloat beyond what the law allows lobbyists to give. Political opponents of these politicians are now urging contributions obtained from these fundraisers to be returned.

The political fallout from record-breaking fine of lobbyist Kevin Sloat has begun, with a candidate for secretary of state calling on an opponent to return money he has raised from clients of the embattled lobbyist.

Gov. Brown, Newsom to get warning letters from ethics agency

By Patrick McGreevy and Paige St. John, Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2014

Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are among 40 elected officials being notified by state ethics authorities that contributions they received from a lobbyist were improper. Lobbyists are not permitted to donate to, or arrange donations for, candidates for state office under California’s campaign finance laws.

FPPC fines Mayor Kevin Johnson, former council candidate

Ryan Lillis, The Sacramento Bee, February 12, 2014

Sacramento local public officials face fines for violating ethics rules regarding travel expenses, unreported campaign donations, and using one’s official position to influence a governmental decision in which one has a financial interest.

The state’s political watchdog agency on Monday issued its second fine against Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson in just over a year. It also targeted a former City Council candidate and a city planning commissioner. Johnson was hit with a $1,000 fine by the Fair Political Practices Commission, which charged the mayor failed to properly report travel expenses funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the charitable organization started by the founding family of Wal-Mart.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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