More Omnibus “Ethics” Bills

S.1, S.14, S.74, S.202, and H.3184 are all omnibus ethics bills that contain some of the negative provisions from last session’s failed horrendous omnibus “ethics” bill. Several of the negative provisions from last session’s bill that are included in these new pieces of legislation are: allowing political action committees (PACs) to avoid reporting requirements as long as less than 50% of their spending is on direct electoral advocacy, allowing campaign funds to be spent on almost anything, defining any individual who maintains a bank account containing contributions as a candidate, striking the requirement for candidates to report written promises of campaign pledges/contributions, codifying the ability of the legislative ethics committees to issue confidential advisory opinions, and forcing non-political groups who make “electioneering communications” to disclose their top donors.  For this last provision, electioneering communication is broadly defined as any person or group that, through broadcast, cable, satellite, mass postal mailing, or telephone bank, even references a candidate within 60 days of a general or 30 days of a primary election.

S.74, S.202, and H.3184 also all amend the membership of either the State Ethics Commission or the legislative ethics committees. Under these three bills the State Ethics Commission would be given the power to investigate legislators, but the power to punish would be left with the legislative ethics committees. This may be nice for appearances sake but it isn’t an effective reform for preventing legislative self-policing.

In short, a new set of omnibus bills with negative provisions that outweigh the good.

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