South Dakota: After ethics law repeal, lawmakers try to channel voter intent | Sioux Falls Argus Leader

It took eight legislative days to eliminate a voter-approved campaign finance and ethics law in South Dakota. The fast-tracked effort to gut the law that would have established an independent state ethics commission, set strict new limits on gifts to lawmakers and create publicly financed campaign credits drew scorn from some of the nearly 52 percent of voters who supported the proposal. It also thrust the state in the national spotlight as Republican lawmakers rejected and rolled back the will of the voters. At the Capitol, Republican lawmakers and Gov. Dennis Daugaard were the subject of protests this week as they took the final steps to strike the law set in statute as Initiated Measure 22. Opponents of the repeal efforts chanted “shame on you” and “respect our vote” as lawmakers approved House Bill 1069, which instantly erased the law from state statute when Daugaard signed it Thursday.

National: D.C. ranks high in ‘health of state democracies’ list. Virginia does not. | The Washington Post

The District government can lay claim to being the fourth-healthiest democracy in the country, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a left-leaning policy institute and advocacy organization. Still, the report notes, while the city government has laudable laws encouraging participation and equality in local government, it’s impossible for it to have a truly healthy democracy without having representation in Congress and full control over its local budget. The study evaluated the District’s and each state’s government in three different categories: Accessibility in the ballot, representation in state government and influence in the political system.

South Carolina: Despite guilty plea and pending resignation, Bobby Harrell’s name will be on November ballot | Charleston City Paper

Bobby Harrell’s guilty plea this morning on state ethics charges may have brought an end to his political and legal troubles, with less than two weeks before Election Day, the complicated process of determining how he will be replaced is just getting started. One thing is for sure, though, ex-Speaker Harrell’s name will remain on the November general election ballot, say Charleston County election officials. Under the terms of a plea agreement with state prosecutors submitted this morning in which Harrell admitted guilt on six violations of state ethics laws, the former House speaker promised that he would resign his office. Some time today, Harrell, along with state attorneys, will likely draw up the requisite documents handling his resignation from office and withdrawal from the November election. Harrell faces Democrat Mary Tinkler and Green Party candidate Sue Edward, but with more than 8,100 absentee ballots already requested from the Charleston County Board of Elections, it may be too late for the board to print new ballots.

California: Panel wants L.A. to look at using prizes to boost voter turnout | Los Angeles Times

Alarmed that fewer than one-fourth of voters are showing up for municipal elections, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted Thursday to recommend that the City Council look at using cash prizes to lure a greater number of people to the polls. On a 3-0 vote, the panel said it wanted City Council President Herb Wesson’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee to seriously consider the use of financial incentives and a random drawing during its elections, possibly as soon as next year. Depending on the source of city funds, the idea could require a ballot measure. Commissioners said they were unsure how big the prizes should be or how many should be offered, saying a pilot program should first be used to test the concept. “Maybe it’s $25,000 maybe it’s $50,000,” said Commission President Nathan Hochman. “That’s where the pilot program comes in — to figure out what … number and amount of prizes would actually get people to the voting box.”

Massachusetts: Are Businesspeople Unable to Run for Massachusetts Office? | Boston Magazine

Massachusetts continues to struggle with its reputation as a place where businesses can’t get lift. The latest controversy is over whether Cape Air founder Dan Wolf can run for governor—let alone hold his state Senate seat—is raising questions about whether businesspeople can run for office. As Wolf, a Democrat, vows not to bow to pressure to choose between running his company or run the Commonwealth, we consulted Rutgers University business ethicist Michael A. Santoro about the chilling wind this bombshell ruling is sending through the business and political communities. “They’re absolutely asking too much,” Santoro said. “We don’t want to preclude people who are active in the real working world from serving in government. We don’t want government only made up of people with experience in government.” Wolf first revealed the conflict in an August 7 Facebook post, where he contended that Cape Air’s relationship with Massport is largely limited to the landing fees it negotiates. Santoro agrees they are more like licenses and not fees for services, such as shuttling government officials to-and-fro. It seems harsh to force him to pull the ripcord on his corporate parachute or his gubernatorial run.

Colorado: Secretary of State Scott Gessler won’t face criminal charges, Denver grand jury says | Longmont Times-Call

A Denver grand jury ruled Wednesday that Secretary of State Scott Gessler did not violate the law when he used his office’s discretionary fund to pay about $1,300 to attend the Republican National Lawyers Association meeting in Sarasota in August. However, the panel rebuked Gessler for using state money on the trip, and the secretary’s subsequent trip to the Republican National Convention in Tampa. “The Grand Jury finds there was no criminal conduct related to the use of Discretionary Funds to attend the RNLA conference, in light of the Secretary of State speaking on a panel, the election law training at the conference, and the accreditation by Colorado Supreme Court for the CLE,” the report stated. “However, the Grand Jury believes that the Secretary of State’s decision regarding the use of the Discretionary Fund in order to attend a partisan and political conference like the RNLA was not prudent, especially when it was followed by a trip to the Republican National Convention.”

Colorado: Secretary of State Scott Gessler wrong to use state funds for trip, ethics commission rules | The Denver Post

Secretary of State Scott Gessler “breached the public trust for private gain” when he used his office discretionary fund to pay for a trip to a Republican lawyers conference in Florida, the state ethics commission ruled Thursday. He also violated state ethics law when he kept $117.99 left in the fund last year, rather than submit receipts that he said accounted for hundreds of dollars more for unreimbursed mileage for state business. The commission penalized Gessler twice the amount in dispute, about $1,400, minus about $1,278 he chose to repay last month (to avoid any appearance of wrongdoing, his lawyer, David Lane, said). The precise amount will be published in the final order Tuesday. Gessler issued a written statement after Thursday’s ruling accusing the five-member bipartisan commission of being out to get him.

Colorado: Ethics Commission opts to proceed with Scott Gessler hearing | The Denver Post

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission decided Monday to proceed with a hearing Friday on whether Secretary of State Scott Gessler misused office money, including nearly $1,300 to go to Florida last year for a Republican lawyers conference. While in Florida, he attended the Republican National Convention, then bought a new ticket to fly home early after an e-mailed threat against his family. Gessler repaid the money on May 23. Gessler, a Republican, is considering a run for governor next year. Commissioners, in a telephone conference call, didn’t speak directly to the reasons for pressing on. Nor did representatives from Gessler’s defense or Colorado Ethics Watch, which filed the complaint.

Colorado: Ethics investigator confirms Gessler did use state funds for Republican lawyers meeting | The Denver Post

An investigator with the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission determined Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler did use state funds to to attend a Republican National Lawyer’s Association meeting. A plane ticket and $1,278.90 in expenses for the RNLA meeting were paid for with state funds. Gessler also attended the Republican National Convention while in Florida, but used campaign funds for expenses other than the plane ticket.

Colorado: Ethics commission delays release of Gessler probe once again | The Denver Post

The state’s ethics commission on Friday again postponed release of an ethics probe of Secretary of State Scott Gessler after his legal team filed motions accusing the commission, one of its members and its executive director of unfairness. “There is a cloud over the commission’s preliminary handling of this case,” the motions from Gessler argue. A Denver district judge last week denied Gessler’s effort to halt the investigation by the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission. Gessler’s attorneys have argued the commission has no jurisdiction in what may be a criminal case arising from allegations the Republican misspent state funds for political purposes by attending a meeting of GOP lawyers last year and piggybacking on a trip to the Republican National Convention.

Colorado: Investigation into Gessler’s use of public funds continues | Colorado Statesman

The state’s independent ethics commission on Monday rejected requests by attorneys for Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler to drop an investigation into his alleged inappropriate use of public dollars. Liberal-leaning Colorado Ethics Watch, which filed a complaint against Gessler with the four-member bipartisan Independent Ethics Commission, has produced records showing that taxpayers funded the secretary’s trip to attend a Republican National Lawyers Association event in Sarasota, Fla. at the time the Republican National Convention was taking place in Tampa, Fla. State law prohibits expenditure of state funds for anything other than “official state business purposes only.” The same applies for discretionary spending, though it is at the prudence of elected officials.

District of Columbia: It’s just the D.C. Board of Elections now | The Washington Post

A name that has graced the city political scene for four decades is on its way to the dustbin of history: The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics is now officially the D.C. Board of Elections. The change follows enactment of the city’s new ethics law; that established the new Board of Ethics and Government Accountability to handle the matters encompassed under the “ethics” portion of the BOEE name, which dates back to the earliest days of home rule. Legally speaking, the BOEE became the BOE in late January, when the ethics bill became law. But only in the past few weeks has the board — busy earlier with a primary and special election — moved to publicly change its name.

Florida: Governor asks for review of 3 Florida Supreme Court justices | Orlando Sentinel

Three veteran Florida Supreme Court justices could possibly face a criminal investigation and legal action over the handling of their campaigns to remain on the bench. Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who has been critical of some of the court’s past rulings, on Tuesday asked a state law-enforcement agency to decide whether to investigate the justices over their use of state employees to help finish election-related paperwork. Meanwhile, a conservative legal group is raising questions about whether the justices may be violating ethics rules because they are raising money and urging voters to keep them on the bench. “No man is above the law, particularly those charged with enforcing the law,” said Shannon Gosseling, executive director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation. Voters this fall will decide whether Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince deserve new six-year terms. Two of the justices were appointed by the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles; Quince was jointly appointed by Chiles and then-incoming-Gov. Jeb Bush.

National: Romney using ethics exception to limit disclosure of Bain holdings | The Washington Post

Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, whose wealth has become a central issue in the 2012 campaign, has taken advantage of an obscure exception in federal ethics laws to avoid disclosing the nature and extent of his holdings. By offering a limited description of his assets, Romney has made it difficult to know precisely where his money is invested, whether it is offshore or in controversial companies, or whether those holdings could affect his policies or present any conflicts of interest. In 48 accounts from Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded in Boston, Romney declined on his financial disclosure forms to identify the underlying assets, including his holdings in a company that moved U.S. jobs to China and a California firm once owned by Bain that filed for bankruptcy years ago and laid off more than 1,000 workers. Those are known only because Bain publicly disclosed them in government filings and on the Internet. But most of the underlying assets — the specific investments of Bain funds— are not known because Romney is covered by a confidentiality agreement with the company.

Voting Blogs: The War for Wisconsin: As Photo ID Restrictions Hit Constitutional Roadblock, Hard Right Files 29 ‘Ethics Complaints’ | BradBlog

In Wisconsin, two Dane County Circuit Court judges, David Flanagan and Richard Niess both issued injunctions against the state GOP’s polling place photo ID restriction (“Act 23”) — Flanagan’s temporary, Niess’ permanent — after finding that the law was in direct violation of the WI state constitution’s guaranteed right to vote. Immediately after the first of those two injunctions, issued by Judge Flanagan in Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker, the WI GOP filed an ethics complaint with the WI Judicial Commission, alleging that the judge had violated the WI Code of Judicial Conduct because he had signed a petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R) and failed to disclose that fact before issuing his ruling. However, when Flanagan’s temporary injunction was promptly followed not only by Neiss’ permanent injunction one week later, but by a subsequent refusal by an intermediate WI appellate court to stay the temporary injunction, the hard-right, operating under another right-wing billionaire front group, the Landmark Legal Foundation, filed ethics complaints against 29 WI judges who also signed recall petitions. If you can’t beat ’em, hit ’em with ethics violations complaints…

Kansas: Secretary of state fined $5,000 for errors in campaign reports |

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s campaign was fined $5,000 Wednesday for mistakes made in filing expense and contribution reports for the 2010 election. The Governmental Ethics Commission voted 7-2 to impose the maximum fine after questioning Kobach’s campaign treasurer, state Rep. Tom Arpke of Salina. At issue was nearly $80,000 that was omitted from the reports.

Commission Chairwoman Sabrina Standifer said the maximum fine was imposed, in part, because the campaign maintained that it reported the omissions to ethics officials. “The commission does not condone lack of candor before the commission,” Standifer said. “This is in no way, shape or form self-reporting.”

Voting Blogs: Protecting the voting rights of senior citizens | electionlineWeekly

California Assemblyman Mike Gato (D-Los Angeles) had heard enough from his constituents to know that something needed to be done. So earlier this year, he introduced AB547, a measure that would protect the state’s senior citizens from voter fraud and abuse.

“I authored AB 547 after hearing stories from my constituents about their parents and grandparents having their right to vote stolen by caretakers.,” Gato said in a release. “This legislation will help preserve the voting rights of some of our most vulnerable citizens- senior citizens under the care of others.”
The law makes it a misdemeanor for anyone providing care or direct supervision to a person who is at least 65 years old to coerce or deceive that senior into voting for or against a candidate or measure contrary to the senior’s intent.

Senior citizens are the fastest growing population in the U.S., especially as the baby-boom generation continues to age. Currently there are more than 35 million people aged 65 and over in the U.S. Of that population, more than a million are currently housed in one of the at least 19,000 assisted living facilities throughout the country.

Colorado: Ethics Watch Files Amicus Brief In Saguache HAVA Case | Colorado Ethics Watch

Today, the Denver District Court accepted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief filed by Ethics Watch in a Help America Vote Act (HAVA) case arising out of the 2010 election in Saguache County. The suit was filed by Marilyn Marks against Secretary of State Scott Gessler after the Secretary of State’s office dismissed her HAVA complaint for lack of standing.

HAVA requires states that accept federal funding under that act to establish administrative procedures allowing “any person” to file a complaint. Marks alleges that the Secretary of State’s office dismissed her complaint without a hearing, relying on a state statute. Marks argues that the federal statute must control.

Iowa: Democrats file ethics complaint against Iowa Secretary of State | Iowa Caucuses

The Iowa Democratic Party today filed an ethics complaint against Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz, alleging he used public resources to advocate against a candidate.

Schultz earlier this week issued a statement criticizing former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman for saying he plans to skip the 2012 Iowa caucuses if he runs for the Republican presidential nomination.

Democrats believe that Schultz’s release attacks specific policy positions of Huntsman and violates state law that prohibits the use of public money to advocate political purposes. Democrats filed their complaint with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.