Tuesday, January 27, 2009

State ethics panel takes hard line on gifts

From The Rocky Mountain News,

Professional lobbyists are barred from giving gifts to lawmakers and other public officials - not even items up to $50 annually that other citizens and groups are allowed to give.

That's the ruling handed down Friday by the Independent Ethics Commission, the five-member panel charged with interpreting changes to the state Constitution mandated by the Amendment 41...

In the seven-page position statement, the commission said: "This is an absolute prohibition, not subject to the $50 gift threshold applicable to accepting gifts and other things of value from persons who are not professional lobbyists."

"The language is so clear that it would be difficult to argue that voters intended otherwise," the commissioners added.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will we see legislators brought up on ethics charges related to A41? How about ethics charges filed against municipal and county workers? What happens when the daughter of a firefighter from Burlington gets a college scholarship?

Voters believed they were banning gifts from lobbyists to our state lawmakers. Instead the voted for a Constitutional Amendment that goes far beyond the intended purpose. It's going to create a system for petty partisan sniping vis a vis the ethics panel and we're going to see innocent bystanders ensnared because of family relations to county commissioners or municipal employees.

Thanks Jared Polis.

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The ruling of the Ethics Commission is hardly surprising. How could it rule otherwise?

The hard issues are definitional. When is a gift not a gift? What is a special occasion? There is no textual basis for defining what is a gift differently for lobbyists than others, and in the case of non-lobbyists, the definition of gift has been contorted to be synonmous with bribe.

Perhaps lobbyists may not make bribes at all, while lay people may avoid the rather of Amendment 41 so long as they keep their bribes small, but any way you cut it, the Amendment doesn't mean much unless the definition of gift rather than the dollar cutoff is different for lobbyists than it is for other people.