Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico) February 12, 2009 Thursday State Ethics Bill Would Allow Fines Equal to Salary, Pension; Senate Committee OKs Measure, 7-0 SANTA FE - A bill that would give New Mexico judges the power to fine crooked politicians in amounts equal to their salaries and retirement pensions cleared a Senate committee Wednesday. Elected officials who criminally abuse the powers of their offices should "no longer have any right to a public (salary and pension). You need to have something in the law where a judge can say, 'You know, this is pretty egregious,' " said the bill's sponsor, Sen. William Payne, R-Albuquerque. Payne's bill, one of a slew of ethics reform measures now pending in the Roundhouse, would allow a judge to levy a fine "not to exceed the value of the salary and fringe benefits" of elected officials who are convicted of a felony that involves their office. Payne told the Senate Rules Committee that "fringe benefits" would include retirement pensions. He added that the bill would also apply to the pensions of state lawmakers, who don't receive salaries for their work. Payne's bill at one point appeared close to stalling out in the Rules Committee: Chairwoman Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, suggested it be temporarily tabled, but fellow committee member Sen. Kent Cravens, R-Albuquerque, quickly motioned that the committee vote on it. The measure passed several minutes later on a 7-0 vote, although some lawmakers signaled that they might later attempt to widen the scope of the bill. Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, said the measure also should also apply to appointed officials. "That would put a whole other level of ensuring honesty in government," Jennings said. Payne said he believes elected officials should be held to a higher standard and cautioned that trying to broaden the bill could spell its doom. Meanwhile, the Rules Committee on Friday is slated to hear 10 ethics bills, including measures to limit campaign contributions; expand public financing of elections; require more-frequent reporting of campaign contributors; regulate contributions from state contractors; and limit the ability of lawmakers to become lobbyists. Chicago Tribune February 11, 2009 Wednesday Chicagoland Final Edition Wyma out as health lobbyist Within days of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's arrest on corruption charges, the DuPage County Department of Public Health severed its ties with a lobbyist close to him. Board chairman Linda Kurzawa said the Health Department had twice hired John Wyma and Associates as a lobbyist, most recently to help the department get its Medicaid reimbursements paid more quickly. But Kurzawa said the department dumped Wyma after federal agents arrested Blagojevich on Dec. 8 on charges he tried to profit from the appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. "It's fairly straightforward; his usefulness expired," Kurzawa said of Wyma. Wyma was chief of staff for Blagojevich when Blagojevich was a U.S. representative. He was considered one of the state's most influential lobbyists when the governor was in power. The Health Department hired Wyma from March 1, 2006, through April 30, 2008, to lobby on behalf of a local cigarette tax, a proposition that did not get out of the state Senate, and from Sept. 12, 2008, until Jan. 5 to lobby for Medicaid funding. Wyma was paid about $228,000, according to the Health Department. Kurzawa said the department began hiring lobbyists after Sept. 11, 2001, when competing with for a share of federal bioterrorism grant money. DuPage wanted a lobbyist to make sure its interests were represented in Springfield, Kurzawa said. He said the department hired McGuireWoods Consulting to lobby the General Assembly and Wyma to lobby the governor. "You can get something through the legislature and in the past administration you had to get the governor to sign it," Kurzawa said. "That was, as I understand it, what [Wyma] was recommended for. It doesn't do you any good to get it through the House and the Senate if it just languishes on a desk." The Houston Chronicle February 11, 2009 Wednesday 3 STAR R.O. EDITION Ethics reform stalled by new review; Lee says plan by Emmett to register lobbyists is based on an outdated analysis Harris County Commissioners Court on Tuesday postponed action again on ethics reform proposals championed by County Judge Ed Emmett, complicating his efforts to make good on a campaign pledge to seek the Legislature's approval of the most stringent changes. In a report submitted Tuesday, the County Attorney's Office said lawmakers would have to sign off on plans to require lobbyists to register with the county and make former employees wait a year before benefiting financially from a county contract. Commissioner El Franco Lee asked the County Attorney's Office to review the recommendations again because the analysis presented Tuesday was based on research conducted by former County Attorney Mike Stafford. He was defeated in November by Democrat Vince Ryan. Lee denied trying to kill the proposal, saying the county has plenty of time to forward a plan to Austin. But First Assistant County Attorney Marc Hill said it could take him two to three months to thoroughly analyze the task force's recommendations. By then it could be difficult to build momentum for a bill before the Legislature adjourns on June 1. The move puts Emmett in a difficult position as he looks toward a 2010 re-election campaign. Failing to implement the promised reforms could become a liability, but former County Judge Robert Eckels earned the commissioners' wrath for advancing his own agenda in Austin. Court members generally only lobby for bills they all agree to support. Emmett noted that any lawmaker could file a bill on county ethics reform and said he would share his opinions with anyone who sought his input as a private citizen. "I've stated publicly the things I'm in favor of all along," he said. "It wouldn't make any sense for me to suddenly say ‘No, I can't comment on that.'?" The recommendations were prepared by a five-member task force that Emmett appointed a year ago as a wave of ethics controversies in county government became an issue in the Republican primary campaign. The scandals dominated the general election campaign, as well, with Democrat David Mincberg accusing Emmett of fostering a "culture of corruption" since he took office in early 2007. Stafford's report said the Commissioners Court could adopt other aspects of the plan immediately, such as requiring candidates to submit campaign finance reports electronically that can be posted online. But getting even those measures adopted could be difficult. None of the commissioners has enthusiastically endorsed the plan. Commissioner Sylvia Garcia has noted to lukewarm response that the court could voluntarily adopt many of the ideas, as well as campaign contribution limits and other proposals not included in the task force report. Ruidoso News (New Mexico) February 10, 2009 Tuesday Legislature aiming for lobbyist transparency Two pieces of legislation introduced this week during the session of the New Mexico legislature are aimed at more lobbyist transparency. State Rep. Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces) introduced House Bill 553, Disclosure of Lobbyist Expenses, that would require a lobbyist's employer to file a new report with all lobbyist's expenses used toward lobbying the state government, including contributions, gifts and other expenses paid by their employers. The report would show the aggregate total of the expenses as one number. Nineteen members of the House of Representatives signed onto the bill. "If enacted in law, it would for the first time allow New Mexico citizens to see how much the special interests are spending to influence our state government," Steinborn said. "It's equal opportunity in that it requires this level of disclosure from all lobbyists' employers, private sector, public sector and non-profit. This bill will also require the Secretary of State to post these reports on-line and update them as the information changes and as lobbyists are hired throughout the Legislative Session." Disclosing expenses Under the bill, the Lobbying Expenses Report must disclose all lobbyist's employer expenses including: expenses paid by a lobbyist's employer. political contributions made by a lobbyist's employer. other expenses incurred by a lobbyist including living expenses, expenses for maintaining an office and other expenses incidental to lobbying by a lobbyist's employer. all compensation paid to the employer's lobbyist. According to Steinborn, New Mexico lags behind most other states that already have lobbyists' employers reporting requirements. ID badges First-term State Rep. Eleanor Chavez (D-Bernalillo) introduced HB535 Wednesday that would require each lobbyist to wear an identification badge while in the state capitol during a regular session, a special session, extraordinary session or interim committee meetings. The identification badge, which would be issued by the Secretary of State, must disclose the lobbyist's name, the word "lobbyist" and the lobbyist's employers. "We in the Legislature need to know at a glance who the lobbyists are and who they represent," Chavez said. "This measure will bring critically needed transparency to the legislative process and will increase the public's confidence in our government." The recommendation to require lobbyists to wear badges disclosing their names and clients was one of the recommendations adopted by the Governor's Task Force on Ethics Reform in 2007. The bill also would increase the annual filing fee for filing a lobbyist's registration statement with the Secretary of State from $25 to $35. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri) February 10, 2009 Tuesday THIRD EDITION Bill would bar legislators from political consultancy JEFFERSON CITY - Two Missouri lawmakers on Monday announced a bipartisan attempt to target lawmakers who run political consulting businesses, similar to what former House Speaker Rod Jetton did last year. Jetton, the former speaker of the House, was criticized last year for running a political consulting company while holding elected office. Jetton counted among his clients members of the Senate who theoretically could have worked with Jetton to advance, or stall, certain bills. During the fall campaign, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder denounced his fellow Republican for the practice. Now, Rep. Brian Yates, R-Lee's Summit, and Rep. Jake Zimmerman, D- Olivette, plan to file a bill that would make what Jetton did illegal. The bill also targets those lawmakers who leave elected office to immediately become lobbyists. The bill would place a one-year freeze on the practice. This year, two outgoing lawmakers, former Sen. Mike Gibbons, and former Rep. Shannon Cooper, registered as lobbyists after their terms of office expired. In a news conference, Zimmerman said it's ridiculous that the federal government has such a freeze but Missouri doesn't. "We here in Missouri have no business having ethical standards that lag behind Washington, D.C.," Zimmerman said. Other provisions include banning fundraising on state property and barring companies that contract with the state from donating more than $1,000 to any candidate. Yates said he that had shared the draft legislation with House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, but that the speaker had not yet "indicated to me his support or opposition." Yates and Zimmerman predicted that with bipartisan support, there would be hope for the new ethical standards. Charleston Gazette (West Virginia) February 9, 2009, Monday STATEHOUSE BEAT; Lobbyists are all set for next session If there's one profession that appears to be recession-proof, it might be legislative lobbying. As of Friday, more than 300 lobbyists had already registered with the Ethics Commission for the 2009 regular session - at a minimum registration fee of $100, plus $100 for each entity represented - and that should keep them on pace to reach the usual number of about 400 lobbyists. Along with the regulars, there are some new faces registering as lobbyists this session. That includes former Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Stephanie Timmermyer, who had not listed any clients as of Friday, and former House Majority Leader Joe DeLong, who will be lobbying for the West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association. The association is leery about legislation to move all agencies regulating gambling in the state under a single state Gaming Commission. DeLong, a Hancock County Democrat who gave up his seat in the House to make an ill-fated run for secretary of state, is a licensed horse breeder and is knowledgeable about the racing industry. Also moving into a new capacity is Becky Neal, the former longtime assistant to Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin who had for the past few sessions lobbied on behalf of her employer, BrickStreet Insurance. Neal has formed her own company, the Neal Lobbying Firm. Her first client? You guessed it - BrickStreet Insurance. Also back as a lobbyist this session after an absence last session for a brief stint at West Virginia University is Alex Macia. So far, he's representing the Association of American Publishers. Chicago Sun Times February 9, 2009 Monday Final Edition They gave big, they got big; 'Pay-to-play' probe looking at firms that were big Blago donors As part of their "pay-to-play" probe of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, federal investigators are examining state bid proposals and other records from 18 heavyweight engineering and construction companies that made hefty political contributions and got big contracts from the state and from City Hall, records show. In all, the companies have made more than $3.6 million in campaign contributions since the mid-1990s, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis shows. More than a third of that -- about $1.3 million -- went to Blagojevich, whose administration gave 11 of the companies $656 million in contracts since 2004. Mayor Daley took $64,800 from the companies before he put a self-imposed ban on accepting campaign cash from city contractors in the wake of the Hired Truck scandal. Since 2004, 11 of the companies have gotten $183 million in city deals. This latest window into the continuing Blagojevich investigation comes from a federal subpoena that was served on the Illinois Department of Transportation on Dec. 11 and made public in the wake of a successful open-records lawsuit filed by the watchdog group the Better Government Association. None of the businesses named in the subpoena has been accused of any wrongdoing. At least one of those companies received a separate subpoena of its own. "I have responded to the subpoena; 22 boxes have been sent," said Diane French, executive vice president and general counsel for DLZ Illinois, an engineering/design firm. French declined to say whether the company is working on any state-funded projects in Illinois. She also would not comment on the firm's former lobbyist, John Wyma, a longtime Blagojevich associate identified as "Individual B" in the criminal complaint prosecutors filed when they arrested Blagojevich in December on charges that included the explosive allegation that he'd try to sell an appointment to the U.S. Senate to replace President Obama there. Another firm named in the subpoena is Globetrotters Engineering Corp., headed by Niranjan Shah, recently named chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Globetrotters has gotten hundreds of millions of dollars in city and state business, and one of its subsidiaries helps run concessions at O'Hare Airport. Shah said his company gets government contracts on merit, not as a result of the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions he has given to Blagojevich and others. "I don't think we got any special treatment," Shah said. "We are very careful. We're a very good firm. We do lots of good projects. We have been in business for 35 years." Blagojevich's former chief of staff, Lon Monk, was Globetrotters' lobbyist the last two years. Shah said the relationship ended in December, when Monk's contract expired. In the criminal complaint against Blagojevich, Monk is the "Lobbyist 1" who is part of an alleged shakedown scheme of a potential Blagojevich campaign contributor. Other firms named in the subpoena include: - Castle Construction and MBB Construction, both owned by Robert Blum, a onetime business associate of former top Blagojevich fund-raiser Christopher G. Kelly. Castle was general contractor for the $38 million Emil & Patricia A. Jones Convocation Center at Chicago State University, which was dedicated last year. The company also has done extensive work at O'Hare and at Chicago Public Schools buildings. - Knight E/A Inc., an engineering company that has been linked to powerful Downstate businessman Peter Fox and indicted former investment banker Nicholas Hurtgen. In 2004, the wives of Fox and Hurtgen owned stakes in the company, which has gotten Illinois Tollway work and was picked by the Blagojevich administration to be construction manager for the $40 million World Shooting & Recreational Complex in Sparta. Fox said he and his wife have "no active involvement" in Knight and have sold most of their stock since 2004. Knight's lobbyist is Paul Rosenfeld, a Blagojevich associate identified as "Lobbyist 2'' in the criminal complaint against the governor. - Teng & Associates Inc., which is identified in the criminal complaint as "Engineering Firm 1." Teng "received in excess of $10 million from the State of Illinois during each of fiscal years 2004 through 2008," according to the complaint, and Blagojevich allegedly was contemplating seeking more campaign cash from the firm in exchange for tollway business. Rosenfeld also worked as a lobbyist for Teng. - McDonough Associates, which has gotten $39 million in tollway contracts since 2002. Brian J. McPartlin, a former Illinois State Toll Highway Authority executive director, announced in October he was leaving the agency to work for McDonough. But then McPartlin decided not to take the job after Blagojevich's Dec. 9 arrest. McDonough, Teng, Knight and MBB are named in a similar subpoena delivered to the tollway authority on Jan. 27. WHAT THEY GAVE, WHAT THEY GOT A federal grand jury is investigating these 18 construction and engineering companies, many of which got millions in state contracts and made hefty donations to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich: Company Contributions State to Blagojevich contracts since 2002 since 2004 AECom Companies* $0 Unknown American Consulting Engineers* $58,000 Unknown Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates $85,800 $7,288,293 Burns & McDonnell Engineering Inc. $57,500 Unknown Castle Construction $116,000 $111.2 mil. Homer L. Chastain & Associates $49,320 Unknown Consoer Townsend Envirodyne Engineers* $15,000 $109.6 mil. Delta Engineering Inc. $127,000 $2.7 mil. DLZ Illinois Inc. $86,000 Unknown Environmental System Design $43,500 Unknown Globetrotters Engineering Corp. $67,400 $33.9 mil. HNTB Corporation $7,000 $106.2 mil. Hutchison Engineering $22,500 $14.8 mil. Knight E/A Inc. $148,726 60.6 mil. MBB $117,500 $571,281 McDonough Associates Inc. $114,680 $79.5 mil. Teng & Associates $105,035 $94.4 mil. CH2M Hill Inc. $81,479 $35.7 mil. TOTAL $1.3 mil. $656.4 mil. *Owned by AECOM Companies Sources: Federal subpoena, Illinois state Board of Elections, Illinois state comptroller The Atlanta Journal-Constitution February 8, 2009 Sunday Main Edition Georgia's gift ban has wide loophole; Gov. Sonny Perdue made the rule but still flies often on lobbyists' dime. Gov. Sonny Perdue signed an executive order on his first day in office in 2003 declaring he and most state workers wouldn't take any gifts worth more than $25 from lobbyists. But last year he accepted a flight to Jacksonville for the Georgia-Florida football game from a lobbyist for CSX Transportation, Atlanta Falcons tickets from his former chief of staff who is now a prominent lobbyist, and refreshments at the Republican National Convention from a lobbyist for AT&T, according to reports filed with the State Ethics Commission. In September, a Portuguese company that broke ground on a manufacturing company in South Georgia last year paid for Perdue's flight to Milan, Italy, while he was on a trade mission. In previous years, Home Depot lobbyists paid to fly Perdue to Atlanta Motor Speedway, and AFLAC lobbyists flew him to former President Ronald Reagan's funeral in 2004. How can Perdue do that? A loophole in the executive order that allows gifts to be accepted "for purposes of tradition, ceremony, or inter-governmental relations, or when acting as a representative of the Office of the Governor." Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley cited those exceptions and said that in any case the governor is not influenced by flights or tickets. Over the past few years, Perdue has accepted fewer meals and perks from lobbyists than many other officials, some of whom accepted $10,000 worth. Lobbyists spent about $2,700 on Perdue during 2008, according to their disclosure reports (under state law lobbyists, not politicians, report expenditures). Perdue's totals don't include everything he's received. The Milan flight from EFACEC of Portugal did not have to be reported under state law because it was paid for by a business that was not pushing funding or legislation at the Capitol. Perdue's executive order was part of a major ethics reform package he pushed when he became governor. He called for funding increases to beef up the State Ethics Commission, which enforces ethics laws. He vowed to ban most gifts to state employees and promised to stop the revolving door of top staffers quitting to immediately become statehouse lobbyists. Most of his initiatives were approved, but ethics advocates say their success has been mixed. "Georgia deserves to have a Legislature it can trust," Perdue said in 2003. Perdue's six-page executive order says: "State employees must avoid any conduct, whether in the context of business, financial or social relationships, which might undermine the public trust." But it contains this broad exception: "Where appropriate for purposes of tradition, ceremony, or inter-governmental relations, or when acting as a representative of the Office of the Governor or an agency, an employee may accept a gift on behalf of an agency or the Office of the Governor." Brantley, Perdue's spokesman, said the lobbyist gifts the governor accepted fall into the "tradition, ceremony, or inter-governmental relations" category. In many cases, Brantley said, the governor was attending events in his official capacity. "The most important thing here is to prohibit attempts to gain influence through improper spending, and that certainly was not the case in any of these situations," Brantley said. Brantley said Perdue "basically hitched a ride" to the Georgia-Florida game and so saved the taxpayers money. He said the trip was disclosed so the public "would clearly know that's what happened." But the ethics report merely lists the date, the cost and says the expense was for "air transportation." It doesn't say the trip was for the football game. Brantley said the governor's office has reviewed the trips and decided they are "consistent with the wording of the executive order." He said the order was intended to restrict lobbyists' influence, "but you don't want it to limit your ability to be governor." Executive orders carry the force of law, but in this case it's unclear that a violation would bring serious consequences. The order says, "Employees who violate this order are subject to disciplinary action, including termination of employment." Suspected violations are supposed to be reported to the state's inspector general. Elizabeth P. Archer, the inspector general, said she has not received any complaints about lobbyist gifts to the governor. She has investigated ethics complaints in the past and issued recommendations. But Archer, a Perdue appointee, does not have the authority to take disciplinary action. Archer said she likely would refer lobbyist complaints to the Ethics Commission. Rick Thompson, the commission's executive secretary, said his office would not investigate potential violations of the executive order since it is not part of state ethics law. As long as gifts were disclosed in reports, "we would have no jurisdiction," he said. Emmet Bondurant, past chairman of the government watchdog group Common Cause Georgia, said Perdue should be a leader on ethics. "Not all people who have matters before the Legislature can afford private jets and trips to private preserves and wild hog dinners," Bondurant said. "Early in his term, the governor really tried to push ethics legislation, and his executive order was setting his example. I am disappointed he is not living by his own executive order if that is the case." Neill Herring, a longtime environmental lobbyist at the Capitol who doesn't give freebies, contends that Perdue is operating under two sets of rules: one for himself and another for others. "The thing is, Sonny thinks he's totally innocent in all of this," Herring said. "Other people shouldn't do it; but it's OK for Sonny." Most of the lobbyist spending on Perdue last year involved football. He received tickets to several University of Georgia and Georgia Tech games from those schools' lobbyists. Georgia Tech lobbyist Dene Sheheane reported spending $1,008 on Perdue for the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta, which Tech played in. Sheheane said Perdue took part in the opening ceremony at the game. He and family members watched the game in the school's box. Lobbyists for the state's major universities are traditionally among the biggest spenders on policy-makers. University System officials have a lot at stake, since the state budget includes more than $2 billion a year in funding for schools. Officials say the tickets are paid for by school foundations and don't come out of state funding. Eric Tanenblatt, who was Perdue's chief of staff when he signed the executive order on lobbyists in 2003, said the $228 he spent on Perdue's tickets for an Atlanta Falcons game in November was on behalf of the team's owner, Arthur Blank. Tanenblatt, who heads the government affairs practice at McKenna Long & Aldridge, represents Blank's company. Tanenblatt said Perdue attended the game in the owner's box for "economic development purposes." He said Perdue mingled with people "that might potentially be people who do business with the state." Craig Camuso, lobbyist for CSX Transportation, reported spending about $700 to fly Perdue to Jacksonville for the Georgia-Florida game and provide a game ticket and lunch. A Perdue House floor leader, Rep. Jim Cole (R-Forsyth), came along. Camuso said there was "no agenda," meaning there was no specific legislation or funding discussed during the trip. The railroad company, which has about 2,700 miles of track in Georgia, is based in Jacksonville. "He [Perdue] is a big Georgia fan," Camuso said. "He's friends with one of the executives in our company. We were more than happy to have him." FROM LOBBYISTS Below are some of the gifts lobbyists reported giving Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2008: Craig Camuso, CSX Transportation $707: Flight to Jacksonville for Georgia-Florida game, tickets and lunch Dene Sheheane, Georgia Tech $1,008: Football tickets and dinner Chris Cummiskey, University of Georgia $208: Football tickets Eric Tanenblatt, AMB Group $228: Falcons tickets SOURCE: Lobbyist disclosure reports filed with the State Ethics Commission Pittsburgh Tribune Review February 7, 2009 Saturday House defeats ethics measure HARRISBURG -- To freshman Rep. Jim Christiana, it's a black-and-white issue: Lawmakers should not receive outside income as lobbyists, or from law firms with lobbying arms. "It's a conflict of interest," Christiana, a Beaver County Republican, says flatly. "You absolutely should not be allowed, under any circumstances, to work for a firm that does lobbying. But after a tussle over House rules this week, a legislator can collect income from a law firm with a lobbying arm, or even from a lobbying firm, and not violate the chamber's standards. There are no legislators known to be lobbying, but several work for law firms that lobby. "The taxpayers," Christiana said, "don't want their representatives to receive money from firms that lobby." "No one is lobbying," said House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne County. Republican Rep. John Maher of Upper St. Clair offered an amendment to prohibit it, and his measure was approved unanimously this week. But within two hours the House, controlled by Democrats, killed the lobbying ban by a 100-98 vote. Just four Democrats voted with the Republicans, in effect, to retain the lobbying ban: Reps. Bill Keller and Michael O'Brien of Philadelphia, and Reps. John Yudichak and Mike Carroll of Luzerne County. All Western Pennsylvania Democrats voted to kill Maher's amendment through a motion by Rep. John Pallone, D-New Kensington, that declared it unconstitutional. GOP members from the Pittsburgh area voted against Pallone's motion. Maher's amendment, said Republican Rep. Doug Reichley of Allentown, was an attempt "to take another step forward to restore integrity for this chamber." "We thought it was important there not be this conflict of interest," Reichley said. Pallone said he agreed with the thrust of Maher's amendment, but said it was "overly broad" and created potential for the Supreme Court to say the House was regulating the practice of law. The House has a constitutional right to pass its own rules, Maher said. The issue is about lobbyists, not lawyers, he said. "I don't have a problem with the concept. I have a problem with the way it was done," said Pallone, an attorney who said he has no lobbying income. Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Penn Hills, said limits on outside income shouldn't be restricted to attorneys and should include accountants and other professionals. Those holding other jobs could be distracted and might do some of that work on state time, he said. DeLuca said he intends to introduce legislation to limit lawmakers' outside income to 35 percent of their $78,315 state salary. "That's a separate question," Maher said. Eachus hinted that the issue could surface again. "I'm reviewing these issues and hopefully will find a way to deal with it so there is no perceived conflict," Eachus said. Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery County, is "of counsel" to a Philadelphia law firm that lobbies. He is not a partner in the firm and has said he has no discussions with the firm's lobbyists. He was unavailable for comment, but told the Philadelphia Inquirer the Maher amendment might have cost him income. Rep. Mike Gerber, another Montgomery County Democrat, is an associate at another Philadelphia law firm that lobbies. Gerber lauded Maher's intent but said the language was imprecise. At the law firm, Gerber said, "I've never been registered as a lobbyist. I've never lobbied. I am walled off from any lobbying activity." The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts) February 6, 2009 Friday No lobbyists for agencies With lobbyists in the news, and not in a good way, in both Boston and Washington, Governor Deval L. Patrick is attempting to put an end to the little known practice of state government agencies hiring pricey lobbyists to lobby other state government agencies. It seems more than a little incestuous, and with the governor trying to both cut waste from the budget and enact ethics reform, this practice provides an opportunity to do both. It comes as no surprise that, according to The Boston Globe, lobbyists have already sprung into action to lobby for the defeat of this anti-lobbying measure the governor included in his recent budget proposal. Lobbyists are everywhere on Beacon Hill, just as they are on Capitol Hill, and state agencies like the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and Massachusetts Convention Center Authority have employed their services to make the case for funding or for the passage or defeat of legislation pertaining to them. "Everyone has to have a lobbyist. Why?" asked Secretary of State William Galvin in The Globe, and the answer of course, is that they don't. The average citizen doesn't have a lobbyist working on his or her behalf, nor do the beneficiaries of the many programs for the disadvantaged that are always threatened by the chopping block. It amounts to an attempt to game the system, in the words of the secretary of state, and public-funded agencies shouldn't be using that money for that purpose. Senate President Therese Murray has already come out in support of the ban on this practice and we hope House Speaker Robert DeLeo will as well. It is unclear how much money will be saved but any amount will be beneficial, and the demise of this unfair and unseemly practice is of value in and of itself. The Salt Lake Tribune (Utah) Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News February 6, 2009 Friday Key figure in Utah House ethics wars unveils reform plan Feb. 6--A key player in last year's ethics wars has introduced legislation to overhaul the process for hearing ethics complaints that even the House ethics committee deemed deeply flawed. Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, is sponsoring measure that would create a five- member independent ethics commission -- which could hear complaints filed by any member of the public -- and would greatly expand the code of conduct for public officials. "We would have been much better off if something like this had been in place in recent months," Allen said, referring to the contentious House Ethics Committee hearing against Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, in October. "I do think an ethics commission is at the very heart of [ethics reform]," she said. "It's the very foundation." Allen's proposal identifies many of the alleged improprieties that surfaced in the past year, including some actions that Allen was a party to helping level against Hughes. The ethics committee dismissed the charges against Hughes. Her plan prohibits bribery or attempted bribery, bans making threats against any public official or attempting to get a public employee fired, requires the disclosure of a conflict of interest, bars any lawmaker from requesting the state contract with a specific company and prohibits lawmakers from intervening in court fights. In the past year, for instance, the following ethics questions dogged lawmakers: Former Rep. Mark Walker was accused of attempted bribery (he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor stemming from his bid for state treasurer). Hughes was accused of threatening public employees and lobbyists. Sen. Howard Stephenson's actions on behalf of specific companies were questioned. Sen. Chris Buttars' letter to a judge on behalf of a friend temporarily cost him the chairmanship of the Judicial Confirmation Committee. Allen called her bill specific and realistic. "It's what the public expects of its Legislature, and, frankly, I don't think that it's difficult for anyone to abide by." Under her remedy, the five members of the ethics commission would be appointed by the Senate president, House speaker, the minority leaders from each body and one member agreed upon by the Senate president and House speaker. Whenever the commission receives a complaint, the panel's executive director, who would have subpoena power, would have 30 days to conduct an initial investigation. The director could, if warranted, file a formal complaint to the commission, which then could convene to publicly hear evidence against the accused. The commission would forward its findings to the House or Senate, respectively, for potential action against the accused legislator. To guard against so-called late hits during campaigns, there would be a "blackout" of 30 days before a general or primary election, during which time two-thirds of the commission would have to vote in favor of convening an ethics hearing. Hughes had claimed the charges against him were brought as an "October Surprise" on the eve of his re-election to undermine his campaign. Allen said House leaders have indicated that they want to spend a year studying the process for screening ethics complaints, but she still plans to "throw this out there" to get discussion started because she believes it has merit. Rep. Phil Riesen, D-Holladay, who also was accused of ethical misconduct in October, and Sen. Scott McCoy, D-Salt Lake City, also have proposed the creation of an independent ethics commission.
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