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One more post regarding the Ethics Commission and then I’ll move on to another subject. The public and elected officials will almost uniformly agree that transparency in government is a good thing. So, I wanted to point out some of the ways the Ethics Commission fosters transparency in our local government.
1) The Commission audits 75 percent of city candidate campaigns that raise or spend more than $100,000, and 50 percent of city candidate campaigns that raise or spend between $10,000 and $99,999. The auditing process assures the public that the information provided by candidates on their disclosure forms is truthful and accurate.
2) At the request of the Ethics Commission, the campaign laws were amended to require that campaign literature and campaign phone calls include a “paid for by” disclosure. These disclosure requirements ensure that the public receives relevant information about the candidate or political committee that paid for a specific communication.
3) At the request of the Ethics Commission, the campaign laws were recently amended to require city candidates to disclose all campaign contributions and expenditures made through the Friday before a Tuesday election (this change will take effect on January 1, 2009). Currently, candidates do not have to disclose their activities for the last 16 days of the election until months after the election, and many special interest groups wait to make contributions until the last 16 days.
4) The commission worked with the city clerk’s office to develop an online filing system for campaign statements so that the public can easily access information about candidates and their supporters.
5) At the request of the Ethics Commission, the lobbying laws were amended to require lobbying firms that are paid $1 to influence municipal decisions on behalf of their clients to register and disclose their lobbying activities. Lobbying firms and organizations have registered a total of 495 lobbyists in the first six months of 2008, as compared to 165 registered lobbyists in all of 2007.
6) At the request of the Ethics Commission, the lobbying laws were amended to require registered lobbyists to disclose the name and department of each city Official lobbied.
7) At the request of the Ethics Commission, the lobbying laws were amended to require registered lobbyists to disclose campaign contributions and campaign fundraising activities for city candidates. The disclosures from the most recent year show a significant amount of fundraising activity by lobbyists.
8) At the request of the Ethics Commission, the lobbying laws were amended to require persons who spend $5,000 on public relations, community outreach, advertising, etc., to file disclosure reports and disclose their funding sources.
9) The commission compiles annual case logs with information regarding each complaint we process, including the date the complaint was received, the nature of the alleged violation, and the status or outcome.
10) The commission prepares annual reports detailing our efforts with respect to legislation, education, administration, auditing, and enforcement.
Sunshine in the work of government is a good thing. At the commission, it is something we encourage and promote wherever possible.