May 27, 2011

Transparency Review (5/23 - 5/27)

• Last week, a Nevada Senate committee approved a campaign finance reform bill that would "require on-line filing of campaign contribution and expense reports by most candidates and require earlier reporting of the information so voters could review the data before casting their ballots." A provision requiring a two-year cooling off period before former lawmakers could lobby the Legislature was dropped prior to the bill's approval. The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote. If approved, it would have to be reconciled with the Assembly bill and voted on by both houses again. Governor Sandoval has previously expressed support for electronic campaign filings. The Las Vegas Sun also wrote an op-ed in support of the bill earlier this week.

• The Justice Department appears likely to re-open its case against John Ensign following revelations that he intended the $96,000 payment made by his parents to the Hamptons to be "severance pay." The decision to re-open the case was prompted after more than 1,000 previously unreleased emails were made public by Ensign as he was preparing to resign. In two draft statements he was preparing to release to the press, he referred to the payment as "severance pay." Ensign's attorney advised him against using the term, saying it "[raises] a host of potential criminal issues for the Senator." If the money was indeed intended as "severance pay," it would be classified as a campaign contribution. But because the amount greatly exceeded the $2,300 limit and was not reported on Ensign's campaign reports, it would certainly put him afoul of the FEC. You can be sure you haven't heard the end of this story.

• A judge has voided a law reforming Wisconsin's collective bargaining process over concerns that its passage violated the state's open-meeting law. The law gained national attention after state Senate Democrats fled the state for three weeks to prevent Senate Republicans from reaching quorum, temporarily preventing passage of the bill.