Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"The Pledge," Legislative Ethics and Incumbent Legislators

An interesting item appeared in the most recent edition of The Advisor, the bi-monthly publication of the Alaska Legislative Ethics office.  In an article on the second page, the office provides notice of a "New Advisory Opinion Request," specifically focused on the "signing of pre-election pledges by incumbent legislators."  The subject apparently was first discussed at the June 14, 2012 meeting of the Legislature's Select Committee on Legislative Ethics.  Coincidentally, my piece, "A Statute and a Pledge: A Potential Approach for Addressing Alaska’s Coming Fiscal Crisis," was published on June 17.

According to The Advisor, the question that the Committee has posed is:
Does the signing of a preelection pledge, by an incumbent legislator, in exchange for a campaign contribution or endorsement or a promise of a campaign contribution or endorsement, violate the provisions of the Legislative Ethics Act -- specifically AS 24.60.030(e)(1). 
That statute provides that "A legislator may not ... agree to ... take or withhold a legislative, administrative, or political action, including support or opposition to a bill ... as a result of a person's decision to provide or not provide a political contribution, donate or not donate to a cause favored by the legislator, or provide or not provide a thing of value."

The Committee states in the notice that it "anticpate[s] a meeting soon" to discuss the topic.  We will watch the developments closely.  It will be interesting if, in the name of ethics, the Committee protects legislators from signing pledges during their campaign that enable their constituents to know how the legislator will vote if elected.