Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1997-10

Advisory Opinion No. 1997-10
Advisory Opinion No. 1997-10

Application Of The Code Of Ethics For Public Officials To
A Lawyer/Legislator Whose Firm Engages In Lobbying

The State Ethics Commission has been asked how the requirements of The Code Of Ethics For Public Officials, Conn. Gen. Stat. Chapter 10, Part I, apply to a legislator who is also a member of a law firm which engages in lobbying.

Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-86(c), "No member of the general assembly shall be a lobbyist". In construing the application of this provision to the question posed, the Commission turns to the precedent provided under 1-84(d) of the Code.

Prior to 1992, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(d) barred lawyer/legislators from being members of law firms which practiced before the state regulatory agencies enumerated in the subsection. When 1-84(d) was amended to allow lawyer/legislators to join such firms, the subsection was also amended to state that no legislator could take part in any matter involving the agencies listed in the subsection nor could the legislator receive any compensation derived from such a matter. P.A. 92-149.

The Commission believes that 1-86(c) should be interpreted and implemented in a parallel manner. Clearly, 1-86(c) does not prohibit the other members of a legislator’s firm from engaging in lobbying. It is, however, equally clear that the lawyer/legislator must be completely barred from profiting from such lobbying work, if the 1-86(c) ban is to remain viable. See also, State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 89-13, 50 Conn. L.J. No. 46, p. 1C (May 16, 1989). (Subsection 1-84b(b) of the Code’s post-state employment provisions does not bar the former Insurance Commissioner’s law firm from appearing before the Insurance Department during the first year after his separation from the State. The former Insurance Commissioner, however, may not receive any portion of the fees generated by such representation.)

In order to effectuate the required total separation between the lawyer/legislator’s compensation and the firm’s lobbying work, one of two procedures must be utilized: 1. The lawyer/legislator must be compensated according to a previously agreed upon salary, with no bonus or profit-sharing which could be affected by the success of the firm’s lobbying work; or 2. If the lawyer/legislator is a partner or is otherwise eligible for compensation which is determined by the firm’s profitability, the firm’s lobbying work must be conducted by a distinct entity, with all the lobbying unit’s profits and costs maintained separate and apart from the firm’s legal accounts. (It is noteworthy that this second option is already being utilized by a number of the State’s law/lobbying firms, due to the fact that it completely insulates the firm’s legal records from the State Ethics Commission’s lobbyist random audit authority.)

Finally, to avoid any misuse of official position, however inadvertent, the firm must exclude the lawyer/legislator’s name from any firm letterhead utilized for lobbying and in furtherance of lobbying.

By order of the Commission,

Maurice FitzMaurice

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:03 AM