Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1999-3

Advisory Opinion No. 1999-3
Advisory Opinion No. 1999-3

Application Of The Code Of Ethics For Lobbyists To The Practice Of Paying
Individuals To Secure Places In Line For Speakers At A Legislative Public Hearing

During the General Assembly’s recently concluded consideration of legislation implementing the New England Patriots relocation to a Hartford Stadium, a public hearing on the matter was conducted. On the day of the hearing, lobbyists representing the Patriots paid individuals to arrive early in the morning, sign up and stand in line all day as surrogates for speakers wishing to testify in support of the enabling legislation at issue. Several public officials and lobbyist have asked the Commission whether this conduct is permissible under The Code Of Ethics For Lobbyists. Conn. Gen. Stat. Chapter 10, Part II.

In various media reports regarding the hearing, the practice in question was criticized by some as being unfair and undemocratic. At the same time, others defended the activity as being appropriate and nothing out of the ordinary. While the members and staff of the State Ethics Commission, as citizens, also have personal views regarding the propriety of this conduct, such views are of no import in carrying out the Commission’s statutory mandate: administration and enforcement of The Codes Of Ethics.

Simply stated, no provision of the Lobbyist Code prohibits or restricts the practice of a lobbyist compensating individuals to reserve places in line at a legislative public hearing for speakers wishing to testify in support of that lobbyist’s position. If, however, the General Assembly wishes to regulate such conduct (which affects not only lobbyists and public officials, but also members of the general public) it can clearly do so under its authority to enact rules regulating the legislative process and proceedings at the State Capitol.

Finally, although the Lobbyist Code does not proscribe the activity in question, it does mandate its reporting, as an expenditure in furtherance of lobbying, pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:57 AM