Legislative Ethics Decision Rewrites Some Lobbying Rules

Jun 8, 2017

This week’s decision by a federal judge striking down some provisions in Kentucky’s legislative ethics code is drawing fire from the state’s chief law enforcement official.

The interior of the Kentucky State Capitol.
Credit LRC Public Information

Under the ruling this week by U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman, lobbyists could offer gifts to state lawmakers and campaign contributions to candidates for the state Legislature.

Sen. John Schickel and two political candidates sued in 2015 to overturn the ethics rules, arguing they run afoul of constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection. Schickel, a Union Republican, contends the rules go overboard – and would even prevent lobbyists from giving legislators a “glass of water.”

But critics, including Democratic Attorney Andy Beshear, say the order invites more corruption into the Capitol.

"That's very concerning," he said. "I hope that that decision is appealed by the parties who are in it, and I hope they seek an injunction during that appeal so that we don't see lobbyists and legislators involved in what could easily be viewed as corrupt activities during that interim."

Beshear’s office is reviewing whether it can intervene in the case.

Many of the lobbyist restrictions were put in place following the early 90s federal sting operation known as BOPTROT, which snagged 21 state lawmakers and lobbyists for bribery and other charges.