UPDATE: After the Kentucky Chamber publicly urged the ethics commission to appeal last week, on Wednesday, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission unanimously decided to appeal the ruling that would allow lobbyists to contribute finds to state lawmakers.
“We thought it too important not to appeal,” commission chairman George Troutman said Wednesday.
The other defendant in the case, the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, said Wednesday the agency “still is assessing our options and will decide by the deadline Monday on a possible appeal.”
In response to a judge’s ruling issued last week overturning Kentucky’s quarter-century ban on gifts and contributions to legislators from lobbyists, the Kentucky Chamber announced today it is publicly urging the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance and the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission to appeal the ruling, will organize other associations which lobby the Kentucky General Assembly to take similar action, and will fight to maintain the state’s current ethics system.
The ruling, issued by US Senior District Judge William Bertelsman, states that Kentucky’s legislative ethics prohibition on gifts and contributions from lobbyists is unconstitutional. This ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed in 2015 by state Senator John Schickel; David Watson, a Libertarian House candidate in 2016; and Ken Moellman, a 2018 candidate for Pendleton County judge-executive. Defendants are the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance and the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission.
Kentucky’s current ethics laws were enacted after an FBI investigation in the early 1990s, known as BOPTROT, that led to the indictment of several legislators for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for influencing legislation.
According to the Legislative Ethics Commission, the ruling has no bearing until all parties can agree on the language of the formal stay. Therefore, the ethics laws remain in effect until further notification comes from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission and the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
“Kentucky has strong ethics laws which have guided us in the years since BOPTROT, kept our political system relatively clean and discouraged a “pay to play” mentality. It would be a disservice to the citizens of the Commonwealth to roll these reforms back. We urge the defendants of this lawsuit to file an appeal to maintain ethical boundaries in our legislative process,” Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson said.