U.S. Court of Appeals hears Kentucky’s legislative ethics case

Justice Scale and wooden hammer on dollar bills

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th District heard oral arguments Thursday on the issue of Kentucky’s legislative ethics prohibition on gifts and contributions from lobbyists.

The ruling being appealed, overturning Kentucky’s quarter-century ban on gifts and contributions to legislators from lobbyists, comes as a result of a lawsuit filed in 2015 by state Sen. John Shickel and others.

Kentucky’s current ethics laws were enacted after an FBI investigation in the early 1990s, known as BOPTROT, which led to the indictment of several legislators for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for influencing legislation.

In 2017, the Kentucky Chamber, Kentucky League of Cities, Kentucky Coal Association, and the Kentucky Non-Profit Network joined together to file an amicus brief in support of appeal and upholding Kentucky’s strong ethics laws.

“If upheld, the Order and Permanent Injunction would leave Kentucky’s ethics systems in shambles and open up the floodgates for lobbyists to engage in exactly the type of actual or perceived corrupt behaviors that the law was enacted to shield against. Lobbyists would be free to inundate legislators with gifts of unlimited value—including lavish trips, fancy meals, and all kinds of valuable items—and flush their campaign funds with contributions,” the group stated in the brief.

Attorney General Andy Beshear represented the state in the oral argument on Thursday and argued that the state’s strong legislative ethics law help stop corruption and a “pay to play” system in the legislative process.

The oral arguments were heard before a panel of three judges and there is no set time frame as to when a decision will be made.

Stay tuned to The Bottom Line for further developments.


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Jacqueline Pitts
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