All the writing and talking about Brad Keithley’s pledge not to join a caucus that requires them to vote on the budget as a condition of membership, may be moot, for incumbent legislators anyway. Incumbents are guided by the Legislative Ethics Act. (Non-incumbents go to APOC for guidance and opinions, which don’t always comport to Ethics. It’s a mess. But that’s another story.) In April, the Legislative Ethics Committee addressed the issue of pledges in exchange for monetary support, which Keithley is offering. Keithley said that he will put up to $200,000 of his own money into supporting candidates who demonstrate support for a sustainable budget. One key way to demonstrate that is to sign the pledge, he wrote.
Legislators have been in touch with Legislative Ethics, looking for guidance. When they do, they have been sent to the following opinion that seems to indicate that signing such pledge under such conditions violates the Legislative Ethics Act:
“A legislator who pledges to take or withhold legislative, administrative, or political action in exchange for the decision of an organization to contribute to the campaign or make a donation to a cause favored by the legislator is agreeing or stating or implying that the legislator is entering a quid pro quo agreement with the organization—action or inaction—in exchange for money. If the pledge is signed in exchange only for an endorsement or a promise of an endorsement it does not violate the Act. AS 24.60.030(e)(1) expressly prohibits the solicitation of campaign contributions, donations to certain causes, and “thing(s) of value.” The definition of “thing of value” under AS 24.60.990(2), excludes political endorsements, support in a political campaign, or a promise of endorsement or support.”
When I initially contacted Keithley about the ethics opinion on Monday morning, he said that he wouldn’t change the questionnaire and that one incumbent had already responded. He declined to say who and whether or not this person had signed the pledge. About 30 minutes later, he called back and said that he was sending candidates a clarification, giving them the option to respond by stating their position on the majority caucus rule.
“I don’t want to impair the quality of response simply because of that issue,” Keithley said.
Because Keithley’s forming an independent expenditure committee, he isn’t allowed to contact the candidates directly. However, they can indicate their support of the spirit of the pledge on their websites or through public statements, Keithley said.
Too, Keithley can still support non-incumbents who sign the pledge, who aren’t legally, at least, bound to the same standards as incumbents. However, doing so appears to limit his options to be successful in his cause. The amendment to the pledge expands his choices.
It should also be noted that when Democrats were in the majority, they had the same rule about supporting the budget when it went to the floor.
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