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Ethics commission supportive, but skeptical of dark money resolution

Thursday, November 19, 2015 by Jack Craver

Commissioners on the Ethics Review Commission are enthusiastic about a proposal from Mayor Steve Adler that aims to force groups involved in local elections to disclose their spending and donors. After only a few minutes of discussion at a meeting last week, the commission voted quickly to recommend the resolution, which directs city staff to craft an ordinance to prevent “dark money” groups from evading the disclosure requirements that other political groups are subject to. The vote was unanimous, save for an abstention from Commissioner Matthew Lamon, who expressed support for the goal but said he didn’t know enough about the resolution yet to vote on it. But the commissioners’ enthusiasm for the proposed ordinance was tempered with a fair bit of skepticism of the city’s ability to enforce such a new law in the long-term. Commission Chair Austin Kaplan said he worried that any meaningful changes would be struck down by courts, in light of a spate of court decisions in recent years upending campaign finance regulations. “It’s very difficult, given the Supreme Court’s position on these things,” he said. Vice Chair Peter Einhorn concurred: “We don’t have a very favorable judiciary at this point.”

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