Friday, February 05, 2010

Time To Give Disclosure A More Serious Look

Almost immediately after vetoing the ethics bill on Tuesday, the Governor sent a letter to legislative leaders inviting them to join him in talks intended to go back to the drawing board to produce a stronger bill. The Governor’s four priorities are independent ethics oversight, ending pay-to-play, ensuring that the new ethics system does not give an unfair advantage to the party in power, and ensuring disclosure of outside income.

While the language in the Governor’s letter is vague, the context provided by his previous statements makes it quite clear what he’s getting at, and we take “ensuring disclosure of outside income” to mean requiring lawyers and legislators in other professions deemed ‘protected’ by the legislature’s ethics bill to disclose their clients.

The Governor is in good company. As The New York Times, Capitol Confidential, and New York Law Journal [subscription required] (and, of course, ReformNY) reported on Wednesday, The New York City Bar Association has joined the chorus of legal experts who say that there is no legal or ethical justification for attorney-legislators to withhold information about their clients from the public. Moreover, the Bar Association affirmatively argues that attorneys should be subject to the same disclosure requirements as other legislators.

This argument is too carefully considered and widely supported to ignore.

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