Debra Weiss - ABA Journal - 12/29/14
Proposals to limit lobbyists’ influence over state attorneys general are being advanced after a New York Times series highlighted the problem.
One proposal asks the ABA to change model ethics rules to bar attorneys general from discussing investigations or official matters during fundraising events, the New York Times reports.
The Times series found that lobbyists have tried to stop investigations or to persuade attorneys general to hire contingency lawyers to sue on behalf of the state.
University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, who is on leave to participate as a fellow at the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard, is the force behind the ethics proposal. “We need some specific rules, and one of them should be that prosecutors, whether state officials or federal, whether elected or appointed, never discuss specific pending investigations or cases, or the possibility of bringing cases, at political fundraisers,” Painter told the Times.
Painter published his letter to the ABA at Legal Ethics Forum. He suggests a new provision should be added ABA Model Rule 3.8 that reads in part: “A prosecutor shall not while attending a partisan political event, whether a fundraiser for candidates for public office or any other event, discuss pending cases or investigations in which the prosecutor is participating in or is likely to participate in his official capacity. This prohibition extends to conversations between the prosecutor and persons the prosecutor meets at a political event for a period of at least seven days after the event, or one year after the event if the other person mentions the political event in the course of his or her post-event conversations with the prosecutor.”
Other proposals and actions include:
• An executive committee of the National Association of Attorneys General has voted to stop accepting corporate sponsorship for an annual event focusing on emerging legal issues.
• A pending bill in Missouri would require the attorney general and some other state officials to disclose political contributions worth more than $500.
• Legislation being drafted in Washington state would bar departing attorneys general from lobbying the office for a year.