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Gift Bans

Overview

A total ban on gifts helps limit the most overt corruption, and it also prevents lobbyists from sharing expensive meals with legislators as a way to establish and maintain a cozy personal relationship. While some states have restricted gifts, others still see large amounts of spending by lobbyists on legislators.  In California last year, lawmakers and gubernatorial aides accepted close to $1 million in meals and entertainment from lobbyists.

There is no reason for lawmakers to be receiving gifts from lobbyists. New York recently limited all gifts given in a year to $75 per legislator.  Iowa has a good model law (Iowa Code Chapter 68B, Section 22) with limited and well crafted exemptions.  At least seven states have a total ban on gifts.

Two States With Tarnished Images Make Strong Gains on Ethics in 2008

Many states have suffered from public officials being involved in ethics scandals.  While sometimes there is talk of reform and other overtures, comprehensive reform is most often elusive.  However, some states have managed, either in response to one particularly egregious event or a history of problems being overturned in a wave of dissatisfaction, to truly make a fundamental change.  This year Connecticut once again moved forward with a multi-year ethics reform initiative, and Louisiana enacted one of the most far-reaching ethics overhauls any state has in generations.

Cleaning Up Corruption in the Statehouses

At the core of many voters' frustrations with government is the sense that, too often, politics is for sale. High-priced lobbyists offering "gifts" to lawmakers swarm state legislatures; companies looking for public contracts get too cozy with those handing out public money; and corporate campaign contributions grease the wheels as public policy is auctioned to the highest corporate bidder.