JUNEAU -- Incumbent legislators do not violate state ethics law by signing pre-election pledges in exchange for campaign endorsements or the promise of endorsements, the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics has decided.
However, the panel determined that signing pre-election pledges in a direct exchange for campaign contributions or the promise of contributions violates the Legislative Ethics Act
The issue of pre-election pledges -- those from special interest groups asking candidates to take positions on certain topics -- arose during a June committee discussion of campaign issues. The opinion, dated June 28, focused on whether signing pre-election pledges in exchange for campaign contributions or endorsements, or the promise of either of those, violates state ethics laws.
The opinion found the law does not prohibit legislators from promising or threatening to take or withhold certain actions in exchange for a group's endorsement or backing in a campaign. But it found there would be a violation if a legislator signed a pledge in exchange for a campaign contribution or the promise of a contribution.
Put another way: there's a difference between taking, for example, a no-new-tax pledge to win a group's endorsement and making the same promise with the understanding that group would provide a campaign contribution.
"Although we find that a quid pro quo agreement must exist in order for there to be an ethics violation in this context, from time to time circumstances may create the strong appearance of a quid pro quo agreement," a footnote in the opinion says. "In those circumstances the legislator whose campaign receives the contribution should consider returning the contribution."
Joyce Anderson, administrator for the committee, said the advisory opinion was sent to all legislative offices.