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An Open Letter to the Louisiana Ethics Administration

  // Friday, 06 December 2013 04:45 //

Dear Ms. Sommers:

I am seeking clarification on the Louisiana Ethics Administration’s enforcement of campaign finance disclosure laws.
It is my understanding that a for-profit limited liability company, The Committee for the Incorporation of St. George, LLC, is currently engaging in a campaign to introduce a ballot initiative or “a question to the voters.” I also understand this company has launched a website, purchased advertising on social media, retained the services of a professional political consultant, fabricated and distributed yard signs and campaign materials, and presented itself to the media and the public as a campaign.
The company is campaigning for a hugely consequential initiative, which, if approved, would result in the creation of the fifth largest city in the State of Louisiana.
I have read and reviewed the relevant and applicable statutes, case law on the subject, and the minutes from recent Ethics Board hearings. Mr. McKay also provided me with a copy of his correspondence with you from a month ago, in which he raises and you address this topic.
I fully understand and recognize that the law treats recall petitions against elected officials slightly differently than petitions for ballot initiatives, but I’m troubled by the Ethics Administration’s statutory interpretation here.
Correct me if I am wrong, but according to your letter to Mr. McKay, the Ethics Administration seems to believe that a campaign for a ballot initiative is only subject to disclosure laws once the question has already been “submitted to the voters.” Is it your agency’s understanding that the law is intended to only apply to political activity after a petition campaign receives the requisite number of signatures necessary to place the question on the ballot?
And not to parse words, but I think this is also critical: What does “submitted” mean? Does it mean that the question has been placed on the ballot but not yet voted on? Because it seems just as easy to interpret the word “submitted” as something “not yet decided” as it would be to interpret it as meaning something that had already been decided, something that is over.

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