SACRAMENTO -- The state’s ethics agency on Thursday revised gift rules involving travel by elected officials, drawing mixed reactions from good-government advocates.
The state Fair Political Practices Commission adopted the new rules to clarify that the agency “can only require disclosure or impose restrictions if there is a personal benefit to the individual,” said Ann Ravel, the panel’s chairwoman.
The panel tightened the rules for travel paid by third parties for officials to participate in educational panels, requiring the travel to be directly related to the official’s public duties to be exempt from the $440 gift limit.
Under the new rules, if an official has a third party pay for a week-long trip to Hawaii during which the official sits for only an hour or two on panels every third day, the official would still have to report the trip individually, and could not simply disclose through the agency.Some gifts of travel are currently disclosed only once a year on the economic interest statement filed by the public official. Many of those would now be disclosed quarterly by the agency for which the official works.
Under current rules, when gifts are provided to a government agency, the public would get disclosure of an official’s travel payments within 30 days if the payment was $500 or more.
“The new rules result in the public waiting months before disclosure,” said Phillip Ung, a policy advocate for California Common Cause. “The result is less disclosure for the public.”