Law which prohibits legislators accepting "anything of value" from lobbyists has been ruled unconstitutional by U.S. district court judge

12/07/2017 09:11 AM

FRANKFORT – Kentucky’s ethics laws, passed in 2014, which states a member of the legislature can take nothing of value from a lobbyist, has been struck down as unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman, who ruled in June 2017 that the laws were too vague to be enforced and violated lobbyists’ freedom of speech, issued a final order this past Friday which included an injunction telling the Kentucky Ethics Commission that they couldn’t enforce the unconstitutional rules.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, and two Libertarian candidates decided to sue in 2015 to overturn state laws prohibiting gifts from lobbyists to legislators.

The strict laws came about as a result of Operation BOPTROT in 1992 in which an FBI investigation exposed 15 legislators who had sold their votes, including House Speaker Don Blandford who did prison time for his actions.

The current laws prohibit lobbyists from giving legislators “anything of value” along with prohibiting Frankfort lobbyists’ from donating campaign money to legislators or legislative candidates.

Schickel was of the belief that the regulations violated certain individual’s rights and was not fair.

“I think Judge Bertelsman has got it exactly right,” Schickel said. “On its face, these laws, as he said, chill free speech and limit interaction of legislators with their constituents.”

Schickel wants to make it clear that he in in favor of punishing any legislator who does anything illegal, such as vote buying, when it comes to working with lobbyists.

“Anyone that takes a bribe or does anything illegal should be sent to prison, I really believe that,” Schickel said. “But, you know, that’s not really what this is about. This is about a bunch of complicated rules and regulations. If they prevented corruption, we wouldn’t be having the problems that we’re having now.”

Schickel admits that most of the general public probably has very little interest in the issue, but the northern Kentucky Senator believes that the ruling truly rights a wrong.

“This is about freedom of speech, this is about freedom of association” Schickel said. “Just because a law has the word ethics in it, doesn’t make it right,” Schickel said.

Schickel said that he’s confident that Judge Bertelsman’s ruling will stand even if the Kentucky Ethics Commission appeals the decision to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.


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