“Consulting” with the Maine Ethics Commission prior to engaging in unethical behavior does not save one from being culpable for ethical wrongdoings. This we know is true.
So, when will the ethics woes end for Maine Democrats?
Adam Goode, the former Bangor lawmaker turned union lobbyist, has been in hot water over the last month after Rep. Sheldon Hanington, R-Lincoln, called on the Maine Ethics Commission to conduct a full investigation into his lobbying practices. Hanington and other lawmakers are concerned Goode is violating an ethics law that bars former lawmakers from serving as paid lobbyists for a period of one year after the conclusion of their public service.
The law in question was passed unanimously by the Maine Legislature in 2013, signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage and applies to lawmakers of the 127th Legislature and beyond. However, legislators can still lobby in Maine after their public service without registering as lobbyists as long as their paid activity in Augusta remains below eight hours a calendar month.
Because no Democrat will find a way weasel their way around that law, right?
When news broke of the accusations, Goode and his employer, the Maine AFL-CIO, claimed to have worked closely with the Maine Ethics Commission prior to his hiring. However, the Director of Maine’s Ethics Commission has shed light the shortsightedness of their decision.
Jonathan Wayne, director of the ethics commission, said in a letter that he was “disappointed” to learn the Maine AFL-CIO hired Goode as a lobbyist less than a year after leaving office.
“My immediate reaction on March 8 of learning that Mr. Goode was lobbying for the Maine AFL-CIO was disappointment, because I could foresee that this employment choice would weaken confidence in the enforceability of the law that had recently taken effect,” Wayne said in the letter.
Wayne believes Maine can do more to enhance its “revolving door” laws to reaffirm public trust the legislative process and improve government transparency.
“As a matter of public policy, my opinion is that Maine’s revolving door restriction on former Legislators could be strengthened if it were amended to prohibit all lobbying by former Legislators in their first year after public service,” Wayne wrote.
“The goal of the statute – preserving confidence in elected officials and in the integrity of the legislative process – would seem to outweigh any policy rationale for allowing limited lobbying by a former Legislator in their first year. In a later agenda item, I recommend approving a statutory change to move to a complete ban on lobbying during the first year after a Legislator’s term of service.”
Goode and the AFL-CIO claim to have kept meticulous count of Goode’s lobbying hours since the start of the year, but the ethics commission will convene tomorrow to review the full case against Goode and to determine the validity of those filings.
If found in violation, Goode is subject to $1,000 in fines.