Ethics Watch Director Addresses IEC On Travel Guidelines
Today, Colorado Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro appeared before the Independent Ethics Commission to comment on pending revisions to its 2008 position statement on privately-funded travel for state and local public officials. Toro’s comments supplemented a letter Ethics Watch sent to the IEC on the revisions and addressed the importance of ensuring that travel payments should not be deemed to be given to a state or local government, as opposed to an individual subject to the state constitution’s gift ban, if the travel payments are offered to a specific individual instead of a government entity or agency.
In 2009, Ethics Watch filed suit against the IEC to challenge an advisory opinion permitting a state legislature to accept an invitation for a cultural exchange trip to Turkey to be paid for by a non-profit. The travel payments were admittedly not permissible under the gift ban’s exception for some trips paid for by nonprofits, yet the IEC deemed the trip to be a “gift to the state” and approved it. The opinion was later withdrawn and the court did not rule on the merits of Ethics Watch’s challenge. More recent IEC opinions have taken into account whether the gift primarily benefits a covered individual rather than the government, but the IEC has not updated its 2008 position statement.
“We applaud the IEC for its hard work and willingness to revisit earlier decisions that have proven unworkable,” said Luis Toro, Director of Ethics Watch. “Requiring “gifts to the state” to actually be made to the state will do a great deal to clarify and strengthen the gift ban in our state constitution.”