Lobbyist Luau: Official ethics inquiry opens

The AP reports that the state ethics board is going to review the trips to Maui by several state legislators:

The state's ethics commission voted Friday to launch a preliminary review into whether eight state legislators and one former lawmaker broke ethics laws by failing to report lobbyist-paid trips to Hawaii and other places.

Friday's action stems from disclosures that six legislators and one former lawmaker failed to report that beer and wine distributors had paid more than $2,000 for each to attend conferences in Hawaii in 2002 and 2004.

From the Oregonian report:

Commission members made clear that the legislators will need to provide better reasons for not reporting the trips than they have so far. Commission Chairman John Kopetski said after the meeting that legislators should have consulted with the commission if they had a question about whether to report the trips.

"You don't ask the lobbyists," Kopetski said. "You ask the governing agency."

One of the votes Friday was to begin reviewing the actions of Paul Romain, the lobbyist for the Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association. Romain didn't list the Hawaii trips on lobbying reports he filed with the ethics agency, and most of the legislators said Romain told them they didn't need to report them either.

Kopetski said an explanation that individual beer and wine suppliers paid for the legislators' Hawaii trips did not erase legislators' responsibility to report the trips. He noted that lawmakers file a form with the commission each year that calls for itemizing any office-related events that are paid for by others and that exceed a certain value. For events in 2004, events worth more than $144 had to be itemized.

"It doesn't matter where the money comes from," Kopetski said.


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