The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board is recommending a new public disclosure process for state employees who get paid by an outside group to give a speech or go to a convention.
State law forbids executive branch employees from accepting gifts worth more than $3, but Megan Tooker — executive director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board — says there are exceptions if the employee is on a trade mission or speaking at a conference, as those expenses can be covered by an outside group or donor.
“For example, if you go to a speaking engagement or if you are speaking at a conference, your lodging, travel, and meal are all provided,” Tooker says. “Well, it could be a private jet. It could be the Ritz Carlton. It could be a really expensive dinner.”
Tooker is proposing legislation that would require employees in the executive branch of state government to file reports with her agency when an outside group covers $100 or more in travel or meal expenses.
“If people have to report, then it might slow them down to say, ‘Maybe I need to read that section a little more carefully to make sure that it really does apply,'” Tooker says.
The reports would be filed electronically and posted on the agency’s website so the public would have access.
“There’s several exceptions where you could be potentially receiving rather large gifts from a restricted donor, which is perfectly permissable under the law, but we think that maybe allowing the public and the legislature to see what exactly is being accepted is a good thing,” Tooker says.
Employees at the three state-supported universities would be covered by this new gift reporting requirement if the bill becomes law.
A three-member panel of state senators has signed off on the bill Thursday morning. It must clear a senate committee before it could be debated by the full senate.