Sex, the very reason multiple state officials and quite a few American Presidents have been in hot water, does not constitute as violation of the Ethics Act, ruled North Carolina State Ethics Commission.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the State Ethics Commission ruled that sexual acts between lobbyists and a state official covered by North Carolina’s state ethics act do not constitute a “reportable expenditure” or “things of value.” Hence, sexual acts are not considered crimes unless they are paid for, noted the commission.
The opinion, construed at the request of the Secretary of State’s Lobbying Compliance Division, added that such relationships would be unlikely to trigger the state’s “goodwill lobbying” registration requirements.
“Consensual sexual relationships do not have monetary value and therefore are not reportable as gifts or ‘reportable expenditure made for lobbying.’ However, a lobbyist or lobbyist principal’s provision of paid prostitution services by a third party to a designated individual could constitute a gift or thing of value, albeit an illegal one, depending on the particular facts.”
The opinion’s authors added that the Secretary or State’s Office did not provide a specific set of facts, and that the original inquiry was “hypothetical in context.” Therefore, the response should be considered as “limited.”
Sex scandals are nothing to be scoffed at. While there have been multiple minor sex scandals in recent years, two staffers in former Republican state House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office lost their jobs in 2012 due to relationships with lobbyists. These episodes have been successfully used to get convictions of elected officials. Officials who have had to deal with more traditional forms of bribery involving cash, trips, and the like have been forced to “explore” the possibility of sexual acts being used as a form of bribery to get desired results from elected state officials.
WRAL News managed to obtain a copy of the four-page request made to the Ethics Commission for clarity on the issue. Readers are cautioned that parts of the request are particularly graphic which describe, in detail, specific sexual acts that might be at issue. However, it does not implicate a particular set of people or specify a particular set of facts.
The request does, however, ask five questions, including, “Are sexual favors or sexual acts that a lobbyist or a lobbyist principal provides not for the purpose of lobbying a gift?” That question appears to explore whether ongoing dating relationships, and not just quid pro quo situations, could somehow violate the gift ban.
Lobbyists have so far been required to report anything worth more than $10 per day that they give to a person covered by the state ethics act or a family member. Sexual Acts, interestingly, do not fit the description of a monetary exchange which can be termed as “gifts or reportable expenditure made for lobbying.”
[Image Credit | Cleveland SGS]