The Ethics Commission places a high priority on providing guidance to its regulated communities. One of the ways the Ethics Commission informs and guides is by providing advice about how the City’s campaign finance, lobbying, and governmental ethics laws work. Advice is available to anyone who provides specific facts and has a question about how a law applies to them in light of those facts.
Advice can be provided only about future actions. Because it cannot address actions that have already taken place, advice should be requested and obtained before engaging in the activity in question.
The Ethics Commission staff are happy to assist anyone who has a question about personal duties under the campaign finance, lobbying, and governmental ethics laws. To request informal advice or ask general questions about the laws, please contact us.
Informal advice is kept confidential to the extent required by law. However, unlike formal advice, it does not provide immunity from administrative enforcement action by the Ethics Commission.
More information about informal advice can be found in the Opinions and Advice Regulations.
Anyone who has a question about personal duties under the campaign finance, lobbying, or governmental ethics laws may also request formal advice. Formal advice must be requested and provided in writing. Both the request and the resulting advice letter are public records that may be accessed online through our Public Data Portal.
The benefit of formal advice is immunity. A person is immune from administrative enforcement action by the Ethics Commission when the person requests formal advice and acts in good faith on that advice. Immunity applies only to the person for whom the formal advice was provided, the specific facts identified in the letter, and the law in effect at the time the advice letter was issued.
After a written request is received and all required information has been provided, the Ethics Commission has 21 business days to respond with an advice letter. To request formal advice, please submit it by email or postal mail.
More information about formal advice can be found in the Opinions and Advice Regulations.
In addition to informal and formal advice, the Ethics Commission may also provide an opinion about how a law applies to a specific set of facts. Anyone may submit a written request for an opinion about personal duties by email or postal mail. The staff may also determine that a request for advice is more appropriately handled through an opinion.
To become effective, an opinion must be adopted by the members of the Ethics Commission after a public hearing is held. A person on whose behalf an opinion was requested is immune from administrative enforcement action by the Ethics Commission if the person acts in accordance with the opinion. An opinion also serves as a guide for the Ethics Commission, which means that acting in accordance with an opinion is evidence of good faith for any similarly situated person, whether or not the opinion was requested on that person’s behalf.
More information about opinions can be found in the Opinions and Advice Regulations.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How do I get advice about whether my co-worker is abiding by the law?
Advice is available only to the person whose duties are in question. The staff would be happy to give you general information about the law, and you can urge your co-worker to request advice. However, the staff cannot give you advice regarding someone else’s conduct
Can I get advice about whether I should have attended an event that was held last week?
No. Advice cannot be provided regarding past actions. However, the staff would be happy to give you general information about the law, to help with regard to future events.
Can I get advice about whether I can attend an event that is happening tonight?
The Ethics Commission places a high priority on enabling compliance and does everything it can to timely accommodate requests for advice. However, the staff may not always be able to accommodate last-minute requests. Because responses to advice questions can be more complex than they appear (and may require more information than is initially provided), it is always best to ask for advice as soon as you have a question. In addition, formal advice is not typically available until 21 days after it is requested and all required information has been provided.
I saw an advice letter that answered the same question I have. Am I immune from enforcement if I act in accordance with the advice letter?
No. Immunity is limited to the person who requested the advice. In addition, a number of things can affect the validity of an advice letter, including changes in the laws and even slight differences in the facts. To obtain immunity, you must request formal advice for yourself and your specific facts.
I want to find out what the contribution limits are and when someone has to register as a lobbyist. Do I have to request formal advice?
PUBLIC DATA PORTAL