Clear Cozy Politics

Posted July 29th, 2014 @ 8:14 AM by

How far we have drifted. When ran for alder I had to pay $1,000 for an attorney because they were threatening me with a felony charge because I worked for a non-profit that was funded by the City and they said I was in clear violation of the law and couldn’t run . . . now it’s the business community, so its not even required to be disclosed?

Alder Mark Clear is asking for an ethics advisory opinion about if he needs to disclose the fact that he has a contract the Chamber of Commerce or if he has to recuse (abstain) in matter the Chamber lobbies on. The Ethics Committee is meeting on Wednesday at 4:30 to discuss this matter. (I, of course, can’t make it, wonder if it will get any coverage?)

I guess when it involves paid lobbyists for the business community it’s no big deal? Alderperson Mark Clear only makes a small portion of his income from Downtown Madison, Inc. so what’s the big deal? What he doesn’t say is what that small percentage is, is it $1, $100, $1,000, $10,000, $100,000 or more? How much makes it a conflict? What about the Chamber of Commerce? My prediction – ethics no longer matter, they will say go ahead, have contracts with lobbyists who lobby the city and still vote on the matters affecting them. It’s gross, but our standards have gone down the toilet. No one cares about ethics anymore because the federal political system has set the bar so low, everything else just seems minor. Open meetings laws, ethics? Who cares? I don’t think this is minor, I think he should recuse himself in matters in which DMI and the Chamber are lobbying and apparently should have been. If nothing else, he should be required to make it clear when he is shilling for them on Judge Doyle Square and putting down citizens who dare to have opinions on the matter, or trying to cut off debate, he should at least have to admit that he gets paid by them to provide services and disclose his cozy relationship with them. Wonder if the Ethics Committee will agree with me? Not very hopeful. This is a very slippery slope . . . and we’re sliding down fast, unfortunately, I’m afraid we haven’t hit bottom yet!

To: City of Madison Ethics Board From: Aid. Mark Clear, D19
Re: Request for advisory opinion Date: June 2, 2014

I am requesting an advisory opinion from the Ethics Board regarding disclosures or recusals by a city official on matters where the official has a financial interest in a business that has as as a client an organization that lobbies the city on the matter.

I am the sole owner of Clear Solutions, LLC. For several years, Clear Solutions has had a contract with Accelerate Madison, Inc., a non profit association of digital technology companies. On May 5, Accelerate Madison was acquired by the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies periodically on city issues. As of this writing Clear Solutions does not yet have a contract for services with the Chamber, but we expect to have that in place shortly. Clear Solutions will not be providing any services related to the Chamber’s public policy or lobbying activities.

Opinion Requested
The issue in question is when and if I should recuse myself from a matter before the council on which the Chamber has lobbied. MGO 3.35(5)(a)(3) refers to “an organization with which she or he is associated,” and there is no question that if Clear Solutions had, say, a contract before the city, that recusal would be warranted.

It is not clear,however, whether that requirement extends to a third party, such as clients of an incumbent’s business, and even if so, whether phrases like “production of a benefit” would include supporting a position on which said client has lobbied.

An argument in favor of recusal can be made in that an incumbent may be unduly influenced in order to retain or curry favor with a client.

But this argument starts to break down on sheer volume of situations in which this could occur. If no incumbent could ever take action on a matter that might affect a client of the incumbent’s business or employer, the number of, say, patients of a hospital employing an incumbent would become absurd.

As a smaller example, Downtown Madison, Inc. has been a longtime client IMS, a business of which I am 50% owner. But because DMI represents a very small portion of the income of that company’s business, I have never felt that even disclosure (let alone recusal) has been warranted on matters on which DMI lobbies.

State Statutes (19.44(1)(f)) may offer some guidance here, as candidates for state office must enumerate, as part of their economic interests disclosure, organizations or individuals who paid an incumbent’s business more than $10,000 in a calendar year. (Currently the city statement of economic interests does not require this information.) Such disclosure does not necessarily imply a requirement for recusal, however, and the statutes on recusal mirror the city requirements.

I appreciate the eithics board’s consideration of this matter.

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