LWVMD has never specifically studied governmental ethics. We have, however, strongly supported (in accordance with the LWVUS Principles and positions) legislation and administrative action which will make government more responsive and accountable to the voters, such as open meetings, accessibility of records to the public, and a code of ethics for government office holders and officials.
Background: The 1998 Session brought ethics matters to the top of the Assembly's agenda: a Senator was expelled and a Delegate forced to resign due to apparent improprieties uncovered by the media. The Assembly created a "Special Study Commission on the Maryland Public Ethics Laws", which was made up of legislators, lobbyists, some public representatives and chaired by Congressman Benjamin Cardin. The League was invited to take an active part in the Commission's deliberations and we did. The Cardin Commission's recommendations were submitted to the General Assembly's 1999 Session, watered down, and finally passed. The legislation provides that, for example: a full-time Counsel will meet annually with members to render advice and present seminars regarding the ethics laws and their application; financial and conflict of interest forms will be filed electronically; members may not solicit gifts from lobbyists on behalf of others; legislators may not take state or local government jobs unless approved by the General Assembly’s Joint Ethics Committee. Legislators may accept tickets to sporting events from the organization conducting the events, but not from registered lobbyists; members may not use the prestige of their offices for personal gain or hire relatives to perform legislative work; legislators who have a "direct and personal" conflict of interest on a bill may not influence voting or vote on that bill; and individual legislators may not accept gifts of meals and alcoholic beverages from lobbyists (an exception is made for legislators attending out-of-state conferences.) The General Assembly, in 2001, passed major legislation strengthening ethics rules applying to lobbyists: The rules resulted from proposals of a Study Commission headed by former Speaker of the House Robertson. The 2001 legislation gives the State Ethics Commission the authority to suspend a lobbyist's registration ("license"), when he, for example: initiates or introduces legislation for the purpose of opposing it ("bell ringing"), knowingly makes a false statement regarding his lobbying activities, raises funds for charities at the request of a state official or employee, commits a criminal offense arising from lobbying activity, or fails to comply with disclosure and reporting requirements. The Ethics Commission may also revoke the registration of a lobbyist who has been convicted of bribery, theft, or any crime involving moral turpitude: it may reinstate a lobbyist's registration where it finds that it would not be "detrimental to the public interest and the integrity of the governmental process".
• Supported a code of ethics for office holders and officials. (1981 – achieved)
• Supported numerous actions to strengthen the code. (ongoing, and included in the 1999 legislation described above)
• Supported creation of the "Special Study Commission on the Maryland Public Ethics Laws.” (1998 – achieved)
• Supported, generally, the recommendations of the Special Study Commission. (1998-1999 – achieved)
• Supported creation of a Commission to review the ethics laws pertaining to lobbyists. (1999 – achieved)
• Supported legislation enacting the 1999 Commission's recommendations regarding registration ("licensing") of lobbyists (2001 – achieved)
• Supported changes to provisions of the law regarding when non-profit organizations must register (2002 – achieved)
• Supported training for Open Meetings Act (2013 – achieved)
• Supported penalties for violating Open Meetings Act (2013 – achieved)