No complaints alleging ethical or campaign violations could be filed against legislative, state or judicial candidates several months before the November general election, according to a rule recommended for approval Friday by the state Ethics Commission.
The rule is intended to prevent unsubstantiated complaints from influencing elections.
Under the proposal, no complaints could be filed in even-numbered years between the candidate filing period in April and the November general election.
Lawmakers will take up the proposal during the legislative session that gets under way Feb. 4.
They may only vote down the proposal, but the governor could veto that action. The proposal would take effect if legislators take no action.
The rule allows the commission to expose frivolous complaints and identify the people who file them.
Commissioner Karen Long said complaints have been filed “to embarrass and humiliate somebody else for no good reason.”
“Our rules have been misused,” she said.
Commissioners expressed concern last year when several ethics complaints were filed in the days before the June 26 primary. Ethics Commission members and staff are prohibited from commenting on complaints, and commissioners, who meet monthly, are hard pressed to take action on complaints filed a month before an election.
All the complaints filed against candidates in the days before the June primary were dismissed, but not until three days after the election.
The panel dismissed the seven complaints because no ethics violations occurred. They all involved alleged errors in campaign reports.
Commissioners also approved a proposal that would allow legislators and statewide elected officials to print and distribute newsletters at public expense up to 30 days after the end of the legislative session, which occurs in late May.
Information must relate to the legislator's or official's official duties, and it must not be designed to influence election results.
A proposal that would have allowed the commission to provide information from an investigation on a candidate to the contender's employer or licensing authority was withdrawn.
Commission Chairman Jo Pettigrew said the proposal made the Ethics Commission look like a “tattletale” to employers.