WEST LAFAYETTE – Two state ethics rulings have concluded that Gov. Mitch Daniels can lobby the state Legislature for university funding and other matters once he becomes Purdue University’s president next year.
After Daniels was chosen as Purdue’s next president in June, questions were raised whether a one-year cooling off period required by the State Ethics Code would apply to him when he assumed his new post in January. The code bars former public employees from working as lobbyists for a year after leaving a state job.
But opinions released Friday by state Inspector General David Thomas and Tim Grogg, the Indiana Department of Administration’s executive director of executive branch lobbying, found that no restrictions will apply to Daniels.
The Journal & Courier reported Saturday that Thomas, appointed by Daniels in 2005, wrote that a state officer or employee leaving the executive branch is not restricted from lobbying the Legislature. The employee would be barred from lobbying the executive branch, Thomas said.
But Grogg, in his opinion, pointed out that university officials are not considered executive branch lobbyists, according to state code.
Daniels’ permission to lobby the Legislature as Purdue president will be a boost to the school because funding appropriations for Purdue and the state’s six other public colleges will be determined next year as part of the state’s biennial budget.
Jake Oakman, a spokesman for Daniels, said both opinions were sought because the inspector general has the sole authority to interpret the Indiana Code of Ethics. The Department of Administration’s executive director of executive branch lobbying is responsible for all executive branch lobbying matters.
The opinions, however, are not binding, because only the full ethics commission can issue an official advisory opinion, Thomas noted.
Despite the two opinions in his favor, Daniels has requested further clarification from Thomas on all rules that apply to his exit from state government.
A letter sent to Thomas on Friday from Daniels’ general counsel asks for an informal advisory opinion on all post-employment rules and restrictions.
The governor wants to fully understand all post-employment provisions to ensure full compliance, the letter stated.
Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, was not impressed with the opinions released Friday.
This begs the question of what purpose does the ethics commission serve? he said.