by Max Brantley
Checking in with the Ethics Commission on another matter, I was informed that the Commission had signed off on "honoraria" to justices of the peace who perform weddings. They may not charge a fee to perform weddings. But, the Commission has ruled, if somebody offers to palm Marryin' Sam a little cash, up to $100, that's OK. Anything above $100 becomes, by statutory definition, impermissible private compensation for public duties.
This is an old pet peeve of mine. But the peeve is with the law, not the Commission. When nothing up to $100 is considered impermissible payment -- and the statute makes no mention of time limits -- there's nothing in the law that prevents, say, a lobbyist from tipping a legislator about $50 daily for simply being a swell fellow. Or $99.99. Just as long as the legislator doesn't set a fee in return for specific work. Over time, those little honoraria could add right up.