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Teaching Tribes How to Govern

North Carolina’s prostitution laws are being interpreted by the state Ethics Commission in a way that tribes should pay attention to.

North Carolina’s prostitution laws did not get revised between 1919 and 2013, but now one brave and realistic state agency, the Ethics Commission, is interpreting the law to move North Carolina into the 21st century by recognizing a relationship between sex and politics that is certainly older than the state. This report goes out to the special attention of the Eastern Band of Cherokees and more than half a dozen state-recognized tribes, all of whom may need to lobby the North Carolina legislature and so need to be up to date on the most effective methods.

Moreover, all tribal governments must remember that the United States Supreme Court has never reversed the cases holding Indian nations to be “in a state of tutelage,” and therefore obligated to keep a close eye on the colonial governments so we may learn how to govern ourselves. Pay attention, grasshoppers, and learn from experts in democratic governance.

The North Carolina Secretary of State’s office asked the Ethics Commission for instruction on whether sexual favors bestowed on North Carolina politicians by lobbyists are “gifts” that are either banned or must be reported under the state lobbying law. Additionally, the Commission was asked to opine whether the provision of sex might constitute “goodwill lobbying” and therefore require the horizontal persuaders to register as lobbyists.

On February 13, the Ethics Commission issued Formal Advisory Opinion No. AO-L-15-001, assuring an undetermined number of relieved politicians that “consensual sexual relationships do not have monetary value and therefore are not reportable as gifts” or “expenditures made for lobbying.” The Commission did speculate that a lobbyist paying a prostitute for a politician might constitute a reportable gift, depending on particular circumstances. It did not speculate how a politician—who would have the duty to report the gift—would know if the sexual services were bought.

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To the Secretary of State’s other question, the Commission replied that a provider of sex would not be engaged in “goodwill lobbying” within the meaning of the law, which would trigger a registration requirement.

The 2013 revisions of the North Carolina prostitution laws removed from the definition “engaging in indiscriminate sexual intercourse,” apparently concerned at the number of politicians who could get caught in such an overbroad law.

Putting the revised prostitution law together with the Ethics Commission’s enlightened reading of the lobbying laws, it will be a new day for lobbying North Carolina politicians and at long last somebody besides the taxpayers will be getting screwed.