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Legislation We Are Tracking
At any given time, more than 1,000 legislative bills, which can affect how you do business as a government affairs professional, are being discussed in federal, state, and local jurisdictions. These bills are summarized in the State and Federal Communications’ digital encyclopedias for lobbying laws, political contributions, and procurement lobbying, and can be found in the client portion of the State and Federal Communications' website.
Summaries of major bills are also included in monthly e-mail updates sent to all clients. The chart below shows the number of bills we are tracking in regards to lobbying laws, political contributions, and procurement lobbying.
New York Scandals Lead to Ethics Reform
The New York General Assembly has passed an ethics reform package, which seeks to address the ethical lapses that have led to several scandals in Albany. Assembly Bill 8301, known as the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011, is divided in five sections that address specific ethics issues.
Section A, effective January 1, 2013, establishes an independent Joint Commission on Public Ethics with jurisdiction over all elected state officials, employees in the executive and legislative branches, and lobbyists. The bill also enhances disclosure requirements by requiring state employees to disclose income from outside sources and identify clients.
Section B, effective June 1, 2012, requires the Joint Commission on Public Integrity to create an online ethics training course for registered lobbyists with a curriculum focusing on public officers’ law and ethics to be completed every three years. Additionally, the bill requires lobbyist disclosure of any reportable business relationship of more than $1,000 with public officials.
Section C of the bill, effective 90 days after enactment, establishes a procedure whereby public officials convicted of crimes related to their public offices may have their pensions reduced or forfeited.
Section D, effective immediately upon enactment, alters the definition of “widely attended” event to include any event where 25 or more people other than legislators, officials, or government employees attend and is related to the attendee’s duties or allows the public official to perform a ceremonial function. The bill also allows officials to accept food or beverage valued at $15 or less.
Section E, effective immediately upon enactment, requires the Board of Elections to issue regulations clarifying independent expenditure reporting by January 1, 2012. The bill also increases the penalties for violations of existing filing requirements and contribution limits.
The act has not yet been presented to Governor Cuomo. Upon presentation of the bill, the governor may immediately sign the bill into law. Alternatively, the bill will become law without the governor’s signature within 10 days of being presented to him if the legislature is in session or 30 days of being presented to the governor if the legislature is adjourned.
Summary of Changes UPDATE
IOWA: On June 29, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Central Division issued a memorandum opinion and order upholding a challenged Iowa law requiring corporations and unions to disclose their spending for or against political candidates when their spending is more than $750 within 48 hours. The law also requires approval from a majority of corporations’ and unions’ board members before an independent expenditure can be made.
FEDERAL: The Federal Election Commission issued two advisory opinions, including one allowing federal candidates to solicit contributions for independent expenditure-only political committees (IEOPC) up to $5,000. In AO 2011-12 revised draft A, which was approved unanimously by the six commissioners, the FEC held solicitations by federal candidates are restricted to the applicable “limitations, prohibitions, and reporting requirements” of 2 U.S.C. §441i(e)(1)(a). While an IEOPC may accept unlimited contributions, the commission held the law still restricts the contribution amount a federal candidate may solicit. Therefore, although federal officeholders and candidates and officers of national party committees cannot solicit unlimited contributions for an IEOPC, they may still make solicitations within the monetary strictures of the amended federal election campaign act of 1971. The advisory opinion also concluded federal officeholders and candidates, and national party officers, may attend, speak at, and be featured guests at fundraisers held by an IEOPC, even when unlimited contributions are simultaneously being solicited from corporations, individuals, and labor organizations. Federal candidates would have to restrict their personal solicitations at the event to the amounts limited by the law. A second advisory opinion was also issued granting Viacom a press exemption from reporting expenses as contributions, with some exceptions, for its employee Stephen Colbert’s new political action committee, which Mr. Colbert intends to use a vehicle for commentary on the current state of campaign finance.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Lobbyists and lobbyist’s principals can no longer register, reregister, or continue to be registered in South Carolina if they have outstanding late filing penalties. House Bill 3183, which Governor Nikki Haley signed into law, prohibits the state ethics commission from allowing delinquent lobbyists and lobbyist’s principals to participate in lobbying until the fines and filing have been remedied. The bill also delineates what the fines and penalties are for late filing. Persons filing late are first fined $100 if a report is not filed within 10 days of the due date. After receiving notice by certified or registered mail that a required report has not been filed, there is a $10 a day fine for the first 10 days after receiving the notice. The fine increases to $100 a day for each additional day the required report is not filed, capping at $5,000. If the report is still not filed, the offender faces an additional misdemeanor conviction with imprisonment or fines.
SAN DIEGO: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has issued an opinion in Thalheimer v. City of San Diego. The court upheld San Diego’s prohibition on political contributions to candidates, political parties, and political action committees by non-individual entities such as corporations and labor unions. However, the district court’s injunction of the prohibition on non-individual entity contributions as it applies to political party contributions to candidates was affirmed. The Ninth Circuit further upheld San Diego’s law prohibiting contributions to candidates outside of a 12 month pre-election window. The district court’s decision to preliminarily enjoin a $500 limit on contributions to political committees that make only independent expenditures, which includes contributions by individual and non-individual entities. was affirmed.
NEW BRUNSWICK: Legislation has been introduced in the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly providing for lobbyist registration and regulation. Government House leader Paul Robichaud introduced Bill No. 43, the Lobbyists' Registration Act, in response to a push by members of the Tory party for such a law following the discovery that Liberal Party insiders were being hired to arrange meetings for energy companies bidding on provincial contracts. Under the proposed legislation, lobbyists would be required to register, as well as name any companies they work for and the name of the ministers and departments with which they met. Lobbyists failing to register or making false or misleading statements would be fined up to $25,000 for a first offense and up to $100,000 for any subsequent offense.
State and Federal Communications Expands Coverage
In a continuing effort to better serve the needs of its clients, State and Federal Communications, Inc. is expanding coverage of laws and regulations for political contributions, lobbying, and procurement lobbying to more municipalities, regional governments, and governmental organizations.
We have added new jurisdictions for which our online clients will find comprehensive, timely, and accurate information that includes: complete calendar of reporting deadlines; critical statutory citations; extensive directories of contact information; summaries of each state law; detailed reference charts on goods and services contributions; highlights of every statute; copies of all required forms; and much more.
The new jurisdictions are:
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Communications’ Experts Answer Your Questions
Lobbyist’s Personal Delivery of Political Contributions
Q. Are there prohibitions on registered lobbyists hand-delivering a political contribution check [personal, corporate, or PAC] to a candidate at the candidate's fundraiser?
A. Forty-six states do not regulate the personal delivery of campaign contributions by contributions. Of course, this assumes all other things being legal, such as session bans, a ban on corporate contributions, a ban on personal contributions by lobbyists, or personally delivering contributions while at the state capitol.
Alaska law provides that lobbyists may not host a fundraising event, directly or indirectly collect contributions, deliver contributions to a candidate, or participate in fund-raising activities.
Kentucky law prohibits a legislative agent from exercising control over a campaign contribution from a PAC and directing it to a specific state legislator, candidate, or committee. This prohibition includes hand-delivering a contribution.
In Maryland, a lobbyist may not, for the benefit of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, or comptroller, member of the general assembly, or candidate for election to these offices solicit or transmit a political contribution from any person or political committee.
South Carolina has very strict rules governing a lobbyist’s involvement when it comes to political contributions. Not only are lobbyists prohibited from making personal political contributions -- even as a constituent -- they are prohibited from hand-delivering a corporate or PAC check to a candidate at the candidate's fundraiser.
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