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 E-News from State and Federal Communications, Inc.

February 2014  


Top 10 Red Flags for Spotting Potential Political Law Violations

In December, the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) met in Quebec for a great conference about issues confronting the states. Jennie Skelton from Nielsen Merksamer chaired a panel discussing political law violations –specifically these top 10 ways of spotting them.

 

10. Possessive and Overly Controlling of Work: Official or employee seems possessive and overly controlling of his or her work and related issues.
9. Too Good to be True: Those who produce independent campaign materials, which are strikingly similar to candidate materials or those who amaze by claiming to get things done at superhuman speed, obtaining investment returns well above the norm, or achieve great success where others have failed are in some cases lying.
8. Asking for Trouble: Any enterprise lacking reasonable controls to ensure honesty will be defrauded sooner or later.
7. Married to the Mob: Official or employee has close relationships with contractors and/or developers.
6. Every Day is Friday the 13th: People who frequently explain promises not being kept, money disappearing, or property getting lost as being the result of extraordinary misfortune are sometimes covering up their own misdeeds.
5. All in the Family: Family members are employed by or paid by vendors, contractors, and/or developers or family members are employed by or paid by the state, county, or city.
4. The Robert Syndrome–Bullying or Intimidation: Official or employee bullies or intimidates staff and has an attitude of invincibility and/or superiority.
3. It Just Doesn’t Make Sense: People engaging in fraudulent activity often engage in a scheme that appears out of the norm or cover up their misdeeds with a cover story that contains factual inaccuracies or gaps in logic.
2. Keeping Up with the Kardashians: Individual appears to live beyond his or her means, when he or she may not have a job or has a low paying job while financial disclosure shows no real source of income.
1. Extraordinary Ineptness, Particularly at Recordkeeping: People who claim they haven’t been able to keep up with transactions they are responsible for, keep track of finances in their care, or produce clear records documenting what they have been doing are in some cases just covering up misdeeds.

Interesting, aren’t they? This session was filled to capacity with the FEC’s Ellen Weintraub joining me on the stairs. Sometimes we believe no one is looking when, in fact, our actions are very visible.

Until next month, only keep up with the Kardashians on E! Network.

Thank you,

Elizabeth Z. Bartz
President and CEO
@elizabethbartz

Ethics Commission Proposes Campaign Finance Reform

by Katlin Newman, J.D.. Research Associate 

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission is well on its way to reforming state campaign finance law. On Friday, January 10, the commission took final action and accepted, as a whole, a series of proposed rule changes. The proposed changes are but a small part of a considerable undertaking to overhaul the state ethics laws.

In August, as part of a multistep approval process, the commission announced the schedule for a series of local informal hearings dedicated to the solicitation of public comment, to be followed by formal hearings in the state Capitol. Members of the public were encouraged to participate in the informal hearings and were able to ask questions, make comments, or offer amendments to the rules concerning lobbyist reporting and registration, gift restrictions, conflicts of interest, financial disclosure requirements, restrictions on political contributions, and penalties for ethics violations.

The proposed changes, particularly those pertaining to political contribution limits, are welcomed if not entirely necessary. Barring any last-minute modifications made during final approval, the dollar limits on contributions would change from family limits to individual limits. Each person would be allowed to give up to $2,600 to a candidate per election. The old rules prohibit families from donating more than $5,000 to a candidate in a political campaign. Lee Slater, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, believes the old family contribution limit to be unconstitutional as it discriminates against a married person.

This change is significant. Potentially, a candidate could accept a total of $7,800 from an individual if said candidate runs opposed in primary, runoff, and general elections. However, an unopposed candidate would be limited to acceptance of $2,600 from the same individual for the duration of the campaign.

The proposed rules also raise individual contribution limits to $5,000 if giving to a PAC and to $10,000 if giving to a political party. Many support the proposal as a catalyst for increased transparency. When contribution limits are higher, individuals may be more likely to give their money directly to a candidate rather than disguise contributions through independent expenditures. Direct contributions to candidates allow the public to see exactly who funds each candidate, thereby creating an ethical safeguard.

If accepted in their entirety by the Legislature, the proposed rules will become effective at staggered intervals between December 1, 2014 and February 1, 2015. 

Summary of Changes UPDATE
Note Recent Changes to Compliance Regulations
 

 

by John Cozine, Esq., Research Manager 

NEW YORK CITY: The City Council passed legislation containing many changes to lobbying regulations. As of January 1, 2014, the registration threshold increased from $2,000 to $5,000 per calendar year. However, the majority of the law’s provisions take effect May 8, 2014. As part of the new law, the definition of lobbying will expand to include attempts to influence "any determination made by an elected city official or an officer or employee of the city to support or oppose any state or federal legislation, rule, or regulation." The new law also directs the city clerk to search for noncompliance with registration requirements by reviewing public records.

NEW MEXICO: The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the lower court was correct in issuing a preliminary injunction to keep the state from imposing limitations on certain contributions going to and from political parties and political action committees. The underlying issue in the case was whether political committees not formally affiliated with a political party or candidate can receive unlimited contributions for independent expenditures. The state Republican Party, GOP lawmakers, and others argued the state's cap on such contributions was unconstitutional. The state appealed, arguing limiting such contributions is in New Mexico's interest as it tries to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption in campaign spending. The case now moves back to the federal District Court where a decision on the merits is expected to be in favor of those challenging the contribution limits.

GEORGIA: New rules generally ban lobbyists from providing public officials with gifts valued at more than $75 or any tickets to games, concerts, and other recreational events. The ethics overhaul in House Bill 142 provides the state’s first legislative limitation on gifts to public officials. Exceptions to the $75 limit include committee dinners, dinners for caucuses, and certain lobbyist-funded travel. The $75 cap is per occurrence and per lobbyist. Although the bill was signed in May 2013, lobbyists were permitted to provide unlimited gifts until the January 1, 2014, effective date.

COLORADO: The Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling striking down rules reducing or eliminating disclosure requirements for issue committees, political committees, and more than 500 political organizations. The rules, put forth by Secretary of State Scott Gessler in 2012, also capped penalties for failure to file major contributor reports in the days leading up to an election. Challengers argued the rules were invalid because Gessler exceeded his authority by effectively amending the Colorado Constitution and campaign finance laws passed by the General Assembly. In addition to finding the rule changes invalid, the Appeals Court overturned Gessler’s 2012 rule narrowing the definition of electioneering communications.

NEW BRUNSWICK: The Lobbyists Registration Act establishes a basic framework for filing returns and penalties for violations. Prior attempts at creating a lobbyist registry failed in both 2007 and 2011. New Brunswick is one of the last three Canadian provinces without lobbying laws. The government cited a desire for providing more transparency for its citizens as the impetus for the legislation.

 

 

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 State and Federal Communications' digital encyclopedias for lobbying laws, political contributions, and procurement lobbying and can be found in the client portion of our website.

Summaries of major bills are also included in monthly email updates sent to all clients. The chart below shows the number of bills we are tracking in regard to lobbying laws, political contributions, and procurement lobbying.
 

  Total bills Number of Jurisdictions Passed Died Carried over
to 2015
Lobbying Laws 164 31 0 0 0
Political Contributions 341 28 2 0 0
Procurement Lobbying 160 27 0 0 0
 


 

W  E  B  S  I  T  E     T  I  P

The Dashboard

The quick reference charts on our website have moved with the website redesign, but they are more conveniently located than ever. From your personal User Dashboard (the page you see immediately after you log in) you will see the red bar or bars indicating the publications available to you. On the right side of the red bars there is a box with three bars. When you move your mouse over the bars they will change to a downward-pointing arrow. If you click on that arrow, a menu will pop up with a list of the available quick reference charts. Click on the chart you want to see and it will load quickly. Within a quick reference chart, clicking on the “Back to my account” link will bring you back to your User Dashboard.

 

ASK THE EXPERTS

State and Federal Communications’ Experts Answer Your Questions

Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc. Send your questions to experts@stateandfed.com. (Of course, we have always been available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or email us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need.) Our replies are not legal advice, just our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.

I am a registered lobbyist and on occasion I use my personal funds to make political contributions, as does my spouse.  Are there states that prohibit such activity?

A lobbyist, simply by virtue of his or her profession, may be prohibited from making personal political contributions. 

There are nine states that either prohibit or limit a registered lobbyist’s ability to contribute to state candidates. In most instances, a lobbyist’s ability to contribute to political parties and ballot measure committees remains intact. 

Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee impose an outright ban on lobbyists’ contributions. In Connecticut and Massachusetts, there isn’t an outright ban, but instead a monetary limit of $100 and $200, respectively. In Connecticut, the limitation extends to family members of lobbyists. 

Perhaps the state most mired in “red tape” is Alaska. A lobbyist may not contribute to a candidate for office in a district outside the lobbyist’s own voting district. This prohibition continues for one year after a lobbyist’s registration or renewed registration date. A lobbyist who contributes to a legislative candidate must file a Lobbyist Report of Contributions to Legislative Candidates (Form 15-5A) within 30 days after making the contribution. 

In some states, lobbyists may not contribute to state candidates or officeholders if registered to lobby the candidate's or officeholder’s agency. Such is the case in California and South Carolina.

Finally, as a registered lobbyist you should be aware there are numerous states that impose a lobbyist ban during the legislative session. Be sure to review the relevant statutes, regulations, and guidelines.

February's Expert - Nola R. Werren, Esq., Client Specialist

 


 

"Greater Akron: Inventive. Industrious. Inspired." author, Dave Lieberth
graciously signed 100 copies of his book in our office.

While enrolled in the PAC Institute held in Laguna Beach, CA, Executive Director Renold Koozer enjoyed
conversations with former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.

Plan to say hello at future events where State and Federal Communications, Inc.
will be attending and/or speaking regarding compliance issues.

 

EVENTS                     

February 3-6

PAC Grassroots Conference
Miami Beach, Florida

March 3-6

PAC National Conference
Miami Beach, Florida

March 16-19

NASPO Marketing to State Governments
San Diego, California

 


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