E-News from State and Federal
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.
Possessive and Overly Controlling of Work: Official or
employee seems possessive and overly controlling of his or her
work and related issues.
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.
Asking for Trouble: Any enterprise lacking reasonable
controls to ensure honesty will be defrauded sooner or later.
Married to the Mob: Official or employee has close
relationships with contractors and/or developers.
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.
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.
The Robert Syndrome–Bullying or Intimidation: Official or
employee bullies or intimidates staff and has an attitude of
invincibility and/or superiority.
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.
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.
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.
Elizabeth Z. Bartz
President and CEO
Ethics Commission Proposes
Campaign Finance Reform
by Katlin Newman,
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,
of Changes UPDATE
Changes to Compliance Regulations
by John Cozine, Esq.,
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
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
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
W E B
S I T E T I P
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.
Federal Communications’ Experts Answer Your Questions
is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal
Communications, Inc. Send your questions to
(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?
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
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.
Expert - Nola R. Werren,
Esq., Client Specialist
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
Plan to say hello at future
events where State and Federal Communications,
will be attending and/or speaking regarding
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