Ask the Experts – Charitable Contributions - State and Federal Communications

October 6, 2010  •  

Ask the Experts – Charitable Contributions

Nola WerrenQ. As a registered lobbyist, I am often contacted by elected officials to make a corporate contribution to the officials’ charity of choice, foundation, or scholarship fund. Is this legal? Am I required to disclose these contributions on my lobbying reports?

A. This scenario happens more and more every day. Even though the official does not derive direct, political contributions for his or her campaign, such charitable contributions nonetheless result in positive exposure for the official, goodwill by the lobbyist, and beneficiaries that include the underprivileged, the sick, and the elderly. Furthermore, the monetary amount of corporate charitable donations can surpass the amount of permissible political contributions under campaign finance law.

Most states allow a lobbyist’s employer to make charitable contributions at the behest of an elected official and there are no reporting obligations. Some of the other jurisdictional requirements include:

FEDERAL: Pursuant to House and Senate Rules, charitable contributions made by a registered lobbyist at the behest or designation of a legislative member or employee are prohibited, unless the member or employee has designated the contribution to a charitable organization in lieu of an honorarium.

Please note, however, a charitable organization established by a person before that person became a covered official – and where that covered official has no relationship to the organization after becoming a covered official – is not considered to be established by a covered official.

NEW YORK: Charitable contributions made at the behest of a public official are not permitted.

NEW JERSEY and NEVADA: The charitable contribution is allowed but is not reportable as long as the contribution is not made in the official’s name.

CALIFORNIA: The contribution is permissible but must be reported by the official, not the lobbyist or the employer.

CONNECTICUT: The charitable contribution is permissible and is reported as a lobbying expenditure.

DELAWARE: The contribution is reported as a gift.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The contribution is reported as other.

WYOMING: The contribution is only reported if it exceeds $500.

UTAH: Charitable contributions given for a political purpose are reportable.

If clients who subscribe to our Executive Source Guide on Lobbying Laws™ have further questions about other jurisdictions, they can always check the particular jurisdiction in the online resources. Or, clients can call us if they have some special information need.

We are always available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or e-mail us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need. Our replies to your questions are not legal advice. Instead, these replies represent our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.

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