January 6, 2011 •
2011 Is Here
All of the legislatures, even those that do not meet every year, are in session in 2011. Thus, it is important to know the registration obligations for your lobbyists in all of the jurisdictions in which they will be active. The most important pieces of information you need to know are whether they will need to register and when the registration will need to be filed. Many jurisdictions have a threshold, based on expenditures, salary, or time spent lobbying, that needs to be crossed before registration is required. Depending on your situation, you may not need to register if your lobbying activities will be minimal. Many other jurisdictions, however, have no threshold and will require registration before or within a certain amount of time of your lobbyist engaging in lobbying.
This brings up an important point: it is crucial that you understand what activities comprise lobbying in the jurisdiction. A lobbyist may meet the definition of “lobbyist” before contact is even made with an official. And do not forget that once registered, you will have ongoing reporting requirements. Illinois and Georgia, in particular, will have more frequent reporting than in past years.
In the campaign finance arena, it will be a slower year because most of the statewide elections occurred in 2010. However, there are a few states, such as Virginia, with elections for state offices on the ballot. Additionally, municipalities and counties frequently hold elections in odd-numbered years, so if you plan on being active in local campaigns, be aware of the reporting requirements in that jurisdiction. Local jurisdictions do not always follow state law or may have additional reporting requirements that the state does not. And finally, do not forget to watch for special elections in those jurisdictions in which you are interested. If you plan on being active in a special election, be aware that there are usually additional campaign finance reports associated with those elections.
A major change over the past year has been the overwhelming changes that have resulted from the aftermath of the Citizens United decision. If you have any intention of making independent expenditures in any jurisdiction, you need to be absolutely sure you know the current status of the law in that jurisdiction. While it is pretty clear restrictions on the ability of corporations to make independent expenditures are unconstitutional, not every jurisdiction has changed their laws to reflect that new reality and not every jurisdiction has had their existing rules challenged in court. Also, you will need to be aware of recently enacted reporting requirements for independent expenditures. Do not wait until after you make such an expenditure to find out the status of the law in that area.
Luckily, you have access to State and Federal Communications’ constantly updated website, which is an invaluable tool you can use to stay abreast of this issue and more. Be sure you can say “I Comply!” in 2011.
John Cozine is the Research Manager for State and Federal Communications, Inc.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.