February 28, 2013 •
State and Federal Communications starts Government Relations Compliance Group
There are a number of terrific LinkedIn groups devoted to government relations professionals and to the industry in general. What we found was that there was no group specifically for the discussion of compliance.
We are excited to announce that we are meeting that need by forming the Government Relations Compliance group.
Government relations professionals can discover what colleagues are saying about complying with government rules and regulations for lobbying, grassroots lobbying, political contributions, and procurement.
Join the conversation!
February 7, 2013 •
Grassroots groups still must disclose contributions received
Washington’s grassroots lobbying disclosure law is still safe after a federal appellate court dismissed a challenger’s case. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the claim by Many Cultures, One Voice and Conservative Enthusiasts challenging the state’s disclosure laws for grassroots lobbying. The law requires groups to disclose contributions and spending once it has spent $500 in one month or $1,000 over a three-month period for grassroots lobbying.
The court ruled the two groups did not have standing to sue, because they never actually met the threshold for having to disclose its activities. Initially, the two groups argued the disclosure requirements thwarted free speech, but the trail court ruled against the groups saying the law did not violate the First Amendment.
The groups are now planning their next course of action. They may petition the appellate court to vacate the trial court’s ruling. If this were to happen, it would free up other groups to challenge the law without the benefit of a prior ruling in favor of the state.
November 16, 2012 •
Two groups argue that the laws are unconstitutional
An old lawsuit has been resurrected that could leave Washington’s public disclosure law involving grassroots lobbying in jeopardy. Two groups, Conservative Enthusiasts and Many Cultures, One Message, sued the Washington Public Disclosure Commission in 2010 claiming their free speech rights were violated by the law requiring grassroots campaigns to register and report with the state.
The case was dismissed by a magistrate for lack of standing. However, last week, a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court heard the appeal on the dismissal and will soon be making a decision on the law in question.
At issue in the case will be whether the law is unconstitutionally vague. The law defines lobbying, among other things, as attempting to influence the passage of legislation. Included in the definition of legislation is “any other matter that may be the subject of action” by the legislature. It is this language that is the nature of the lawsuit. The two groups claim that the language is overly vague and includes “an endless possibility of matters.”
Now, it is up to the appellate court to decide whether the case will go back to the trial court for a hearing on the merits and whether the dismissal will be upheld.
July 3, 2012 •
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.
Q. I developed support for an issue by asking the public to contact and influence their legislator. Should I be concerned with lobbyist disclosure requirements?
A. You are engaging in grassroots lobbying. Grassroots lobbying is communications by a representative of an entity to the general public encouraging correspondence to an official’s office in support of, or opposition to, an official action. You must determine how grassroots lobbying is treated in your jurisdiction.
Engaging in grassroots activities may not meet the definition of lobbying. In Utah, you must communicate directly with an official to be engaged in lobbying and have any registration or reporting requirements. Next, grassroots lobbying may only trigger disclosure of related expenses. Your grassroots lobbying expenses are disclosed in California if your employer is already registered. Finally, grassroots lobbying may require registration and reporting. Arkansas law expressly includes grassroots communications in the definition of lobbying and requires disclosure of the related expenditures.
Do not assume that if you do not contact a state official directly, you are not engaging in lobbying. Confirm what activities constitute lobbying before taking action.
You can directly submit questions for this feature, and we will select those most appropriate and answer them here. Send your questions to: email@example.com.
(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.
January 19, 2012 •
State and Federal Communications will be attending the Public Affairs Council’s National Grassroots Conference in Miami Beach, Florida from January 30 until February 2, 2012. This year is the 35th anniversary and the theme of the conference is “Building Allies, Producing Champions.” We hope to see you there!
December 13, 2011 •
Ohio voters will have the chance to overturn HB 194 in a referendum to be held November 2012
Soon after the successful overturning of Senate Bill 5, the controversial collective bargaining law, advocates of fair elections in Ohio are looking to overturn a second piece of legislation that they have called a “voter suppression” bill.
Supporters of this bill, HB 194, believe that this bill will create a more efficient electoral process in Ohio, decrease incidences of fraud due to absentee and provisional ballots, and effectively utilize technology in elections.
The opponents of the bill, largely Democrats and voting rights activists, collected 307,358 signatures achieving their goal of allowing voters to decide on the fate of the bill. They are opposed to several provisions in the bill, most notably those that shorten the time frame for early voting from five weeks to three weeks, eliminate most weekend voting hours, and drop a requirement that poll workers tell voters when they are in the wrong precinct in a multi-precinct voting location.
Voters will decide on HB 194 in November of 2012, preserving the existing election rules through the 2012 presidential elections which gave Democrats the edge in the 2008 elections when Obama won Ohio by only 4 points.
Read more in this article on Cleveland.com.
October 17, 2011 •
Here are highlights from the latest edition of News You Can Use:
From the States and Municipalities:
State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.
News You Can Use is a news service provided at no charge only to clients of our online Executive Source Guides, or ALERTS™ consulting clients.
Jim Sedor is editor of News You Can Use.
June 2, 2011 •
Bono releases an app for his anti-poverty group.
We are always on the lookout for any news regarding social media as it relates to lobbying, campaign finance, and elections.
Roll Call published an article today about how Bono’s anti-poverty group called ONE campaign has released an app for iPhone users. The app allows anyone with an iPhone to contact their lawmakers and it gives them a text offering ideas of what to communicate.
Ambreen Ali’s article, “iPhone App Will Help You Lobby,” explores this new facet to the world of lobbying and advocacy.
How do you think social media and mobile technology will affect lobbying and grassroots advocacy? Let us know what you think!
August 23, 2010 •
It is well known that direct lobbying efforts are regulated in some manner in all fifty states. A growing trend among the states is to not only require registration and reporting for direct lobbying, but also more indirect efforts.
These types of indirect efforts, also known as “grassroots lobbying,” encompass a wide variety of activities. Sanctions, penalties, and fines arise when organizations fail to realize that their efforts to persuade the general population on various issues may possibly be considered lobbying.
The good news is that many states are explicit as to whether they consider grassroots efforts lobbying. States like Arizona and Ohio define lobbying as direct communication with legislators, thereby excluding grassroots. States that do regulate grassroots activity, for example, Mississippi and New Hampshire, use language such as soliciting others and indirect communication with legislators to indicate that grassroots efforts require registration.
Reporting grassroots activity is often more complicated than reporting direct lobbying expenditures. In most states, reporting direct lobbying expenses is straightforward. It is not difficult to determine what is an expenditure spent on an official. Reporting grassroots costs becomes confusing because grassroots lobbying often consists of mass media campaigns, along with websites and e-mails. It is difficult to tell exactly which costs are included in the registration and reporting thresholds. For example, in the case of a website, do you include the salary of the person creating the website, the cost of web access, or the cost of any outsourced work? (more…)
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.