August 17, 2010 •
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.
You can directly submit questions for this feature, and we will select those most appropriate and answer them here. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. I attended the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures. While there, I took a group of legislators from various states to dinner and picked up the tab. Most of the legislators were accompanied by spouses. In those jurisdictions requiring disclosure of this dinner expenditure, must I also disclose the amount spent on the spouse?
A. Almost all states requiring disclosure of food and beverage expenditures incurred on behalf of reportable officials also require disclosure of the amount spent on the official’s spouse or immediate family member. However, there are exceptions.
- In Idaho, the lobbying law does not require disclosure of expenditures for spouses and family members of legislators. However, it is common practice for lobbyists to report such expenditures anyway.
- In Michigan, food and beverage expenditures on behalf of spouses or family members are not reportable. However, travel expenditures greater than $725 on behalf of spouses or family members are reportable.
- In Montana, a principal is not required to report expenditures made on behalf of a spouse or immediate family member of a legislator, public officer, or employee.
- In Rhode Island, expenditures made on behalf of family members are not reportable as lobbyist expenditures, but are reported by elected officials.
- In Vermont, expenditures on behalf of a spouse or immediate family member are not reportable.
(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.
August 13, 2010 •
Straight from the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office:
The Illinois Secretary of State has mailed invoices for the revised lobbyist registration fee.
According to the Index Department, the invoices were sent on August 10, 2010 and the $300 fee is due on September 9, 2010. This invoice must accompany the payment.
August 12, 2010 •
State and Federal Communications, Inc. was represented at organization’s annual meeting.
The Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives [CESSE] held its annual meeting in Pittsburgh from July 13 to July 16, 2010. CESSE is a professional society comprised of over 1,200 executives from 165 science and engineering societies, whose combined memberships total approximately four million. Some of CESSE’s members include the American Association of Artificial Intelligence, the America Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, and the Society of Critical Care Medicine.
The objective of CESSE is to advance, in the public interest, the arts and sciences of the management of engineering and scientific societies. Essentially, CESSE is an “association of associations”….and therein lie the unique compliance challenges when it comes to government relations and grassroots activity.
I was invited to speak to those members attending the conference’s general management and public affairs program tracks. Not only did this include those individuals working in the company’s public affairs department, but also its senior executives.
At the federal level, the biggest concern for the group was compliance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 [LDA], as amended by the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 [HLOGA], along with federal lobbying restrictions by nonprofit organizations. In particular, I addressed the permissible monetary thresholds for lobbying expenditures by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization when making an election under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(h). Group discussion included questions regarding the difference between direct and grassroots communication, both at the state and federal level. Finally, no discussion about compliance would be complete without addressing the ethical disclosure obligations that accompany the vast array of state and federal gift laws.
Although no ninety minute presentation could ever include an in-depth, detailed discussion of state and federal lobbying regulations, the CESSE group walked away with a very comprehensive and practical overview. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish CESSE all the best for its 2011 annual meeting in Vancouver!
Photo of Nola Werren and Brad Smith of the American Chemical Society.
August 11, 2010 •
After a long wait, Broward County, Florida has a new ethics law.
A contentious meeting of the Broward County Commission has resulted in a new code of ethics law for the county. The new law bars county commissioners and family members from accepting lobbyist gifts. It also establishes a new Office of Inspector General.
For more coverage of this breaking news:
“Gnashing of teeth, tongue-lashing, and ethics reform,” by Brittany Wallman in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
August 10, 2010 •
Members of the public may now visit the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) Web site and read the actual scanned copies of financial activity reports filed by lobbyists in 2010.
The reports can be found at: www.elec.state.nj.us. They include detailed information reported to ELEC by lobbyists and the represented entities employing them. Among the details to be found in the reports are the names, contact information, salaries, and expenses for all lobbyists registered with ELEC.
In previous years, ELEC has provided summarized information contained in the annual lobbying reports. They were not available online until now.
In addition to the reports filed by represented entities such as corporations, unions, and trade associations, the annual reports filed by grassroots lobbying groups are also available. The reports detail the funds raised by grassroots groups through contributions, membership dues, and expenses associated with the group’s communication efforts.
ELEC’s reports show total lobbyist spending reached $57.6 million in 2009 with 1,001 lobbyists registered with the commission.
Map from the National Atlas of the United States.
August 9, 2010 •
Illinois Secretary of State’s office announces due date for the first lobbyist expenditure report of 2010.
The Illinois Secretary of State Index Department has announced expenditure reporting requirements for the first half of 2010. Reporting for expenditures made on behalf of officials for the period of January 1 through June 30, 2010 opens on September 1, 2010.
Expenditures must be filed within 30 calendar days, or by September 30, 2010. The Index Department has announced they will publish an updated Expenditure Report Filing Guide available online on August 16, 2010. This guide is designed to assist filers with changes to the lobbyist laws.
Photo of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
August 3, 2010 •
Illinois residents can now find out who is trying to influence county government with the click of a mouse.
County Clerk David Orr and Commissioner Bridget Gainer announced “Lobbyist Online,” a searchable database of lobbyists and lobbying activity in Cook County. This Web site allows users to find out who is lobbying county government, what they are promoting, who they are trying to influence, and how much money they make. This site comes on the heels of a newly implemented electronic lobbyist registration and reporting system.
Orr’s office reported lobbyists made 576 contacts seeking to influence nearly 60 county officials during the first half of 2010.
Here is the Cook County Clerk Web site with a link to the Lobbyist Online database.
August 2, 2010 •
On July 30, 2010, during a special session, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Senate Bill 551.
SB 551 is a response to the recent U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Green Party of Connecticut v. Garfield regarding the state’s Citizens’ Election Program. If signed by Governor M. Jodi Rell, the bill would limit contributions from communicator lobbyists, members of the lobbyist’s immediate family, and political committees established or controlled by the lobbyist or lobbyist’s immediate family to $100, while also banning the bundling of contributions by the same individuals.
Further, the bill expands the list of items not considered to be a contribution, while also prohibiting the knowing solicitation of contributions by state contractors, prospective state contractors, principals of state contractors, and principals of prospective state contractors from the contractor’s employees or a subcontractor or principals of a subcontractor on behalf of exploratory or candidate committees, political committees authorized to make contributions or expenditures to or for the benefit of specified candidates, or a party committee.
Additionally, grants to participating candidates would increase to $6,000,000 for the general election campaign. However, Governor Rell has previously indicated her intent to veto any bill increasing grants to participating candidates, citing state budget concerns.
Photo by jimbowen0306 in Wikipedia.
July 29, 2010 •
H.R. 5751, the Lobbying Disclosure Enhancement Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 28, 2010 by a voice vote.
The measure creates the Lobbying Disclosure Act Enforcement Task Force inside the Department of Justice. The new task force will be charged with enforcing the disclosure provisions of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995.
Further, the bill amends existing federal lobbying law by making public the names of registered lobbyists and firms who violate disclosure regulations. The bill now heads to the Senate.
Update 8-2-2010: Here is an article from The Hill giving K Street’s reaction to the Lobbying Disclosure Enhancement Act: “K Street feels it’s being unfairly targeted by bill disclosing lobbying violators“
July 29, 2010 •
Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 1526 into law into law late Wednesday.
This bill changes several provisions of the lobbying laws. The registration fee is lowered to $300 in response to the previous fee of $1,000 having been enjoined. Under this new law, lobbyists must notify officials in writing of reportable expenditures at the time the expenditures are made.
Effective January 1, 2011, lobbyist reports are due on a semi-monthly basis. For 2010, a report covering the second half of the year is due January 15, 2011; the Secretary of State will issue instructions for reporting lobbyist expenditures incurred during the first half of the year.
July 19, 2010 •
The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) will convene a two-day meeting beginning July 21, 2010 at 9:30 A.M.
The two-day session will continue on July 22, 2010 beginning at 8:30 A.M. There will be open and closed door sessions on both days. The G.A.B. is expected to discuss a request to extend G.A.B. Emergency Rule 1.91 relating to organizations making independent disbursements.
Among the other proposed campaign finance issues on the agenda are guidelines concerning charitable contributions, campaign fundraising, campaign contributions by lobbyists and principals, candidates and the lobby law, and campaign finance registration and reporting. Day One of the two-day meeting will be held in the Joint Committee on Finance Hearing Room located at 412 East in the State Capitol. Day Two will convene in the G.A.B. board room located at 212 East Washington Avenue, third floor in Madison.
Here are some great resources from the GAB Web site!
Photograph taken by Dori
July 16, 2010 •
Mason submits campaign finance and lobbying recommendations for new Cuyahoga County Government.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason and the Campaign Finance Reform Committee, which convened in March 2010 to study campaign finance reform issues in Cuyahoga County, have announced four recommendations that will be forwarded to the new Cuyahoga County government due to take office on January 1, 2011. The recommendations include the establishment of an electronic filing system for campaign finance reports, the establishment of a lobbyist registry for Cuyahoga County, and the establishment of campaign contribution limits for county-wide offices. Finally, the committee recommends the new county government adopt a Clean Elections Act which would implement a voluntary, publicly funded campaign financing option for candidates for Cuyahoga County offices. Mason hopes the new county government will take up the recommendations quickly once it takes office next year.
Here are some resources for further reading:
New campaign finance rules proposed for Cuyahoga County, by Kevin Niedermier at WKSU
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announces campaign finance reforms, by Laura Johnston at the Cleveland Plain Dealer
July 15, 2010 •
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed ethics legislation designed to help clean up Missouri’s political culture.
This ethics overhaul was a top priority for Nixon and legislative leaders this year. Among the major changes, the new law requires elected officials and candidates to report larger campaign donations within 48 hours. It also gives the bipartisan Missouri Ethics Commission the power to begin investigations on its own, without waiting for a complaint. The law also expands reporting requirements for lobbyists who invite groups of state officials to events. Under this new law, campaign disclosure reports must be filed electronically beginning in January, 2011 and the fines for late reports are increased significantly.
July 7, 2010 •
A bill amending the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 has passed the House of Representatives.
H.R. 5609, which passed on a vote of 408-4, prohibits any registered lobbyist whose clients include foreign governments which are found to be sponsors of international terrorism or include other foreign nationals from making contributions and other campaign-related disbursements in elections for public office. The bill moves to the Senate.
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