August 27, 2010 •
Highlighted Site of the Week – The Willard Hotel, birthplace of the term lobbyist?
The lobby of this Beaux-Arts hotel was the scene where Ulysses S. Grant smoked cigars and drank brandy. Did the people who flocked around him in the lobby start the use of the term lobbyist as we know it?
The National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is a great place to find out more about the history of Washington D.C. One of its fascinating offerings is the Willard Hotel.
Since 1847, the Willard Hotel has been an important political hub and has hosted most of the U.S. Presidents since Zachary Taylor. Starting out as a row of small homes, the beautiful Beaux-Arts hotel you see today was built in 1904.
According to the NRHP site, the hotel has had quite a guest list:
“Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln, Grant, Taft, Wilson, Coolidge and Harding stayed at the Willard. Other notable guests have included Charles Dickens, Buffalo Bill, David Lloyd George, P.T. Barnum, Lord and Lady Napper, and countless others. Walt Whitman included the Willard in his verses and Mark Twain wrote two books there in the early 1900s.”
Part of the legend of the Willard Hotel is that it is the place where the term “lobbyist” became associated with people who try to influence government. According to the legend, people seeking to gain favor from President Ulysses S. Grant would find him smoking cigars and drinking brandy in the lobby of the Willard Hotel.
Here is a 2006 NPR recording of Liane Hansen on “Weekend Edition Sunday” talking to Barbara Bahny about the hotel’s reopening and its history of lobbying.
Apparently many people called NPR to point out that the term “lobbying” had existed long before the Willard Hotel, so Hansen did a follow-up piece called “A Lobbyist by Any Other Name?” on the history of the term.
In case you would like to visit, here is the Web site for the Willard InterContinental Hotel today. I wonder if they still allow cigar smoking in the lobby?
On that note, I’ll end with this quote from the NRHP Web site:
“It was Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, irritated at the Willard’s high prices, who there coined the phrase ‘What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar.’”
The photo at the top is by AgnosticPreachersKid on Wikipedia.
August 26, 2010 •
Lifting the Ban: National Legislative Conferences
Lobbyists are familiar with the gift restrictions, limits, and bans in those jurisdictions where they are registered. There are many states across the country, such as North Carolina and Tennessee, that completely prohibit lobbyists from providing any type of gift or meal to a legislator. However, many of these states have exceptions to their rules when legislators are attending national conferences, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Annual Legislative Summit.
North Carolina, which has a notoriously strict gift ban, permits lobbyists to provide meals and beverages at events held in conjunction with legislative conferences, provided certain conditions are met. In order for the gift exception to apply, either all members of the senate, house, recognized legislative caucus, or the entire general assembly must be invited, and at least 10 individuals associated with the lobbyist or the lobbyist’s organization must attend.
Kentucky does not have a strict ban against lobbyists providing meals to legislators, but there is a $100 annual limit. However, if there is an event where all members of the house or senate, or approved caucus are invited, the amount spent on food and beverages is not counted against the $100 limit.
Not only do many states have exceptions to their gift laws in relative to national legislative conferences, but some also have different reporting requirements. States like Missouri and Georgia allow for group reporting, rather than naming each legislator that attended. In South Dakota, lobbyists are not required to report their expenditures at national conferences at all, provided that the legislature is not in session at the time.
August 26, 2010 •
Ballot Measure 1 Fails Decisively
A ballot initiative in Alaska to put limits on lobbying and campaign donations was overwhelmingly defeated during the state’s Tuesday primary.
Ballot Measure 1 was touted as a way to increase transparency in lobbying and end “pay to play” politics. The measure was strongly and publicly opposed by unions, local governments, and business groups who were concerned the measure would have quieted the voice of many Alaskans in the political arena.
For further reading:
“Ballot Measure 1 soundly rejected,” by Lisa Demer in the Anchorage Daily News.
“Ballot Measure 1 rejected by wide margin,” by Ted Land on KTUU.com.
August 25, 2010 •
Pennsylvania Lawmakers Receive Gifts from Lobbyists
State lawmakers received at least $67,000 worth of gifts last year, according to statements of financial interest filed with the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission.
State officials must report tangible gifts of more than $250 per year from any source and transportation, lodging, and hospitality worth more than $650. Lobbyists were the most generous with legislators who have power to direct and control funding. For instance, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jake Corman received a $4,000 Super Bowl trip from a Pittsburgh law firm whose lobbyists represent a variety of clients, including utility companies, hospitals, wine and beer distributors, and banks.
Those who provide the gifts and travel are not necessarily trying to buy support for particular legislation, but they are buying lawmakers’ time according to one Harrisburg lobbyist, who asked not to be named. He said he frequently takes lawmakers to dinner but does not give tangible gifts. He said most often, gifts come from lobbyists whose interests already are in sync with the lawmaker’s policy positions.
August 19, 2010 •
New Proposed Gift Restrictions in New York
News from the New York Commission on Public Integrity, input is sought.
The New York Commission on Public Integrity has published Notices of Proposed Rulemaking in the New York State Register to add Title 19 NYCRR Parts 933 and 934. Part 933 governs gift restrictions for state officers and employees, while part 934 governs lobbyists and their clients.
A period for comment is available until September 25, 2010. Those wishing to submit comments may e-mail them to email@example.com. Further, those wishing to view the proposed rules can find them at www.nyintegrity.org/law/regulations.html.
August 18, 2010 •
Oklahoma Lobbyists Contribute to State Campaigns
Registered lobbyists in Oklahoma have given more than $360,000 to campaigns for the fall elections, with statewide candidates picking up the biggest share of the contributions.
According to public filings, more than 130 registered lobbyists gave contributions toward 2010 campaigns. Republicans, who control the House and Senate, received about $190,000, while Democrats got almost $155,000. Another $13,000 went to nonpartisan judicial candidates.
Five statewide candidates each have received more than $20,000 in contributions from registered lobbyists, with Lt. Gov. Jari Askins leading the way at more than $36,000. Askins won a narrow victory over Attorney General Drew Edmonds in the Democratic primary for governor. Edmondson received more than $28,000 from registered lobbyists. The contributions from lobbyists, however, are a small share of overall fundraising for those candidates; the Askins and Edmondson campaigns have each raised more than $2 million.
August 17, 2010 •
Ask the Experts – Do I need to report spending on legislators’ spouses?
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 •
A Lobbying Heads up from Illinois
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 •
Nola Werren at CESSE
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 •
New Code of Ethics for Broward County
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:
“Broward Ethics Reform Passes After Shouting Match,” by Carey Codd at CBS 4.
“Gnashing of teeth, tongue-lashing, and ethics reform,” by Brittany Wallman in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
August 10, 2010 •
N.J. ELEC Posts Lobbyist Reports Online
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 Reporting System Set to Open
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 •
Cook County Introduces Lobbyist Disclosure Web Site
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 •
Connecticut General Assembly Passes Campaign Finance Bill
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.
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.