February 28, 2013 •

Ask the Experts – Deciding Whether a Communication Counts as Lobbying

Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.

Steve QuinnQ. I have been asked to testify before a committee of the state legislature regarding a pending or potential bill. Is this considered lobbying activity?

A. As is usually the case, the answer will vary drastically depending on the state in question. In this specific situation, there are at least three variables to consider when evaluating this question:

1. Is testimony excluded from the definition of lobbying? In many states, providing information, participating in a meeting, or otherwise communicating at the request of a public official is specifically excluded from the definition of lobbying. This is true even if the information will potentially influence legislation, as long as the contact was initiated by the state. In these jurisdictions, a person may be asked to testify about a topic as an industry expert without being subject to lobbying laws. For instance, in Colorado, a person who is not otherwise registered as a lobbyist, but provides information at the request of public officials is not required to register and report. Iowa has a similar exception for people providing testimony or information at the request of a public official.

2. Is the communication before a public committee? Often, participation at a public meeting or proceeding or otherwise testifying on the public record is excluded from lobbying laws. Delaware’s exemption is a good example of a state allowing for testimony at a public hearing without lobbyist registration. Likewise, Connecticut has an exception from its definition of lobbyist for those who are not hired specifically to lobby and whose appearances are limited to public testimony.

3. Is there a pending bill before the legislature? Finally, it may be important to determine whether there is an actual bill pending before the legislative body in question, or if the putative lobbying communication is only regarding potential legislation. Certain states only regulate attempts to influence legislation that has already been introduced. North Dakota is a good example of this point. In order to be considered a lobbyist, a person must be attempting to influence a live bill. An individual does not need to register as a lobbyist for attempting to influence a potential bill.

There are very few concepts, rules, or guideless applicable to all states, and accordingly, situations like this must be examined on a case-by-case basis. For specific guidance, please contact a member of the State and Federal Communications compliance department.

(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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October 4, 2012 •

Ask the Experts – Contributions to State Candidates

Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.

Steve QuinnQ. I am interested in making contributions to state candidates in the upcoming elections. Does the fact that I’m a registered lobbyist affect my ability to contribute?

A. In certain states, being a registered lobbyist does impact your ability to give to a political candidate, ranging from a total ban on political activity, to simply having to report the contributions on your periodic reports.

In Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma, lobbyists may not make contributions to lawmakers while the state legislature is in session. Fortunately, in the context of the upcoming elections, most states have adjourned sine die. In California, a lobbyist may not make a contribution to a candidate for any office for which the person is registered to lobby. Because most lobbyists are registered to communicate with the legislature, this ends up being nearly a total ban on contributions to legislators. Similarly, in Kentucky, a lobbyist registered with the legislative branch may not make a contribution to a lawmaker. In Alaska, a lobbyist is only allowed to contribute to candidates for office within his or her voting district.

There are several states in which lobbyists are allowed to make contributions, but must disclose the donations on their lobbyist reports. Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Washington are examples.

Some states have unique provisions for politically-active lobbyists. In Pennsylvania, for instance, a lobbyist who makes political contributions must register and report in the same manner as PACs. Minnesota lobbyists must include their registration numbers in the memo section of campaign contribution checks.

If you or a member of your team would like to make a campaign contribution in a state in which you are registered, please contact a member of the State and Federal Communications Compliance Department for fact-specific guidance.

(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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May 1, 2012 •

Ask the Experts – How to Report Travel Expenses

Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.

Steve QuinnQ. Some of the state lobbying reports ask about my travel expenses. What does this include?

A. “Travel expenses” is a phrase used by several states. It can refer to two different types of expenditures.

Some states require the disclosure of personal, reimbursed expenses incurred while lobbying. This would include food and beverage, hotels, cab fare, and travel expenses for a lobbying trip. Iowa, for instance, requires lobbyist employers to disclose all reimbursements made to their lobbyists. So, if a lobbyist lives in Topeka and flies to Des Moines to communicate with a legislator, the airfare is a reportable expense. Note, however, this generally only applies if the primary purpose of the trip is lobbying as defined by the state. A trip during which the lobbying contacts made were incidental to the main purpose of the travel would usually not need reported.

Other states, however, require the reporting of airfare or other travel costs paid by a lobbyist on behalf of a legislator or other public official. In Idaho and Mississippi, for example, a lobbyist or lobbyist employer may pay for a public official to travel to an event or to the company’s facilities, and the cost of the travel must be reported.

In all of these cases, the state reports request “travel expenses.” As you can see, it is very possible for the same words to have different meanings in the eyes of different states. When in doubt, lobbyists and employers can always contact us for guidance.

You can directly submit questions for this feature, and we will select those most appropriate and answer them here. Send your questions to: marketing@stateandfed.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.

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May 13, 2011 •

Revolving Door Loophole Exposed

West Virginia’s ethics panel decided the law does not include independent contractors.

The West Virginia Ethics Commission has concluded it cannot prevent an employee of the Legislature from avoiding the state’s newly passed “revolving door” ban if he changes his status from an employee to an independent contractor before the law takes effect on July 1, 2011.

Under the pending law, elected officials and certain high-ranking unelected employees will be forbidden from acting as lobbyists for one year after leaving public employment. The commission decided this law does not include independent contractors.

This decision comes after a request for an opinion by legislative counsel Donnie Adkins. The commission said it “is troubled” by the proposed maneuver but would be unable to bring him within the revolving door ban as an independent contractor.

The West Virginia Ethics Commission offers the opinion on their website.

Here is the Charleston Gazette’s coverage in the story, “Ethics loophole a cause of concern” by Phil Kabler.

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May 4, 2011 •

New Expenditure Report Coming for Politically Active Corporations in North Dakota

The new law takes effect August 1.

Governor Jack Dalrymple has signed Senate Bill 2073 into law.

The legislation, effective August 1, 2011, requires corporations making independent expenditures relating to ballot measures to file a report including the company’s name, the measure supported or opposed, and the monetary amount of the expenditure made.

This report, known as a “direct expenditure statement,” is due within 48 hours of making such an expenditure.

Photo of Governor Dalrymple courtesy of the North Dakota Office of the Governor website.

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April 28, 2011 •

Iowa News Update

Governor Terry Branstad signed House File 126 into law on Tuesday.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

This law, taking effect on July 1, 2011, requires lobbyist registration and reporting only with the legislative branch.

Lobbyists will indicate on this registration whether they will also engage in lobbying executive officials.

Employer reports will still be due each July 31st.

Photo of Governor Branstad courtesy of the official website for the Office of the Governor.

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April 27, 2011 •

Lobbying News from Iowa

Lobbyists in the Hawkeye State may soon have a streamlined registration and reporting process.

House File 126 has passed both houses of the Iowa Legislature and now awaits approval from Governor Terry Branstad.

This bill would change the state’s law to require lobbyists to register and report with the legislative branch only; currently there is separate registration and reporting for the legislative and executive branches.

Lobbyists would indicate on the registrations whether they will lobby executive officials in addition to lawmakers. Lobbyists would have a combined annual report due each July 31st and registration would open in December for the following calendar year.

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April 20, 2011 •

California Legislature Proposes Stronger Campaign Finance Laws

A bill to tighten restrictions on political contributions has been introduced in the California legislature.

California State CapitolAssembly Bill 860 would prohibit corporations or labor unions from making contributions to a candidate for elected office. Additionally, this legislation would strengthen the state pay-to-play laws.

The bill would prohibit government contractors from making contributions to an official or candidate who is or would be elected to a position responsible for awarding a government contract to the contributor.

Finally, this bill would also prohibit any employer from using payroll deduction to fund any political activity.

Photo of the California State Capitol by Nikopoley on Wikipedia.

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April 14, 2011 •

West Virginia Ethics Bill Passes

Acting Governor Tomblin signed House Bill 2464 into law late last week.

This ethics bill, which takes effect on July 1, 2011, prohibits members of the state legislature, elected executive branch officials, agency heads, and certain other appointed officials from acting as lobbyists for one year after leaving office.

Additionally, this legislation will require a public official who files financial disclosure statements to reveal employment information and other “business interests” of his or her spouse.

The spousal disclosures are designed to shine light on additional conflicts of interest an official may have even without a personal stake in a matter.

Photo of the West Virginia State Capitol by Garkeith on Wikipedia.

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April 6, 2011 •

General Assembly Bill Would Adjust Campaign Finance Reporting in California

A bill has been introduced in the General Assembly to simultaneously broaden the scope of the state’s campaign finance reporting laws and simplify the reporting schedule.

California Assembly ChamberUnder Assembly Bill 447, all committees making expenditures or receiving contributions of more than $500 would be required to file quarterly statements.

The legislation would eliminate independent expenditure reports, odd-year committee reports, and certain supplemental pre-election reports. Instead, all officers, candidates, and committees would have one pre-election report due 16 days before an election.

Late contribution reports would still be required within 24 hours of making a contribution near an election.

Photo of the California State Assembly Chamber by Lincolnite on Wikipedia.

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March 29, 2011 •

South Dakota Governor Signs Law Allowing Corporations to Give to PACs

Politically active corporations gain another tool.

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard

Senate Bill 39 has been signed by Governor Daugaard and will take effect July 1, 2011.

This law will allow corporations to make contributions to political action committees, contributions previously banned by state campaign finance law.

Under this bill, however, corporate contributions to candidates, candidate committees, or political parties are still prohibited.

Photo of Governor Daugaard courtesy of the South Dakota Governor website.

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March 23, 2011 •

Hawkeye State Proposes Unorthodox Fundraising Idea

Political contributions and advertisements may be targeted

A bill has been introduced in the Iowa Legislature to impose a five percent “fee” on contributions in excess of $250 per year received by a PAC, candidate, or candidate’s committee from a single source.

Additionally, House File 140 would apply the same fee to political advertisements made by candidates or their committees and independent expenditures made by corporations.

The funds raised would be used to help offset the cost of operating the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

Photo of the Iowa State Capitol by Iqkotze on Wikipedia.

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March 16, 2011 •

New Alabama Law under Attack in Federal Court

Opponents of a new law prohibiting payroll deductions from public employees for “political activity” have filed for a temporary injunction in federal court.

Flag of Alabama

The complaint filed by the American Education Association seeks to have the law overturned on grounds of violating free speech and equal protection.

Even though the law prohibits the use of payroll deductions from all public employees for such activities, the teachers’ group says the law, passed and supported by Republicans, is discriminatory and specifically aimed at them because the A.E.A. has traditionally been a strong supporter of Democratic candidates.

The statute in question has been a source of controversy since it was passed in December during a special legislative session which saw an overhaul of several aspects of the Alabama ethics laws.



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March 9, 2011 •

News from the City of Angels

Voters Approve Pay-to-Play Restrictions

Voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the city charter placing serious restrictions on the ability of those doing business or seeking to do business with the city to make campaign contributions.

The pay-to-play rule, which passed with a vote of 75 percent in favor, will prohibit anyone bidding on a contract with Los Angeles worth $100,000 or more from donating to or fundraising for city officials with the authority to approve the contract on which he or she is bidding.

Photo of Los Angeles City Hall by Brion VIBBER on Wikipedia.

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