March 12, 2020 •

U.S. Capitol Limits Access to Public Over Virus Concerns

Starting today at 5 p.m. and ending on April 1 at 8 p.m., the public will have limited access to the United States Capitol because of concerns of the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Michael C. Stenger, the Sergeant […]

Starting today at 5 p.m. and ending on April 1 at 8 p.m., the public will have limited access to the United States Capitol because of concerns of the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Michael C. Stenger, the Sergeant at Arms of U.S. Senate, and Paul D. Irving, the Sergeant at Arms of U.S. House of Representatives, in consultation with the Office of the Attending Physician, issued a statement on March 12.

They stated the Capitol Visitor Center will close all tours of the Capitol and other congressional office buildings, including the House and Senate office buildings and the Capitol grounds.

“Lawmakers, staff, credentialed journalists and visitors with official business would still be allowed entry,” according to Reuters. 

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February 13, 2020 •

Federal Lobbyist Bundling Disclosure Threshold Increased to $19,000

Today, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) published its price index adjustments for expenditure limitations and the federal lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold. The lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold has increased for 2020 from $18,700 to $19,000. This threshold amount is adjusted annually. […]

Today, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) published its price index adjustments for expenditure limitations and the federal lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold.

The lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold has increased for 2020 from $18,700 to $19,000. This threshold amount is adjusted annually.

Federal law requires authorized committees of federal candidates, leadership political action committees (PACs), and political party committees to disclose contributions bundled by lobbyists and lobbyists’ PACs.

Additionally, the FEC published its adjusted Coordinated Party Expenditure Limits for political parties for 2020.

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September 11, 2019 •

IRS Moves Again to Exempt Certain Tax-Exempt Organizations From Reporting Contributor Info

Photo Credit: saturnism

On September 6, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a notice of a proposed rulemaking for allowing certain tax-exempt organizations to no longer be required to report the names and addresses of contributors on their annual reports. Previously, the IRS […]

On September 6, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a notice of a proposed rulemaking for allowing certain tax-exempt organizations to no longer be required to report the names and addresses of contributors on their annual reports.

Previously, the IRS had issued a guidance to this effect, but on July 30, the IRS guidance limiting these disclosure requirements was set aside by a federal judge.

In Bullock v. IRS, the U.S. District Court District of Montana (Great Falls) found the IRS violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not providing notice and allowing a public comment period before the guidance was issued. It predicated this decision by finding the guidance was a legislative rule.

On July 16, 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS had announced certain tax-exempt organizations would no longer be required to report the names and addresses of contributors on their annual reports. This exemption from reporting applies to tax-exempt organizations generally not receiving tax-deductible contributions, such as labor unions, volunteer fire departments, issue-advocacy groups, local chambers of commerce, veterans’ groups, and community service clubs, according to the department’s press release.

These organizations are still required to continue to collect and keep the donor information and to make it available to the IRS upon its request.

This change did not affect the information required to be reported by charities primarily receiving tax-deductible contributions, such as 501(c)(3) organizations, certain nonexempt private foundations, or 527 political organizations. The Treasury Department and IRS had given three primary reasons for the change:

    1. The IRS makes no systematic use of this information collected by these organizations
    2. The policy reduces the risk of inadvertent disclosure or misuse of confidential information
    3. The policy saves both private and government resources

Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted for 90 days after the notice’s publication in the Federal Register.

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May 22, 2019 •

On May 22, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) will hold a virtual public hearing to gather comments for a proposed rule regarding executive branch officials and employees setting up legal expense funds. The virtual public hearing will be […]

On May 22, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) will hold a virtual public hearing to gather comments for a proposed rule regarding executive branch officials and employees setting up legal expense funds.

The virtual public hearing will be recorded and a transcript of the hearing will be posted on OGE’s website.

The agency is seeking public comments even after the virtual hearing, with the comment period ending on June 14.

The OGE has also listed questions on its website for the public to consider in order to help the agency determine issues specifically related to legal expense funds.

Those questions include whether there should be contribution limits to legal expense funds; whether donations of pro bono legal services to legal expense funds should be permitted; and whether contributions should be subject to reporting requirements?

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March 15, 2019 •

Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019 Bill Introduced in US House

Vendors selling internet-of-things (IoT) to the federal government may soon be required to follow certain security guidelines concerning those devices. House Bill 1668, the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on […]

Vendors selling internet-of-things (IoT) to the federal government may soon be required to follow certain security guidelines concerning those devices.

House Bill 1668, the Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives on March 11, would require all federal contracts involving the purchase and use of internet-connected devices meet certain security requirements to better ensure these devices are secure against cyber-attacks.

The legislation requires contractors and vendors providing internet-of-things devices to the U.S. government adopt coordinated vulnerability disclosure policies, so that if a vulnerability is uncovered, that information is disseminated.

The bill also requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to issue recommendations addressing, at a minimum, secure development, identity management, patching, and configuration management for IoT devices.

Additionally, the legislation directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue guidelines for each agency consistent with the NIST recommendations and mandates the OMB with reviewing these policies at least every five years.

“As the government continues to purchase and use more and more internet-connected devices, we must ensure that these devices are secure. Everything from our national security to the personal information of American citizens could be vulnerable because of security holes in these devices,” said the bill’s sponsor, Congresswoman Robin Kelly, in her press release.

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February 11, 2019 •

The Corporate Political Disclosure Act of 2019 Introduced in U.S. Congress

On February 7, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to require publicly traded corporations to disclose all expenditures made for political activities. House Bill 1053, the Corporate Political Disclosure Act of 2019, would require publicly traded […]

On February 7, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to require publicly traded corporations to disclose all expenditures made for political activities.

House Bill 1053, the Corporate Political Disclosure Act of 2019, would require publicly traded corporations to disclose political expenditures, through the Securities and Exchange Commission, to their shareholders and to the general public.

The requirement would include reporting dues or other payments to trade associations that are, or could reasonably be anticipated to be, used or transferred to another association or organization for use on political activities.

The legislation, brought by Rep. Salud Ortiz Carbajal, was originally introduced in the prior congressional session, but never made it out of the House Committee on Financial Services.

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January 29, 2019 •

House Joint Resolution Introduced Eliminates Counting All Noncitizens During Census

On January 24, Rep. Warren Davidson introduced a resolution proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution providing members of the House of Representatives be apportioned among only U.S. citizens. House Joint Resolution 34, the Fair Representation Amendment, would eliminate the […]

On January 24, Rep. Warren Davidson introduced a resolution proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution providing members of the House of Representatives be apportioned among only U.S. citizens.

House Joint Resolution 34, the Fair Representation Amendment, would eliminate the practice of counting noncitizens during each census, counting only citizens for apportionment of representatives and electoral votes.

“Proper census calculations are needed to ensure that every citizen’s vote counts,” says Davidson in his press release. Davidson first introduced the legislation in the last Congress.

Currently, the census counts everyone residing in the U.S., including individuals employed, working, and residing legally in the country.

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January 25, 2019 •

Lobbyist Loophole Closure Act Introduced in US House

On January 24, Rep. Max Rose introduced a bill to amend the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 to expand the scope of individuals and activities subject to the Act. House Bill 783, the Lobbyist Loophole Closure Act, requires individuals who […]

On January 24, Rep. Max Rose introduced a bill to amend the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 to expand the scope of individuals and activities subject to the Act.

House Bill 783, the Lobbyist Loophole Closure Act, requires individuals who provide paid strategic advice in support of lobbying contacts with covered government officials to register as lobbyists, even if the individuals themselves do not make direct contact with the official.

“If someone acts like a lobbyist, and is paid like a lobbyist, then they ought to register as a lobbyist,” Rose said in his press release.

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January 4, 2019 •

Federal Lobbying Law Amended: Disclosure of Lobbyist Convictions for Bribery and Fraud Now Required

Federal Lobbyists are now required to disclose convictions for bribery, fraud, and other crimes when registering and reporting. President Trump signed Senate Bill 2896, the “Justice Against Corruption on K Street Act of 2018” or the “JACK Act” on January […]

Federal Lobbyists are now required to disclose convictions for bribery, fraud, and other crimes when registering and reporting.

President Trump signed Senate Bill 2896, the “Justice Against Corruption on K Street Act of 2018” or the “JACK Act” on January 3. On December 20, 2018 the U.S. Congress passed the bill, which passed the U.S. Senate in August with unanimous consent.

The new law requires lobbyists to disclose any prior conviction for bribery, extortion, embezzlement, illegal kickbacks, tax evasion, fraud, conflicts of interest, making false statements, perjury, or money laundering.

The House voted 390-0 to pass the Senate’s bill on to President Trump.

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November 28, 2018 •

Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act Introduced in House

On November 16, a 289-page bill with various changes to federal lobbying and ethics laws was introduced in the House of Representatives. The identical bill was introduced in August in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Among the legislative […]

On November 16, a 289-page bill with various changes to federal lobbying and ethics laws was introduced in the House of Representatives. The identical bill was introduced in August in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Among the legislative changes included in H.R. 7140, the “Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act”, are an expanded definition of “lobbyist”. The new definition covers individuals employed for compensation making at least one lobbying contact or engaging in lobbying activities that do not include making lobbying contacts.

The bill creates the definition of “corporate lobbyist”, which are lobbyists compensated by for-profit entities and 501(c)(6) organizations like chambers of commerce, but does not include other 501(c) entities or political organizations. Reporting by lobbyists would be expanded to include disclosure of specific bills, policies, and governmental actions attempted to be influenced, meetings with public officials and documents provided to those officials.

The bill permanently bans all foreign lobbying by both foreign actors and American lobbyists. American lobbyists would be prohibited from accepting money from foreign governments, foreign individuals, and foreign companies to influence United States public policy.

Other changes include a life-time ban on lobbying by former presidents, vice presidents, cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, and federal judges. All other federal employees would be banned from lobbying their former office, department, agency, or Congress after leaving their position until the end of the Administration, but for no less than two years or at least six years for corporate lobbyists. The bill prohibits companies from immediately hiring senior government officials from an agency or office recently lobbied by that company.

The law similarly would prohibit large companies, measured by annual revenue or market capitalization, from hiring former senior government officials for four years after they leave the government. Additionally, lobbyists would be prohibited from making political contributions to candidates or members of Congress, giving gifts to the executive and legislative branch officials being lobbied, and from working for any contingency fee. The bill also contains changes to the federal rule-making process, expands the open record laws, creates ethics requirements for the judicial branch, including the Supreme Court, and creates an independent U.S. Office of Public Integrity for enforcement.

An additional part of the bill addresses conflict of interest laws for federal office holders and employees, including a ban on stock ownership, while in office or employed, by members of Congress, federal judges, and White House staff and senior agency officials. Also, the legislation includes the “Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act”, which requires sitting presidents and vice presidents to place conflicted assets into blind trusts to be sold.

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November 7, 2018 •

Democrats Take House While Republicans Keep Senate

On November 6, voters gave Democrats the majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives while keeping Republicans firmly in control of the Senate. With early elections results in, it appears clear Democrats have gained at least 26 seats, giving […]

On November 6, voters gave Democrats the majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives while keeping Republicans firmly in control of the Senate.

With early elections results in, it appears clear Democrats have gained at least 26 seats, giving them more than the 218 seats required in the House for a majority.

In the Senate, Republicans gained two seats, ensuring their control of the Senate.

Republicans may possibly increase their majority in the Senate when the final votes are counted.

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September 18, 2018 •

Sen. Sasse Introduces Five Federal Ethics Bills

On September 17, Sen. Ben Sasse introduced five federal ethics bills in the Senate, including Senate Bill 3454, the Congressional Revolving Door Ban Act, which would create a lifetime ban on members of Congress leaving office to become federal lobbyists. […]

On September 17, Sen. Ben Sasse introduced five federal ethics bills in the Senate, including Senate Bill 3454, the Congressional Revolving Door Ban Act, which would create a lifetime ban on members of Congress leaving office to become federal lobbyists.

Senate Bill 3452, the Cabinet Service Integrity Act, prohibits cabinet members and their immediate family from soliciting contributions from a government of a foreign country, a foreign political party, or any entity owned or controlled by a government of a foreign country or foreign political party.

Senate Bill 3451, the Congressional Anti-Corruption Act, prohibits members of Congress from buying or selling individual securities while in office.

Senate Bill 3453, the Congressional Workplace Misconduct Accountability Act, creates a public database of U.S. Congressional human resources settlements and increases the personal financial liability for members of congress.

Senate Bill 3450, the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, requires a presidential and vice-presidential candidates’ tax returns be disclosed by the Internal Revenue Service.

Sasse said he intends the legislation to be “big and disruptive and uncomfortable for Washington, D.C.”, according to his press release.

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September 17, 2018 •

Chief Justice Roberts Stays FEC Campaign Finance Disclosure Regulation

On September 15th, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. issued an order staying a lower federal district court’s order invalidating a Federal Election Commission (FEC) campaign finance disclosure regulation. Robert’s stay was decided on Saturday after […]

On September 15th, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. issued an order staying a lower federal district court’s order invalidating a Federal Election Commission (FEC) campaign finance disclosure regulation. Robert’s stay was decided on Saturday after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied an emergency motion for the stay made earlier the same day.

On August 3, a federal district court had ruled a campaign finance disclosure regulation, followed for decades by the FEC, failed to uphold disclosure requirements required by a federal statute. Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the United States District Court for The District of Columbia issued an order, in CREW v. FEC, vacating 11 C.F.R. §109.10(e)(1)(vi), but stayed the vacatur for 45 days to give time for the FEC to issue interim regulations comporting with the statutory disclosure requirements of 52 U.S.C. §30104(c). The court also has allowed the FEC 30 days to change an earlier FEC dismissal to conform with the court’s ruling.

The case originated because of independent expenditures made in a 2012 Ohio senate race by the non-political social-welfare nonprofit Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS), an affiliate of the American Crossroads Super PAC. Crossroads GPS did not report donors when reporting its independent expenditures, while it acknowledged receiving contributions over $200, arguing the donors did not donate funds directly tied to any specific reported expenditure, as the FEC interpreted 11 C.F.R. §109.10(e)(1)(vi) to require. Non-political committees making independent expenditures over $250 in a calendar year must comply with disclosure obligations closely analogous to those imposed on political committees.

The vacated regulation required the identification of each person who made a contribution in excess of $200 to the person filing a disclosure report, including for non-political 501(c)(4) non-profit entities making independent expenditures, if the contribution was made for the purpose of furthering the reported independent expenditure. The district court found the regulation, as construed and applied by the FEC, did not require the disclosure of donors, absent the donor’s express agreement that the funds be used for the specific expenditures reported to the FEC, even though the donor may otherwise support and in fact contribute for the purpose of funding those expenditures.

The district court found the regulation impermissibly narrows the mandated disclosure in 52 U.S.C. §30104(c)(2)(C), which requires the identification of such donors contributing for the purpose of furthering the non-political committee’s own express advocacy for or against the election of a federal candidate, even when the donor has not expressly directed that the funds be used in the precise manner reported.

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August 21, 2018 •

Sen. Warren Introducing Comprehensive Lobbying and Ethics Bill

On August 21, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is introducing a 289-page bill with various changes to federal lobbying and ethics laws. Among the changes included in the “Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act” are an expanded definition of “lobbyist”. The new definition […]

On August 21, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is introducing a 289-page bill with various changes to federal lobbying and ethics laws.

Among the changes included in the “Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act” are an expanded definition of “lobbyist”. The new definition covers individuals employed for compensation making at least one lobbying contact or engaging in lobbying activities that do not include making lobbying contacts. The bill creates the definition of “corporate lobbyist”, which are lobbyists compensated by for-profit entities and 501(c)(6) organizations like chambers of commerce, but does not include other 501(c) entities or political organizations.

Reporting by lobbyists would expanded to include disclosure of specific bills, policies, and governmental actions attempted to be influenced, meetings with public officials and documents provided to those officials.

The bill permanently bans all foreign lobbying by both foreign actors and American lobbyists. American lobbyists would be prohibited from accepting money from foreign governments, foreign individuals, and foreign companies to influence United States public policy.

Other changes include a life-time ban on lobbying by former presidents, vice presidents, cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, and federal judges. All other federal employees would be banned from lobbying their former office, department, agency, or Congress after leaving their position until the end of the Administration, but for no less than two years or at least six years for corporate lobbyists. The bill prohibits companies from immediately hiring senior government officials from an agency or office recently lobbied by that company. The law similarly would prohibit large companies, measured by annual revenue or market capitalization, from hiring former senior government officials for four years after they leave the government.

Additionally, lobbyists would be prohibited from making political contributions to candidates or members of Congress, giving gifts to the executive and legislative branch officials being lobbied, and from working for any contingency fee.

The bill also contains changes to the federal rule-making process, expands the open record laws, creates ethics requirements for the judicial branch, including the Supreme Court, and creates an independent U.S. Office of Public Integrity for enforcement. An additional part of the bill addresses conflict of interest laws for federal office holders and employees, including a ban on stock ownership, while in office or employed, by members of Congress, federal judges, and White House staff and senior agency officials.

Also, the legislation includes the “Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act”, which requires sitting presidents and vice presidents to place conflicted assets into blind trusts to be sold.

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