September 8, 2010 •
Governor Chris Christie announced a series of ethics reform measures, including those intent on closing pay-to-play loopholes and curtailing the unlimited transfer of campaign money between county and municipal committees.
The proposal would end the “fair and open contract” exception for businesses which make reportable campaign contributions at the legislative, county, and municipal levels, yet are able to receive contract awards valued greater than $17,500 with local governments – a practice not permitted at the state or gubernatorial level. The new legislation would also restrict the practice of “wheeling” by imposing contribution limitations on county and municipal committees which transfer money between committees and transfer committee contributions to out-of-county or out-of-municipality candidates.
September 8, 2010 •
Unions and corporations in Michigan are allowed to pool funds for independent expenditures under an agreement reached between Secretary of State Land and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber filed for, and was granted, a preliminary injunction against Land’s initial interpretation of Michigan’s campaign finance laws in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision. Land ruled the Chamber may make independent expenditures but could not set up a PAC to make them. Under the stipulated ruling, corporations, organization, and unions are still prohibited from making direct corporate contributions or using a PAC to do so.
September 8, 2010 •
Today, September 8, 2010 marks the 36th anniversary of a moment that many Americans do not recall and those that do, perhaps, wish they didn’t.
On this day, thirty-six years ago, President Gerald R. Ford issued Proclamation 4311 announcing the unconditional pardon of ex-President Richard Nixon.
Ford had been President just short of a month following the resignation of Nixon on August 9, 1974 when he took the momentous step of pardoning his predecessor. Issuing the pardon would go on to define Ford’s presidency—and most likely cost him the 1976 election against Democrat Jimmy Carter. At the time, many people suspected a backroom deal had led to the pardon, but Ford disagreed. The country needed to move on from the trauma of Watergate and he alone had the power to pardon Richard Nixon even though no charges had been officially filed at that point in time. President Ford, though, believed the time was right. The country’s “long national nightmare” had to end.
Ford’s pardon of Nixon helped the country move past Watergate even though he may have paid a price for it politically in 1976. In 2001, the John F. Kennedy Foundation awarded President Ford the Profile in Courage Award. The Profile in Courage Award honors “modern-day elected officials who stand up for the public interest, even when it is not in their own interest to do so. The award celebrates individuals who choose principles over partisanship – who do what is right, rather than what is expedient.”
September 7, 2010 •
The Georgia State Ethics Commission ruled that campaign candidate to candidate contributions must adhere to the limitations expressed under O.C.G.A. section 21-5-41.
The Commission determined the language in section 21-5-33(b)(1)(B) of the Georgia Ethics in Government Act which states a candidate is free to transfer excess contributions “without limitation to any national, state, or local committee of any political party or to any candidate” is not referencing an absence of limitation on such contributions, but is instead referencing the types of organizations to which such excess contributions may be contributed.
For further reading:
“Advisory Opinion – S.E.C. 2010-06,” by the Georgia State Ethics Commission.
This post is a follow-up to my previous article on Georgia campaign finance from August 30, 2010 – “Georgia Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion Coming,” by Joe May.
September 3, 2010 •
With mottoes such as “Government as Platform,” and “Opening the Door to Innovation,” the Gov 2.0 Summit promises to be the spot where social media and government mix!
Next week there will be an exciting conference in Washington, D.C. called the Gov 2.0 Summit. This is its second annual conference and is hosted by UBM TechWeb and Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media – famous for all of those computer manuals.
From September 7-8 at the Grand Hyatt Washington, the Gov 2.0 Summit will gather thinkers from all over to share ideas about the relationship between social media and government. According to its Web site:
“Gov 2.0 Summit brings together innovators from government and the private sector to highlight technology and ideas that can be applied to the nation’s great challenges. … Our focus this year is on opening the door to innovation, learning about the latest technology and its application, and breaking down the barriers to its adoption.”
The private sector cost to attend Gov 2.0 Summit – $1495, public sector – $995.
This is a great Web site. The list of sponsors, speakers, vendors, and attendees is fascinating – and you can even watch videos of presentations from last years’ gathering. (That alone makes the site worth visiting, even if you have no intention of attending the Summit.) Who knows, maybe I’ll go!
Let me know if you are going. And if you do go, please share your impressions of the Summit!
September 2, 2010 •
Nevada to Increase Lobbying Registration Fees for 2011.
The Nevada Legislative Ethics Commission has announced it will increase lobbyist registration fees for 2011. The fee has been set at $300 for paid lobbyists, triple the current amount. The fee for unpaid lobbyists will remain at $20.
According to the Lobbyist Registration Overview:
“The penalty for failure to file any monthly expenditure report(s) or to file late is $10 per day until the report(s) is submitted.”
If you have any questions, the Registration Office contact is (775) 684-6800.
Here is the overview from the Nevada Legislative Web site.
September 2, 2010 •
A draft ethics code for the new Cuyahoga County government will be the subject of a public meeting later this month.
The proposed Cuyahoga County ethics code is the product of a review conducted by a working group of volunteers who reviewed the ethics practices of 13 similar counties. The proposed code includes provisions for lobbyist registration and reporting, campaign finance disclosure, and “pay-to-play” provisions for public contracts.
The code calls for a new five person entity called the Cuyahoga County Ethics Board which will oversee ethics education and enforcement as well as a County Ethics Officer who would be empowered to render advisory opinions, process and initiate ethics complaints, and conduct investigations.
Finally, the new code provides for whistleblower protection for county employees who report suspected illegal or unethical conduct.
September 2, 2010 •
Plan to say hello at future events where State and Federal Communications will be attending and/or speaking regarding compliance issues.
We have an exciting calendar this fall. Maybe we will see you there?
- September 27-29, 2010 PAC State and Local Government Relations Seminar, Alexandria, Virginia
- October 5-6, 2010 Practising Law Institute Corporate Political Affairs Seminar, Washington, D.C.
- November 11-14, 2010 Capitolbeat Conference, Phoenix, Arizona
- November 20-23, 2010 SGAC Leaders’ Policy Conference, Scottsdale, Arizona
- December 5-8, 2010 2010 COGEL Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.
September 1, 2010 •
The state’s current campaign contribution limits will remain intact at least until after this year’s general elections.
A federal judge rejected Republican strategist Greg McNeilly’s request for an injunction on the limits, which have remained unchanged since 1976.
McNeilly argued the limits have not kept pace with inflation and constitute an infringement on his First Amendment rights. In Michigan, individuals can donate $500 to a candidate for state House, and $1,000 to a Senate candidate.
The lawsuit seeking to strike down these campaign contribution limits will be heard, but not before the November 2 election.
This post is a follow-up to a previous article on Michigan campaign finance from July 7 – “Michigan Campaign Contribution Limits Challenged,” by Steve Quinn.
August 31, 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.
Here is a question we have been asked many, many times by clients over the years.
Q. How do I most accurately calculate my pro-rata share of compensation when I am registered as a lobbyist in five different states? Do I take my gross annual salary and divide it by five?
A. If you take your gross annual salary and divide it by five, you will undoubtedly over-report your compensation. Although you can never go wrong over-reporting, you should also strive for accurate reporting, especially in this instance.
Think of your lobbying in terms of hours. Review your calendar a month, or even a week, at a time to determine the number of hours you lobbied in a particular state. Now, assign a dollar value to those hours, and the result is accurate reporting.
To do this, follow this formula:
1. Take your gross annual salary and divide it by 2,080 (52 weeks in a calendar year multiplied by 40 hours per week). This is your hourly rate.
2. Multiply the number of hours you lobbied by your hourly rate. This amount is the reportable pro-rata share of your compensation for lobbying in that state.
Here’s an example:
1. Gross annual salary is $120,000.
2. $120,000 divided by 2,080, is an hourly rate of $57.69.
3. Fifteen hours lobbied in a particular state during a reporting period, multiplied by the hourly rate of $57.69, is $865.35. In this example, this is your reportable pro-rata share of your compensation for lobbying.
Of course, you have work weeks that exceed 40 hours. And you also go on vacation. Using 2,080 as the number of work hours in a calendar year is a generally accepted accounting principle that will sustain scrutiny of even the most stringent of state auditors.
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 30, 2010 •
Newspaper quotes our president and CEO about campaign finance.
The Lodi News-Sentinel recently ran a story about campaign contributions in Lodi, California. The article discusses contributions that fall below the state’s $100 disclosure threshold. Elizabeth Bartz, the president and CEO of State and Federal Communications, Inc., offers her insights about California campaign finance laws and places it within the context of laws in other states.
You can find her insights here:
“Campaign: Donations of $99 or less never see light of day,” by Maggie Creamer in the Lodi News-Sentinel.
August 30, 2010 •
The State Ethics Commission of Georgia is expected to issue an advisory opinion in the coming weeks concerning limits on campaign candidate to candidate contributions in the state.
Jim Walls, who runs the watchdog Web site AtlantaUnfiltered.com, has requested the opinion after language concerning such contributions and any limitations imposed was recently questioned before the State Ethics Commission. A vote by the Commission could remove caps on such contributions in the near future; however, if the vote were to remove the caps, it is expected to result in a bill being introduced before the state legislature to impose clear limits on these contributions.
For further reading:
“Ethics Commission to issue advisory opinion on campaign transfers,” by Walter Jones in the Rome News-Tribune.
“Law setting funding limits in elections could be gutted,” by Jim Walls in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Here is letter of request by Jim Walls to the State Ethics Commission of Georgia.
August 27, 2010 •
The Maine Ethics Commission adopted emergency rules to address regulations deemed “unconstitutionally burdensome” by a federal court last week. The new rules apply to political action committees, party committees, and other outside groups making independent expenditures.
Beginning September 7th, independent expenditures exceeding $250 must be reported within 48 hours of the expenditure. Starting on October 20th, independent expenditures exceeding $100 must be reported within 24 hours. Other reports of independent expenditures will be required on September 7th, October 12th, and October 19th.
Here is the Notice on Reporting Independent Expenditures on the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices Web site.
Photo by AlbanyNY on Wikipedia.
August 27, 2010 •
The Broward County Board of Commissioners has passed a new ethics ordinance.
Commissioners, their family members, and their staff will no longer be permitted to accept gifts from lobbyists registered with the county, employers of registered lobbyists, or vendors or contractors of the county. Commissioners will not be permitted to be employed as lobbyists or engage in lobbying activities before municipalities or other local government entities within the county.
Further, family members and office staff of a commissioner will not be permitted to lobby before the Board of County Commissioners or other local government entities within Broward County.
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.