October 6, 2010 •
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.
Q. As a registered lobbyist, I am often contacted by elected officials to make a corporate contribution to the officials’ charity of choice, foundation, or scholarship fund. Is this legal? Am I required to disclose these contributions on my lobbying reports?
A. This scenario happens more and more every day. Even though the official does not derive direct, political contributions for his or her campaign, such charitable contributions nonetheless result in positive exposure for the official, goodwill by the lobbyist, and beneficiaries that include the underprivileged, the sick, and the elderly. Furthermore, the monetary amount of corporate charitable donations can surpass the amount of permissible political contributions under campaign finance law.
Most states allow a lobbyist’s employer to make charitable contributions at the behest of an elected official and there are no reporting obligations. Some of the other jurisdictional requirements include:
FEDERAL: Pursuant to House and Senate Rules, charitable contributions made by a registered lobbyist at the behest or designation of a legislative member or employee are prohibited, unless the member or employee has designated the contribution to a charitable organization in lieu of an honorarium.
Please note, however, a charitable organization established by a person before that person became a covered official – and where that covered official has no relationship to the organization after becoming a covered official – is not considered to be established by a covered official.
NEW YORK: Charitable contributions made at the behest of a public official are not permitted.
NEW JERSEY and NEVADA: The charitable contribution is allowed but is not reportable as long as the contribution is not made in the official’s name.
CALIFORNIA: The contribution is permissible but must be reported by the official, not the lobbyist or the employer.
CONNECTICUT: The charitable contribution is permissible and is reported as a lobbying expenditure.
DELAWARE: The contribution is reported as a gift.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The contribution is reported as other.
WYOMING: The contribution is only reported if it exceeds $500.
UTAH: Charitable contributions given for a political purpose are reportable.
If clients who subscribe to our Executive Source Guide on Lobbying Laws™ have further questions about other jurisdictions, they can always check the particular jurisdiction in the online resources. Or, clients can call us if they have some special information need.
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.
October 5, 2010 •
Measure now in Senate
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the State Ethics Law Protection Act. H.R. 3427 would preclude the Federal Highway Administration from interpreting a state’s Pay-to-Play laws as conflicting with federal contract bidding requirements for federal-aid highway projects.
The measure has now passed to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
October 5, 2010 •
Court to Examine Long-standing Montana Law Banning Corporate Campaign Contributions
A Montana district judge will rule on a challenge to Montana’s nearly century-old, voter-passed restriction on direct corporate spending to support or oppose political parties or candidates. The Montana law is being challenged based upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s January ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturned a federal ban on corporate spending in political campaigns.
Attorneys for the State of Montana defended the law stating that a law enacted in 1912 should not be lumped with a law Congress enacted 90 years later under a one-size-fits-all federal rule. They added that corporations do speak freely in Montana elections under current law with nearly 200 political action committees active in state politics in the past decade and warned unlimited corporate campaign spending would drastically alter Montana’s current campaigns that rely on person-to-person contact.
October 4, 2010 •
Group challenges Florida campaign law in federal court
The Institute for Justice, a group which touts itself as the only libertarian public interest law firm in the nation, has filed a challenge to Florida’s campaign finance laws in federal court. The suit has been filed on behalf of four Sarasota, Florida residents seeking to pool their monetary resources to buy radio ads against a proposed state constitutional amendment on the November ballot. However, due to requirements to register as a PAC and disclosure requirements associated with such communications, the residents feel their First Amendment rights are being infringed upon.
This is not the first instance wherein the Institute for Justice has challenged a restriction on political speech in Florida, as they were previously successful in having declared unconstitutional Florida’s electioneering communication law in the case of Broward Coalition of Condominiums v. Browning.
Photo of U.S. Federal Courthouse in Tallahassee by Urbantallahassee on Wikipedia.
October 4, 2010 •
Improper Collaboration Alleged in Kansas Gubernatorial Race
The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has decided to move forward with an investigation against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Holland and the Kansas Moderate Majority, an unaffiliated PAC supporting Holland’s candidacy. A complaint filed with the commission alleges improper collaboration between Holland and the committee on an ad campaign targeting Republican nominee Sam Brownback’s support of a controversial tax reform.
If the Holland campaign and the Kansas Moderate Majority did illegally work together on these advertisements, it could be considered an in-kind contribution.The limit on this type of in-kind contribution is $2,000, a figure the advertisements likely exceeded.
Photo of Tom Holland from the Kansas Legislature Web site.
September 30, 2010 •
The premier social network connecting over 30,000 government innovators from federal, state, and local government.
Proclaiming itself to be the “Facebook for Government,” GovLoop is a Ning-based social network for people who work in government. With more than 30,000 members, GovLoop has a great deal to offer someone working in government. Do you want to host a blog, but don’t know how? GovLoop can host it for you, and it currently lists an impressive 7,020 blog posts.
There are lots of discussion groups and even a photo hosting service for pictures from government events, which they call “Govarazzi.” Govloop offers advice for better government management – everything from preparing staff for retirement, finding the latest information on cyber security and open government laws, and how to survive government performance audits.
Rich with information on the intersection between government and the latest of social media, you will be dazzled by what is offered: a Government-Related Twitter Hashtags Directory; a small but growing database of Federal Government New Media Contacts; and a list of Web 2.0 Governance Policies And Best Practices ranging from the United States Airforce to the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Governor of Massachusetts, and the City of Seattle! (And many more.)
GovLoop was founded in May 2008 by Stephen Ressler, who worked for Homeland Security. The group has become so successful that they co-hosted an event last July called Next Generation of Government Summit to “bring together rising government leaders at the federal, state, and local level.”
While you will find all kinds of valuable information for government work, it’s not all serious stuff. Among the 828 groups found on GovLoop, you will find Gov Gourmet, encouraging members to “feel free to discuss your latest restaurant find, that new recipe, food fad, or celebrity chef.” You will also find Italians in Government, Librarians in Government, and even Cats in Government (for cat lovers who want to talk about their cats).
You have to be a member to get to some of the good stuff, but there are lots of resources available to non-members as well.
September 29, 2010 •
Group says Rhode Island’s campaign finance law is unconstitutional.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has filed a federal lawsuit against the Rhode Island Board of Elections seeking to strike down Rhode Island’s campaign finance law. Citing extensively to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the plaintiffs allege Rhode Island law’s definition of a political action committee, its expenditure ban, and its expenditure reporting requirements are all unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi for declaratory judgments clarifying the extent to which state law’s $1,000 contribution limits on contributions by political action committees apply to them. NOM also seeks a declaratory judgment stating they are not subject to the extensive reporting requirements imposed by state law upon entities which make independent expenditures. An in-chambers conference regarding the lawsuit has been scheduled for Thursday, September 30th, 2010.
September 28, 2010 •
Commission advises against candidates making transfers of funds to their party – with an exception.
The Arkansas Ethics Commission has released an opinion against allowing candidates to transfer to their political party any campaign funds unless the candidate is running unopposed or the election is over. This opinion comes at the request of Doyle Webb, chairperson of the Republican Party of Arkansas, after current Democratic Governor Mike Beebe made such a transfer during his 2006 gubernatorial campaign.
Prior to the 2006 election, Beebe transferred $230,000 to the state Democratic Party from his accumulated campaign funds. However, in the opinion the ethics commission stopped short of calling such a transfer “illegal,’ merely stating “the Commission would advise against making such a transfer,” and noted that further facts concerning the situation would need to be determined prior to any determination as to whether such action would violate the campaign finance laws of Arkansas.
Webb noted that no request was made for Governor Beebe to be penalized for the transfer and the opinion was requested primarily for future reference.
September 27, 2010 •
The BIAW Receives a Fine.
The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) was fined $548,000 by the state Attorney General’s office for violating the state’s campaign finance disclosure law. The fine is for $584,527 in undisclosed funds that went to the campaign against Gov. Christine Gregoire.
Here is the source article: “For Conservative BIAW, a $548,000 Fine,” by Joel Connelly in the Seattle Post Intelligencer on September 24.
September 24, 2010 •
The Registry of Lobbyists approved changes to the Lobbyist Registration Act significantly expanding the scope of reportable activities.
Additionally, these officials are now subject to Canada’s five-year “revolving door” restrictions forbidding certain officials from becoming lobbyists.
September 24, 2010 •
If you are jaded by political campaign ads – I know we are heading into midterm elections – I found a Web site that may make you smile.
The Museum of the Moving Image: The Living Room Candidate offers over 300 presidential campaign television commercials ranging from 1952 to 2008.
We learned in school what a pivotal moment the Nixon vs. Kennedy televised debate was in shaping the American perceptions of the two candidates, but did you know the first televised presidential campaign ad was for Dwight Eisenhower in 1952? Advertising king Rosser Reeves (of “M&M candies melt in your mouth, not in your hand” fame) put together the famous “You like Ike, I like Ike, everybody likes Ike for president…” jingle.
At the Living Room Candidate, you can sit back and enjoy all the ads: Eisenhower slamming the Democrats in his “Eisenhower Answers America” ad in 1952; the Kennedy, Man for the ’60s jingle, Nixon playing “Happy Birthday” on the piano for Duke Ellington in 1972; Jimmy Carter, “the leader for a change,” glad-handing the crowds in 1976; and Ronald Reagan, “a man whose time has come,” promoting his successes as governor of California in an ad from 1980. Wow, have the styles changed over 58 years!
Video courtesy of the Living Room Candidate.
If you can’t get enough of the Rosser Reeves-era commercials, PBS hosts a wonderful archive called The :30 Second Candidate. That site hosts all of the campaign ads from the Eisenhower campaign of 1952. You will find a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how the TV commercials went from concept to script, and from story board to ads.
The Living Room Candidate gives us two quotes to think about:
Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson said in 1956, “The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal is the ultimate indignity to the democratic process.”
By 1968, television producer and Nixon campaign consultant Roger Ailes said, “Television is no gimmick, and nobody will ever be elected to major office again without presenting themselves well on it.”
Should we add Facebook and Twitter to Ailes’ advice?
September 24, 2010 •
Motion of Cloture Fails
Senate Bill 3628, known as the DISCLOSE Act, was reintroduced in the US Senate a second time but failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to be debated on the floor. The motion of cloture vote of 59 to 39 fell along party lines.
A reaction to Citizens United v SEC, the bill includes measures such as requiring organizations to disclose to shareholders, members, or donors information detailing how disbursements were made for campaign-related activity.
September 23, 2010 •
Governor signs a new law affecting lobbying registration and reporting.
The governor of Guam has signed legislation replacing its existing lobbying law with new provisions requiring registration for legislative lobbyists and reporting on the 10th day of the month following the end of a quarter.
The legislation also contains a revolving door provision and penalties for violations of the act.
September 22, 2010 •
Lacks Power to Declare Statute Unconstitutional
The State Ethics Commission will not enforce contribution limits for committees making expenditures independent of a candidate’s control or consultation. An earlier requested Attorney General’s opinion found a committee engaging exclusively in independent expenditures is not subject to annual contribution limits.
The Attorney General also confirmed the Ethics Commission did not have the power to declare S.C.C. §8-13-1322(A) unconstitutional. The Ethics Commission then issued an Advisory Opinion declaring the Commission would not enforce any contributions limits under S.C.C. §8-13-1322(A) for committees making independent expenditures.
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.