September 22, 2010 •
Minnesota Law Requiring Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending Upheld by U.S. District Court
U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank denied a temporary injunction in a lawsuit brought by supporters of Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, upholding a new Minnesota law that revealed political donations from several corporations. The law was enacted in May after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United earlier this year freed businesses to spend corporate money on elections, overturning restrictions on corporate political spending in about half the states, including Minnesota.
Minnesota lawmakers responded by enacting disclosure requirements so that corporate campaign spending would be public. In his decision, Judge Frank explained the public has an interest in knowing who speaks and who pays for campaign messages and advertisements as elections approach.
Photo of Tom Emmer from the Minnesota House of Representatives Web site.
September 22, 2010 •
The State Ethics Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday, September 23rd, 2010, regarding proposed regulation 930 CMR 7.00 which will define the term “governmental body” for the purposes of prohibiting revolving door lobbying in the state.
The new regulation, which implements one of the requirements of the ethics reform legislation passed in 2009, would prohibit former employees of state agencies, authorities, and other entities from lobbying their former “governmental body” for one year after leaving their employment with the state.
The meeting will take place at the Ethics Commission offices located at 1 Ashburton Place, 21st floor, in Boston. The meeting will commence at 10 a.m. and is expected to adjourn at 2 p.m.
September 21, 2010 •
A federal court has set aside the state’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures.
Under the consent decree signed by Judge George C. Smith, corporations may engage in express advocacy for or against a candidate for Ohio office. Corporations are still prohibited from making direct contributions to a candidate or working with a candidate on these independent expenditures. This order brings Ohio elections into compliance with the January “Citizens United” decision which held corporations have a First Amendment right to make independent expenditures.
The decision may have a major impact on Ohio’s campaign finance regulation because the statute in question contains a clause which states if any section of the law is deemed unconstitutional, the entire law is automatically repealed. A federal court will determine the validity of the remainder of the law next week.
September 21, 2010 •
The Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board will hold a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, September 23, 2010, at 1:00 p.m.
The meeting will take place at the Office of State Ethics, 18-20 Trinity Street in Hartford. The board is scheduled to discuss the feasibility of easing eligibility restrictions of members after it was recently reported an August meeting was forced to be canceled due to lack of quorum. The board is allotted nine positions; however, only six are presently occupied.
After news of the available positions and canceled meeting were reported, officials stated several Connecticut citizens had been in contact with the board about filling a vacancy. Before any new board member can be seated, the individual must first be determined to be a Connecticut voter, have not held or currently hold political office, and have not campaigned for election to political office in the three years preceding the appointment. Further, a board member is not permitted to hold office in any political committee or party, make contributions to state campaigns, be a state employee, be a lobbyist, or be in an organization wherein the purpose is to influence legislation or public agency decisions.
September 21, 2010 •
Ballot issue PACs allowed to receive contributions from other PACs
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has announced it will not enforce a law banning PAC-to-PAC transfers of funds in an instance where one PAC supports or opposes a ballot issue.
The commission recognizes the rule, as written, is unconstitutional because of the U.S. Supreme Court case “First National Bank of Boston v. Belloti”. The ethics commission will likely rewrite the rule in 2011.
September 20, 2010 •
Court Finds Part of Ethics Statute Unconstitutional
A U.S. District Court has invalidated a South Carolina statute defining committees, including those commonly known as PACs. In South Carolina Citizens for Life, Inc. v Krawcheck, the Court found the South Carolina Ethics Act placed significant burdens on groups qualifying as committees without giving meaningful consideration of a group’s major purpose, threatening to chill their First Amendment rights. Specifically, the definition of committee in S.C.C. §8-13-1300(6) could encompass any group, without reference to the entity’s major purpose, and was unconstitutionally overbroad.
Photo of the South Carolina statehouse by Nikopoley on Wikipedia.
September 20, 2010 •
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.
Q. I am a registered lobbyist, and based on my time, compensation, and expenses, I have crossed the threshold prescribed by state law requiring registration. My company has employees whose contact with state legislators, executive officials, and employees meets the definition of lobbying, but they do not exceed the threshold requiring registration. Am I under any obligation to disclose their lobbying activities even though they are not registered? Is my employer?
A. This is a good example of something we advise our clients all the time: know your state! Here are examples of jurisdictions where you need to know the nuances of non-lobbyist reporting requirements.
CALIFORNIA: You are only required to register as a lobbyist if you spend at least one-third of your time lobbying in a calendar month. However, other employees at your company might need to report their pro-rata share of compensation if they spend 10 percent or more of their time lobbying in any one calendar month.
This includes time spent involved in grassroots activity, providing research services, and preparing materials to be used for lobbying. This information is disclosed on the lobbyist employer report Form 635 as “Other Payments to Influence Legislative or Administrative Action,” Part III, Section D. Luckily, clerical staff are never considered non-lobbyist employees.
NEW JERSEY: If you are a lobbyist, you must register if you spend more than 20 hours in a calendar year attempting to influence legislation, regulations, or governmental processes by communicating with a state official. Registered governmental affairs agents must disclose their operational costs, including compensation paid to support personnel, including legal, technical, and clerical staff. Now for the big exception. The compensation of an employee working less than 450 hours per calendar year in support of a governmental affairs agent is not reportable. (TIP: We advise you have support personnel track their time to ensure they do not exceed the 450-hour threshold.)
TEXAS: In this state, you are either a lobbyist or not – there is no in-between. In addition, individuals registered in Texas only report their own expenditures. Compensation is not reportable. Ever.
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.
September 17, 2010 •
Commissioners tighten ethics rules – more news to come.
Cook County Commissioners have approved a series of ethics reforms focused on certain political contributions. Among the reforms is a provision requiring candidates for County Assessor to return contributions exceeding $1,500 from lawyers who appear before their office seeking reduced property values.
Additionally, fines for breaking county ethics rules have been increased tenfold; violators now face a maximum fine of $5,000. The board intends to clarify the county’s conflict-of-interest code after the upcoming election.
You can visit the Web site for the Cook County Commissioners.
September 17, 2010 •
We are celebrating a special anniversary!
An English proverb states, “A man is known by the company he keeps.” On Monday, September 13, State and Federal Communications, Inc. thanked News You Can Use Editor Jim Sedor for keeping company with us for ten years.
Almost the entire company walked or drove to Downtown Akron’s Bricco restaurant for a celebratory lunch. Also in attendance were Jim’s sister, Mary Ann LoBue, and her husband, Joe, who drove in from Mars, Pennsylvania for the occasion.
The meal was followed by a tribute to Jim by President and CEO Elizabeth Bartz, along with the presentation of a recognition book with photos and warm wishes from our staff. Everyone returned to the office to enjoy a beautiful and wonderfully chocolate cake.
In 2000, Elizabeth determined there was a need for governmental movers and shakers to know what was going on in the worlds of campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics, but there was no vehicle for that information to be provided in a timely manner. Then Jim Sedor walked through State and Federal’s doors. Since that day, Jim has taken the idea from a small, in-house proposition to what it is now, a piece that has virtually taken on a life of its own. For ten years, Jim Sedor has kept our clients—and our staff—on top of the accolades and escapades of elected officials throughout our country, and for a few hours, we took time to let him know how much we appreciate him.
As for the fact Jim is a great guy and deserving of the praise?
Well, that’s just icing on the cake.
September 17, 2010 •
The Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives is the chief record-keeper of the House and has a Web site that shouldn’t be missed!
For anyone who is interested in government relations, the Web site for the Office of the Clerk is a powerful tool. From this site you can watch live video of the House floor proceedings, get information about any member of Congress, and keep up with the lobbying disclosure requirements though the site’s FAQs, news points, and guidance on the Lobbying Disclosure Act. You can also find the foreign travel reports, gift and travel filings of Members, officers, and staff; as well as financial disclosure reports of Members of Congress, “officers, certain employees of the U.S. House of Representatives and related offices, and candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives.”
But this is only the beginning of the many resources offered on the site. Did you know the Office of the Clerk has a YouTube account with oral histories of the House of Representatives. You will find Benjamin C. West talking about the Nixon Impeachment Hearings, and a Cokie Roberts interview about the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And there are 19 other great videos!
If you have children, the Office of the Clerk Web site has a great feature called “Kids in the House.” Whether your child is preschool, grade school, middle, or high school age – there are inviting presentations for the kids to discover what Congress is all about. They can see how a bill becomes a law, read about the art and history of the Capitol, and even take an interactive tour of the House Chamber. Teachers will love the site’s weekly “Teaching Tips” feature.
Want to impress your friends with timely trivia about our government? The Office of the Clerk offers a “Weekly Historical Highlights” page. Did you know that on September 14, 1837 there was a debate in Congress about whether to the ban hats on the House Floor? On September 18, 1893, the federal government celebrated the centennial of the laying of the Capitol cornerstone. There were parades, decorations, and all government offices were closed that day. I wonder what was going on in Washington on my birthday?
The Web site of the Office of the Clerk offers loads of information, beautiful photos and graphics, and easy site navigation. Anyone can become a polymath in American government by frequenting this treasure.
See you next week!
Screen captures courtesy of the Office of the Clerk Web site.
September 16, 2010 •
In honor of the 10th anniversary of News You Can Use (NYCU), I interviewed its editor, Jim Sedor.
News You Can Use is a weekly digital news aggregation on the issues of campaign finance, lobbying, procurement, and government ethics. Every week Jim Sedor gathers between 80 and 100 articles, and every Friday morning NYCU is sent out to our subscribers.
Hi Jim! How did NYCU come about? How long have you been associated with it?
The idea for compiling a weekly review of what is happening across the country in ethics, campaign finance, and lobbying originated with Elizabeth Bartz. I came aboard in 2000 to implement what she wanted.
Elizabeth had found the company didn’t have a process to find important information that was out there in a timely way and was missing a lot of things that would affect the business.
When we started, it was just an in-house review of the most recent happenings – it had not even been christened “New You Can Use” yet (a name that Elizabeth also coined).
As it grew, we figured our clients would love to see – and needed to know – what we were finding, so we started sending NYCU out to them by e-mail.
Who is a typical NYCU reader? How does NYCU give them a “heads up” regarding campaign finance and lobbying news?
I don’t know if I can classify a typical reader – maybe someone who subscribes to our services and needs to know what is happening in their field – like lobbyists, campaign finance lawyers, companies that employ lobbyists and give money to candidates, or firms that compete for state contracts.
We often give readers the first word about specific changes in campaign finance or lobbying law in a given state or the federal level. Most of the time, we have been tracking those changes from the beginning and see them through to the end – articles on a bill’s introduction to its signing by the governor.
We also follow scandals closely because those are most often the trigger for reform and you can almost predict at the start of some corruption investigation that there will be changes ahead and it should be monitored. The whole issue of “pay-to-play” reform is an example.
After ten years of gathering news, do any stories stand out? Craziest? Most egregious? Biggest surprise?
I try not to be cynical, but sometimes I can’t help it. I’m not surprised by most stories of graft and quid pro quo deals and the like, although sometimes the sheer scope and audacity involved in a particular story catches my eye.
We had that recently here in Northeast Ohio when it seemed like the whole Cuyahoga County government was indicted for corruption that involved tens of millions of dollars in bribes and crooked contracts.
One case that stands out for sheer strangeness is Mark Sanford, the governor of South Carolina who said he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but was actually much further south – in Argentina visiting the woman he was having an affair with. Nobody knew where he was.
You have a lot of fun at COGEL Annual Conferences. Can you tell us what happened at one particular COGEL breakfast in Chicago, December 2008?
We were having breakfast at the conference when a person from the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission got a message on his Blackberry and excused himself. When he got back to the table, he said he had pressing business and had to leave – the governor of Illinois had just been arrested and “led away in handcuffs.” That turned out to be the day Rod Blagojevich was arrested.
Can you picture doing NYCU fifteen years ago, prior to the advent of on-line newspapers and super smart search engines?
It would be impossible to do NYCU without the Internet and be as comprehensive – we just couldn’t cover the whole country and really stay on top of things.
According to our tally, you have gathered 41,517 articles in the last 10 years for NYCU. How does that make you feel?
Tired. (Laughs) And it makes me feel like I need a vacation – I’ve been working too hard.
When you break it down like that, it really shows the vast amount of material that has been published on campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics.
I feel a sense of accomplishment – that I have been able to stay on top of this and get most of the important stories that have been out there. We don’t miss much.
It also shows these are issues that are of great importance to a lot of people and reporters will continue to churn out story after story.
Thank you, Jim! All the best to you for another wonderful 10 years!
September 15, 2010 •
Nevada Transparency Measures to be Introduced in 2011.
Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera said he will pursue a number of transparency measures in the 2011 legislative session. Among those to be introduced would be a requirement for all candidates for public office to report every financial contribution online within 72 hours of receipt, including the amount received and the donor.
Another measure would introduce a “cooling off” period before public officials could work as lobbyists. Specifically, an elected official or regulator would be prohibited from lobbying the governmental body where the individual served, or any agency they regulated or oversaw, for a period of two years.
September 15, 2010 •
New York City campaign finance reforms alter nature of political contributions.
NEW YORK: A recent examination by New York City’s Campaign Finance Board shows that changes enacted before the 2009 mayoral election encouraged 34,000 New Yorkers to make campaign donations for the first time; drastically curtailed the role of businesses, political committees and lobbyists in campaigns; and caused a major drop in donations from those doing business with the city.
The Campaign Finance Board report found that New York City’s newly promulgated rules diminished the role of businesses, political committees and unions in campaign fund-raising. They now account for 7.2 percent of all funds available to candidates. In the last election for State Assembly and Senate candidates, such contributions accounted for 66.6 percent of all the money raised. New York City’s system has become a model for campaign finance reform based upon these results.
Photo of the New York City Hall by Momos on Wikipedia.
September 14, 2010 •
Wisconsin State Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson will select a state Court of Appeals judge to fill a vacancy on the Government Accountability Board Candidate Committee.
The committee serves as the nominating body for members of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) and consists of four judges chosen from the state’s four Court of Appeals districts.
The board is charged by state law with the responsibility of developing lists of candidates to fill any vacancies which occur on the G.A.B. The names of candidates selected by the board are sent to the governor who makes a nomination which is then subject to final confirmation by the Wisconsin Senate.
Chief Justice Abrahamson will conduct the selection process on Wednesday, September 15 at 9:45 a.m. in the hearing room of the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Madison.
Photo of Madison, Wisconsin by Dori on 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.