December 3, 2010 •
Highlighted Site of the Week – Women in Congress
A Web site dedicated to honoring the 260 women who have served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate since 1917.
I did an informal survey here at our office and asked: “Do you you know when the first woman was elected to U.S. Congress?” The answers ranged from “I have no idea” to “sometime in the 1960’s.” To be honest, I wasn’t sure either and that bothered me. Something that important is something I should know, so I found a great Web site called Women in Congress. Hosted by the U.S. Office of the Clerk, Women in Congress charts the progress of women from having no representation prior to 1917, to having a Speaker of the House of Representatives exactly 90 years later.
In 1917, Jeannette Rankin was the first woman to be elected to Congress. A Republican from Montana, Rankin was an activist for the woman suffrage movement and she was a pacifist – she was the only representative to vote against the United States’ entry into both World War I and World War II. “I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last,” Rankin said when she was elected.
Rebecca Latimer Felton was the first U.S. Senator, serving in 1922 at age 87 years. She was described as “outspoken, determined, and irascible!”
Every one of the bios in Women in Congress has an important story to tell. “Battling Mary” Norton, who served from 1925 to 1951, fought for the rights of the working class. Norton personally campaigned to get the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 out onto the floor for a vote, and it passed. The law set a minimum wage of 25 cents an hour, established the 40 hour work week, and outlawed child labor (can you imagine). What a heroic woman. She said, “I’m prouder of getting that bill through the House than anything else I’ve done in my life.”
Barbara Jordan was a Democratic Representative from Texas from 1973 to 1979. A leader in the Civil Rights movement, Jordan suffered from multiple sclerosis. She championed the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 and the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Many will remember seeing her on television giving a powerful speech before the House Judiciary Committee supporting the impeachment of President Richard Nixon.
Women in Congress offers historical essays, fascinating artifacts, and lots of educational resources. Now everyone can become an expert on the role women in Congress. I know I have no excuse!
Photos Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
December 2, 2010 •
Wisconsin Supreme Court to Hear Campaign Finance Case
The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a case regarding a campaign finance rule amendment requiring groups to disclose the source of funding for political advertisements made prior to elections.
At the heart of the controversy is the Government Accountability Board’s (G.A.B.) rule which took effect August 1, 2010. The rule says advertisements broadcast in the weeks before an election must disclose their funding sources even if they do not expressly advocate a vote for or against a party or candidate.
Prior to the amendment, groups could evade disclosure requirements by running advertisements disguised as issue advocacy, so-called “phony issue ads”. Such ads were not considered political in nature as they did not contain what G.A.B. spokesperson Reid Magney calls the “magic words”: specific calls for viewers to vote for, elect, or approve a given candidate. The G.A.B.’s rule was meant close the “phony issue ad” loophole.
The Wisconsin legislature, for its part, permitted the G.A.B. rule to come into force on August 1, 2010. Since the rule’s effective date, however, groups across the state have claimed the rule infringes on their First Amendment rights to free speech. Several lawsuits, including two in federal court, have been filed challenging the rule’s constitutionality.
The judges in both federal cases have stayed the suits filed in their courts pending a resolution in the state case. Oral arguments begin in the Wisconsin Supreme Court on March 9, 2011.
December 2, 2010 •
Developers’ Donations in Maryland Target for Legislation
Shared Campaign Accounts Are Issue
Maryland General Assembly Delegate Justin Ross will introduce legislation requiring local officials to recuse themselves from voting on building projects if a developer contributed to a shared campaign account affiliated with the official.
Presently, local leaders may vote on land use projects while indirectly receiving political contribution from these developers through accounts shared with General Assembly candidates.
In addition to the officials recusing themselves, developers would have to provide detailed information about all contributions to individual and shared accounts when they are requesting a land use decision from a council.
December 2, 2010 •
A Year of Big Changes to Illinois Lobbyist Laws
In the wake of seemingly constant political scandal, particularly involving the Governor’s office, the state of Illinois passed significant changes to its Lobbyist Registration Act.
The enhancements to the system are aimed toward improving transparency and easing the public’s fear of “back room” politics. It is no coincidence that the lobbying law changes come at the same time the state is strengthening ethics rules in other arenas. The state recently passed new disclosure requirements for contacts with procurement officials. Additionally, Illinois’ campaign finance laws will feature contribution limits in 2011 and quarterly PAC reporting. The improvements to the state’s lobbying regulations are part of an overall climate of increasing disclosure around the United States. Several other states, including Utah and Georgia, have made similar changes in state lobbying law this year.
The first change to the rules, which is already known by most people impacted by it, relates to the registration fee. Illinois initially sought to increase this fee to $1,000 per lobbyist and per organization employing a lobbyist. Thus, a company with two state-level lobbyists would have been charged $3,000 per year. The ACLU sued for and was granted an injunction on this fee. Essentially, the state agreed Illinois could not demonstrate the increase in cost was necessary to administer the Lobbyist Act. Additionally, the ACLU had raised a First Amendment establishment clause argument because the bill granted exemptions to certain religious lobbying and thus “demonstrated a preference for religious speech over non-religious speech.” Eventually, the state and the ACLU agreed to a fee of $300 and the suit was dropped. Additionally, lobbyists are required to complete an online ethics training course within 30 days of registration.
Lobbyists will have to report more frequently in 2011 and beyond. The lobbying dates used to be tied to whether the legislature was in session but are now semi-monthly, regardless. In 2010, while the litigation on the Act was pending, reporting was done essentially as soon as the Secretary of State’s Index Department was able to receive them in the midst of the judicial and legislative melee. Lobbyists filed a report on September 30 for the first half of 2010, and now must report second-half expenditures on January 15, 2011. Starting in 2011, reports are due twice per month. A report for the first 15 days is due on each 20th, and a report covering the 16th through the end of each month is due on the following 5th. While this is very cumbersome, it is at least consistent. The smaller reporting periods should make the information to be reported very manageable.
One feature of Illinois’ lobbying seen in a few other states is the provision relating to notification of officials. Previously, if an official were set to appear on a lobbyist’s report because that lobbyist made an expenditure on the official, the lobbyist was required to give the official notice of this fact 25 days before the report was due and again 30 days after the report was filed. Under the new changes, the 30-day post-notification remains but the pre-notification is changed. Now, lobbyists must give the official “contemporaneous written notification” of a reportable expenditure made on the official’s behalf.
Photo of Gov. Pat Quinn by Chris Eaves on Wikipedia.
December 1, 2010 •
Ask the Experts – Don’t Get Stuck in the Revolving Door!
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc.
Q. Can I hire a federal, state, or local official who just left office to represent our interests before his or her former colleagues?
A. While the answer depends on the jurisdiction, the trend is definitely to increase the restrictions on the ability of former elected officials and government employees to seek employment as lobbyists after leaving their government positions.
Most commonly, these restrictions take the form of a waiting period during which the former official is not permitted to influence actions over which he or she exerted some power or influence. Ostensibly, the waiting period allows this power or influence to dissipate. It also allows time for the specific issues the former official influenced to move through the system, under the theory that the former official’s influence will be lessened on issues he or she did not directly handle.
The revolving door restrictions placed upon officials in New Jersey are fairly typical. In that state, former members of the legislature, the governor, and heads of principal departments of the executive branch are prohibited from registering as lobbyists for one year after leaving office. Anyone knowingly or willfully violating the revolving door restrictions is subject to a penalty of up to $10,000 and can be barred from engaging in lobbying in the state for up to an additional five years. The law assigns the Election Law Enforcement Commission the power to hold hearings regarding possible violations and assess the enumerated penalties if the violations are found to have occurred.
Most jurisdictions that have introduced ethics legislation in recent years have included revolving door provisions, as the Indiana General Assembly did this year with the passage of House Bill 1001. Because of the increasing prevalence and importance of these laws, State and Federal Communications will be focusing on this issue and addressing it in our Executive Source on Lobbying Laws.
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.
November 30, 2010 •
Orange County to Revisit Lobbyist Registration Ordinance
Two Orange County, California supervisors have introduced a new version a law requiring lobbyists to register with the county so the public can know who is influencing votes on contracts and other public matters.
Similar legislation was voted down last month. If the ordinance passes, anyone who lobbies the county board on behalf of someone else will be required to register annually and report on whose behalf he or she is lobbying. The call for lobbyist disclosure in Orange County comes after a county grand jury issued a report critical of the county supervisors for not having any lobbyist disclosure requirements. Several local political figures have implicitly threatened to have a lobbyist registration law placed on an upcoming ballot if the supervisors do not create it themselves.
Photo of Newport Center skyline and Santa Ana mountains by Brian 1078 on Wikipedia.
November 30, 2010 •
Texas Ethics Commission Rolls Out New Lobbyist Software
Download is available in December.
The Texas Ethics Commission has issued a public notice to all lobbyists registered with the commission. The commission advises all filers to install the newest lobby electronic filing software, version 2.5.3, prior to filing a lobby activities report. In Texas, lobbyists required to register with the commission may include corporations, partnerships, association or other types of business entities as well as individuals.
The new software will be available for download on the Ethics Commission website beginning December 1, 2010 at: www.ethics.state.tx.us/whatsnew/elf_info_lobby.htm
Image of the Seal of the State of Texas by Juan Vega on Wikipedia.
November 29, 2010 •
Supreme Court to Consider Arizona Campaign Finance Regulations Again
US Supreme Court to Determine Constitutionality of Arizona’s Clean Elections Campaign Finance Law
The United States Supreme Court will again review Arizona’s attempt to level the playing field for political candidates, agreeing to determine the constitutionality of Arizona’s law to distribute campaign subsidies to publicly funded candidates who face big-spending opponents.
In June, the Supreme Court blocked a portion of Arizona’s Clean Elections program, which authorized the state to provide “matching funds” to those candidates who face opponents spending large amounts of their own money or outside groups that target them. The court combined two cases, Arizona Free Enterprise, et al v. Bennett and McComish v. Bennett, and will hear arguments in the spring of 2011.
Picture of the U.S. Supreme Court by UpstateNYer on Wikipedia.
November 29, 2010 •
Campaign Finance News from Canada
Quebec Government Seeking to Alter Campaign Finance Law
The province of Quebec is seeking to make alterations to campaign finance law in an effort to reduce fraud and restore the confidence of the public in how political parties are financed. Quebec’s government will follow the recommendations of the province’s Chief Electoral Officer and will make amendments to Assembly Bill 113.
In present form, Bill 113 seeks to prevent companies from making contributions to political parties in the names of employees. However, the bill will be amended to permit voters to make annual contributions of a maximum $1,000, reduced from $3,000, to political parties and candidates, and require all contribution checks to first pass through the province’s Chief Electoral Officer, who will then distribute the money to the designated political party or candidate. Further, names of all donors would be made public, a break from current law which requires only the names of those contributing in excess of $200 be publicly available.
Supporters of the measure are touting this as the first major reform in financing Quebec’s political parties since 1977. The provisions of the bill are expected to be adopted prior to the end of the Assembly’s Fall session.
Image of the coat of arms of the Province of Quebec by Jérôme BLUM on Wikipedia.
November 24, 2010 •
Helpful News from the Wisconsin G.A.B.
Office Open For Business On November 26th
The Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) will be open on Friday, November 26, 2010. Most other state offices will be closed for a mandatory furlough day. The G.A.B.’s next mandatory furlough day is scheduled for April 22, 2011.
Here is the Government Accountability Board’s announcement and calendar.
November 24, 2010 •
Montana Political Finance Regulations Challenged
Political Groups Seek to Invalidate Several Campaign Finance Laws and Challenge the Authority of the Office of Political Practices
Western Tradition Partnership and the Montana Citizens for Right to Work have filed suit challenging several Montana campaign finance laws that impose “onerous and constitutional burdens upon (those) engaged in political speech.” The suit seeks to exempt the two groups from campaign finance laws and further investigation by the state, but also claims the Office of Political Practices’ entire investigative process is unconstitutional.
Montana Political Practices Commissioner Dennis Unsworth ruled October 21 that Western Tradition Partnership is a political committee and had violated state law by failing to report campaign-related spending or its donors. The groups maintained in their complaint that they engage in “issue advocacy” communication and are not subject to Montana’s political committee laws, and that the laws themselves are unconstitutionally vague.
November 23, 2010 •
Massachusetts OCPF Reminds Municipal Candidates of 2011 Filing Requirements
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) has released its Fall 2010 newsletter.
Included in the newsletter is guidance detailing the new requirement for mayoral candidates in cities with population sizes between 40,000 and 100,000 persons to file electronically with OCPF rather than with local elections officers. Starting this coming January with the year-end report due on January 20, 2011, mayoral candidates are required to file with OCPF if they anticipate raising or spending $5,000 or more during an election cycle. During election years, mayoral candidates will file three reports with OCPFL: the pre-primary, pre-election and year end reports. In non-election years, candidates will only file a year-end report.
According to recent census figures, candidates in 23 Massachusetts cities are affected by the new requirement. The largest of these cities are Quincy, New Bedford, Fall River and Brockton. Mayoral candidates in Boston, Lowell, Worcester, Springfield, and Cambridge already file their reports with OCPF.
Other changes to state law will require Internet disclosure for all municipal candidates who raise or spend $1,000 or more during a reporting period. The paper reports for candidates for city council, selectmen, school committee candidates, and local ballot question committees will now be posted to municipal websites by local election officials. The OCPF newsletter may be found here.
Photo of Boston by Riptor3000 on Wikipedia.
November 23, 2010 •
Ethics Legislation Proceeds in Jacksonville Despite Lobbyist Opposition
A bill to include an ethics code in the city charter of Jacksonville is set to go before the full city council.
Since first being filed in July, the bill has moved slowly through committees until finally being approved by the city council Finance Committee on November 10, 2011. The bill has met delays in the process, as recommendations for the bill from the Ethics Commission and Charter Revision Commission have called for separate amendments to be made. However, when a meeting was scheduled for the two committees to meet and settle their differences, no members of the Charter Revision Commission were in attendance.
One of the biggest critics of the ethics legislation has been Jim Catlett, one of the owners of a firm which has performed lobbying services on behalf of several city agencies. Catlett was also a member of the Charter Revision Commission, and even made the motion to place ethics back into the city’s charter. But Catlett is now speaking out against the legislation, arguing it would create a new level of bureaucracy for the city which is unnecessary at the present time.
Flag of Jacksonville by Ssolbergj on Wikipedia.
November 23, 2010 •
Alabama Utilities Regulators Announce New Restrictions on Gifts and Campaign Contributions
Alabama utilities commissioners turn out the lights on gifts and contributions from lobbyists.
The state’s Public Services Commission approved new ethics rules last week by a 3-0 vote of the commissioners. These regulations prohibit a commission employee from soliciting or accepting a gift or campaign contribution from a lobbyist representing an industry regulated by the commission.
The new rules took effect immediately upon approval by the commissioners. The Public Services Commission regulates public utilities and telecommunications providers in Alabama.
Map of Alabama by JimIrwin 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.