April 4, 2012 •
Ask the Experts – Charitable Donations: Not As Simple As They Might Seem
Q. I am a registered lobbyist who would like to attend a charitable golf tournament. Are there specific restrictions or requirements for this type of event?
A. Mere attendance at a charitable golf tournament or similar event is not typically restricted.
However, this activity may be prohibited or subject to disclosure requirements depending on the circumstances.
Being a registered lobbyist does not hinder your ability to donate independently to a 501(c)(3) organization. However, in some instances, your attendance may be requested because the event is associated with a public official. If an official asks you to attend or sponsor the charitable event, this may be considered making a contribution “at the behest of” the official, depending on the laws in your jurisdiction.
If a charitable contribution is made “at the behest of” a public official, there are two considerations: permissibility and disclosure. First, is the charitable contribution permissible? A jurisdiction may consider the charitable contribution to be a gift to the public official who requested it. For example, Massachusetts considers a charitable contribution in this scenario to be a prohibited gift. Even if the charitable contribution is a permissible gift, there may be a limit as to how much a lobbyist may donate.
Second, if a lobbyist may make the charitable contribution, is it disclosed on a lobbying report? In Illinois, these charitable contributions are not reportable on a lobbying report. In California, the official who made the request of the lobbyist must disclose the charitable contribution. However, this type of expenditure is reportable on a lobbying report in Connecticut.
If you are a registered lobbyist, check with the applicable state regulatory agency before making a charitable contribution “at the behest of” an official.
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