November 26, 2012 •
OCPF Opinion on Lobbyists Soliciting Contributions on LinkedIn Group
Massachusetts lobbyists using a LinkedIn online discussion group are not prohibited from soliciting contributions for candidates from the group.
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) issued an opinion, AO-12-03, on November 20, detailing when a lobbyist can solicit contributions on LinkedIn without being considered a regulated intermediary or conduit bundling contributions. The OCPF considers the use of social media, such as LinkedIn, as a “personal service” that is generally exempt from campaign finance limitations or disclosure requirements.
Asking members of a lobbyist’s LinkedIn group “to contribute directly to candidates does not involve ‘arranging’ for the making of contributions” requiring application the law,” the opinion holds. However, a lobbyist could be regulated if contributions are either “‘delivered, whether in person or by mail [by the regulated intermediary], to a particular candidate or such candidate’s authorized committee or agent’ or made ‘in a manner that identifies in writing the person who arranged the making of the contributions.’” For example, in the instance of direct contributions to a candidate, if a lobbyists “actually instructs the contributors to identity, with a note on their contribution checks, the legislative or executive agent as the person responsible for arranging the contribution, the legislative or executive agent would be subject” to regulation.
The restrictions for bundling apply only if at least one of the bundled contributions is more than $156. The OCPF also opined that persons who are not lobbyists may use LinkedIn or similar sites to solicit contributions for candidates, with certain restrictions for public employees.
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