April 3, 2013 •
Trial court to decide whether state can fine lobbyists for violations
A state appellate court has ruled that a trial court judge must reconsider the state’s large fine for lobbying law violations. Don Beason, once considered one of the state’s most influential lobbyists, was originally fined $111,000 for a violation of the state’s disclosure policy for lobbyists. This fine was eventually reduced to $30,000 after the court ruled it was too large. Beason was working on overturning the state’s “Buy America” law for Sigma Corporation, a New Jersey company who imports foreign-made iron and steel.
The state claims Beason was paid with money funneled from an Indian iron exporters’ trade association and other companies through Sigma and Beason knew of this arrangement and failed to disclose. The trial court ruled that state law defines a lobbyist as someone who communicates directly with legislators or their employees and there was no evidence Beason directly contacted anyone for these clients supposedly funneling money through Sigma.
The appellate court however found the trial court failed to consider a second aspect of Beason’s case; whether Beason’s activities for the client constituted lobbying. The trial court must rule on that issue and then can determine whether the state has the power to fine Beason.
There is no time frame on when the trial court will hear the second part of this case.
January 9, 2012 •
Portions of Lobbying Law Found Ambiguous As Applied
NORTH CAROLINA: Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway has cleared former lobbyist Don Beason of misconduct, finding parts of North Carolina’s lobbying reform law are ambiguous as applied and the secretary of state overreached in fining Beason.
The court held that Beason does not have to pay the $30,000 fine imposed on him. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall fined Beason a record-setting $111,000 in 2010, an amount that was later reduced, for failing to make required disclosures about companies he was representing.
Judge Ridgeway stated North Carolina law defines a lobbyist as someone who communicates directly with legislators or their employees, but there was no evidence Beason directly contacted anyone on behalf of the companies he represented. Additionally, because the law gave the state ethics commission the authority to interpret the act and the secretary of state the power to administer it, Marshall overstepped her authority in interpreting the act and fining Beason.
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.