Archive for the ‘Compliance Q&A’ Category
Thursday, December 23rd, 2010 by Vbhotla
Q: Would a firm that makes $13,000 on lobbying in a quarter have to register, if none of its employees spends more than 20% of their time lobbying?
A: The short answer is no, but the 20% rule is tricky to a lot of people. Twenty percent of time includes all lobbying activity– time spent in preparation for lobbying, beyond just lobbying contacts. It is also broken down on a per client basis, meaning that the figure is not calculated relative to your total time in a quarter (meaning you may have to register on behalf of more than one client). If 20% of your billable hours for that client are spent on lobbying activities, the answer becomes yes, you must file an LD-1.
Affiliated organizations — “an entity other than the client that contributes in excess of $5,000 towards the registrant’s lobbying activities in a quarterly period, and actively participates in the planning, supervision, or control of such activities” — must be disclosed on the report as well.
Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by Vbhotla
The changing environment of campaign finance regulations means lots of fun for lobbyists trying to do their job effectively. Actually, what it really means is a pain in the rear. Luckily, we here at LobbyBlog are combing through the laws on your behalf. If you are a lobbyist, you need to know the basic rules about bundling contributions.
Who is covered by the bundling rule?
A: Any lobbyist registered under the LDA and any PAC that is “established or controlled” by a lobbyist so registered is subject to the bundling restrictions.
What qualifies as “bundling”?
Contributions that are either “forwarded” — delivered or transmitted, either electronically or physically– or “received and credited” — received directly from a contributor, but credited to a specific lobbyist–are treated as “bundled.” It is worth noting that some campaigns now forbid lobbyists from “forwarding” any contributions because reporting these bundled funds has become too much of a hassle.
What is reportable?
Aggregate contributions of $16,000 or more during a single reporting period meet the trigger for report. However, all reporting committees must file semi-annually as well as quarterly to ensure that any contributions of $16,000 in aggregate funds is disclosed to the FEC, even if the contributions are not made in the same quarter.
Thursday, November 4th, 2010 by Vbhotla
Q: What are the penalties for non-compliance with HLOGA?
A: There are criminal penalties for wrongful statements submitted by lobbyists. Since lobbyists must certify that the information they submit is true to the best of their knowledge, a wrongful disclosure a criminal act. Lobbyists must certify under penalty of perjury that they have read and understood the standing House and Senate gift and ethics rules, twice per year, on their LD-203 form.
The statute states that:
“Whoever knowingly fails: (1) to correct a defective filing within 60 days after notice of such a defect by the Secretary of the Senate or the Clerk of the House; or (2) to comply with any other provision of the Act, may be subject to a civil fine of not more than $200,000, and whoever knowingly and corruptly fails to comply with any provision of the Act may be imprisoned for not more than 5 years or fined under title 18, United States Code, or both.”
According to lobbyingdisclosure.house.gov, the Office of the Clerk has referred an aggregate of 887 potential non-compliant registrants to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.
Today’s post is condensed from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook
Thursday, October 28th, 2010 by Vbhotla
Q: What is the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and what are the differences in registration and reporting between FARA and the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA)?
A: The Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (as amended) requires any lobbyist who represents a foreign government, elected official or political party as a foreign agent to file his financial information and published materials with the Department of Justice. This only applies to foreign public officials; lobbyists representing foreign private companies register under the LDA. See the full text of the law, forms, and other disclosure requirements at Justice.gov.
On registration and reporting:
- The Act requires every agent of a foreign principal, not otherwise exempt, to register with the Department of Justice and file forms outlining its agreements with, income from, and expenditures on behalf of the foreign principal. These forms are public records and must be supplemented every six months.
- The Act also requires that informational materials (formerly propaganda) be labeled with a conspicuous statement that the information is disseminated by the agents on behalf of the foreign principal. The agent must provide copies of such materials to the Attorney General.
- Any agent testifying before a committee of Congress must furnish the committee with a copy of his most recent registration statement.
- The agent must keep records of all his activities and permit the Attorney General to inspect them.
According to guidance issued by the House Ethics Committee, the technical amendments to the LDA made in 1998 reflected a determination that the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) standards are appropriate for lobbying on behalf of foreign governments and political parties, but that LDA disclosure standards should apply to other foreign lobbying. An agent of a foreign commercial entity is exempt under FARA if the agent has engaged in lobbying activities and registers under the LDA. An agent of a foreign commercial entity not required to register under the LDA (such as those not meeting the de minimis registration thresholds) may voluntarily register under the LDA.
Information for today’s post is from the Department of Justice, with further information condensed from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook, now with an all-new chapter on Campaign Finance for Lobbyists.
Have a question for Compliance Q &A? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, October 18th, 2010 by Vbhotla
Q: What is the difference between a gift and an award, as given to a member of Congress?
A: Under one of the statuatory exceptions to the gift rule, you are allowed to give as a gift a “commemorative” item that has minimal artistic or intrinsic value. So, for instance, you could give a plaque that says “Association X thanks Congressman Y for his 20 years of Service.”
You could not, however, give a valuable sculpture with the same inscription. The difference is that the first item – the plaque – has no artistic or intrinsic value on its own, but that the second item – the sculpture – has value on its own merit. In addition, if you give a gift that exceeds $305 in value, it has to go on the member’s financial disclosure form.
- Presented to Member/staffer in person
- Substantially commemorative in nature: plaque or trophy, engraved with Member’s/staffer’s name
- No significant utilitarian or artistic value (framed photo, print, figurine, clock, etc.)
- Senate: Disclosed on personal financial disclosure report if valued at more than $250
The House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct also has a short booklet with a summarization of rules on their website.
Remember, the overall rule is: you may not offer anything of value to a member of Congress or staffer, unless it fits under one of the exceptions.
Today’s post is summarized from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook, now with a brand-new chapter on Campaign Finance for the Lobbyist!
Questions for Compliance Q&A? Send them to email@example.com.
Friday, September 3rd, 2010 by Vbhotla
Q: I’m confused by what lobbyists have to list in the “issue disclosure” section of their forms. Could you please clarify what needs to be disclosed on that form?
A: According to the LDA Guidance, for disclosing issues and purposes for which lobbyists are retained by other entities, the following must be listed (the relevant form is the LD-1 or LD-2):
- The issues on which the lobbying activities will be focused, using the issue codes established by the House and Senate
- A brief description of the legislation, policy, or other information about the lobbying issue
- Where the lobbying activities will be focused: House of Representatives, Senate, or a particular federal agency or office
- The identity of each lobbyist employee engaged in the lobbying activities described above
It is not sufficient to just list a bill number as the description of the lobbying issue area. The instructions for preparation of the LD-1 ask for “detailed, but brief.” List the bill number, if applicable, and also a brief description of the topic which the bill covers, or the subsection of legislation, if a larger bill, such as an appropriations measure.
The information in this post is condensed from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook, by Cleta Mitchell.
Have a question for Compliance Q&A? Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This information should not be taken as legal advice. Please see our “About Lobby Blog” page for more on that.
Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 by Vbhotla
Q: Our association has a PAC but our treasurer is not a lobbyist and our assistant treasurer is a lobbyist. Do we still need to file an LD-203 report for the PAC? And if so, who must file and by when must the filing occur?
A: The individual lobbyist will have to file his or her own individual contributions. On the association’s semi-annual report (LD-203), the association would list the name of the PAC. It does not matter whether your treasurer is or is not a lobbyist for the purposes of the filing by the association.
The association would indicate the name of its PAC and indicate contributions of $200 or more from the PAC to any federal candidate, any leadership PAC or any one of the six national party committees that were made during the six-month reporting period.
On the lobbyist’s separate filing, the lobbyist may have to indicate – if he or she has a controlling say in where PAC contributions are spent – that he or she is the assistant treasurer. If the lobbyist has a responsibility for allocating PAC funds, he or she would have to list contributions from the PAC that he or she was responsible for having made in the individual lobbyist report.
So it’s a fact-specific situation depending on how the PAC is set up, and who its officers are, as well as who controls contributions.
Have a question for Compliance Q&A? Send your questions to email@example.com.
Thursday, August 5th, 2010 by Vbhotla
Q: Who is considered a registered lobbyist for purposes of filing the LD-203 semi-annual certification? That is, if you did lobbying a year ago but have done none during the reporting period, do you still have to certify?
A: The first question to ask yourself is: Are you still registered? That is, are you still shown on the LDA report for that particular client?If you are listed on a LDA report for a client as the lobbyist, then you must file and certify the LD-203. If you have truly done no lobbying for a client in a year, then you need to be terminated off the lobbying report.
For example, in this old screenshot from a 2008 US Chamber lobbying report, the following lobbyists are on Line 18 as having lobbied on behalf of the issues listed:
If you haven’t been marked as terminated from a lobbying report, you’re still under obligation to file the LD-203.
Have a question for Compliance Q&A? Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.