November 11th, 2010 by Autumn
This election saw record campaign spending from outside groups. What changed to enable such astonishing third-party contributions?
- Citizens United – for the first time in over 60 years, unions and corporations were permitted to spend treasury funds on ads calling for the election or defeat of certain candidates. Prior to the ruling, these organizations were only permitted to advertise around particular issues, not in favor or opposition to particular candidates. Corporate executives can donate business funds to nonprofits to advertise on behalf of the corporation anonymously — without anyone ever knowing where the money originated — providing incentive for CEOs reluctant to have a company openly endorse candidates in the past.
- New FEC interpretation – The FEC has not required as much disclosure about advertising as it has in previous years, releasing a rule revision requiring only funds specifically donated for advertisements be disclosed. This made it possible for contributors to avoid disclosure by simply not specifying where their money should be spent. Half of the commissioners narrowed the margin for disclosure requirements even more, allowing funds to be designated for advertising and still avoid disclosure, as long as the contributors didn’t specify for which ad the money would be spent. This drastically decreases the donation disclosure.
- Super-PACs and the Speechnow aftermath – Citizens United opened the door for unlimited spending, which may have been the Pandora’s Box that led to the verdict in Speechnow.org v. FEC. Thanks to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (and the U.S. Supreme Court who later refused to hear the case to overturn the verdict), groups can now identify as “independent expenditure committees,” allowing unlimited contributions from unlimited sources, though they must register as PACs.
To recap: thanks to two anti-regulatory court rulings, now groups can receive unlimited contributions fro
m unlimited sources, then spend in unlimited amounts with fewer restrictions, as long as they continue to register with the FEC. The changing of the guard in the Capitol when the newly-elected Congressmen are seated should afford more changes, and less regulation, thanks to small-government favoring Republicans. Stay tuned!
November 9th, 2010 by James
Tap the power of your roots!
When the grassroots get all fired up, watch out! Most lobbyists would like to tap the power of grassroots advocates – but do you know what exactly qualifies as “grassroots”? And how do you report those activities on your LDA forms?
The official definition of grassroots lobbying is the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) definition: “a call to action to the public or segment of the public asking them to contact a designated official, state, federal, local on a specific item government action, specific legislation, or a nomination, etc.”
What activities are considered “grassroots”?
Grassroots lobbying is: “communications to the general public that refer to and reflect a view on the merits of a specific legislative proposal and a ‘call to action’ directly or indirectly encouraging legislative contact.” So, for example, if you’re XYZ Association, and you ask your members to write Representative Smith on H.R. 1234, that is grassroots lobbying.
Reporting grassroots lobbying
There are two different ways to report – you must make a designation. If you are filing under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) definitions, grassroots lobbying is not disclosed on your forms. Under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) definition of lobbying the expenses of grassroots lobbying are combined with the total reportable expenditures. The key thing to remember is that whichever method you chose, you must use it consistently in your filing. Note also that registrants reporting lobbying income (i.e. lobbying firms, including lobbyists acting as sole proprietors) must use the LDA definition and reporting structure. Registrants reporting lobbying expenditures may elect to use the IRC or LDA.
Amy Showalter, at the Showalter Group, writes an excellent blog on keeping your advocates motivated and engaged.
Another great speaker on advocacy and citizen participation is Stephanie Vance, at Advocacy Associates.
November 8th, 2010 by Autumn
Stephen Jacobs has joined the National Association of Manufacturers as senior director for international business policy. He was previously a deputy assistant secretary at the Commerce Department
David Weiss, a senior policy advisor at DLA Piper, is steping down to become president and CEO of CHF International, a development and humanitarian aid organization.
Coutney Geduldig, chief financial counsel to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), is departing to be the managing director, head of federal government relations and chief counsel for Financial Services Forum.
Michael Quaranta, who until recently served as chief of staff to Rep. Michael Castle (R-Del.), has joined the Podesta Group as a partner.
Mary Streett, of Mayer Brown, has been named the Vice President of government affairs for Exelon Corporation.
November 8th, 2010 by Autumn
In what many are calling a follow-up to the Citizens United ruling, and a blow to campaign finance reform, the Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in the Speechnow.org vs. FEC case last week. Many are suggesting this broadens the reach of Citizens United and allows for increases freedom of speech in the electoral process.
The decision allows for unlimited donations to “independent expenditure groups” such as Speechnow.org, and challenges FEC regulation of campaign donations. While unlimited donations allows for greater spending on campaigns, it also maintained disclosure requirements, noting that continued registration and disclosure will be required.
Under the ruling, Speechnow and similar groups must register as a PAC and disclose contributions. As a result, over 50 such groups popped up around the country ahead of the mid-term elections, and this election cycle saw record spending. Watchdog group opensecrets.org noted that “significant investments from outside groups helped elect more than 200 federal candidates.”
Though both Democrats and Republicans received outside donations, it was Republicans who saw the greatest benefits of organizations’ ability to receive unlimited donations, and in turn, spend in unlimited proportions.
November 4th, 2010 by James
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
November 3rd, 2010 by Autumn
This week, a federal appeals court struck down an earlier ruling repealing the military’s long-standing “Don’t Ask,
Lady Gaga uses her international stardom to speak out against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Don’t Tell” policy. Time magazine reports that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the court that stayed the ban on openly gay military personnel, is “regarded as one of the most liberal in the land.” Tell that to Lt. Dan Choi and other gay and lesbian soldiers ousted by the military recently.
Lady Gaga, an openly bisexual pop star, has led the charge of celebrities fighting DADT. She has been the most vocal advocate on the subject, it seems, pulling stunts like wearing a meat dress to symbolize her belief that if not repealed, the policy reduces the LGBT rights to equal those allotted a piece of meat, and recording a seven minute advocacy video.
Russel Simmons also joined the fight, penning an open letter to Pres. Obama for Huffington Post, urging him to “fix” the policy, and “take the fight to the right.”
Interestingly, neither Lady Gaga nor Russell Simmons has filed an LD-1 or -2 form, making them merely advocates, and not officially lobbyists. Unless, of course, they are lobbying and think their celebrity status will save them from repercussions related to not filing.
Other entities embroiled in the fight against DADT include the American Nurses Association and the American Bar Association.
The changing of Congress following yesterday’s election is expected to play a major part in the future of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislation.