LDA Compliance Q&A

December 23rd, 2010 by Autumn

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.

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Tuesday Ethics Tip: Holiday Party Edition

December 21st, 2010 by Autumn

This time of year, everyone is throwing parties and receptions to commemorate the holiday season.  And, especially in Washington circles where everyone seems to know everyone else, it may be tempting to invite members of Congress or staffers to these functions.  As innocent as this may be (not everyone is inviting Hillers with hopes to gain favor, some are just being nice), there are still several things to look out for when planning the functions.

  • Follow the “toothpick rule” when planning the menu.  If it can’t fit on a toothpick, it may be consider a meal, and therefore members and their staff are unable to eat.  The good-intentioned gesture that was the invitation turns sour when invited guests are unable to eat.
  • The entertainment should be of a minimal nature.  A jazz trio, harpist, etc are acceptable.  A headliner concert….probably not.
  • Valet, coat check, party favors and gift bags can be accepted by a member or staffer only if the value of the items does not exceed $10.

It is important to note that a holiday reception would not fall under the “widely attended event” exception to the gift rules relative to meals.  A widely attended event must be related to the staffer’s official duties.  A good way to make sure you’re in the clear is to indicate that “light hors d’oeuvres and cocktails” will be provided on the invitation.  Just be sure to make sure the event is not transformed into a lavish party, which could get both you and the member/staffer in trouble.

Tax legislation K Street cash cow?

December 20th, 2010 by Autumn

Washington insiders project that tax code discussions could be to 2011 what healthcare was to 2009 and financial regulatory reform was to 2010: a nationally divisive issue that provides a chance for lobbyists to cash in.  No matter what the political allegiance, this debate has a “something for everyone” feel that will engage lobbyists across party lines scrambling to weigh in on deductions and withholdings.

Though Congress voted to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for two more years, some determination needs to be made regarding what will happen not only in the meantime, but after the cuts expire again (in line, incidentally, with another major election year).  Businesses and associations favor a simplified tax code, but no one is sure about the best way to implement it.  President Obama has also voiced support for a simplified code, but also is not sure of what the best practices would be.

With varied interests at stake, and no one, even Congressmen, sure where to start, there is a unique opportunity for lobbyists to take up almost any issue to promote on the Hill.  And as was the case with healthcare reform and financial industry regulation, no matter what happens, no one will be satisfied, and lobbyists can be sure they will have their hands full peddling for any myriad of deductions (or elimination thereof).

“Superlobbyist” may face imprisonment

December 20th, 2010 by Autumn

Paul Magliocchetti, is seeking home confinement, a $10,000 fine, and probation for his role in what prosecutors are calling “one of the largest criminal schemes in U.S. history to violate federal campaign finance laws,” according to a sentencing memo filed by the Justice Department.

Magliocchetti, who pleaded guilty in September to channeling $380,000 to members of the House in an attempt to secure defense contracts for clients, believes that the sought sentence is more in line with similar crimes than the penalty suggested by the district attorney’s office.  Prosecutors in the case have requested 57 months of imprisonment, saying his greed significantly impugned the image and integrity of the American political process.

American League of Lobbyists loses executive director

December 20th, 2010 by Autumn

Patti Jo Baber, executive director of the American League of Lobbyists, died last week after a valiant battle with cancer.  Patti Jo had been a constant presence with the ALL and the lobbying community at large, “the one constant through all of the [league’s] Boards and Presidents, and [she] gave her all to the lobbying profession,” current president Dave Wenhold said in a statement on the ALL website.

Patti Jo was often described as the “backbone” and “heart and soul” of the ALL.  She will be most remembered for her sense of humor, generosity, “friendly and knowledgeable presence” and ability to uplift those around her.  The memorial service was held Friday in Arlington.  In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Last Chance Animal Rescue, 4499 Leonardtown Road, Waldorf, MD 20601.

Industry Moves & Changes

December 20th, 2010 by Autumn

Jackson Dunn, previously the associate director of public liaison for President Clinton, has been named to lead the public affairs practice at FD Americas.

Billy Piper, former chief of staff to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will join Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock as a senior vice president in January.

Kimberly H. Colton, former deputy chief of staff to Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), has joined the Sheridan Group as a senior policy and advocacy associate.

Lauri Hettinger, who until recently served as staff director for Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), has joined Holland & Knight’s Washington office as a senior policy adviser in the firm’s public policy and regulation group.

Brett Loeper, the senior executive vice president at the Advanced Medical Technology Association, is leaving to be Rep. John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) policy director.

LD-203 Filing Bootcamp: Ethics Certification and Training

December 17th, 2010 by Brittany

Training Date: 1/11/2011     Time: 2:00-3:30 EST   Registration: Click here

Twice a year Lobbyists.info in partnership with Cleta Mitchell runs an LD-203 filing bootcamp to prepare lobbyists for their filing.

This three-part program ensures that you and your entire staff will come away confident that you understand the rules of ethical conduct for lobbyists and non-lobbying personnel alike.

Part 1: The audioconference: This session engages your team in LD203 training with the nation’s leading authority on the new lobbying ethics laws, Cleta Mitchell. Every participant will learn what’s required for compliance so they can be confident filing — and signing — the LD203.

Part 2: Online assessment: Our online system makes sure each registrant reads the necessary information on the rules and compliance requirements prior to the conference. Then, after the audioconference, participants complete the YES/NO questions on the 10-Point Charter of Understanding.

Part 3: Training certification: When participants successfully complete the Charter, they receive hardcopy Certificates of Training (sent to the main registrant) that may be retained as evidence of good faith efforts at LD203 compliance.

Sign up your entire team to listen in for practical guidance on the LD-203 that can protect contributions — and lobbying careers, including:

  • What your certification “under penalty of perjury” means, and how the government intends to enforce monitoring and breach
  • The specific gift and travel rules for House, Senate and Executive branch “covered” officials for which you must certify your understanding
  • The most likely breaches you may unknowingly have committed — and what to do before you certify to address any problems
  • The supporting records you and your firm must maintain to support the certification

Register today!

Campaign Finance Q & A

December 16th, 2010 by Autumn

Q: My company operates on a calendar year and is looking for places to unload corporate funds before the end of the tax period.  Can we support the RNC under the Citizens United decision, as long as we disclose the donations with the FEC?

A:  No. Contrary to media reports, the Supreme Court’s decision does NOT permit corporations to make contributions to specific candidates or parties.  In addition to the traditionally-allowed PAC donations and  issue ads, you are now allowed to independently support specific candidates or parties, by urging people to “vote for candidate Johnson” or “remember to support the Republican candidates,” which was not previously allowed.

Be diligent about state disclosure requirements, which have increased since the ruling, in what many view as an attempt to dissuade corporations from increasing political spending.

Spreading Holiday Advocacy Cheer through Social Networking

December 15th, 2010 by Brittany

Social networks (or “socnets”), such as Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn or the many social networks developed for specific organizations, are useful tools for associations to connect active individuals with the policy and personal interests that concern them most. 

Tips for Social Networks

For organizations unfamiliar with social networks, either in the advocacy environment or in general, following are some ideas for getting started.  In addition, note that the considerations outlined above under “Considerations for Effective Pull Communications” are particularly pertinent for the social networking environment.

  1. Getting started: Advocate leaders can start getting familiar with social networking ideas and approaches by registering on a couple of the most popular sites like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, the latter of which is specifically oriented toward business networking. It is important to gain familiarity with the site’s privacy settings and posting structure in order to understand how these policies might apply to any group or association advocacy-related profile.
  2. Identify existing groups and related organizations:  Take steps to identify related organizations by running a search on the organization’s name and key topic areas.  In addition, most elected officials (often the targets of an advocacy campaign) have pages on these networks.  Take a moment to review the pages of the champions and detractors of your policy issues.  These profiles can offer valuable insights that will enhance the organization’s advocacy efforts.
  3. Assess potential downsides:  For many organizations, there are very few downsides to participating in an online social network.  In most cases, the policy issues with which the organization is most concerned are already being discussed by others.  In a sense, it may be more disadvantageous for the organization NOT to be involved in social network sites.  However, there are a couple of points to keep in mind when using these sites.
    • Legal implications:  Organizations with a concern about liability for potential libelous or slanderous messages posted by others on a social networking site should check with legal counsel before establishing a page.  In many cases, these concerns can be addressed by establishing a strict posting policy.
    • Tax implications:  Certain communications that can be viewed by the general public will be viewed as “grassroots lobbying” under IRS definitions, and, depending on the amount spent on these communications, may impact an organization’s 501c3 status
  4. Set up a page and/or group for your association on an existing network: Once the organization is familiar with the sites and comfortable with any potential downsides, it is time to consider establishing an identity on one or all of these sites. Many organizations have groups and profiles on all the major sites. In addition to reaching a wider audience, this approach allows the organization to protect its brand and be part of policy discussions wherever they occur. If that approach is too broad, the advocate leader can prioritize based on a couple criteria, including a) which sites members or like-minded individuals are already patronizing and b) which sites the organization is most comfortable working with.
  5. Consider starting your own network:  Organizations with a large network might want to consider starting a “niche” network not associated with one of the major networking sites. This would serve not just as an individual page on a site, but as a “hub” where everyone associated with the campaign can gather, post comments, photos, information and the like. Larger organizations with IT departments can consider creating their own social networking tools or working with an outside vendor. Free networking tools like Ning.com should also be considered (organizations using the free option will have to accept Google banner ads on your site). Through Ning, an organization can set up its own page that includes a variety of tools (blogs, forums, photo sharing, etc.).  Network members can be invited and then, once they join, can participate in forums, post materials and download whatever advocacy resources are made available at the site.
  6. Explore outreach options: Social network sites offer tremendous opportunities for reaching out to like-minded individuals and organizations. Facebook, for example, has started offering users the ability to create banner ads targeted toward members expressing interest in a specific issue.  On LinkedIn, the advocate leader can ask a network- or group-wide question about its issues as a way of introducing the organization. 

For more information or to purchase the Advocacy Handbook click here.

Weekly News Round-up

December 10th, 2010 by Autumn

Outside of the traditional rumblings about congressmen selecting lobbyists to lead their staff despite campaign promises to the contrary, K Street is pretty quiet this time of year.  Here are some things we did find interesting this week:

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska)  re-election seems ethereal: she lost the primary election, but went on to win in the general contest as a write-in candidate.  There is some speculation that her campaign was bolstered greatly by the changes in finance laws that took place over the last year.  “Super PAC” Alaskans Standing Together raised over $1.7 million toward Murkowski’s campaign, in 38 days to push the incumbent senator to the front of the race.
  • Lady Gaga has again gone on the offensive against DADT, issuing a new video encouraging the Senate to repeal what she calls an “archaic” policy.
  • The Wikileaks era may mean more opportunities for lobbyists to represent foreign governments, “not in the traditional lobbying role, but more communications strategies,” Roll Call reports.

Finance lobbyists weigh in on Dodd-Frank

December 6th, 2010 by Autumn

The passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act has made it a great time to be a lobbyist for the financial services industry.  The number of lobbyists retained by the SEC and CFTC rose sharply in the third quarter as the agencies anticipate rules to implement the bill.  The SEC has hired 45% more lobbyists than it sought in the second quarter, and the CFTC called on an additional 22%.

According to a Washington Post story, “experts say these figures likely represent only a fraction of the people appearing on behalf of clients before those agencies because many rulemaking meetings” do not trigger LDA disclosure.   The story goes on to report, that most insiders project the frenzy will last several years, which is good news for newly-in-demand finance lobbyists on all sides of the issues.

With 243 rules and 67 studies already underway, there are quite a few interests to be considered and plenty of work to go around.  Some firms have already sought to hire additional associates to help meet the demand for lobbyists experienced in various aspects of financial affairs and regulation.

Former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating will lead the charge against the bill on behalf of the nation’s banks as the new president of the American Bankers Association, a post he will assume Jan. 1 with the retirement of the association’s current president, Edward Yingling.

Former chief Citigroup lobbyist to head airline association

December 6th, 2010 by Autumn

Come January, Nick Calio will be president of the Air Transportation Association, succeeding current president Jim May.  Calio resigned as head of the global lobbying division at Citigroup, where he grew the company’s PAC and political involvement significantly Wednesday.

The tactical hire seemingly puts the association in a good position to have its interests heard in Congress on both sides of the aisle.  The former chief Congressional liaison in both Bush Administrations is not only a well-known Republican, he is also respected by top Democrats, including Senate majority leader Harry Reid.  A former Democratic lobbyist at Citigroup, who was initially hired by Calio, called the move a “coup” for the ATA, and Reid told Politico, “The ATA is fortunate to have a seasoned hand who understands the importance of finding bipartisan solutions.”

Calio’s top objective will be expanding the association’s political action committee, which he believes will further advance the group’s overall agenda of lobbying for decreased taxes and regulation, and increased infrastructure and access to foreign markets.  He will also seek to grow the membership and broaden the group’s international reach.

In a statement to Politico, he explained the need for a strong PAC, saying, ‘“You’ve got to be part of the political process and contributions and political support are part of the political process.  When you have people who consistently support you on policy issues, they expect you to be part of their political life support system. It’s just that simple.”’

Telecomm industry embroiled in fight on net neutrality

December 6th, 2010 by Autumn

Approximately 33% of freshman Congressmen in the 112th congressional session received donations from either Verizon, AT&T or both this campaign season, as the telecommunications carriers gear up for a big fight on net neutrality.

Groups on both sides of the Internet regulation issue have made a great number of lobbying contacts to Congressmen and FCC officials in anticipation of the Dec. 21 meeting to address regulation strategy.  Google and Comcast were among other big donors, though their donation strategies differed from those of Verizon and AT&T, who supported candidates with little discretion at all, even, in some cases, opponents in the same race.  Google’s support, for instance, was only for candidates with prior political experience, while Comcast targeted veterans it considers key players in the net neutrality battle.

The efforts are in response to FCC regulation over broadband access, following a decision by the DC Court of Appeals last spring which ruled the agency does not have the authority to regulate Internet service providers’ interference with web access.  Despite the ruling, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski is expected to outline his new broadband plan Wednesday.

In response to challenges to his authority to act on the issue in light of the court ruling by ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and a top member of its Internet subcommittee, Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.)  the New York Times reports that Genachowski “believes he has the legal authority to act because he argues that his plan would help spread broadband service more widely across the country, a priority that Congress has established as one of the F.C.C.’s mandates.”

Industry Moves & Changes

December 6th, 2010 by Autumn

Don Reily, a retired Army Maj. Gen. has been named vice president and director of business development at Dawson & Associates.

Erik Hotmire, former senior adviser at Securities Exchange Commission and USA Freedom Corps spokesman, is joining the Brunswick Group as director.

Terry Dale has been named president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association.

Matthew Beck, communications director and policy adviser for the Ways and Means Committee since 2005, is joining the Glover Park Group as vice president in the public affairs and marketing divisions

Matt Salt was named executive director of the Specialized Publishers Association of Vienna.

Weekly Lobbying News Round-Up

December 3rd, 2010 by Autumn

We would be remiss if we did not in some way mention that Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader accused of money laundering and conspiracy, was convicted on felony charges over the Thanksgiving break.  Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 20, though DeLay’s legal team will surely appeal the conviction.

In other lobbying news:

  1. President: Howard Marlowe, President, Marlowe and Company
  2. 1st VP: Monte Ward, President, Advanced Capitol Consulting
  3. 2nd VP: Jim Hickey, Vice President, Government Affairs, Day & Zimmerman
  4. Secretary: Pam Whitted, Vice President, Government Affairs, Natl Stone Sand Gravel Assn.
  5. Treasurer: Kathy Calhoun Wood, Associate, Hurt, Norton & Associates
  6. Board Members: Michael Aitken, Director of Governmental Affairs, Society for Human Resource Management, Donald Erickson, Director of Government Relations, Security Industry Association, Wright Andrews, Partner, Butera & Andrews 
  • The group also unveiled a new PR campaign, kicked off with this video, designed to educate on the lobbying profession, the first-ever offensive effort to sway public opinion of lobbyists.  President-elect Howard Marlowe is expected to further the campaign to improve popular perception of the profession.
  • The resignation of Nick Calio, the former chief lobbyist at Citigroup, who has left the company to pursue a position with the Air Transport Association, has drawn attention to what appears to be a mass exodus from the bank.  In addition to Calio, both the top Republican and Democrat lobbyists (Heather Wingate and Jimmy Ryan, respectively) and two other GR staffers have departed as well.