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.
October 29th, 2010 by Brittany
An excerpt from the Advocacy Handbook:
Depending upon the issue and the nature of the network, advocate leaders may occasionally find themselves needing to either encourage more people to actively participate in advocacy efforts or encourage more quality communications with the target audience. Outlined below are a few of the key barriers to participation, options for overcoming those barriers and ideas for recognizing advocates’ efforts.
Barriers to Participation
Advocates often cite one of the following reasons to explain why they might be unwilling or unable to participate in efforts to make policy change:
- Lack of time
- A feeling that their participation doesn’t matter
- A feeling that the organization should do the lobbying, not them
- Unsure what to do / intimidated
- Advocate fatigue / over-activation
- Lack of progress
- Disagreement over policy direction
- Quick and Easy Activities: Advocate leaders should look for ways to draw potential advocates in to the network through some quick and easy activities. These might include sending an e-mail to a legislator through an action alert site, signing a petition, responding to a poll or survey or sending a postcard. This might be viewed as the “crawl before walking” approach. Once advocates become familiar with and comfortable with these simple activities, advocate leaders can work to encourage these individuals to engage in more substantive and effective communication strategies.
- Cultivating the Active: It’s not the number of communications that have an impact on policy outcomes, it’s the quality. Hence, it may make sense for advocate leaders to focus more attention on the powerful 5 to 20 percent of the network willing and eager to take substantive action, without, of course, ignoring the rest of the network.
- Training: The following components of a training program will help address some of the more common barriers to participation: why their voice matters, role in the GR campaign, long-term focus, and how to advocate.
- Engaging Champions: Legislative or regulatory champions of an organization’s issues can help deliver the message to advocates that their voice matters. In some cases, advocates may be more apt to believe a legislator than an organization’s government relations staff. Advocate leaders should consider asking policy champions to speak at events or make public statements about the importance of citizen advocates to the policymaking process.
- Strategic Activation: Advocate fatigue can be managed, in part, by being as strategic and focused as possible when activating the network. Organizations that frequently issue high-priority action alerts, particularly when those alerts aren’t warranted, may find their advocates becoming immune to their requests – and unwilling to take action when truly needed.
- Change the Definition of Victory: In developing advocacy plans, advocate leaders should identify internal goals that can be achieved regardless of external events. These might include targets for numbers of advocates in the network or developing a pilot program for coordinating a few site visits during a recess. These aspects of the campaign may be more within the control of the organization than, for example, whether a bill moves forward to the hearing stage or not.
- Managing Set-backs: How an organization manages the inevitable set-backs associated with any advocacy effort can make or break their future success. Advocate leaders should look to be as up-front as possible about set-backs, while identifying future plans of action.
- Setting the Policy Agenda: Organizations that set their policy agenda in concert with the advocacy network will likely have fewer disagreements with members about policy direction than those that adopt a more hierarchical approach. Before asking advocates to communicate with policymakers on a critical issue, it is imperative to ascertain that most members of the network are in agreement on the overall message.
- Agreeing to Disagree: In some cases, organizations may need to take controversial positions that may be unpopular with some percentage of their members. Advocate leaders should identify these potential disagreements as soon as possible and be prepared to address questions about the decisions made by the organization.
The Advocacy Handbook, written by the “Advocacy Guru” Stephanie Vance, and its insight into helping your advocates shake off their anxieties will help your advocacy mission become a success. Click here for more information on the Advocacy Handbook.
October 28th, 2010 by James
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.