November 24th, 2010 by Autumn
Today is the most traveled day of the year. Traffic will be a nightmare, airline waits will be treacherous (especially considering the proposed boycott of airport security scanners), and everyone may be a little more uptight. It may seem like the time to cut corners wherever possible to save time and expense, but beware of the following travel pitfalls, or you could find yourself gobbling for mercy:
- If you’re a lobbyist and your new staffer girlfriend is coming home to meet the parents for the first time, you can NOT pay for her ticket. If you’ve been dating awhile or are engaged, there is a “personal friend” or “significant other” (Senate only) exemption. You will still need to get pre-approval from ethics committee if the trip will cost over $250. The pre-approval is confidential, but very essential.
- The new girlfriend can, however, partake in the Thanksgiving feast — as long as you have a relatively large family — because the holiday meal is a widely-attended event.
- Make sure that any gift you give her while gone is filed on the LD-203! (Unless of course you get engaged over the holiday, in which case fiancees are permitted to give gifts without disclosure.)
- If using the personal friendship exemption for anything, you must be able to prove a history of gift exchange between you, not give any gifts related to any official duties, not submit any expenses for reimbursement by your employer, not count the gifts as an exemption.
November 22nd, 2010 by Autumn
David Tilstone has been named president of the National Tooling and Machining Association.
Scott Kamins, deputy chief of staff and director of government affairs at the Republican National Committee, has been named a director at the Prime Policy Group.
Charles Salem, chief of staff to Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), is joining Microsoft as managing director for public policy.
George Lowe, who spent four years serving as chief of staff to former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), has joined Brown Rudnick’s Washington office as a partner. Lowe will work as a lobbyist in Brown Rudnick’s government law and strategies group
November 18th, 2010 by Autumn
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.
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.