January 11th, 2011 by Autumn
You have probably heard by now that Paul Magliocchetti, the founder of the now-defunct PMA Group, was sentenced to 27 months behind bars for his role in organizing a campaign finance scheme. In addition to the prison sentence, which will be served at a North Carolina federal prison hospital, the former House Appropriations Committee staffer was fined $75,000.
The sitting judge, the Honorable T.S. Ellis, issued the sentence as a warning to other lobbyists, and simultaneously expressed his displeasure with prosecutors who seek only fines in similar cases. He did not grant the 57 month prison term and $629,000 fine the prosecutors sought initially, and told Magliocchetti that his good works were not obliterated, he was not responsible for a PMA Group-favorite donor’s suicide in light of the investigations, and said he should make amends with his son, who plead guilty to charges related to the case.
So what can be drawn from the Magliocchetti case? First, people are seeking to make examples of lobbyists, so tread lightly. Make sure you are in compliance with HLOGA and all of its developments, and be sure to carefully review your LD-203 filings for errors, remembering that your signature is “under penalty of perjury.”
Make sure that you disclose any campaign donations, be they to PACs, independent expenditure groups, political parties, or candidates and their election committees, on the form.
Bundle with care. You will need to be aware of the limits and follow them closely. Citizens United opened the door for unlimited giving, but did not take away the reporting requirements.
A good rule of thumb: if you can’t report it, don’t give it. Recent cases have shown that prosecutors are looking and will find any missteps. Repercussions may not be immediate, but they are coming. US News & World Report found that only 20% of companies properly disclose their political donations, and only 14% actually have indirect disclosure policies.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by the LD-203′s reporting requirements, it is not too late to join today’s LD-203 bootcamp, which will be held at 2p.
January 10th, 2011 by Autumn
Known for his role in some of Hollywood’s top blockbusters, George Clooney is no stranger to Washington. While Clooney himself is not actually a registered lobbyist, he has visited the White House to discuss his favorite issue: the genocide in Darfur. Just over a month after President Obama was inaugurated, Clooney visited the president and Vice President Biden to discuss the crisis in the region.
While not as outwardly vocal as other celebrity lobbyists, including Lady Gaga, Clooney, through “Not on Our Watch,” a monitoring organization he co-founded along with fellow Ocean’s trilogy actors Don Cheadle and Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt, David Pressman, and Jerry Weintraub, seeks “to focus global attention and resources towards putting an end to mass atrocities around the world,” according to the organization’s website.
The organization is a grassroots organization, urging citizens to contact elected officials, including President Obama, and encourage the US to take action on these issues.
January 3rd, 2011 by Autumn
Gary Karr will join the Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) as executive vice president for public affairs.
Michael Glassner has been named senior vice president of G.R. Seppala & Associates and president of its government affairs division. Glassner had been senior vice president for external affairs at IDT Corp.
John Engler is leaving the National Association of Manufacturers to become the president of the Business Roundtable.
Jay Timmons has been named president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
Marty Russo, chief executive at Cassidy & Associates, took a buyout Wednesday amid a staff shakeup at the lobbying firm.
December 28th, 2010 by Autumn
New Year’s Eve provides a good fundraiser occasion. Virtually no one wants to sit at home, and people are willing to pay to see and be seen as the ball drops on Times Square.
The gift rules for food and entertainment still apply to members of Congress and their staff at charity events and fundraisers.
For charity and political fundraisers, the value of a ticket for Congressional members is the cost of the meal. Note that invitations should come from the event sponsor and not a lobbyist who is buying a ticket from the sponsor to give to the Member.
Other rules of thumb for charity and political fundraisers:
- When listing Congressmen as honorary hosts, make sure that if a member of the House, other non-House members are also listed as honorary hosts.
- Representatives from the House can neither be honored nor offered an exclusive ceremonial role not offered to others; Senators may be honored if the title as Senator is excluded and the charity is not receiving any money from a lobbying entities earmarked for the event.
- Invitations must come from the organization, not individual lobbyists.
- Meals are allowed.
- Entertainment can be provided, as long as it is offered to all attendees. VIP sessions for the member/staffer are not permissible.
- No tangible gift or goodie bags may be provided.
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.
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.
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).
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.