Posts Tagged ‘lobbyist campaign contributions’

Bundles of FUNds Compliance Q&A

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by Vbhotla

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.

Candidates Seek to Distance Themselves from Lobbyists

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 by Vbhotla

The special interests are at it again. At least, that seems to be the story from the campaign trail, as candidates of all political stripes seek to portray opponents as part of the “Washington problem.” Stories relating to the campaign contributions that lobbyists are spending to help elect or re-elect ideological friends in Congress have proliferated in the past two months.

Very few lawmakers will defend their working relationships with lobbyists, although Minority Leader John Boehner has never apologized working with them, even after an uncomplimentary New York Times article portrayed him as “tightly bound” to lobbyists.

Linda McMahon was recently in the news when she claimed that she “[had] not spent lobbying dollars in Washington,” a claim that was subsequently proved wrong, when her company WWE was reported to have spent more than a million dollars on federal lobbying in the past ten years.

The Washington Post makes the point that both President Obama and then-candidate John McCain made a point of attacking the lobbying industry. Post writers also call out former Senator Dan Coats, who is attempting a comeback Senate run, as being hit by his opponent for his post-Senate career as a lobbyist, and Senate candidate Sharron Angle in Nevada, who is blasting her opponent, Harry Reid, for being the top recipient of lobbyist campaign contributions.

The Washington Post article is here; an Open Secrets blog post on the topic is here.

Lobbyist Campaign Contributions

Monday, September 20th, 2010 by Vbhotla

This story about Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) that ran on Big Government ran with an emphasis on the “heavy-handed” method with which Holmes Norton approached the unnamed lobbyist. But the bigger issue is that members of Congress are prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions in connection with official actions and duties.

Big Government points out that:

“More serious… is her frequent mention of her seniority and her Chairmanship of a subcommittee. She is attempting to solicit funds based on her past actions taken in her official capacity in Congress. She is implying to the lobbyist that, should he decline to donate, he will be turning down a senior member of Congress who Chairs a subcommittee highly relevant to his ‘sector’.”

Because Big Government did not release the name of the individual for whom Holmes Norton left this voicemail, it is impossible to state with conviction that Holmes Norton’s actions were directed toward a federally-registered lobbyist. (The lobbyist to whom the article’s authors are referring may be a “government relations” person, not registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act).

Some lobbyists simply decline to make any kind of political contributions at all, claiming this helps them to not only remain in compliance with the law, but also gives them leverage when members or staffers try to pressure them into contributions. You may want to follow suit. If you are a lobbyist and you are approached by a member of Congress (or a member’s staffer) for campaign funds or other types of solicitations, don’t walk, run, for several reasons.

First, as a lobbyist, it is your job to attempt to influence (on behalf of your clients), official action. There is no prohibition against such action; it is a Constitutionally-protected right to advocate for your chosen position.

Second, because your professional life is a series of attempts to influence official actions, any professional contact with members or staffers is probably in the context of influence.

Therefore, your professional actions and influence are closely connected. Your professional life is closely linked with your personal life, and making a campaign contribution to a member of Congress with whom you have daily/weekly/ monthly contact regarding official actions just looks bad.

In this situation, being above reproach with help you tremendously. It may not be against the law to contribute – and you should certainly feel free to do so if you believe that there is no harm in doing so, and your efforts are not connected to official actions. But it may help you enormously to consider stopping all direct political contributions while you remain a federally-registered lobbyist. A better course of action, if you feel that donations are something you want to do regardless, might be to donate to PACs unconnected to members, or to party committees.

Do note that members are strictly prohibited from soliciting gifts from lobbyists.