Category Archives: Disclosure

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Trump Ethics Order Loosens Hiring Rules, but Tightens Post-Employment Restrictions

On January 28, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order that imposes an extra layer of ethics obligations on presidentially appointed members of the White House and Executive Branch. Overall, President Trump’s Executive Order takes a somewhat different approach than the “Ethics Pledge” issued by the Obama administration, expanding some restrictions and loosening others. In … Continue Reading

An Audit of the Justice Department’s FARA Program: Increased focus on registration likely, but what about criminal prosecutions?

The Department of Justice Inspector General’s (IG) office recently released a highly critical audit of DOJ’s Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA) enforcement program. The audit, combined with recent news stories potentially involving FARA, may foreshadow an increased awareness of this sometimes overlooked registration requirement. But increased attention likely does not mean an increase in prosecutions, … Continue Reading

The FEC Levels Fines on Nonprofits over Donor Disclosure

The question of when a politically-active, nonprofit 501(c)(4) group must publicly disclose its donors has been on the front burner in various states—most, like New York and California, have called for greater regulation, while others like Arizona have loosened the reins. At the federal level, silence has been the norm because the statute is generally read … Continue Reading

Revisions to the Lobbying Disclosure Act Guidance: What These Changes Mean for You

The Lobbying Disclosure Act Guidance (Guidance) issued by the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate was updated on June 15. The updates clarify currently existing provisions of the LDA, add additional examples, replace references to the LDA with hyperlinked citations to the U.S. Code, and remove references to Line … Continue Reading

Ballot Initiative Disclosure

Long before Citizens United allowed corporations to fund independent expenditures to support candidates, the Supreme Court allowed corporations to contribute to ballot measure committees. Until recently, disclosure was a fairly straightforward matter: give to the official committees supporting or opposing the measure and the contribution would be disclosed; give to other entities (like a nonprofit) … Continue Reading

Maryland Changes Rules Again on Political Contribution Disclosure by Government Contractors; Lobbyist-Employers Also Affected

Following a major rewrite last year of its “pay-to-play” disclosure rules, Maryland has made further changes that expand the obligations of state and local government contractors to report their political contributions, and those of their subsidiaries, officers, directors, partners, and PACs. Now, in addition to reporting direct contributions to candidates, contractors will also have to disclose … Continue Reading

New Maryland Law Shines Light on Political Contributions by Government Contractors and their Principals, Also Hikes Contribution Limits and Regulates Nonprofits

The Maryland legislature overhauled the state’s campaign finance law almost two years ago, but many of the key provisions did not take effect until January 1, 2015. These changes significantly affect state government contractors by introducing a new electronic registration system overseen by the State Board of Elections, and requiring electronic reporting of contributions made … Continue Reading

LD-203 Compliance Tips

The LD-203 obviously includes a number of different disclosures. In practice, many reports show very little activity because the categories to be disclosed are fairly narrow. However, the report is filed under penalties of making false statements, so organizations have to know that they did not make any covered payments. The Whole Company As our … Continue Reading

Other LD-203 Categories

Yesterday, we focused on the honoring and recognizing categories of expenses that have to be reported. There are also three other categories that have to be disclosed on the LD-203 report. Political Contributions: Contributions made by registered lobbyists, the connected PAC of a registrant, or a PAC controlled by a lobbyist must be disclosed on … Continue Reading

Honoring and Recognizing

The LD-203 requires registrants and lobbyists to disclose a variety of payments made for the purpose of honoring and recognizing covered officials. Guidance issued by the House and Senate includes some very helpful examples. Payments that need to be disclosed fall in four different categories. The cost of an event to honor or recognize a … Continue Reading

Discussion on IRS Rulemaking – Video Available

Ron Jacobs recently moderated a panel at the George Washington University Law School on the IRS’s proposed rules for political activity of 501(c)(4) organizations. The panelists included Cleta Mitchell of Foley & Lardner LLP, John Pomeranz of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, LLP, and Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center. You can watch the presentation … Continue Reading

FPPC goes after more committees in its “dark money” case

As we reported in November, the California Fair Political Practices Commission reached a settlement agreement with two entities (Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership) involved in a 2012 ballot measure. Those entities agreed to pay a $1 million fine. The FPPC said that it would require the entities that received the contributions, … Continue Reading

Upping the Contribution Limit on the Upper Peninsula (and elsewhere): Michigan Enacts Changes to its Campaign Finance Laws

Last week Michigan followed several states by increasing both contribution limits and frequency of disclosure from candidates. The bill, which took effect immediately, also includes new identification requirements for persons or groups paying for robocalls while exempting so-called “issue-ads” and their donors from being disclosed in campaign finance reports.   Contribution Limits and Disclosure The … Continue Reading

To Catch a Lobbyist: NYC Ordinance Aims to Catch Those Flouting Registration and Vastly Expands Covered Activities

Last week, New York’s City Council passed an ordinance amending its lobbying laws. While these reforms largely have gone unnoticed, a close look at the changes, some of which go into effect on January 1, reveals some potentially far-reaching implications. First, the definition of “lobbying” has been expanded to include attempts to influence “any determination made … Continue Reading

501(c)(4) Proposed Regulations—An Unsafe Harbor

On November 26, the Department of Treasury released proposed regulations billed as “more definitive rules” for when the IRS will treat certain activities by section 501(c)(4) organization as political activity. It is hard to argue that the proposal provides some clarity, but only by classifying a wide variety of activities as candidate-related and therefore not qualifying … Continue Reading

Big Jump in Florida Contribution Limits, But With More Disclosure

The maximum contribution to Florida candidates has jumped from $500 to $3000 per election for candidates in statewide elections and from $500 to $1000 per election for state legislative candidates. The new limits took effect on November 1, part of a sweeping overhaul of the state’s campaign finance and ethics laws signed into law in … Continue Reading

California Settles Case Involving Contributions to a Ballot Committee

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”) issued its largest fines ever on October 24, 2013, against two groups that allegedly served as conduits for millions of dollars spent on California ballot measures in 2012. Together, the groups have been tagged with a combined $1 million fine, and the PACs that received some of the … Continue Reading

Nonprofits Operating in New York Must Disclose Donors, Itemize Spending for Election Advocacy and Issue Ads

Nonprofit groups raising money in New York are required by new rules to report nationwide spending on communications that support or oppose candidates and ballot initiatives, or that simply refer to candidates within certain periods before an election. When a group spends more than $10,000 on such communications in regard to New York state or local … Continue Reading

501(c)(4)s: Why all the fuss?

Obviously the IRS has spent a great deal of time trying to determine whether certain groups qualify for exemption under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Why 501(c)(4) status matters so much is really about disclosure and not about tax revenue at all. Unlike contributions to Section 501(c)(3) organizations, contributions to 501(c)(4)s are not deductible … Continue Reading

A Texas-Sized IRS Controversy? Governor Perry Vetoes Disclosure Legislation

It seems the IRS controversy has spilled into the states. Late last week Governor Rick Perry vetoed legislation that would have required the disclosure of high-level donors by many politically active organizations, including those exempt under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. After a Republican legislature passed the bill, there was a fevered internet grassroots … Continue Reading

New York Ethics Watchdog Makes Additional Tweaks to Proposed Ethics Rules

New York State’s ethics and lobbying watchdog, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (“JCOPE”), released revised draft amendments to its gift and honoraria rules and source of funding (“SOF”) regulations. JCOPE will seek formal public comment on all of these proposed rules. Copies of the new draft rules can be found here. In January, JCOPE began accepting … Continue Reading

No Day at the Beach: Florida Overhauls Campaign Finance Law, Empowers Ethics Commission to Crack Down on Vendors and Lobbyists

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed two bills yesterday that make sweeping changes in the state’s campaign finance and ethics laws. The campaign finance bill eliminates controversial accounts that some alleged were used by candidates as political slush funds, expands gift restrictions on state vendors, and gives expanded investigative powers to the state ethics commission. The changes … Continue Reading
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