Compliance Notes - Vol. 3, Issue 27
RECENT LOBBYING, ETHICS & CAMPAIGN FINANCE UPDATES
We read the news, cut through the noise and provide you the notes.
Welcome to Compliance Notes from Nossaman’s Government Relations & Regulation Group – a periodic digest of the headlines, statutory and regulatory changes and court cases involving campaign finance, lobbying compliance, election law and government ethics issues at the federal, state and local level.
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Campaign Finance & Lobbying Compliance
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued Advisory Opinion 2022-03, in response to a request by an LLC proposing to sell a new service to corporations and corporate separate segregated funds (SSFs). The new service would enable the SSF to solicit the general public for contributions to candidates and political committees, and the LLC would provide the SSF with real-time data about the resulting contributions. The FEC concluded the new service is permissible because the activity is not prohibited corporate facilitation and is not covered by the Federal Election Campaign Act’s “sale or use” prohibition. Further, while the LLC will host the customized website on its platform, the site would be the internet website of a political committee available to the general public; therefore, it must include the required political disclaimers. (FEC Record: Advisory Opinions)
California: The Long Beach Ethics Commission discussed tightening the city’s lobbying ordinance by requiring elected officials to report their contacts with lobbyists, changing whom must register as a lobbyist, and how often they must file disclosures. The existing lobbyist registration ordinance requires people to register as lobbyists if they exceed certain thresholds for the amount of money clients pay for their representation or if they lobby more than 50 hours per quarter. The commission could make formal recommendations to the City Council later this year, which would decide whether to adopt any changes to the city’s lobbying ordinance. (Jason Ruiz, Long Beach Post News)
Government Ethics & Transparency
Former Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) was sentenced to two years’ probation and issued a $25,000 fine for lying to the FBI and concealing information during an investigation into his campaign’s receipt of tens of thousands of dollars in illegal contributions. The sentencing decision, which went against the prosecution’s requested six-month prison sentence, allows Fortenberry to avoid serving any time in jail. (Chris Marquette, Roll Call)
Georgia: A special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, issued subpoenas for Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other key allies of former President Trump in connection with the investigation into President Trump’s alleged attempt to interfere with Georgia’s 2020 election results. The judge overseeing the grand jury, Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, signed a “certificate of material witness” for Senator Graham and others, stating they are necessary to the ongoing investigation. The grand jury will make recommendations about criminal prosecution for the district attorney’s consideration. (Herb Scribner, Axios)
Elections & Legislation
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case next term that considers whether state courts, when finding violations of their state constitutions, can order changes to federal elections and redraw congressional districts maps. The case, an appeal from North Carolina Republicans, concerns a district map rejected by the state’s supreme court for partisan gerrymandering and violating the state constitution. The case has implications beyond redistricting, as the Court could give state legislatures more power over federal elections and block state courts from reviewing challenges to election procedures and results. (Nicholas Riccardi, AP NEWS)
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has introduced the Election Mail Act, legislation aimed at improving the delivery of election mail and returning of ballots. The bill would codify First-Class service standards for all election mail, require the U.S. Postal Service to postmark all ballots, and guarantee that voters and election officials don’t have to pay for postage to send in ballots. Additionally, the bill would require states to count absentee ballots postmarked by election day and arriving within seven days after the election, while also allowing states to have deadlines longer than seven days. As Congress has been unable to enact sweeping election reform this year, this targeted piece of legislation aims to reform election administration on a narrower scale. (Sophia Cai, Axios)