Compliance Notes - Vol. 4, Issue 1
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
Florida: Five elected officials in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Leon counties filed a federal lawsuit seeking to temporarily block the new voter-approved six-year lobbying ban from taking effect. The new restrictions bar elected officials from working as lobbyists while holding public office and prohibit state and local elected officials from lobbying their state agencies or offices for six years after leaving office. Since a federal judge denied the request, numerous public officials must choose between quitting public office or their private jobs before the court hears arguments on January 27. (Ana Ceballos, Miami Herald)
Broward County's Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that City Commissioner Beverly Perkins violated state election laws by “willfully” filing incorrect and incomplete financial campaign reports and failing to report some expenditures in her 2020 run for the commission. The OIG stated that after Perkins filed her final campaign report and the deadline to dispose of excess funds had passed, she donated $3,322 in leftover campaign funds to the New Creation Baptist Church. The OIG also asserted that Perkins violated state law by cashing a $9,500 donation check and making cash payments for expenses instead of using checks from the campaign bank account; there is no documentation for $5,125 of those expenses. The OIG will turn over its findings to the Broward State's Attorney's Office and the Florida Division of Elections for review and possible further action. (Judy Wilson, New Pelican)
New Jersey: Despite opposition from good government groups and policy analysts, the New Jersey Legislature is poised to overhaul the state's campaign finance restrictions by doubling contribution limits, revising pay-to-play laws and changing reporting requirements. The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved the Elections Transparency Act, which would double the amount individuals or groups could donate to candidates, political committees, parties, non-gubernatorial candidates and county party organizations. The bill would also dismantle local laws prohibiting campaign donations from people doing business directly with the government and instead regulate such contributions through state law. Further, the bill would require 501(c)(4) organizations and political action committees to report contributions over $7,500 and all their expenditures. Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, the bill's sponsor, intends for the bill to be in effect for the legislative elections in June 2023. (Nancy Solomon, Gothamist)
Government Ethics & Transparency
The rules package released by the House of Representatives over the weekend includes a provision that would reinstate two four-year term limits for Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) board members, which haven’t been enforced since 2014. It also would require the board to hire the office’s staff for the entire session within 30 calendar days of the rules package passing. Any new hires would require the approval of at least four board members. Three of the four current Democratic-appointed board members of the OCE would be removed by the term limits. This would likely leave the Republican appointed members in control of hiring OCE staff. The rules package also mandates that the House Ethics Committee create a process to receive complaints directly from the public. The Ethics Committee has not done this. This type of process was introduced in the House when it created the OCE and installed this process at the OCE in 2008. (Kate Ackley, Roll Call)
North Carolina: The North Carolina Department of Justice announced that there is insufficient evidence to pursue voter fraud charges against former White House chief of staff and congressman Mark Meadows. The investigation arose after a report that Meadows registered to vote in September 2020 using an address he allegedly never visited. The investigation found that Meadows signed a year-long lease for the North Carolina residence, and he qualified for a residency exception because he was engaged in public service in Washington, DC. (Sareen Habeshian, Axios)