Compliance Notes - Vol. 4, Issue 5
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
A bipartisan group of senators reintroduced the Disclosing Foreign Influence Lobbying Act that would amend the Lobbying Disclosure Act to require disclosure of foreign governments and political parties that participate in the direction, planning, supervision or control of lobbying activities. The stated intent of the sponsors is, “to crack down on schemes used by foreign adversaries to skirt lobbying laws and influence policymakers.” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stated reform is necessary because people need to know whether foreign governments or political parties are using organizations as proxies to secretly push their agenda in the United States. (Ryan Lovelace, The Washington Times) (Bill Text)
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced the inflation-adjusted contribution limits for the 2023-2024 election cycle. The individual donor limit has increased from $2,900 to $3,300 per candidate, per election. Contribution limits for donors to national party committees also increased to $41,300, up from $36,500 last year. (Zach Montellaro, Politico Pro) (FEC News Release)
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is planning to require that 2024 presidential candidates receive contributions from a certain number of unique individual donors to qualify for a spot on the debate stage. While discussions are ongoing about the precise number of donors to require, internal talks have floated 40,000 and 50,000 as potential thresholds. Republicans have been searching for ways to expand their small-dollar donor base, and fundraising professionals say the debate requirement could be an effective tool. (Lachlan Markay, Axios)
Minnesota: State lawmakers are pushing an elections bill to increase voters' knowledge and use of the state's public financing program that allows voters to make campaign contributions using tax dollars. The proposal, called "Democracy Dollars" and patterned after a program pioneered in Seattle, WA, would automatically send Minnesota voters two $25 coupons they can give to candidates, who cash them in with the state. To be eligible to receive the money, candidates must agree to the rules currently in place for the refund and state campaign subsidy program, agree to cap spending on their campaigns and limit personal contributions, among other rules. (Peter Callaghan, MinnPost)
North Carolina: A 2020 candidate for North Carolina's 11th Congressional District accused of a campaign finance violation signed a plea agreement. According to charging documents filed by the Department of Justice, Lynda Bennett is charged with willingly and knowingly accepting on her campaign's behalf $25,000 in contributions during 2019 from a relative that were provided in the name of another person. Bennett's attorney stated the matter was based on a loan from a family member and amounted to a "technical violation of campaign-finance regulations." (AP News)
Government Ethics & Transparency
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to hold off on any enforcement action against Rep. George Santos (R-NY) while prosecutors conduct a parallel criminal investigation. The DOJ also asked the FEC to provide any relevant documents that can be used for the investigation. Santos, who was elected to Congress in November after flipping New York's 3rd Congressional District, is facing several investigations at the federal and state level related to lying about his educational background, work experience and finances. (Rachel Schilke, Washington Examiner)
The DOJ has closed an investigation into whether retired Marine Gen. John Allen lobbied the U.S. government on behalf of the Qatari government, declining to bring criminal charges. According to the FBI, General Allen appeared to violate foreign lobbying laws in 2017 when he was recruited to help diffuse a diplomatic crisis between Qatar and its Persian Gulf neighbors. Information from the FBI's unsealed search warrant provides a detailed account of General Allen's travels to Qatar and frequent meetings with a former U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan and a businessman with ties in the Middle East. Finding no evidence to bring any charges against General Allen, the investigation is now closed. (Anders Hagstrom, Fox News)
New York: The New York City Council passed legislation requiring entities spending money to influence voters in local referendums to disclose their funders. The new law requires an entity to disclose to the New York City Campaign Finance Board its spending of $5,000 or more on independent expenditures and the names of its owners, officers and major contributors. If the mayor signs or allows it to age into law, it will take effect on January 1, 2024. (Ethan Geringer-Sameth, Gotham Gazette)