Compliance Notes - Vol. 5, 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
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has published the price index adjustment to the federal lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold. The threshold for 2024 is $22,700, up from $21,800 in 2023. Federal law and regulations require authorized committees of federal candidates, leadership political action committees (PACs) and political party committees to disclose contributions bundled by lobbyists and lobbyists’ PACs. (FEC Press Release)
Two Democrat-aligned groups filed campaign finance complaints with the FEC against the centrist group No Labels, hoping to force the group to follow the same rules as formal political parties. The group’s complaint argues that No Labels’ level of spending and advocacy against the election of Biden and Trump triggers requirements in federal campaign finance law that demand it to register as a political party. While No Labels has established political parties in numerous states, at the national level, it is registered as a nonprofit with the IRS. That has enabled the group to operate with limited transparency while accepting unlimited sums of money from anonymous donors. If the Democrat-aligned groups are successful, No Labels would not only be compelled to register as a formal political party with the Federal Election Commission, but it would also have its tax-exempt status revoked, be forced to abide by the same donation amount limits as other political parties and be required to reveal its big-money donors. Brian Slodysko & Jonathan J. Cooper, AP News)
Government Ethics & Transparency
Kentucky: Outside counsel hired to defend Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg against an ethics complaint signed a contract to receive up to $25,000 in city funds for their services, but the actual cost passed on to taxpayers could be much higher. Under a Metro ordinance, city officers accused of an ethics violation can request the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office to hire independent counsel to represent them at a cost of up to $25,000. However, in a statement to The Courier Journal, Jefferson County Attorney’s Office spokesman Josh Abner said the office does not limit the amount it spends on legal representation, despite the ordinance. The complaint against Greenberg, filed in October 2023, was based on the role of Greenberg’s wife in his administration and the hiring of Metro Hall interns with close ties to the mayor through a program aimed at disadvantaged youth. (Josh Wood & Eleanor McCrary, Louisville Courier Journal)
Rhode Island: The Rhode Island Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint filed by the state Republican party against Democrat Gov. Dan McKee, alleging he violated state campaign finance laws after a lobbyist picked up a tab for lunch. The complaint alleged that McKee violated state law last year by allowing Jeff Britt, a lobbyist representing the urban development firm Scout Ltd., to pay for the $228 meal at the Capital Grille in Providence in January 2023. Scout Ltd. hoped to move ahead with a plan to redevelop the Cranston Street Armory in Providence. Under Rhode Island ethics law, public officials are barred from accepting items worth $25 or more from anyone seeking to do business with the state. The governor’s campaign said they reimbursed Britt for the lunch in June 2023. An investigative report found McKee acted reasonably and in good faith, and probable cause did not exist to believe that McKee knowingly and willfully violated the Code of Ethics. The commission voted 6-0 to dismiss the complaint. (AP News)