New Guidance for the Lobbying Disclosure Act Semiannual Report
Beginning January 1, 2008, registered lobbyists and registrant organizations under the Lobbying Disclosure Act are required to file a semiannual report disclosing payments and contributions and certifying compliance with the Rules of the House and Senate (LD203). The LD203 must be filed every six months, even if no contributions or payments have been made, and the requirement continues until a lobbyist or a registrant organization terminates their registration. The first of these reports is due Wednesday, July 30, 2008, and covers any payments and contributions made from January 1 through June 30. Unfortunately, the actual form to be used for filing the LD203 is not yet available. You will receive another notification once it becomes available.
The new reports must be filed electronically and each active lobbyist must obtain his/her own individual user identification number and password. An email will be sent from the Secretary of the Senate to each registrant organization instructing them to “activate” a request for a password for each lobbyist by providing the email address for each of its listed lobbyists. Each lobbyist will then receive a follow-up email with guidance as to how to proceed. The email to the registrant organization will most likely go out towards the end of June. Registrant organizations may continue to use the same password as they currently use to file their quarterly reports.
Contents of Report
A lobbyist or registrant organization (filer) must disclose the names of any political committees established or controlled by the filer. For example, if the registrant organization has a separate segregated fund (SSF or PAC), the registrant organization must disclose the name of the PAC. If a lobbyist controls or establishes a PAC, such as a leadership PAC, the lobbyist would have to disclose the name of the PAC.
A filer must disclose, for itself and for any political committee the filer establishes or controls, the following:
- The date, recipient and amount of funds contributed to any federal candidate or officeholder, leadership PAC, or political party committee that equals or exceeds, in the aggregate, $200. Please note that a lobbyist’s contributions to his/her company’s PAC do not have to be disclosed on his/her report.
- The date, name of honoree(s), payee and amount of funds paid for an event to honor or recognize a covered legislative branch or executive branch official.
- The date, name of honoree(s), payee and amount of funds paid to an entity or person that is named for a covered legislative branch official, or to an entity or person in recognition of such official.
- The date, recipient, name of the covered official, payee and amount of funds paid to an entity established, financed, maintained, or controlled by a covered legislative branch or executive branch official or to an entity designated by such official.
- The date, name of honoree(s), payee and amount of funds paid for a meeting, conference, retreat or other similar event held by, or in the name of, one or more covered legislative branch or executive branch officials. This would include payments made by a corporation to pay for events/appearances by candidates and covered officials before its restricted class. This would also include payments for refreshments offered at meetings, such as bagels or coffee. The Secretary of the Senate has stated that “honoring” should be read expansively so that anytime there is an invitation issued to a covered official to attend, even if informally, the meeting should be treated as “honoring” that official for purposes of reporting.
- The date, name of honoree(s) and amount of funds equaling at least $200 paid to a presidential library foundation or presidential inaugural committee.
Examples Given by the Secretary of the Senate:
Example 1: In State “A,” a group of constituents involved in widget manufacturing decide to honor Senator “Y” and Representative “T” with “Widget Manufacturing Legislative Leaders of 2008” plaques. Registrant “B” is aware that “Y” has checked with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics regarding her ability to accept the award and attend the coffee, and “T” has checked with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. “B” pays caterer “Z” $500 and Hotel “H” $200 to partially fund the event. “B” would report that it paid $500 to “Z” and $200 to “H” on November 20, 2008 for the purpose of an event to honor or recognize “Y” and “T” with the plaques.
Example 2: Senator “Y” and Representative “T” are honorary co-hosts of an event sponsored by Registrant “R” to promote “Widget Awareness.” “R” would disclose the date, amount, recipient(s) of funds and “Y” and “T” since “Y” and “T” are being honored and/or recognized.
Example 3: Registrant “R” sponsors an event. Senator “Y” is listed on the invitation as an attendee. Representative “T” is listed on the invitation as a speaker. “R” would disclose the date, amount, recipient(s) of funds, and “Y” and “T” as being recognized.
Example 4: After checking to discover if the activity is permissible, Lobbyist “C” contributes $300 on June 1, 2008 to Any State University towards the endowment of a chair named for Senator “Y.” “C” would report the information above noting that the payment was made to Any State for the endowment of “Y’s” chair.
Example 5: Senator “Y” has been asked to speak at a conference held in Washington, DC, sponsored by a professional association of which Registrant “B” is a member. “B” makes a donation of $100 to Charity “X” in lieu of honoraria. “B” would disclose a contribution of $100 on July 15, 2008, with the notation that “Y” was the speaker and the contribution was made in lieu of honoraria."
Example 6: In State “A,” there is a large regional conference on “Saving Our River,” sponsored by three 501c(3) organizations. Senator “Y” and Representatives “T” and “R” are invited to appear as honored guests. Registrant “B” contributes $3,000 to the event, paying one of the sponsors. “B” would disclose a payment of $3,000 on August 1, 2008 payable to the sponsor with the notation that “Y,” “T” and “R” are honored guests.
Example 7: Registrant “B” is a large organization with 50 state offices in which its employees are assigned to handle state and local government affairs issues. A separate local organization hosts an event that honors primarily local officials, but also includes Representative “T” as an honoree. “B” pays for its employees’ lunches at the honoring event. Accordingly, “B” would report that it paid the local organization $200 for lunch to honor “T.”
Example 8: Lobbyists “C” and “D” serve on the board of an unaffiliated PAC as member and treasurer respectively. As board members, they are in positions that control direction of the PAC’s contributions. Since both are controlling to whom the PAC’s contributions are given, they must disclose applicable contributions and payments on their semi-annual reports.
As part of the LD203, filers must certify that they have read and are familiar with the provisions of the Rules of the House and Senate regarding gifts and travel and have not provided, requested or directed a gift with the knowledge that receipt of the gift would violate the Rules. For a registrant organization, the person certifying the report must be someone who is responsible for the accuracy of the information disclosed in the LD203. For individual lobbyists, the certification will be made in their own names. It is important to note that the certification can serve as the basis for criminal charges if a filer knowingly submits or causes the submission of false information.
Things to Keep in Mind
The LD203 asks for information regarding certain payments and contributions. It is important to keep in mind, however, that simply because the LD203 asks for the information it does not necessarily mean that the payment or contribution is legal under all applicable Rules of the House and Senate, federal campaign finance laws or executive branch ethics rules. Before making payments for events, you should consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with all applicable rules and regulations.
We are available to assist with any questions you may have. Please contact Melissa Laurenza at (202) 887-4251 or Carrie Hoback at (202) 416-5153.
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