The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) approved proposed comprehensive lobbying and source of funding regulations for written comment and public hearing discussion. The proposed regulations include technical changes, codify current practices and create /expand significant definitions.
Key aspects of the proposed regulations include the following:
Clarifying what constitutes a “beneficial client” and “individual lobbyist”.
The regulations create the concept of different types of lobbyists and clients for reporting purposes and outlines information that must be provided by each.
Definition of Direct Contact
The regulations define “direct contact” as including any communication or interaction with a Public official through, among other things, social media. The rule defines direct lobbying through social media and includes details as to when an individual within an organization must be identified as an individual lobbyist in the context of social media.
Grassroots Lobbying Definition
The regulations also define a “grassroots lobbyist” as a person or organization that solicits another to deliver a message to a Public official. Rules regarding what constitutes grassroots lobbying communications and how organizations and individuals are defined in this context are also set forth in the regulations. While every grassroots lobbying communication is attributable to a lobbyist, this communication may not require identification of an individual lobbyist. There has also been the establishment of when an individual lobbyist must be identified for purposes of grassroots lobbying and what behaviors would require one’s identification as an individual lobbyist.
The definition of coalition is amended and codified to include groups of otherwise unaffiliated entities or members that pool funds or resources for the primary purpose of lobbying, excluding not-for profit corporations organized under 501(c)(5) or (c)(6) of the IRC.
The proposed regulations outline filing responsibilities for coalitions and their members. If a Coalition files a report, then a member’s contribution to a Coalition is not considered a Lobbying expenditure for determining whether the member must register as a Lobbyist and/or file a Bi-Monthly or Client Semi-Annual Report. However, each Coalition member is considered a “beneficial client” and therefore, their contributions impute back for determining whether the member is subject to the Source of Funding disclosure requirements.
JCOPE also broadens the scope of when social media is to be attributed as communication deemed to be “grassroots lobbying”. The regulations define expenses attributable to social media activities to include (but are not limited to): consulting services, sponsoring posts, and staff time allocated to planning social media posts.
Compensation for Lobbying Services
The regulations permit payment for lobbying services in stock or equity under certain circumstances and creates a standard of evaluating and obtaining approval for such compensation arrangements.
The regulations further define when the “determination of need” period begins.
Reportable Lobbying Compensation
There have been changes to the definition of compensation to specifically require that compensation “owed” to lobbyists must be reported. In addition, compensation is required to include year-end or other bonuses, but exclude fringe benefits.
The regulations will now require the name of the Public Official or Public Official’s office or legislative committee with whom the lobbyist has had a direct communication to be listed in reports.
Source of Funding Regulations
The Source of funding regulations have been updated to coincide with the amendments to the comprehensive lobbying regulations. In addition, the criteria used to evaluate exemption requests has been codified.
Questions and comments about the proposed regulations and how they impact your organization?
Public Comment is open until October 16, 2017 and a Public Hearing will be held on October 30th. If you have any questions concerning the new regulations or would like SRC to submit comments on your behalf, please contact Theresa Russo at Theresa.Russo@srclawoffices.com or 518-407-5800. To obtain the text of the regulations, please visit www.jcope.ny.gov