Summary of New Campaign Finance, Ethics & Lobbying Laws Nationwide

National Law Review: “The New Year brings with it new laws governing campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics. Below we highlight some of the major state and federal laws that took effect on or around January 1. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but highlights some of the most significant changes that are new for 2015. In addition to the new laws outlined below, many state legislative sessions are starting up. Some states prohibit campaign finance activity during the session, so proceed with caution.”

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VT SoS Launches Electronic Disclosure Systems for Campaigns, Lobbying, Pushes Tighter Laws

Montpelier Bridge; “Secretary of State Jim “Condos explained ‘the new system not only makes lobbyist registration and disclosure simple and intuitive to use for anyone – from lobbying firms to local small businesses and nonprofits – that needs to register their activities with our office, it also provides the public with immediate access to more consistent and accurate information through a variety of search options.”

The Lobbyist Disclosure System is the second system in the new Elections Platform to go live. It follows the new Campaign Finance Information System (CFIS) that went live in August and becomes mandatory for all campaign finance reporting this month. CFIS allows candidates, PACs, and political parties to enter financial transactions (contributions and expenditures) and file reports on the relevant filing deadlines. The system also tracks Mass Media expenditures. Information contained in any reports filed by candidates, PACs, and political parties is immediately searchable using the database search functions.”

Condos in an interview with Burlington Free Press: “My office implemented an on-line Campaign Finance Information System in July 2014. As of January 2015, all candidates, political action committees and parties are required to utilize this new on-line system which will provide real time access to accurate and consistent campaign finance reports.”

“Here are some of the relatively easy steps we could take to make our lobbying more transparent that I will propose to the Legislature: more frequent disclosure — monthly during the legislative session; mass media intended to influence legislation should be reported within 24 hours; and the value and summary of any contracts those entities have with legislators”

MO SoS Proposes Ethics, Lobbying, Campaign Finance Overhaul

Sedalia News Journal (1/5): “Secretary of State Jason Kander today announced legislation to overhaul Missouri’s worst-in-the-nation ethics, lobbying and campaign finance laws. The comprehensive approach is contained in a series of bills filed on Kander’s behalf by Representatives Kevin McManus (D-Kansas City), Randy Dunn (D-Kansas City), Tracy McCreery (D-Olivette) and Jon Carpenter (D-Gladstone).

“Provisions in the bills include campaign contribution limits, a ban on lobbyist gifts to elected officials and their staff, improvements in transparency, mandatory ethics training for state officials, an end to the legislator-to-lobbyist revolving door, whistleblower protections for individuals reporting wrongdoing and stiffer criminal penalties for obstructing ethics investigations.”

“Current Missouri law allows politicians to accept both unlimited campaign contributions and unlimited lobbyist gifts. Kander’s plan would prohibit politicians from collecting six-figure donations and free sports tickets. It would also put an end to the political money laundering practice of a campaign receiving contributions from a political action committee that is funded primarily by one person who has already reached his or her contribution limit by creating the presumption that a law has been broken. It places the burden on the politician to prove otherwise.

MO Leg. Introduces Lobbying, Disclosure Reforms as Outside Groups Push Gift, Contribution Limits

Columbia Tribune: “The bill filed Tuesday by Rowden would ban gifts, bar legislators from working as lobbyists for two years after they leave office and prevent them from soliciting lobbying jobs while in office. It also would require subcontracting lobbyists hired by principal lobbyists to disclose the actual client being served and make it illegal for the governor to offer jobs in exchange for votes on legislation. He addresses campaign finance issues by requiring that legislators and statewide elected officials disclose donations greater than $500 within 48 hours during legislative sessions. Rowden’s proposal would control anonymous campaign funding by not-for-profit companies by requiring any not-for-profit that spends more than 25 percent of its budget on politics to disclose all of its donors. The seven bills filed today, four by Rowden and three by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, cover many of the same issues but do not include a ban on lobbying gifts. Instead, Barnes filed bills for faster and more detailed reporting.”

ME Commission Seeks Additional Funding to Improve Disclosure Efforts, IT

Maine Sun Journal: “The request, included in a list of changes to Maine statute proposed by Maine Ethics Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne, would divert the entirety of state revenue from lobbyist registration fees to the commission.

“The commission receives half of all lobbying fees, and the other half goes to the state’s General Fund.”  This currently amounts to between $55,000 and $65,000 annually.

“’Businesses, nonprofits and others are subsidizing the general costs of Maine government — just for the privilege of petitioning the Legislature,’ Wayne said in the letter. Instead, the commission staff would like to propose that our agency receive the entire fee and use the increased revenue for [information technology] expenses to better disclose lobbying and campaign finance information to the public.”