OK, they’ve been in the news “a lot” lately. And yet, our friends Jeremy Berry and Stefan Passantino at McKenna Long & Aldridge have directed us to the fact that the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (the commission’s real name) have proposed the first rule changes since their rule making authority was restored. Below is their take. Discuss the impact in the comment section. And if you feel very strongly for or against one of the proposed changes, contact the Commission to go on record.
In a barely publicized, and largely overlooked notice, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly (and commonly) known as the State Ethics Commission (“Commission”), notified the public two weeks ago that it intends to amend its rules governing many aspects of campaign finance and reporting laws in Georgia. Through a “Notice of Intent to Amend Rules” and a “Notice of Intent to Discuss Proposed Rules” posted on a back page of its website, the Commission has notified the public that it intends to discuss these rule amendments at the Commission’s meeting on September 30, 2014.
If the Commission votes to adopt these amendments to the Rules, the Rules would become effective 20 days after the Commission files them with the Secretary of State. As such, the rules presumably would apply for the remainder of the 2014 election cycle and thereafter. It is possible that the Commission could be lenient in enforcing compliance for candidates and committees through the upcoming election and instead enforce the new rules in earnest after 2014. We are not advising clients to rely on such lenience, however.
What follows is a list of many of the substantive amendments that the Commission intends to consider:
- Adds that any former counsel to the Commission, like former members of the Commission, are barred from appearing before or representing any person or entity before the Commission for one year from the termination of his or her service on or employment with the Commission.
- States that the Commission shall raise or lower campaign contribution limits at the end of four-year election cycles rather than every calendar year.
- Reduces the statute of limitations for “complaints or cases falling within the jurisdiction of the Commission” from five years to three years. The proposed exception to this rule states that “for alleged violations involving an office with a term of four or more years,” complaints must be commenced within five years “of the date of filing of the report” that allegedly includes a violation.
- Lowers the threshold for disclosing information about contributions and contributors to $100.00 or more (previously $101.00 or more) and requires more information about loans to candidate committees.
- Clarifies that contributions to political parties and political action committees do not count towards the $25,000 annual threshold that triggers registration and reporting requirements for individuals or entities making such contributions.
- Implements rules regarding non-commercial travel by a candidate on an aircraft that is owned or leased by the candidate or the candidate’s immediate family member that is used during a campaign.
- States that local filing entities (such as cities or counties) may assist those who file reports on the local level, but such officials shall not provide advice or opinions regarding disclosure reports.
- Permits local filing entities (such as cities or counties) to “retain the first $25 of each late fee collected from late local filers” and requires the remainder of the late fee to be transmitted to the State Treasury.
- Regulates lobbying expenditures on behalf of a public official’s family member by stating that “Any money spent on a member of the family of a public official is deemed a lobbying expenditure on behalf of the public official and must be reported as such. For purposes of this Rule, a members of the family means a spouse and all dependent children.”
- Adds a rule (consistent with the existing statute) that lobbyists cannot spend more than $75 per lobbying expenditure “per individual public officer.” The proposed rule permits one or more lobbyists to “split pro rata a lobbying expenditure” provided that a single lobbyist does not “exceed $75 per expenditure per individual public officer.”