Usually, you don’t see regulators opening loopholes in their own regulations. For some reason, however, JCOPE has decided to create a huge one in their lobbying reporting requirements.
As reported by Hinman Straub’s lobbying blog: “At their Nov. 20th meeting, the Commissioners added language that is intended to require the reporting only of funds provided to an entity to support lobbying activities, rather than funds that support all organizational activities.”
Here is the full text of JCOPE’s emergency regulation:
Why the change? Well, a number of Albany trade organizations (i.e., lobbyists) complained that JCOPE’s original draft source-reporting regulations were broader than its enabling legislation.
Here are the comments that JCOPE received from our lobbyist friends:
The third letter, from Greenberg Traurig (a major lobbyist law firm), is the most illuminating. It reads like a legal brief, which it probably would have become if JCOPE had pressed forward with its original regulations. Greenberg Traurig argues that lobbyist organizations shouldn’t have to disclose contributions that aren’t directly related to a lobbying campaign. The firm claims that the regulations are broader than JCOPE’s enabling legislation, which only requires disclosure of a contribution of $5000 or more from a single source that is used to fund lobbying activities. The firm distinguishes “lobbying activities” from lobbying overhead/expenses that are not specifically targeting to a particular lobbying campaign.
This is a dubious distinction, at best. The whole purpose of these trade groups is to monitor and lobby the government to protect the collective interest of its constituents. Reporting requirements for contributions over $5000 shouldn’t hinge on the intent of the donor.