The LD-203 requires registrants and lobbyists to disclose a variety of payments made for the purpose of honoring and recognizing covered officials. Guidance issued by the House and Senate includes some very helpful examples.
Payments that need to be disclosed fall in four different categories.
- The cost of an event to honor or recognize a covered legislative branch official or covered executive branch official;
- Payments to an entity that is named for a covered legislative branch official, or to a person or entity in recognition of such official;
- Payments to an entity established, financed, maintained, or controlled by a covered legislative branch official or covered executive branch official, or an entity designated by such official; or
- The costs of a meeting, retreat, conference, or other similar event held by, or in the name of, one or more covered legislative branch officials or covered executive branch officials.
If disbursements are reported as contributions on campaign finance reports, such as a contribution to a Member of Congress’s campaign committee to attend a conference, or a fundraiser honoring a Senator, then those disbursements would be reported on the LD-203 as federal campaign contributions, rather than payments made under any of the categories enumerated above.
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Very few covered officials hold meetings and seek contributions for the costs of meetings outside of the political fundraising context. The Guidance also explains that having honorary hosts does not qualify the event as held by or in the name of a covered official. Thus, in our experience few meetings ever have to be disclosed.
Entities Named or in Recognition
The Guidance gives several examples to help understand what it means to make a contribution to an entity named for or in recognition of an official. First, if an organization or person were to endow a chair at a university in the name of a covered legislative branch official, it would be to an entity that is named for a covered official. Second, if an organization were to donate an honorarium to a charity in place of a speaker’s fee, it would be a contribution made in recognition of that person. Interestingly, this section only applies to covered legislative branch officials and not covered executive branch officials. Again, in our experience, there are not many disclosures under this section.
Established, Financed, Maintained or Controlled
This section includes a list of relationships to entities that are seen as connected to a covered official. The Guidance provides important examples that limit the scope of these terms.
- Established: If a covered official creates an organization before becoming a covered official and then has no relationship after becoming a covered official, then payments to the entity do not have to be disclosed.
- Financed: A donation to an organization by a covered official that is de minimis compared to the overall budget of an organization does not make the entity one that is financed by a covered official.
- Maintained: The Guidance does not explain what an organization maintained by a covered official is.
- Controlled: The Guidance explains that a nonvoting board member, such as a honorary board member, does not control an organization.
- Designated: The Guidance says that “a contribution following a mere statement of support or solicitation does not necessarily constitute a reportable event.” However, it does include a payment that is “directed to an entity by a covered official who is also on the board of the entity.” That suggests that mere board membership by a covered official is not enough to make the entity one controlled by a covered official.
Honoring and Recognizing Events
Events that honor or recognize covered officials make up the last category of honoring expenses that must be reported. Specifically, this category includes payments made for events that honor or recognize a covered official. The Guidance describes a number of events that are excluded from this category:
- Having a covered official speak at an event (as long as that person does not receive an award)
- Having covered officials serve as “honorary co-hosts”
- Describing a covered official as an “attendee” or “special invitee”
- Using the title “The Honorable” for a speaker
The Guidance also distinguishes who has to disclose costs. Buying tickets or tables to an event that will honor or recognize a covered official does not require disclosure, unless the purchase of tickets or tables is so substantial that it is functionally equivalent to paying for the event. Also, a payment made specifically for the costs of an event must be disclosed.
The organization that sponsors an event honoring or recognizing a covered official must disclose the costs of the event. That organization may disclose a lump sum for the cost of the event and also disclose the amount spent for the award. For example:
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