At an open meeting in December 2008, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) approved final rules implementing bundling disclosure requirements contained in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act (HLOGA). Though HLOGA was signed into law in September 2007, the FEC had an insufficient number of commissioners to constitute a quorum for the first half of 2008, thus delaying the development of rules for contributions bundled by individuals and other entities who are registered lobbyists, along with their PACs.
The new rules require campaign committees, leadership PACs and party committees ("reporting committees") to disclose registered lobbyists and lobbyist PACs that give multiple bundled contributions aggregating more than $16,0001 in a reporting period. A contribution is considered "bundled" if it is forwarded by, or received and credited to, a person reasonably known by the reporting committee to be a registered lobbyist or lobbyist PAC.2 Any political committee established or controlled by a registered lobbyist qualifies as a lobbyist PAC subject to the bundling disclosure requirements.3 In the event that consulting with the offices of the Secretary of the Senate or Clerk of the House does not provide a clear answer for whether a political committee is "established or controlled" by a lobbyist, the guidance provides that a lobbyist will be deemed to have established or to control a political committee if:
- The committee is a separate segregated fund with a current registrant under the LDA as its connected organization;
- A lobbyist/registrant had a primary role in the establishment of the committee, excluding the provision of legal or compliance services or advice; or
- A lobbyist/registrant directs the governance or operations of the political committee, excluding the provision of legal compliance services or advice.
For political committees that have not yet filed their FEC Form 1, this requirement goes into effect 30 days after the new bundling rules are published in the Federal Register. Lobbyist/registrant PACs that have already filed their FEC Form 1 must amend their form within 40 days after the final lobbyist bundling rules are published in the Federal Register.
Contributions forwarded on behalf of and credited to a lobbyist are those the reporting committee credits to a registered lobbyist or lobbyist PAC through records, designations, or other means of recognizing that a certain amount of money has been raised by the lobbyist/PAC. In the context of this regulation, records means written evidence, including writings, charts, computer files, tables, spreadsheets, and databases, that the committee uses to attribute contributions to a lobbyist or lobbyist PAC. Alternatively, "designations or other means of recognizing" bundled contributions means benefits given by the recipient of the funds as a reward for raising a certain amount of contributions. According to the regulations, examples of such benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Titles assigned to persons who have raised a certain amount of contributions;
- Tracking identifiers assigned and included on contributions for the purpose of maintaining information about the amount of funds raised by an individual;
- Access to events or activities given to the lobbyist or lobbyist PAC as a result of raising a certain amount of contributions; and
- Mementos, such as photographs with the candidate or autographed copies of books authored by the candidate, given as a result of having raised a certain amount of contributions.
In order to comply with the "reasonable" standard in the regulations, the reporting committee must consult the Web sites of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the Secretary of the Senate, and the Federal Election Commission to determine whether the contribution came from, or was given on behalf of, a registered lobbyist. A computer print out or screen capture from a Web browser indicating that the name of the person sought was not listed in the results of the Web site consultations performed constitutes proof of a "reasonably calculated" effort to investigate whether a contribution qualifies for disclosure.
Disclosure must include the names, addresses, and employers of bundlers, and the amounts raised during the covered period. Disclosure is to be filed semi-annually, as well as quarterly or monthly depending on the reporting committee's elected schedule for filing campaign finance reports. Reporting committees must track bundled contributions received starting 30 days after the rules are reported in the Federal Register. The anticipated date of publication according to the FEC is Feb. 10, 2008. Under the law, reporting committees are not required to file the first Form 3L until three months after publication of the bundling rules and must maintain records of bundled contributions for three years after filing.
The regulations do not require disclosure of individuals and groups that are not federally-registered lobbyists, prompting some campaign finance reform advocates to claim the rules leave room for loopholes. While the HLOGA calls for the broadest possible disclosure of any activities that may constitute bundling, any such activities will not be captured in practice unless the campaign formally recognizes the lobbyist as a "bundler" by giving the lobbyist credit for the contribution.
In addition to the bundling disclosure requirements, the regulations add "leadership PAC" and "lobbyist/registrant PAC" to the list of examples of political committees in the Code of Federal Regulations, providing a newly added definition for the former.