January is always a busy month for filing lobbying and campaign finance reports. It is also a good time to think about changes for the upcoming year that might simplify filing obligations.
• State Lobbying Reports. Most states require year-end reports to be filed at some point in January. Many also require re-registration or renewal of registration for the next year. Pay attention to deadlines, and think about where you are likely to be active in 2016. Perhaps it is time to de-register or let your registration lapse if you will not be active in a particular state. Different states have different thresholds for when registration and reporting are required, so be sure to consider how what you are doing matches what is required.
- State Campaign Finance Reports. If you have a state PAC, you likely have a year-end report due this month. Making corporate contributions in states may also trigger reporting. For example, if you made contributions of $10,000 in contributions in California last year, you will have to file a Major Donor Report.
- Fourth Quarter LD-2 reports are due by Wednesday, January 20. The start of the new year presents a good opportunity for organizations to evaluate who should and should not be listed as a lobbyist, since some employees may have new roles this year. If there is a reasonable expectation that an individual will no longer qualify as a lobbyist in 2016, the individual may be terminated as a lobbyist on the fourth quarter report. By terminating on the fourth quarter report, those individuals will end their LDA reporting obligations with the year-end LD-203.
- The semi-annual LD-203 contribution report is due by Monday, February 1. These reports must be filed by organizations and individual lobbyists. Any employee who was added to an organization’s LD-2 reports as a lobbyist in the third or fourth quarter will be required to file. Be sure to add the new lobbyists to your organization’s LD-203 profile, so the individual lobbyists will be able to file their reports. Our previous posts have discussed the categories of contributionsthat should be disclosed in the reports and provided suggestions to improve organizational compliance.
- Year-End 2015 PAC reports must be filed with the FEC by January 31. For semi-annual filers, January is the time of year to decide on the PAC’s filing schedule for 2016. In an election year, the options are to file reports monthly or quarterly. If a PAC anticipates making contributions to federal candidates in primary elections, the PAC might consider switching to monthly reporting. This should be done because quarterly filers that make primary contributions must file additional “pre-primary” reports, covering activity from the close of books of the most recent quarterly report through the 20th day before the primary. Because primary dates vary from state to state, a PAC that contributes to candidates in multiple states has to monitor and file several pre-primary reports. In contrast, monthly filers do not have to file pre-primary reports. Not only is monthly reporting more predictable, but in a year where the PAC is more active, a monthly reporting schedule may make record-keeping and reconciliation easier.
- 24- and 48-hour reports for independent expenditures and electioneering communications.Under federal law and laws in many states, disclosure reports must be filed within 24 or 48 hours of running ads that expressly advocate for or against clearly identified candidates (independent expenditures) or merely refer to candidates in a specified period before an election. These reports must be filed not only by registered political committees, but also by advocacy organizations, including 501(c)(3) groups involved in grassroots lobbying. Every electoral or grassroots lobbying campaign conducted in an election year must take into account these reporting obligations.