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California’s ethics watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission, adopted a new rule that prohibits lobbyists from hosting fundraisers in their homes. This rule implements legislation passed after a lobbyist was fined for hosting what the LA Times called “lavish fundraisers” featuring “wine, liquor, and cigars,” in his home. Lobbyists in California are prohibited from making campaign contributions, but the statute previously exempted from the definition of a “contribution” the use of one’s home for a campaign event, along with$500 for food and drink. The legislation eliminated this exemption, providing that any “payment made by a lobbyist or a cohabitant of a lobbyist for costs related to a fundraising event held at the home of the lobbyist, including the value of the use of the home as a fundraising event venue,” is now a contribution.
The FPPC went even further, by prohibiting campaigns or third parties from reimbursing lobbyists for the use of their homes for political fundraisers. Typically, if a campaign pays fair market value for a fundraising venue there is no contribution (or if a third party pays, it is a contribution from that person). Now, however, even if a lobbyist wants to let a candidate pay to use her home for an event, the lobbyist may not do so. The FPPC said that this “limits attempts to circumvent the new statutory language, gives meaningful effect to the legislative changes, and fully implements the spirit of the law.” The rule also prohibits anyone else who lives in the house from hosting a fundraiser, whether it be a spouse, adult child, older parent, or even a roommate.
In addition to the “no home fundraisers” part of the rule, the new rule treats a “payment made by a lobbying firm for costs related to a fundraising event held at the office of the lobbying firm, including the value of the use of the office as a fundraising event venue,” as a prohibited contribution. Interestingly, this provision does not preclude reimbursement from the campaign, so it appears that a candidate might be able to rent a lobbying firm’s office for an event.
As a reminder, many states impose restrictions on lobbyists’ ability to make contributions and to raise money for candidates. Some of these rules are applicable only during the legislative session, so plan accordingly for these blackout periods.