Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1998-18

Advisory Opinion No. 1998-18
Advisory Opinion No. 1998-18

Reporting by Communicator and Client Lobbyists of Contributions to
Parties Attended by Public Officials and Their Staff

As a result of a number of questions which have arisen from lobbyists, Ethics Commission Attorney Catherine Nasto has asked the Commission to review the rules regarding the reporting by client and communicator lobbyists of monetary or in-kind contributions to an event attended by public officials and their staff.

Connecticut General Statutes 1-96(e) states in part that a client lobbyist’s financial report must include "an itemized statement of each expenditure of ten dollars or more per person per occasion made by the reporting registrant or a group of registrants which includes the reporting registrant for the benefit of a public official in the legislative or executive branch, a member of his staff or immediate family, itemized by date, beneficiary, amount and circumstances of transaction" (emphasis added.) Similarly, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96(b)(3) requires communicator lobbyists to itemize such an expenditure, if it is not reimbursed by a client lobbyist.

Attorney Nasto’s specific question is as follows: client and communicator lobbyists are solicited for cash and in-kind contributions for a holiday party to be held at the State Capitol. The 200 expected attendees at the function will clearly include public officials and staff members. Client lobbyist A, which is an association of ice cream manufacturers, agrees to donate $400 worth of ice cream. Communicator lobbyist B writes out a $200 check towards the cost of the event. Contributions are made by other lobbyists as well, and of the $20.00 total per person cost of the food and drink, $15.00 has been paid for or provided by lobbyists. How should these contributions be reported?

The first two questions every client lobbyist should ask regarding an expenditure are: (1) does it need to be reported, and; (2) does it need to be itemized? Every expenditure in furtherance of lobbying, including expenditures which foster good will, must, at a minimum, be reported by the client lobbyist in the aggregate. And, every expenditure of $10 or more for the benefit of a public official or a member of his or her staff or immediate family, must be itemized, even if the individual contributions by lobbyists are less than $10.00 per person. Therefore, in the situation described here, the client lobbyist must include the value of its in-kind contribution in Section III(a) of its financial report, and must provide an itemization in the detail required by 1-96(e) in Section VI(b) of the report. Where a group of lobbyists has provided the benefit, a uniform document specifying the names and state positions of the reportable attendees, the date of the event, the circumstances of the transaction (e.g., a description of the benefit conferred, location of the event, and the name of the lobbyist representative in attendance) and the amount and percentage of the total contributed by each lobbyist, is necessary to satisfy the requirements of the law.

For the communicator lobbyist, an unreimbursed expenditure for the benefit of a public official is not reportable if the benefit given is less than $10.00 per person. If, as in this situation, however, the communicator has provided or contributed to a total benefit of $10.00 or more, the expenditure must be itemized on the appropriate report form.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:27 AM