Ethics: 2008-7
2008

 

 

 

ADVISORY OPINION 2008-7

 

Interpretation of “Communicator Lobbyist” for Purposes of Election Statute

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board (“Board”) issues this advisory opinion at the request of Jennifer Montgomery, a staff attorney with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (“SEEC”).  Her question derives from subsections (g) and (h) of General Statutes § 9-610, which are part of chapter 155 of the General Statutes, entitled “Elections: Campaign Financing.”  Subsections (g) and (h) of § 9-610 provide in relevant part as follows:  

 

(g) No communicator lobbyist[1] . . . shall make a contribution or contributions to, or for the benefit of (1) an exploratory committee or a candidate committee established by a candidate for nomination or election to the office of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Comptroller, State Treasurer, Secretary of the State, state senator or state representative, (2) a political committee established or controlled by any such candidate, (3) a legislative caucus committee or a legislative leadership committee, or (4) a party committee.

 

(h) No communicator lobbyist . . . shall solicit a contribution on behalf of a candidate committee or an exploratory committee established by a candidate for the office of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Comptroller, State Treasurer, Secretary of the State, state senator or state representative, a political committee established or controlled by any such candidate, a legislative caucus committee, a legislative leadership committee or a party committee.

 

The SEEC, which has jurisdiction over those provisions, questions whether an individual may avoid the contribution and solicitation ban by doing the following: registering with the Office of State Ethics as a communicator lobbyist to engage in lobbying for part of the year, then terminating his or her registration in order to engage in fundraising and solicitation during the pertinent election months, and finally registering again as a communicator lobbyist in January of the next year.

 

            This arrangement is based on the assumption that an individual ceases to be a communicator lobbyist for the remainder of the calendar year in which his or her registration is terminated, and thus would not be subject to the contribution and solicitation ban during that time period.

 

QUESTION

 

            Because the definition of the term “communicator lobbyist,” as it is used in subsections (g) and (h) of § 9-610, is borrowed from the Code of Ethics for Lobbyists (“Code”),[2] Attorney Montgomery asks the following question: If a communicator lobbyist terminates his or her registration during a calendar year, does he or she cease to be a communicator lobbyist for the remainder of that year?

 

ANSWER

 

            No.  A communicator lobbyist who terminates his or her registration during a calendar year is no longer a registrant, but remains a communicator lobbyist for the remainder of that year. 

 

ANALYSIS

 

            In answering the question at hand, we start with the relevant actors.  Under the Code, there are both client and communicator lobbyists.  A “client lobbyist” is a “lobbyist on behalf of whom lobbying takes place and who makes expenditures for lobbying and in furtherance of lobbying.”[3]  A “communicator lobbyist” means “a lobbyist who communicates directly or solicits others to communicate with an official or his staff in the legislative or executive branch of government or in a quasi-public agency for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action.”[4]  In layman’s terms, a client lobbyist pays for lobbying services on its behalf, and a communicator lobbyist is an individual who does the actual lobbying legwork.

 

Both client and communicator lobbyists are thus “lobbyists,” which the Code defines in relevant part as follows: 

 

[A] person who in lobbying and in furtherance of lobbying makes or agrees to make expenditures [i.e., a client lobbyist], or receives or agrees to receive compensation, reimbursement, or both [i.e., a communicator lobbyist], and such compensation, reimbursement or expenditures are two thousand dollars or more in any calendar year or the combined amount thereof is two thousand dollars or more in any such calendar year. . . .[5]

 

            A lobbyist, whether a client or communicator, can also be what the Code labels a “registrant,” namely, “a person who is required to register pursuant to [General Statutes §] 1-94.”[6]  Section 1-94 provides that a lobbyist must register with the Office of State Ethics in one of two instances.  The relevant instance (for our purposes) is if he or she “[r]eceives or agrees to receive compensation or reimbursement for actual expenses, or both, in a combined amount of two thousand dollars or more in a calendar year for lobbying . . . .”[7]

 

With our actors in place, assume the following: On February 1, 2008, an individual receives $2000 from a client lobbyist to communicate directly with members of the General Assembly.  At that point, the individual is, for purposes of the Code, three things: (1) a lobbyist, as he received $2000 in compensation in a calendar year for lobbying; (2) a communicator lobbyist, as he received that compensation to do the actual lobbying legwork (i.e., communicating directly with officials in the legislative branch for the purpose of influencing legislative action); and (3) a registrant, as he reached the monetary threshold set forth in § 1-94 and is therefore required to register with the Office of State Ethics.  The individual is, in other words, what the Code designates a “communicator lobbyist registrant.”[8]     

 

Three months later, on May, 1, 2008, our communicator lobbyist registrant stops lobbying on behalf of the client and would like to terminate his registration.  Under the Code, if a registrant ceases the activity that required his registration and does not intend to resume that activity during the biennial registration period, then he must file a notice of termination within thirty days.[9]  The notice of termination is effective on the date it is mailed or hand-delivered to the Office of State Ethics, or such later date suggested by the registrant.[10]

 

            Thus if our communicator lobbyist registrant hand-delivers his notice of termination to the Office of State Ethics on May 1, 2008, he is no longer, as of that date, a registrant; that is, he is no longer required to be registered with the Office of State Ethics.[11]  Rather, he is what the Code and its interpretative regulations dub a “former registrant.”[12]  A “former registrant”—who, despite his or her termination, has certain post-termination reporting obligations under the Code[13]—is defined to include “a communicator lobbyist whose registration has been terminated and has not yet been renewed in the subsequent calendar year.”[14]

 

As suggested by that definition, our now former registrant, while no longer a registrant, is still a communicator lobbyist.  Again, a communicator lobbyist is by definition a lobbyist, which includes any individual who receives or agrees to receive $2000 or more in compensation, reimbursement, or both in a calendar year for lobbying.  Once an individual reaches that yearly monetary threshold, he or she is designated a lobbyist, and there is simply no means under the Code (as there is for a registrant) to unring that bell—that is, at least not until the next calendar year.   

 

            Accordingly, we conclude that a communicator lobbyist who terminates his or her registration during a calendar year is no longer a registrant, but remains a communicator lobbyist for the remainder of that year.

 

By order of the Board,

 

Robert Worgaftik, Chairperson

 

Dated August 28, 2008                          

 

 

 



                [1]For purposes of subsections (g) and (h) of § 9-610, the term “‘communicator lobbyist’ means a communicator lobbyist, as defined in [General Statutes §] 1-91.”  General Statutes § 9-601 (16).

 

 

[2]See footnote 1.

                [3]General Statutes § 1-91 (u).

                [4]General Statutes § 1-91 (v).

                [5](Emphasis added.)  General Statutes § 1-91 (l).  

                [6]General Statutes § 1-91 (q).

                [7]General Statutes § 1-94.    

                [8]See General Statutes § 1-96 (b) and (c).  

                [9]General Statutes § 1-95 (c).

                [10]Regs., Conn. State Agencies § 1-92-50 (e).

                [11]See General Statutes § 1-91 (q).

                [12]See General Statutes § 1-96 (g); Regs., Conn. State Agencies § 1-92-50a.

            [13]Under General Statutes § 1-96 (d), a former registrant must “file with the Office of State Ethics a financial report, under penalty of false statement, between the first and tenth day of January of the year following termination.”  In addition, under General Statutes § 1-96 (g), “[e]ach former registrant shall (1) report receipts or expenditures incident to lobbying activities during his period of registration which are received or expended following termination of registration and (2) report each expenditure of ten dollars or more per person for each occasion made by him for the benefit of a public official or a member of such official's immediate family or staff which occurs within six months after termination of registration.”

            [14](Emphasis added.)  Regs., Conn. State Agencies § 1-92-50a (a).



Content Last Modified on 8/29/2008 8:58:20 AM