Posts Tagged ‘managing state lobbyists’

Odds Are You Are Not Doing This

May 13, 2014

By Josh Fisher, Esq., Manager of State Issues

blog-silhouette-of-peopleEarlier this year, the Public Affairs Council (PAC) released its 2013 State Government Relations Benchmarking Report, which is filled with great information on the corporate and association state government relations (SGR) practices. In particular, the PAC report found that “SGR work is usually broad in scope and in territory covered, so those surveyed rely heavily upon external relationships and services for the fullest coverage and tracking of their particular public policy concerns.”

Examples of these external services include contract lobbyists and consultants. We are consultants at Stateside and much of our work involves helping clients hire and manage lobbyists. During the course of the year we provide dozens of qualified lobbyist referrals to our clients. Consequently, we know the importance of consultants and lobbyists to SGR professionals.

With that in mind, what really stood out in the report was the finding that about half of corporate and nearly three-quarters of association respondents have NO formal process for evaluating their contract lobbyists and consultants.

Let me cite some more figures to draw out why this is a surprising number. The PAC report found that for its corporate members the average SGR operating budget allocated 22% of its resources for contract lobbyists and 5% on consultants and vendors. Additionally, the ratio of contract lobbyists/consultants to total SGR staff is typically 2:1 according to the PAC report. Association respondents, on average, allocated 19% of their SGR operating budget to contract lobbyists and 9% on consultants and vendors. For associations, the typical staffing ratio is 1.8:1. These numbers demonstrate lobbyists and consultants outnumber your SGR staff nearly 2 to 1 and account for about a quarter of your budget. And there is no formal evaluation?

It is clear that a large portion of resources are devoted to contract lobbyists and consultants. And yet the report tells us that 54% of surveyed corporations and, even more striking, 73% of associations do not have a formal evaluation process. Both corporations and associations cited results as one of the top evaluation criteria for their contract lobbyists and consultants. It seems most people just want to know if the bill passed or failed. Bottom lines are impossible to avoid, but one day your bottom line may be in danger if you cannot justify the expense of a lobbyist or consultant you hired. To judge performance solely on outcome misses the mark.

In previous blog posts we have examined the importance of audits and the reasons you should use them. Let these numbers be a not-so-subtle reminder of the importance of being able to support your decision to hire a contract lobbyist or consultant beyond saying the bill passed. While the time for evaluations and audits is typically after sessions have ended and budgeting for the next year begins, now is a great time to gather the information you need as part of the audit process. Let’s be honest, how much of the whirlwind session will you remember come September?

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Josh Fisher is Manager of State Issues. His work at Stateside Associates has given him an intimate knowledge of the legislative process in all 50 states. He works with clients on a wide range of state and local government affairs issues and was most recently Manager of the Legislative Information Division at Stateside Associates.

No Good Gift Goes Unreported: 130 New Campaign Finance Laws Since 2012

February 11, 2014

By Sarah E. Hunt, Esq., Manager, State Issues and Ethics Officer

Thirty-nine (39) states have enacted 130 new campaign finance laws since the completion of the 2012 election cycle. If you have not yet done so for the current cycle, please review your political giving program with your legal counsel to ensure it remains compliant.

The campaign finance law changes of most import to political donors are modifications to contribution limits. Nine (9) states, Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina and Wyoming, adjusted contribution limits in 2013. These cap increases are all substantial, often more than double the previous limits. In some cases, the legislature removed the caps altogether.

Note that a contribution cap increase does not imply that a state is now taking a more relaxed approach to campaign finance regulation. Oftentimes these increases came hand-in-hand with expanded disclosure requirements or new limitations on corporate donations. States more frequently increased contribution caps for donations to political and party committees than for individual candidate committees. When planning your giving in states that have just increased their contribution cap limits, carefully consider whether or not you are better served donating to leadership committees versus individual candidates.

Arizona’s legislature passed the most controversial contribution limit increase when it raised its limit to $2500. The previous limit was set by the people at the ballot box. Campaign finance reform advocates challenged the legal authority of the legislature to change the cap. The Arizona Supreme Court ultimately upheld the contribution cap increase, opening the door for more legislative changes to Arizona’s campaign finance law.

The judiciary was involved in Nebraska’s campaign finance law changes as well. The Nebraska Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the state’s Campaign Finance Limitation Act. The unicameral legislature responded by lowering from $250 to $100 the threshold for the required reporting of corporate campaign contributions. This change applies even to corporate contributors who make small in-kind donations of goods or services. If, for example, a local coffee house provides coffee and pastries for a candidate meet-and-greet in Nebraska, the value of the donated refreshments is now much more likely to exceed the reporting threshold.

Corporate contributions also continue to be a popular state legislative topic. Arkansas enacted H.J.R. 1009 (2013), which will ban corporate contributions to candidates if it is passed by the people at the ballot box in November 2014. Alabama went the opposite direction, and repealed its $500 limit on corporate contributions to candidates. Maryland and Maine redefined “business entity” for contribution limit purposes, and will now count as one entity multiple business entities that are controlled or owned by the same member or members.

The landmark United States Supreme Court case Citizens United continues to spark state level campaign finance legislation. Connecticut, North Dakota and South Dakota, citing Citizens United as a motivator, all enacted significant changes requiring more disclosures by political action committees or corporate donors. Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah and West Virginia passed resolutions expressing their philosophical opposition to the Citizens United ruling.

Almost all of the 39 states that recently amended their campaign finance laws made updates to disclosure requirements and penalty policies. Washington and Connecticut have engaged in rulemakings or passed legislation that explicitly regulate internet advocacy and on-line electioneering. States are also commissioning campaign finance working groups, so more legislative proposals are likely.

Active donors who play in multiple states must be vigilant in the oft-changing world of state campaign finance law. If you have questions or thoughts about creating an effective, compliant, multiple-state giving program, I would be happy to hear from you at seh@stateside.com.

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Sarah E. Hunt, Esq. is Manager, State Issues and Ethics Officer at Stateside Associates. She works with clients on a wide range of state and local government affairs issues. Sarah also helps Stateside and its clients navigate lobbying ethics, comply with campaign finance laws, and develop political giving strategies. She practiced campaign finance, election law, and non-profit management with a boutique political law firm for several years before her work at Stateside Associates.

TRENDS and FORECAST REPORTS: THE 2014 CRYSTAL BALLS

January 23, 2014

By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

What do you think of when you hear the word, TRENDS?

A series of actions that form a predictive pathway to future actions?

A great tool for state and local government relations professionals?

Yes.

Major events like hurricanes, man-made disasters, high profile institutional melt downs, unusual crimes or new technologies usually inspire lawmakers and provoke a flurry of new legislation or executive actions. But, those types of events are just the more obvious examples of what sparks or sustains trends.

Much of what “trends” in terms of state issues builds up over time and reflects a convergence of government obligations and citizen engagement–with some media attention thrown in.

Given that Stateside deals with all 50 states, we also strive to recognize trends, understand their origins and determine how to exploit or withstand their impact.

Recently, we gathered several trend and forecast reports produced by the Council of State Governments, the National Conference of State Legislatures and Governing magazine. We thought that these three would be broad in their perspective and embrace the widest array of hot state issues. And, we were not disappointed–especially when Governing chose to include IMMIGRATION among its Top Ten Issues to Watch in 2014 but left out the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

NCSL was the only one to include GUNS on its list. And, CSG reached out to highlight NET METERING, which the others did not address.

Were they not all looking at the same 50 state legislatures and Governors?

As you will see below, just three issues were specifically mentioned by all three organizations: Medicaid, Hydraulic Fracturing and Transportation Funding. Of course, some issue categories can be presumed to embrace more than is specifically mentioned. For example, NCSL’s Big Data description does not include Privacy, but references issues of personal control.

ISSUE CSG GOVERNING NCSL
Affordable Solar Energy x
Autonomous Vehicles x x
Big Data x
Brain Research x
Cloud Computing (taxes) x
Common Core x x
Distracted Driving x
Drones x x
Education Quality x
Electronic Cigarettes x
Guns x
Health Insurance Exchanges x x
Higher Education Cost x x
Hydraulic Fracturing x x x
Immigration x
Juvenile Justice x
Medicaid x x x
Minimum Wage x x
MOOCs* x x
Net Metering x
Privacy x
Public Pensions x
The Sharing Economy x
Tax Reform/Revision x x
Teacher Quality x
Transportation Funding x x x
Voter Registration/High Tech Voting x
Water x

*Massive Open Online Courses

While not unanimous in their perspectives, these reports help us look outside our own issue priorities and appreciate the great diversity of issues and pressures faced by state lawmakers.

The best way to use these types of forecasts is to read as many as you can find. Each organization is going to imbue its forecast with some hopeful thinking, so you can learn a lot from scanning and taking note of the unique issues in each report.

And, for a slightly different perspective, PEW published this look at new laws taking effect in 2014, which address several of the “trend” issues featured elsewhere.

What other “hot issues” do you think should have earned spots on these lists?

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Constance Campanella is the Founder, President and CEO of Stateside Associates. A veteran of 30 years of state and federal issue management experience, Ms. Campanella managed Stateside’s growth from a one-person firm to what one trade publication has called, “a behemoth in state lobbying.”