State Voting and Election Laws
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Key Takeaways:

  • From Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida, municipalities across the country are tightening ethics enforcement and lobbying regulations.
  • Local lobbying laws, just like state and federal laws, require attention to detail from lobbying entities that carry similar risks to noncompliance. Failure to properly register and report lobbying activities can lead to hefty fines and penalties. 
  • In addition to increased monitoring and enforcement from local governing bodies, ethics reporting systems have proven to be a platform for a group with opposing interests to challenge the actions of direct and indirect competitors who can utilize ethics complaints to their advantage.

Recent headlines from various municipalities across the United States demonstrate the importance of municipal lobbying compliance and the risks of neglecting it. Local lobbying laws require as much attention to detail from lobbying entities as state and federal laws, carrying similar risks to non-compliance, which could result in substantial fines.

Los Angeles Ethics Commission Fines

The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission recently imposed $162,500 of fines for registration and reporting violations of the city’s Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. The fines were issued to individuals, lobbying firms, and lobbying firm employees for failing to properly register and report their lobbying activities over several quarters — in some cases all the way back to 2017. A total of $155,000 can be attributed to the actions of one firm and its employees. This fine is a significant amount of money and a hefty reminder of the costs of local lobbying noncompliance under the watch of the commission. 

Honolulu Ethics Reporting Activity 

It’s not just municipal ethics commissions that lobbying entities need to be concerned about. Ethics reporting provides a platform for a group with opposing interests to challenge the actions of direct and indirect competitors who can utilize ethics complaints to their advantage. The Honolulu Ethics Commission received a complaint from the Hawaii chapter of an environmental organization over a lobbyist’s failure to register his activities. The lobbyist in question works for a group that advocates for the interest of landowners and developers and takes positions that the organization opposes.

Other Ethics Enforcement News: Jacksonville and Seattle

The Ethics Commission of Jacksonville, Florida, agreed to a settlement agreement with a company owned by a campaign advisor to Mayor Lenny Curry that illegally paid for a secret trip to Atlanta for Mayor Curry and other government officials. Additionally, the Seattle City Council recently approved an ordinance requiring grassroots lobbying campaigns to comply with local lobbying laws. Although individual lobbyists have long been required to register in Seattle, this is a completely new requirement on the grassroots level.

Managing Municipal-Level Lobbying

With different rules and regulations across multiple jurisdictions, municipal lobbying compliance poses difficulties. Local lobbying requires a coordinated balance similar to compliance on the state and federal level. There is constant fluctuation in registrations on these levels as needs change within the lobbying community. As lobbying entities and employers identify their strategy in municipalities, a chain of events can occur, potentially impacting lobbying on a larger scale. Fortunately, MultiState’s compliance team can address concerns with municipal lobbying, ensuring that lobbying reports are filed timely and accurately to avoid costly fines. Reach out to our compliance team to address any questions or concerns you may have about municipal lobbying compliance laws.