Q: As a lobbyist in the Washington, D.C., area for many years, I
have frequently hosted fundraisers for Congressional campaigns. I am a one-man
operation, and these events have been one of my most reliable ways to network
with Members and staffers. I am trying to determine whether the recent efforts
to crack down on lobbyists’ interactions with Members require me to discontinue
these fundraisers. In particular, I know that there a new rules concerning funds
raised by lobbyists. Do these rules prohibit me from hosting fundraisers for
A: Your question is very timely. Just last month, the Federal Election
Commission published new rules requiring campaign committees to disclose funds
raised by lobbyists. Their stated purpose is to make transparent the influence
that lobbyists such as yourself might gain by fundraising on behalf of a
The rules implement requirements set forth in Section 204 of the Honest
Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. Even before the HLOGA, campaign
committees were required to identify people who personally made large
contributions. Now, under Section 204 of the HLOGA, campaign committees must
also identify lobbyists who raise contributions from other people as well. The
requirements apply to federal candidate committees, leadership PACs and party
committees. A committee’s disclosure requirement is triggered if, during a given
six-month period, it receives more than $16,000 in contributions that were
“bundled” by a lobbyist. Contributions made personally by a lobbyist do not
count toward the limit.
So, what does it mean for contributions to be “bundled”? Under the rules,
there are two ways that funds can qualify as being bundled. The first is when a
lobbyist “forwards” contributions directly to the committee. To be forwarded
means to be delivered or transmitted by the lobbyist, whether physically or
electronically. Therefore, if, during a relevant period, a lobbyist delivers or
transmits more than $16,000 to a committee, the committee must publicly disclose
the amount and the name of the lobbyist.
The second type of bundled contribution is one that the committee “credits”
to a lobbyist. This occurs when, through records, designation or some other
means, the committee recognizes the lobbyist as being responsible for raising
the contribution. The rules include a nonexhaustive list of ways in which a
committee might recognize the lobbyist.
For example, a committee “credits” a lobbyist when it gives the lobbyist a
title, such as “ranger,” corresponding to the amount of funds the lobbyist
raised. Another way for a committee to credit the lobbyist is to provide access
to certain exclusive events or activities as a result of the contributions.
In addition, if the committee maintains a tracking identifier or any other
record tying the contribution to a particular lobbyist, this may qualify as
crediting the contribution to the lobbyist. One more example of crediting
described in the rules is a memento, such as a photograph or autographed book.
In all of these cases, the rules stress that the focus is on how the
committee views the contributions — not how the lobbyist views them. If the
committee takes some action to credit the contribution to the lobbyist, then it
qualifies as being bundled.
So, how do these rules apply to your fundraisers? Most importantly, the mere
fact that a lobbyist hosts a fundraiser does not mean that the committee must
treat all contributions from the fundraiser as having been “bundled’ by the host
Rather, the rules say contributions received at the lobbyist’s fundraiser are
bundled only if they fall under the circumstances described above. That is, they
qualify if the lobbyist forwarded the funds or was credited for them. Therefore,
at the events that you host, the funds raised do not count as bundled
contributions unless you forward the funds to the committee or you are somehow
credited by the committee.
Suppose, for example, you host a campaign fundraiser where the attendees
donate $100,000, well above the $16,000 threshold at which disclosure is
triggered. Suppose also that you do not forward the funds to the committee, but
rather the attendees make the contributions personally. In this circumstance,
the committee would not be required to disclose your identity unless it credited
you in some way for the funds raised.
In sum, the new rules do not prohibit your fundraisers. In fact, the new
rules are not a prohibition at all. Rather, they are a disclosure requirement.
So, even if you were to bundle $100,000 of contributions for a committee during
one of your fundraisers, this would not mean that you would be breaking the law.
Rather, it would mean that the committee receiving the contributions would be
required to disclose the fact that you had bundled $100,000 for the committee.
So if you don’t mind the world knowing about your fundraising efforts,
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