Important Change in Law Regarding Required Disclosure of Political Campaign Contributions by Persons/Entities “Compensating Lobbyists”
Previously (since a Lobbying Reform Bill in 2001), anyone paying a lobbyist $500 or more in a reporting period has been required to report political contributions of $500 or more to the State Board of Elections. The law also ‘attributes’ to business entities, including nonprofits, certain contributions by persons connected to those entities. For most business entities, any contribution made by a board member or officer, and any contribution made by employees at the suggestion or direction of the entity, is attributed to the entity.
Nonprofits are treated differently. As long as they do not suggest or direct contributions to be made, contributions by its unpaid officers and directors are not attributed. While for other entities “officer” is interpreted broadly, for nonprofits it has a narrow definition in the Code of Maryland Regulations or “COMAR” shown below. This language is generally felt as applying only to a paid CEO or Executive Director.
These filings are due on the same schedule and basis as normal lobbying activity reports, within 30 days of each six-month reporting period (1 May through 31 October & 1 November through 30 April), and done electronically at the State Board of Elections “Disclosure of Contributions” website.
Change as of July 2022
Senate Bill 15 (Chapter 642) enacted this year makes two significant changes in this requirement;
- the bill eliminates the threshold of $500 in contributions, so contributions in any amount must be reported, and
- any person/entity providing a regulated lobbyist compensation of $500 or more must file a “Statement of Contributions” – whether or not there are any contributions to report
The special provisions for nonprofit organizations above still apply – so unless the nonprofit has suggested or directed a contribution to be made, normally only those made by a paid CEO or ED would be attributed to the organization for reporting, but the report is still required.
COMAR Definition of nonprofit “Officer” for this reporting requirement COMAR 33.01.01.02
.02 Definition of Officer.
“For purposes of State Government Article, §15-715(g)*, Annotated Code of Maryland, which provides that contributions by an officer of a not-for-profit organization are not attributable to the organization and the officer is not required to report contributions to the chief executive officer of the organization except in certain circumstances, the term “officer”:
- Includes the organization’s president or chairman, vice-president or vice-chairman, secretary, treasurer, executive director, and any individual exercising duties comparable to those typically exercised by an individual holding one of those titles; and
- Does not include an individual holding a title but not exercising substantial independent responsibility on behalf of the organization similar to the responsibility typically exercised by an individual holding one of the titles listed in §A of this regulation, except if the individual has made a contribution on the recommendation of the organization.”
* – now, through re-codification, has become General Provisions Article, Section 5-716 (h)