Advocacy for the Arts: WIFV Weds One

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Our Wednesday One program series serves as the foundation of the WIFV programming calendar. Held each year at various locations, these events are open to guests and potential members. Upcoming events are always posted in the calendar section of www.wifv.org.

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Advocacy for the Arts: WIFV Weds One

  1. 1. Advocacy for the Arts:Lobbying Regulation and StrategiesWilliam H. Minor Women in Film and Video Washington, D.C. February 6, 2013
  2. 2. Contents1) Background2) Legal Considerations a. Lobbying Registration b. Restrictions on Charities c. Restrictions on Use of Funds d. Gift and Ethics Rules3) Effective Strategies 2
  3. 3. U.S. ConstitutionThe First Amendment tothe U.S. Constitutionaffirms:the “right of the people topetition the government for aredress of grievances”• Antecedents in the Magna Carta, Stamp Act Congress, and Declaration of Independence 3
  4. 4. Congress & Courts on LobbyingU.S. House of Representatives SelectCommittee on Lobbying Activities (1950):• “Every democratic society worthy of the name must have some lawful means by which individuals and groups can lay their needs before government.”Supreme Court of the United States (1961):• “The whole concept of representation depends upon the ability of the people to make their wishes known to their representatives.” 4
  5. 5. Recent Controversies 5
  6. 6. Reaction (Over-reaction?)• Greater regulation of conduct by lobbyists• Expanded disclosure requirements• Criminal penalties and enhanced enforcement• Patchwork of more restrictive gift and ethics rules for government officials• Growing uncertainty among elected and appointed officials about their interactions with advocates 6
  7. 7. Contents1) Background2) Legal Considerations a. Lobbying Registration b. Restrictions on Charities c. Restrictions on Use of Funds d. Gift and Ethics Rules3) Effective Strategies 7
  8. 8. Lobbying Registration• Federal government (Lobbying Disclosure Act), all states, and many local jurisdictions have lobbying regulation statutes. • Primary focus of most: public disclosure (registration and reporting) • But: growing regulation of conduct by lobbyists in addition to reporting • Only limited exemptions for nonprofits • BUT: virtually all have exceptions for those who engage in very limited lobbying and/or purely voluntary lobbying 8
  9. 9. Elements of Lobbying Laws• Officials/Agencies Covered: • Both legislative and executive branch? • Which executive branch employees (not just policymaking)? • Local officials and agencies covered too?• Activities Covered: • Is background work (beyond contacts) covered? • For executive branch lobbying, does the statute cover more than rulemaking, including procurement, “administrative action,” and informal policymaking? 9
  10. 10. Examples of Exceptions• Federal: to be required to register, an individual must devote at least 20% of his/her time to federal “lobbying activities”• District of Columbia: must receive compensation or expend funds of $250 or more for lobbying during each of three consecutive months• Maryland: must incur expenses of at least $500 or receive compensation of $2500 for lobbying communications• Virginia: excludes those who receive $500 or less in compensation and reimbursements for lobbying; also excludes those whose job duties do not regularly include attempting to influence government action 10
  11. 11. Lobbying Rules for Charities• For a section 501(c)(3) public charity, no “substantial part” of the charity’s activities may constitute lobbying. • Risk: losing charity’s tax exemption.• “Lobbying” defined differently than in many registration statutes. • Limited to influencing legislation – but also grassroots.• “Substantial part” not defined; IRS looks to all facts and circumstances. • Alternative: 501(h) lobbying election. 11
  12. 12. Restrictions on Use of Funds• Multiple provisions of federal law limit the use of appropriations, contract, or grant funds for lobbying purposes. • Examples: Byrd Amendment, Fed. Acquisition Regulations, and OMB Circular A-122• In most instances, organizations may freely lobby with their own, non-governmental funds. • But Simpson Amendment to LDA has broader implications for 501(c)(4) grantees – except that rule does not apply to affiliated organizations. 12
  13. 13. Gift and Ethics Rules• When interacting with government officials and employees, bear in mind the multitude of ethics and gift rules that could apply.• Technically, rules typically apply to the government employees – but advocates should be aware.• Often restricted: meals, tickets.• Often excepted: food and drink at receptions, items of little nominal value, and informational materials (including DVDs). 13
  14. 14. Contents1) Background2) Legal Considerations a. Lobbying Registration b. Restrictions on Charities c. Restrictions on Use of Funds d. Gift and Ethics Rules3) Effective Strategies 14
  15. 15. Strategies – Planning• Learn about the legislative process.• Craft persuasive arguments.• Develop effective written materials. • Should be brief, clear, accurate, and fair. • Be specific about what is sought.• Identify and target champions and allies. • Look for connections – constituent, jurisdictional, subject matter, personal. • Don’t forget to do the same with staff. 15
  16. 16. Strategies – Advocacy ContactsWritten communications (letters, e-mails):• Avoid form letters.• Make personal connection.• Be brief and specific.Personal visits and meetings:• Schedule an appointment.• Don’t be put off by meeting with a staffer.• Leave behind paper.• Follow up. 16
  17. 17. Strategies – Related Efforts• Maximize impact through coalitions. • Example: Arts Advocacy Day• Utilize the press. • Identify those who cover your issue; help the reporters understand the matter; and become a trusted source and expert.• Share your work with elected officials and staff through invitations, DVDs, etc. • Keep in mind gift rules. 17
  18. 18. William H. Minor DLA Piper LLP (US) 202.799.4312 202.799.5312 (fax)william.minor@dlapiper.com 18

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