After years of hard work JJOKE staff has issued draft regulations. Can anyone else ask how many lawyers it takes to write 59 pages of regulations that leave more questions unanswered than they actually answer? I think the answer to that riddle is one lawyer, Martin Levine and a host of non-lawyer wannabe lawyer clerks which are then reviewed, edited and tweaked by the rest of the lawyers before being reviewed and approved by commissioners who have never read the Lobby Act to begin with. In other words another JJOKE disaster.
But before I spend time detailing the regulations many failings, traps and just plain screw-ups (and I will for my paying clients in the near future) let me highlight some of the current issues being investigated by JJOKE but unaddressed in the draft regulations.
Source of funding disclosure for "pass through entities". The regulations now attempt to address the use of coalitions acting as clients (or beneficial clients whatever that means) by requiring that "members" of coalitions have separate reporting requirements as clients for semiannual reports and the concomitant source of funding disclosure required of those "members".
Now pay attention . . . the regulations fail to define what makes one a member of a coalition. And the term coalition is not contained in the definitional section of the regulations but is within the body as follows "Coalition is formed when a group of otherwise-unaffiliated entities or members agree to engage in common activities which include, but are not limited to, acting as or engaging a Lobbyist on behalf of all members of the Coalition."
It appears that to become a member you have to agree to engage in common activities. But agree with who? All the other "members"? or just a majority? or just one other member? Do you have to contribute funds to be a member of a coalition? Can a coalition be a member of a separate and distinct other coalition? And since a coalition is not an actual entity under the law how does one know when it crosses the line and becomes a member of a coalition. Can you kill a unicorn? And since the regulations supercede the prior opinions (where the lobby commission established how coalitions could register and report) where does JJOKE find the statutory authority to regulate these mythical beasts?
That's just a small example but important because if you become a member of a coalition, whatever that means, you now have to provide disclosure of your source of funding if you contribute more that $15000 to the coalition. BUT WAIT what how do you contribute to a coalition when the coalition by law can not use a bank? at what point does it become a contribution? What if the member pays a vendor to assist in the coalitions lobbying efforts? who is the client filer? the member or the coalition? If it is the member than what is the point of requiring coalitions to register? In fact how can you be a member of something that doesn't legally exist?
Rest assured Martin Levine has exactly zero experience with the actual formation and governance of coalitions. I know I threatened him many times that I was going to use the old lobby commission opinion to form a coalition which would then be exempt from source of funding disclosure. This regulation is his attempt to prevent that. News flash Martin I've come up with better ways to protect donor anonymity.
As an aside the first time JJOKE used the phrase "pass through entity" was in their 2015 report suggesting legislative improvements. Of course then they were referring to funding structures that protected donor anonymity by passing donations through unrelated parties. Read it here
"Questions have been raised about efforts to evade disclosing sources of funding by, among other things, using "pass through" entities to receive contributions. . . . JCOPE does not, however, have authority over the sources themselves. Thus, individuals or entities are able, at this point, to construct funding mechanisms that may avoid disclosure while still technically complying with the law and the regulations."
These regulations do not address that issue at all. Theoretically if you want to donate and be anonymous you still can and the recipient of the donation need only disclose who they received the donation from not it's actual origin. I say theoretically because JJOKE is investigating one group (while ignoring many others) that did just that. I'm sure in the long run they will not persevere, in fact Seth Agata told me as much on the sidewalk outside JJOKE in late July. His exact language was he was going to talk to the commissioners and "put that puppy to sleep". It's October and the puppy is alive and well and pissing all over JJOKE and costing the organization being investigated lots of money and sleepless nights. AGATA SHOULD RESIGN.
And that is the real problem with these regulations they create more questions than they answer.
Stay tuned I'll have more to come.
Just curious Seth Agata how many ethics violations involving the governor and his staff did you ignore while you wasted time on these regulations? Don't answer I'm sure Chris Bragg and the Times Union will keep publishing your fuck ups and cover ups.