Legislators, staff and lobbyists gathered tonight for the annual Red Dog, Blue Dog charity to raise money for various animal shelters in Tallahassee. Although there is technically a prohibition against soliciting contributions during session, the rule allows for solicitations of charity “so long as you do not directly or indirectly establish, organize, operate, or control the organization.”
Still, with the competitive structure of this event and deep-pocketed lobbyists competing to drop $100s reeks of a contest to obtain the goodwill of a member, a key definition of lobbying!
Does this event really follow the rules?
Additionally, legislative council has also opined that to the extent that the guest bartenders “are closely associated with the Event. To the extent that the Charity provides funds for promotion of the event, it is my opinion that such funds would constitute a gift to you. If the value of promotion exceeds $100, you must file a quarterly gift disclosure form with the Commission on Ethics on the last day of the quarter following the quarter the gift was received.”
Tips poured in from several who attended the event tonight … frustrated that this was a glaring loophole in the “no session solicitation” rule. Some lobbyists I spoke to felt like there was peer pressure to donate…
Bottom line: Legislators should be allowed to raise money for charity, but not during session. Especially in competitive events that create the appearance of “buying” the goodwill of a member. If it isn’t illegal solicitation during session then it should be!