LANSING – A declaratory ruling issued on Friday, September 8, 2006 by Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land will end the practice of “split-the-cost” gift giving by state lobbyists.
The declaratory ruling was requested by Robert S. LaBrant, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Rich Robinson, Executive Director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network in a letter to the Department of State dated March 22, 2006.
The ruling was requested to clarify the legality of a proposal by LaBrant and Robinson that specified that the two lobbyists who represent unrelated organizations would take an unnamed legislator for a round of golf valued at $85 and divide the cost equally so that neither would exceed the cap for an allowable gift, which is $51.
The scenario stipulated by LaBrant and Robinson mirrored an occasion earlier this year when several Lansing lobbyists pooled money to buy theater tickets for a group of legislators, so that no one lobbyist was giving any one legislator an item whose value would exceed $51.
“This ruling restores the integrity of the gift cap,” said Robinson. “That cap is in place so that public officials will consider lobbyists’ arguments on their merits, not out of some kind of reciprocity for gifts. If public officials want recreation, entertainment or any other kind of goodies, they need to do what their constituents do: Manage your paycheck and pay your own way.”