The Office of Government Ethics has issued guidance clarifying the duty to disclose positions with outside organizations on financial disclosure reports, a requirement that specifically applies to filing publicly available reports but that OGE has interpreted as also applying to the much larger number of those who file reports that are kept confidential within their agencies.
Among the positions exempt from the reporting requirement are those held with a “political entity,” the guidance says, but that term is not defined either in conflict of interest law or in OGE’s regulations.
“Over the years, OGE has advised filers that they are required to report their positions with law firms that provide advice on campaign laws, political consulting firms, and political polling firms because these types of organizations are not “political” entities but are instead in business to provide legal advice, consulting, or polling services to candidates for elective office or political parties. By contrast, OGE has advised that filers do not have to report their positions with a political campaign itself or with a political party, because these entities are themselves “political.” Nonetheless, there are many entities that operate in the space between political campaigns or parties and political consulting firms,” it says.
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It said it would use the definition in the tax code of a “political organization” as a “party committee, association, fund, or other organization” engaged in “influencing or attempting to influence the selection, nomination, election, appointment” of a candidate for public office. Such organizations would fall under the exception and would not have to be disclosed, it said.
However, it stressed that the exception applies only to positions held with such entities. “Therefore, if a filer has reportable income or a reportable agreement or arrangement with a political entity, that information is required to be reported in the appropriate part of the financial disclosure form” if it meets certain thresholds–$200 for the reporting period for public disclosure filers and $1,000 for confidential filers.