Minnesota's regulators at the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board have few tools at their disposal to ensure the state's 1,400 registered lobbyists follow reporting rules.
The fine the board can issue for tardy reporters is minimal ($5 a day) and there are no fines for 10 days after a deadline is missed. So the board relies on the threat of public shame to ensure those in the $60 million-a-year industry meet the deadlines, which for the latest lobbying disbursement reports was Jan. 17.
But each period, inevitably, some fail to turn their reports in on time and the board posts a tardy list on its website for all the world to see. The list was posted this morning with 26 lobbyists still failing to file their reports for the period that covered the second half of 2011.
"The penalty itself is not really an incentive to file on time," the Board's executive director Gary Goldmith said. "People file on time mostly because they want to file on time. They don't want to have their name up on our website. But the $5 a day is not a serious incentive."
Goldsmith said lobbyists weren't included in the 2010 legislative change that eliminated the grace period for candidates, party units and political action committee reports. That change also included a fine increase to $25 per day most of the time and $50 a day right before elections. He said that has helped improve timely reporting for candidates and political groups.
The lobbyists fines will start Feb. 1, Goldsmith said. He said the different source of funds also acts as an incentive.
"Lobbyists funds and late-filing fees come from companies, typically, so it's a little harder for candidates and entities in the campaign finance program to let those penalties run up and then go and find somebody to raise money from," Goldsmith said.