July 23, 2010 •
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has vetoed legislation that would have permitted members of the Executive Branch Ethics Committee to participate in partisan political activities.
Senate Bill 440 would have permitted members of the committee, during their term of service, to participate in elections for federal offices, including allowing their names to be in used in endorsements of candidates. Members would have also been permitted to campaign for candidates seeking federal offices and make contributions to their campaigns.
Citing the potential conflict-of-interest that could arise from members of the ethics committee engaging in political activity, Governor Lynch vetoed the measure on July 20, 2010. “I believe that SB 440 would weaken the Executive Branch Ethics Committee and would compromise the ability of its members to discharge their obligations impartially in the eyes of the public. It could create the perception that partisan politics plays a role in the decisions of the committee,” Lynch said.
For further reading here is the governor’s press release.
Photo by Marc Nozell used under a Creative Commons license.
July 21, 2010 •
A new Massachusetts rule regarding independent expenditure PACs takes effect July 16.
The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) has issued an emergency rule regarding independent expenditures by political action committees.
Emergency Rule 970 C.M.R. 2.17, which states a political action committee only raising funds to make independent expenditures, and then only making independent expenditures, will be regarded as an independent expenditure PAC. Unlike other PACs, independent expenditure PACs may raise funds from individuals without limit, and from corporations and other entities otherwise prohibited from contributing to PACs pursuant to Massachusetts law. Independent expenditure PACs are subject to all other requirements applying to other PACs, including disclosure requirements.
An independent expenditure PAC may not directly or indirectly coordinate its campaign activity with any Massachusetts candidate or political committee. If the independent expenditure PAC makes a coordinated expenditure it becomes a PAC subject to all requirements, including limits on contributions applying to other PACs.
Finally, the term “election” includes any preliminary, primary, or special general election. All preliminary reports of independent expenditures must be filed electronically. The emergency rule was effective upon filing on Friday, July 16, 2010.
Photo from the National Atlas of the United States.
July 20, 2010 •
The five members of the state’s new independent legislative ethics commission met for the first time on Monday, July 19, 2010.
The commission is open for business even though, at this time, the commission has no staff, no Web site, no e-mail address, and only received a temporary mailing address in the Lt. Governor’s office on Monday evening. For the time being, complaints may be sent to Lt. Governor Bell’s office in confidence to P.O. Box 142525, Salt Lake City, UT 84114. Complaints may also be delivered in person to Bell’s office in Suite 220 at the State Capitol.
The Utah Legislature created the commission this year as part of an effort to reform legislative ethics. Utah voters will be able to vote in November on whether or not to make the new commission a permanent part of the state constitution.
Photo by Scott Catron on Wikipedia.
July 19, 2010 •
The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) will convene a two-day meeting beginning July 21, 2010 at 9:30 A.M.
The two-day session will continue on July 22, 2010 beginning at 8:30 A.M. There will be open and closed door sessions on both days. The G.A.B. is expected to discuss a request to extend G.A.B. Emergency Rule 1.91 relating to organizations making independent disbursements.
Among the other proposed campaign finance issues on the agenda are guidelines concerning charitable contributions, campaign fundraising, campaign contributions by lobbyists and principals, candidates and the lobby law, and campaign finance registration and reporting. Day One of the two-day meeting will be held in the Joint Committee on Finance Hearing Room located at 412 East in the State Capitol. Day Two will convene in the G.A.B. board room located at 212 East Washington Avenue, third floor in Madison.
Here are some great resources from the GAB Web site!
Photograph taken by Dori
July 16, 2010 •
Mason submits campaign finance and lobbying recommendations for new Cuyahoga County Government.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason and the Campaign Finance Reform Committee, which convened in March 2010 to study campaign finance reform issues in Cuyahoga County, have announced four recommendations that will be forwarded to the new Cuyahoga County government due to take office on January 1, 2011. The recommendations include the establishment of an electronic filing system for campaign finance reports, the establishment of a lobbyist registry for Cuyahoga County, and the establishment of campaign contribution limits for county-wide offices. Finally, the committee recommends the new county government adopt a Clean Elections Act which would implement a voluntary, publicly funded campaign financing option for candidates for Cuyahoga County offices. Mason hopes the new county government will take up the recommendations quickly once it takes office next year.
Here are some resources for further reading:
New campaign finance rules proposed for Cuyahoga County, by Kevin Niedermier at WKSU
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announces campaign finance reforms, by Laura Johnston at the Cleveland Plain Dealer
July 15, 2010 •
New Jersey elections agency will be holding a meeting.
The Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) will have a meeting at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at the Commission’s office located at 28 West State Street, 12th floor, in Trenton. Executive Director Jeff Brindle will be on hand to chair the meeting. The agenda is expected to include recent staff activities, campaign financing, and other matters of concern and interest to the Commission. There will be an opportunity for public comment.
July 14, 2010 •
The Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) discusses its Pay-to-Play priority recommendation to the state legislature in its July, 2010 newsletter which is now available on-line.
ELEC recommends four Pay-to-Play reform steps it would like to see passed into law. First, ELEC recommends any reform of Pay-to-Play regulations should address the patchwork quilt of local Pay-to-Play laws which have developed over time. Current state law allows municipalities and counties to adopt their own ordinances provided they are consistent with the theme of “Pay-to-Play”. The lack of a standardized Pay-to-Play theme across jurisdictions has led to a myriad collection of laws which vary from place to place throughout the state.
Second, ELEC would like to see the confusing “Fair and Open” loophole as it is known, closed at the local level. “Fair and Open” allows local governments to forego the Pay-to-Play rules where bids are publicly advertised. In such a case, the $300 campaign contribution limit imposed by state law does not apply if a local jurisdiction has its own procedures for bidding and awarding contracts.
Third, ELEC asks for every public contract over $17,500 to be subject to disclosure requirements which are now reserved for vendors whose contracts exceed $50,000 statewide. Finally, ELEC would like to see the campaign contribution limit raised above $300. Citing the high cost of media advertising in New Jersey, ELEC states that the present limits provided by law are comparatively low.
The commission explains it is mindful of public concerns regarding the presence of money in politics. That said, ELEC feels its recommendations regarding contribution limits would be offset by corresponding enhancements to disclosure requirements. The ELEC newsletter may be found at: www.elec.state.nj.us .
July 13, 2010 •
The City of Akron Charter Review Commission has issued its final report to city council.
Among the recommendations submitted to the council is a proposal to remove campaign finance reform from the City Charter. The commission found, with one exception, campaign finance reform was not contained in the city charter of any other major Ohio city. Citing the need for periodic amendments to campaign finance legislation and the need to adjust campaign contribution limits from time to time to account for inflation, the commission recommended the city adopt future campaign finance regulations by means of ordinances rather than charter amendments. Given the potential complexity of the issues involved, commissioners concluded campaign finance regulations require a level of detail inappropriate for a charter. The Commission’s recommendations also include a mandatory review of campaign finance legislation every two years going forward. The review would include a public hearing to obtain public comment on any proposed changes to campaign finance ordinances. The proposal must now be passed by council and then submitted to Akron voters for final adoption.
July 7, 2010 •
A bill amending the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 has passed the House of Representatives.
H.R. 5609, which passed on a vote of 408-4, prohibits any registered lobbyist whose clients include foreign governments which are found to be sponsors of international terrorism or include other foreign nationals from making contributions and other campaign-related disbursements in elections for public office. The bill moves to the Senate.
July 2, 2010 •
On July 1, 2010, three retired judges and two former lawmakers were named to the state legislature’s new independent ethics commission.
The new five-member commission, which will handle ethics complaints against lawmakers, was created in response to a grassroots citizens’ initiative for legislative ethics. The panel includes a retired member of the Utah Supreme Court as well as a former lieutenant governor. The commission’s first organizational meeting has yet to be scheduled but it will be open to the public. Utah voters will have the opportunity to decide whether or not to make the new panel a permanent part of the state constitution.
June 30, 2010 •
The SEC is expected to vote on proposed rules June 30, 2010.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is poised to consider new regulations prohibiting hedge funds and private equity firms from making political contributions to public officials who award public pension fund management contracts. The SEC initially considered an outright ban on what had become known as placement agents: middlemen who solicited government pension funds on behalf of securities firms looking to tap into the $2.4 trillion public retirement fund industry.
After pushback from industry and Congress over the proposed elimination of placement agents, the SEC is instead considering rules regulating improper pay-to-play practices connected to public pension funds. One proposed rule will limit direct and indirect political contributions by investment advisers seeking pension fund contracts.
New penalties for violators for pay-to-play violators are also under consideration. For instance, advisers who make political contributions to an elected official in a position to influence the selection of the adviser would face a two year bar from providing advisory services to a fund. The SEC is expected to vote on the proposed rules June 30, 2010.
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