December 9, 2010 •
Senator Weinberg Offers Legislation For Governor Christie’s Tool Kit
State Senator Loretta Weinberg has proposed legislation to end loopholes in the New Jersey pay-to-play laws and to end “wheeling”, the channeling of money through different political committees to avoid contribution limits. “This new bill will give us the iron-clad restrictions against the practice of using campaign cash to influence decision-makers that has unfortunately become business as usual in the Garden State,” said Weinberg.
Additionally, county and municipal political parties would be banned from donating to each other and limited to donating $25,000 to state parties. County parties would only be allowed to donate to local parties within their jurisdiction. Senator Weinberg would like her pay-to-play reform added as a part of Governor Christie’s municipal and county “tool kit”, but has not received any response from the Governor.
Photo of Sen. Loretta Weinberg by Bbsrock on Wikipedia.
December 9, 2010 •
Composition Of Council Suggested
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin is pursuing the creation of a local ethics commission to replace the city’s reliance on the state. Currently, city ethics issues are resolved by South Carolina’s ethics commission. Mayor Benjamin believes reliance on a local commission with local ordinances would better serve Columbia and its city council.
The seven member commission would be made up of four residents from each of the council’s four political districts, a certified public accountant, a local business owner and an attorney. The attorney, who would serve as chairman, must not have done business with the city.
Photo of downtown Columbia by Akhenaton06 on Wikipedia.
December 2, 2010 •
Shared Campaign Accounts Are Issue
Maryland General Assembly Delegate Justin Ross will introduce legislation requiring local officials to recuse themselves from voting on building projects if a developer contributed to a shared campaign account affiliated with the official.
Presently, local leaders may vote on land use projects while indirectly receiving political contribution from these developers through accounts shared with General Assembly candidates.
In addition to the officials recusing themselves, developers would have to provide detailed information about all contributions to individual and shared accounts when they are requesting a land use decision from a council.
November 22, 2010 •
District Court Finds Law Constitutional
A District Court has issued a judgment upholding $5,000 limits on party contributions to candidates.
In Cao v. FEC, the District Court Eastern District of Louisiana, following a prior judgment from the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on other grounds, found 2 U.S.C. §441a(a)(2)(A) constitutional even though it imposes the same contribution limits on parties as on PACs and the limits are not adjusted for inflation.
The suit had been brought by Louisiana Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao, the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Louisiana.
November 19, 2010 •
FEC Finds Proposal for Texting Political Contributions Lacking
The Federal Election Commission issued Advisory Opinion 2010-23 denying a request allowing for political contributions to be made through cell phone texting. CTIA, a nonprofit trade association representing the wireless communications industry, proposed a program where political contributions could be made by texting five or six digit code numbers in the same manner which contributions are made for charitable donations. As proposed by CTIA, the contribution would be made at the time the phone user pays their monthly bill which would include the charge from the text pledge.
Over a 30-day period, a connection aggregator would collect contributions from all wireless service providers and then transfer the funds to the particular political committee. The Commission found the time frame for contributions to be forwarded to political committees would take longer than permissible under the law, contributions would not be segregated from other corporate funds, and CTIA’s safeguards to ensure the contributions were not from impermissible sources were inadequate.
November 9, 2010 •
Public Hearing for Late Filing of Campaign Reports
The 19th Judicial District Court of Baton Rouge has ruled the Ethics Board cannot enforce penalties for campaign finance violations. The court found a separate Ethics Adjudicatory Board must conduct public hearings when the Ethics Board alleges the late filing of, or absence of filing, campaign reports.
The Ethics Board had argued campaign violations requiring investigations were already referred to the Ethics Adjudicatory Board, but cases involving the mere failure to file reports on time, or not at all, did not require any investigation, and therefore did not require a separate hearing. The division of giving the Ethics Board investigatory and prosecutorial authority, while giving the Ethics Adjudicatory Board judicial power, comes from a 2008 change in the law meant to streamline the regulatory process.
November 5, 2010 •
New Jersey Offers Help – With Conditions
In order for the borough of North Arlington to receive $400,000, it must implement pay-to-play laws as one of the conditions for the state’s Transitional Aid to Localities program, which awards grants to the most fiscally challenged municipalities.
Mayor Peter Massa has signed a memorandum of understanding which mandates the borough council pass ordinances limiting awarding public contracts to businesses that have made contributions. Businesses actively contracting with the borough would also be limited from making contributions.
The council has three months to pass the ordinances, in addition to implementing other financial restrictions such as staff reductions and salary freezes, in order to receive the funds.
November 2, 2010 •
Compliance Reporting Still Required Even With Unlimited Contributions
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal seeking to eliminate a political committee’s disclosure and administrative requirements. In SpeechNow.org v FEC, the appellants had argued the requirements violate the First Amendment.
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found individual contribution limits to the committee unconstitutional. It additionally held independent expenditure–only groups like SpeechNow must still comply with organizational, administrative, and reporting requirements in the law.
SpeechNow is an unincorporated nonprofit association which supports candidates for federal office who share its views on First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom to assemble.
October 26, 2010 •
Relief Sought by Foreign Nationals
A lawsuit has been filed in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia seeking to allow foreign citizens to make political contributions. 2 U.S.C. § 441e and its implementing regulations prohibit political contributions and independent expenditures by foreign nationals living lawfully in the U.S.A. but without legal permanent residence. In Bluman v. FEC, the two plaintiffs, a doctor in residency and a recent law school graduate, both citizens of other countries, are seeking to make political contributions in support of various candidates and political issues ranging from both ends of the political spectrum.
The plaintiffs are specifically requesting the court declare 2 U.S.C. § 441e and its implementing regulations unconstitutional as applied to foreign nationals lawfully residing and working in the United States. They have asked for a three-judge court decision, which may allow for a direct appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
Photo of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse by AgnosticPreachersKid on Wikipedia.
October 20, 2010 •
Bill Introduced to City Council
Baltimore City Council President Bernard Young introduced legislation to expand the city’s rules on lobbying. The Promoting Honesty in Lobbying bill requires individuals paid any dollar amount for lobbying to register as lobbyists. Currently, individuals are only required to register as lobbyists if they earn $2,500 or more.
Registration would also be required of individuals spending 20 percent or more of their time over a six-month period on lobbying. Lobbyists would have to report total expenditures for grassroots lobbying, including those for print, audio, visual, and electronic publications. Among other provisions of the bill is the prohibition of a lobbyist stating he or she can obtain the vote of a councilmember.
Photo by Nfutvol on Wikipedia.
October 19, 2010 •
New Law Required
The State Ethics Commission will not appeal South Carolina Citizens for Life, Inc. v Krawcheck, a federal court decision finding South Carolina’s statutory definition of committee unconstitutional. The commission has already voluntarily announced it will not enforce provisions of the law concerning committees making independent expenditures.
State Ethics Commission Executive Director Herb Hayden says groups can now both raise and spend unlimited amounts of money and likely will not have to report their donors. He and Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Wes Hayes say a new law is needed to govern committee contribution limits.
October 5, 2010 •
Measure now in Senate
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the State Ethics Law Protection Act. H.R. 3427 would preclude the Federal Highway Administration from interpreting a state’s Pay-to-Play laws as conflicting with federal contract bidding requirements for federal-aid highway projects.
The measure has now passed to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
September 24, 2010 •
Motion of Cloture Fails
Senate Bill 3628, known as the DISCLOSE Act, was reintroduced in the US Senate a second time but failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to be debated on the floor. The motion of cloture vote of 59 to 39 fell along party lines.
A reaction to Citizens United v SEC, the bill includes measures such as requiring organizations to disclose to shareholders, members, or donors information detailing how disbursements were made for campaign-related activity.
September 22, 2010 •
Lacks Power to Declare Statute Unconstitutional
The State Ethics Commission will not enforce contribution limits for committees making expenditures independent of a candidate’s control or consultation. An earlier requested Attorney General’s opinion found a committee engaging exclusively in independent expenditures is not subject to annual contribution limits.
The Attorney General also confirmed the Ethics Commission did not have the power to declare S.C.C. §8-13-1322(A) unconstitutional. The Ethics Commission then issued an Advisory Opinion declaring the Commission would not enforce any contributions limits under S.C.C. §8-13-1322(A) for committees making independent expenditures.
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