September 17, 2010 •
Commissioners tighten ethics rules – more news to come.
Cook County Commissioners have approved a series of ethics reforms focused on certain political contributions. Among the reforms is a provision requiring candidates for County Assessor to return contributions exceeding $1,500 from lawyers who appear before their office seeking reduced property values.
Additionally, fines for breaking county ethics rules have been increased tenfold; violators now face a maximum fine of $5,000. The board intends to clarify the county’s conflict-of-interest code after the upcoming election.
You can visit the Web site for the Cook County Commissioners.
September 15, 2010 •
Nevada Transparency Measures to be Introduced in 2011.
Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera said he will pursue a number of transparency measures in the 2011 legislative session. Among those to be introduced would be a requirement for all candidates for public office to report every financial contribution online within 72 hours of receipt, including the amount received and the donor.
Another measure would introduce a “cooling off” period before public officials could work as lobbyists. Specifically, an elected official or regulator would be prohibited from lobbying the governmental body where the individual served, or any agency they regulated or oversaw, for a period of two years.
September 15, 2010 •
New York City campaign finance reforms alter nature of political contributions.
NEW YORK: A recent examination by New York City’s Campaign Finance Board shows that changes enacted before the 2009 mayoral election encouraged 34,000 New Yorkers to make campaign donations for the first time; drastically curtailed the role of businesses, political committees and lobbyists in campaigns; and caused a major drop in donations from those doing business with the city.
The Campaign Finance Board report found that New York City’s newly promulgated rules diminished the role of businesses, political committees and unions in campaign fund-raising. They now account for 7.2 percent of all funds available to candidates. In the last election for State Assembly and Senate candidates, such contributions accounted for 66.6 percent of all the money raised. New York City’s system has become a model for campaign finance reform based upon these results.
Photo of the New York City Hall by Momos on Wikipedia.
September 14, 2010 •
A lawsuit has been filed in federal court alleging Hawaii’s ban on political contributions by state and county contractors is in violation of the First Amendment.
Key to the suit is the state’s prohibition on contributions by contractors until completion of the contract. The suit, filed by A-1 A-Lectrician Inc., an electrical and construction firm in Hawaii, alleges the prohibition is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech, as well as in violation of the 14th Amendment’s citizenship protection of corporations and individuals.
Citizen advocacy groups, including Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, have already voiced their opposition to the suit.
Satellite photo of Hawaii by NASA, posted on Wikipedia.
September 14, 2010 •
A pro-life group has filed suit in federal court challenging aspects of Iowa’s legislative response to “Citizens United.”
The new law requires groups like The Iowa Right-to-Life Committee, which is organized as a corporation, to form a PAC if they wish to make independent expenditures. The group claims this requirement and the new disclosure requirements are an unconstitutional burden on their First Amendment rights.
Supporters of the law are calling this suit a “political stunt.”
Photo of the Iowa Capitol by Cburnett on Wikipedia.
September 13, 2010 •
A federal court judge has suspended enforcement of Kentucky’s $100 contribution limit to candidates for school boards.
In its opinion, the court decided the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance’s interest in keeping politics out of school elections is not sufficient grounds for limiting contributions in that manner.
Because of this ruling, individuals may contribute up to $1,000 for a candidate for school board, the same limit imposed on other candidates for office in Kentucky.
September 9, 2010 •
Nine Cleveland-area doctors have filed a lawsuit in a Cleveland federal court challenging an Ohio law which says they cannot make political contributions to the Ohio Attorney General or local county prosecutors if they treat patients on Medicaid.
The plaintiffs, who wanted to make campaign contributions to the reelection campaign of Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, allege the provisions of Ohio Revised Code section 3599.45 violates their First Amendment rights.
The plaintiffs are seeking an order from the U.S. District Court declaring the law unconstitutional as well as an order enjoining the Ohio Secretary of State from enforcing it.
September 8, 2010 •
Governor Chris Christie announced a series of ethics reform measures, including those intent on closing pay-to-play loopholes and curtailing the unlimited transfer of campaign money between county and municipal committees.
The proposal would end the “fair and open contract” exception for businesses which make reportable campaign contributions at the legislative, county, and municipal levels, yet are able to receive contract awards valued greater than $17,500 with local governments – a practice not permitted at the state or gubernatorial level. The new legislation would also restrict the practice of “wheeling” by imposing contribution limitations on county and municipal committees which transfer money between committees and transfer committee contributions to out-of-county or out-of-municipality candidates.
September 8, 2010 •
Unions and corporations in Michigan are allowed to pool funds for independent expenditures under an agreement reached between Secretary of State Land and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber filed for, and was granted, a preliminary injunction against Land’s initial interpretation of Michigan’s campaign finance laws in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision. Land ruled the Chamber may make independent expenditures but could not set up a PAC to make them. Under the stipulated ruling, corporations, organization, and unions are still prohibited from making direct corporate contributions or using a PAC to do so.
September 7, 2010 •
The Georgia State Ethics Commission ruled that campaign candidate to candidate contributions must adhere to the limitations expressed under O.C.G.A. section 21-5-41.
The Commission determined the language in section 21-5-33(b)(1)(B) of the Georgia Ethics in Government Act which states a candidate is free to transfer excess contributions “without limitation to any national, state, or local committee of any political party or to any candidate” is not referencing an absence of limitation on such contributions, but is instead referencing the types of organizations to which such excess contributions may be contributed.
For further reading:
“Advisory Opinion – S.E.C. 2010-06,” by the Georgia State Ethics Commission.
This post is a follow-up to my previous article on Georgia campaign finance from August 30, 2010 – “Georgia Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion Coming,” by Joe May.
September 1, 2010 •
The state’s current campaign contribution limits will remain intact at least until after this year’s general elections.
A federal judge rejected Republican strategist Greg McNeilly’s request for an injunction on the limits, which have remained unchanged since 1976.
McNeilly argued the limits have not kept pace with inflation and constitute an infringement on his First Amendment rights. In Michigan, individuals can donate $500 to a candidate for state House, and $1,000 to a Senate candidate.
The lawsuit seeking to strike down these campaign contribution limits will be heard, but not before the November 2 election.
This post is a follow-up to a previous article on Michigan campaign finance from July 7 – “Michigan Campaign Contribution Limits Challenged,” by Steve Quinn.
August 30, 2010 •
The State Ethics Commission of Georgia is expected to issue an advisory opinion in the coming weeks concerning limits on campaign candidate to candidate contributions in the state.
Jim Walls, who runs the watchdog Web site AtlantaUnfiltered.com, has requested the opinion after language concerning such contributions and any limitations imposed was recently questioned before the State Ethics Commission. A vote by the Commission could remove caps on such contributions in the near future; however, if the vote were to remove the caps, it is expected to result in a bill being introduced before the state legislature to impose clear limits on these contributions.
For further reading:
“Ethics Commission to issue advisory opinion on campaign transfers,” by Walter Jones in the Rome News-Tribune.
“Law setting funding limits in elections could be gutted,” by Jim Walls in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Here is letter of request by Jim Walls to the State Ethics Commission of Georgia.
August 27, 2010 •
The Maine Ethics Commission adopted emergency rules to address regulations deemed “unconstitutionally burdensome” by a federal court last week. The new rules apply to political action committees, party committees, and other outside groups making independent expenditures.
Beginning September 7th, independent expenditures exceeding $250 must be reported within 48 hours of the expenditure. Starting on October 20th, independent expenditures exceeding $100 must be reported within 24 hours. Other reports of independent expenditures will be required on September 7th, October 12th, and October 19th.
Here is the Notice on Reporting Independent Expenditures on the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices Web site.
Photo by AlbanyNY on Wikipedia.
August 26, 2010 •
A ballot initiative in Alaska to put limits on lobbying and campaign donations was overwhelmingly defeated during the state’s Tuesday primary.
Ballot Measure 1 was touted as a way to increase transparency in lobbying and end “pay to play” politics. The measure was strongly and publicly opposed by unions, local governments, and business groups who were concerned the measure would have quieted the voice of many Alaskans in the political arena.
For further reading:
“Ballot Measure 1 soundly rejected,” by Lisa Demer in the Anchorage Daily News.
“Ballot Measure 1 rejected by wide margin,” by Ted Land on KTUU.com.
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