October 13, 2010 •
PACs will continue to be allowed to receive unlimited contributions for independent expenditures.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the city’s appeal of a lawsuit brought by the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce over the city’s campaign finance rules involving independent expenditures.
Long Beach appealed to the high court after the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling stating the Chamber’s PAC may receive unlimited contributions to fund their independent campaign expenditures in city elections.
Photo of Long Beach by WPPilot on Wikipedia.
October 12, 2010 •
Order Issued Enjoining Enforcement of Hawaii Campaign Finance Law Specific to Plaintiffs
A federal judge has granted the request of two men seeking to be able to contribute in excess of the state’s limit of $1,000 to a noncandidate political action committee. U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright issued an order permitting the plaintiffs in the action to contribute $2,500 to the Aloha Family Alliance, a noncandidate political action committee which supports traditional marriage and opposes abortion and physician-assisted suicide, for the general election.
Hawaii law limits contributions to a noncandidate committee to $1,000 per election, with the primary and general election counting as two separate elections. Neither plaintiff in this action had made a contribution during the primary election. Further, the written order does not allow others exceed the $1,000 limit for the general election.
State Attorney General Mark Bennett has requested a stay of the order while the case is appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. This order only speaks to this particular facet of the lawsuit, not to the additional plaintiff complaints regarding disclaimers and attribution related to advertisements, political reporting requirements, and pay-to-play restrictions, which Judge Seabright will rule on at a later date.
October 11, 2010 •
Akron City Council has approved a resolution of support for issues 11 to 17 which will appear on the November 2 ballot.
If approved, Issue 14 will require the council to pass legislation within 90 days amending the city’s campaign finance regulations. The caps on individual contributions would increase from $100 to $200 per candidate per election for ward candidates and from $300 to $450 for candidates for mayor and council members-at-large.
Also, the council will be required to hold mandatory public hearings every two years to revisit the city’s contribution limits to consider adjustments for inflation and costs of living.
October 11, 2010 •
The Salt Lake County Democratic Party has filed a petition with the Utah Supreme Court asking it to intervene in the enforcement of state campaign finance law.
The plaintiffs allege the lieutenant governor’s office, which is charged by law to enforce the state’s campaign finance regulations, has taken no enforcement action against the 41 of 58 major county political parties which failed to submit their campaign finance disclosure statements by the recent August 31st deadline. The plaintiffs then turned to the Utah Attorney General asking for enforcement of the disclosure requirements.
The Attorney General’s office did not respond to the plaintiff’s enforcement request but later explained through a spokesman state law authorizes the lieutenant governor to act in matters touching upon campaign finance. For its part, the lieutenant governor’s office advises political parties to submit their financial disclosure statements even though state law does not specifically require them to do so.
According to Mark Thomas, elections director for the lieutenant governor, state law remains ambiguous on the question of the reporting responsibilities of county political parties; a question which will persist until state lawmakers clarify the law. “We would all like to get it better clarified,” Thomas said.
Photo of Salt Lake City by Skyguy414 on Wikipedia.
October 7, 2010 •
Court of Appeals Issues Stay of Decision Declaring Washington Law Limiting Late Campaign Spending Unconstitutional
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the decision in Family PAC v. McKenna, et al. which declared a Washington law limiting campaign contributions in the final weeks of ballot measure campaigns unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled last month that the Washington limit is an unconstitutional infringement on political speech. Late Tuesday, a panel of Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges blocked that ruling from taking effect while the state appeals.
The three-judge panel wrote “Washington and its voters have a significant interest in preventing the State’s long-standing campaign finance laws from being upended by the courts so soon before the upcoming election.” The Court also considered that Family PAC had failed to identify any contributions greater than $5000 that it expected to receive in the event the law would be overturned and appeared not to be participating in the upcoming general election, mitigating any harm that may come from the stay of the ruling. Family PAC was created shortly after last year’s legal deadline for large campaign contributions had passed. The committee said it had an offer for a large donation to finance political ads but could not accept the money because of the state law.
October 5, 2010 •
Court to Examine Long-standing Montana Law Banning Corporate Campaign Contributions
A Montana district judge will rule on a challenge to Montana’s nearly century-old, voter-passed restriction on direct corporate spending to support or oppose political parties or candidates. The Montana law is being challenged based upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s January ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturned a federal ban on corporate spending in political campaigns.
Attorneys for the State of Montana defended the law stating that a law enacted in 1912 should not be lumped with a law Congress enacted 90 years later under a one-size-fits-all federal rule. They added that corporations do speak freely in Montana elections under current law with nearly 200 political action committees active in state politics in the past decade and warned unlimited corporate campaign spending would drastically alter Montana’s current campaigns that rely on person-to-person contact.
October 4, 2010 •
Group challenges Florida campaign law in federal court
The Institute for Justice, a group which touts itself as the only libertarian public interest law firm in the nation, has filed a challenge to Florida’s campaign finance laws in federal court. The suit has been filed on behalf of four Sarasota, Florida residents seeking to pool their monetary resources to buy radio ads against a proposed state constitutional amendment on the November ballot. However, due to requirements to register as a PAC and disclosure requirements associated with such communications, the residents feel their First Amendment rights are being infringed upon.
This is not the first instance wherein the Institute for Justice has challenged a restriction on political speech in Florida, as they were previously successful in having declared unconstitutional Florida’s electioneering communication law in the case of Broward Coalition of Condominiums v. Browning.
Photo of U.S. Federal Courthouse in Tallahassee by Urbantallahassee on Wikipedia.
September 29, 2010 •
Group says Rhode Island’s campaign finance law is unconstitutional.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has filed a federal lawsuit against the Rhode Island Board of Elections seeking to strike down Rhode Island’s campaign finance law. Citing extensively to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the plaintiffs allege Rhode Island law’s definition of a political action committee, its expenditure ban, and its expenditure reporting requirements are all unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Mary Lisi for declaratory judgments clarifying the extent to which state law’s $1,000 contribution limits on contributions by political action committees apply to them. NOM also seeks a declaratory judgment stating they are not subject to the extensive reporting requirements imposed by state law upon entities which make independent expenditures. An in-chambers conference regarding the lawsuit has been scheduled for Thursday, September 30th, 2010.
September 28, 2010 •
Commission advises against candidates making transfers of funds to their party – with an exception.
The Arkansas Ethics Commission has released an opinion against allowing candidates to transfer to their political party any campaign funds unless the candidate is running unopposed or the election is over. This opinion comes at the request of Doyle Webb, chairperson of the Republican Party of Arkansas, after current Democratic Governor Mike Beebe made such a transfer during his 2006 gubernatorial campaign.
Prior to the 2006 election, Beebe transferred $230,000 to the state Democratic Party from his accumulated campaign funds. However, in the opinion the ethics commission stopped short of calling such a transfer “illegal,’ merely stating “the Commission would advise against making such a transfer,” and noted that further facts concerning the situation would need to be determined prior to any determination as to whether such action would violate the campaign finance laws of Arkansas.
Webb noted that no request was made for Governor Beebe to be penalized for the transfer and the opinion was requested primarily for future reference.
September 27, 2010 •
The BIAW Receives a Fine.
The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) was fined $548,000 by the state Attorney General’s office for violating the state’s campaign finance disclosure law. The fine is for $584,527 in undisclosed funds that went to the campaign against Gov. Christine Gregoire.
Here is the source article: “For Conservative BIAW, a $548,000 Fine,” by Joel Connelly in the Seattle Post Intelligencer on September 24.
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.
September 22, 2010 •
Minnesota Law Requiring Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending Upheld by U.S. District Court
U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank denied a temporary injunction in a lawsuit brought by supporters of Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, upholding a new Minnesota law that revealed political donations from several corporations. The law was enacted in May after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United earlier this year freed businesses to spend corporate money on elections, overturning restrictions on corporate political spending in about half the states, including Minnesota.
Minnesota lawmakers responded by enacting disclosure requirements so that corporate campaign spending would be public. In his decision, Judge Frank explained the public has an interest in knowing who speaks and who pays for campaign messages and advertisements as elections approach.
Photo of Tom Emmer from the Minnesota House of Representatives Web site.
September 21, 2010 •
A federal court has set aside the state’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures.
Under the consent decree signed by Judge George C. Smith, corporations may engage in express advocacy for or against a candidate for Ohio office. Corporations are still prohibited from making direct contributions to a candidate or working with a candidate on these independent expenditures. This order brings Ohio elections into compliance with the January “Citizens United” decision which held corporations have a First Amendment right to make independent expenditures.
The decision may have a major impact on Ohio’s campaign finance regulation because the statute in question contains a clause which states if any section of the law is deemed unconstitutional, the entire law is automatically repealed. A federal court will determine the validity of the remainder of the law next week.
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