November 4, 2010 •
On November 2nd, 2010, Akron voters, by a margin of nearly 56 percent in favor to 44 percent against, approved Issue 14 amending the city charter’s campaign finance provisions.
City council now has 90 days to pass a new ordinance which will implement the charter amendment language. Campaign finance contribution limits will increase to $200 for ward candidates and $450 for city-wide candidates. It is anticipated the new legislation will require council to review, and if necessary, amend, the city’s campaign finance legislation every two years beginning in 2012.
A provision is also expected to be made which will allow for public comment on any proposed changes to the city’s campaign finance rules. Finally, the legislation is expected to remove the city’s campaign finance language from the city charter itself. Going forward, campaign finance regulations will be authorized by ordinance.
November 3, 2010 •
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has issued a draft of proposed changes to the state’s campaign finance rules.
Under the process in place for changing these rules, the proposals will be sent to the state legislature who will either approve or override them. The approved rules become law on July 1 of each year.
The highlights of this year’s proposals include changes to bring Oklahoma law into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, and the abrogation of a rule restricting PAC contributions to ballot-measure committees. The restrictions on contributions to ballot committees have not been enforced in several years because they are unconstitutional.
Photo of the Oklahoma State Capitol copyright © Caleb Long on Wikipedia.
November 3, 2010 •
Tea Party Organization Seeks to Further Topple Montana Campaign Contribution Law
Montana Shrugged, a tea party group, filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Billings, naming as defendants the state political practices commissioner and Attorney General Steve Bullock. The lawsuit, filed with the help of the James Madison Center for Free Speech in Terre Haute, Ind., says Montana laws requiring financial reporting by political committees and corporations are unconstitutionally vague.
Montana Attorney General Bullock stated the lawsuit is part of a nationwide plot to torpedo state laws that require public reporting on who funds political campaigns. The lawsuit specifically challenges Montana’s restrictions on corporate contributions after a Montana court ruling last month overturned a law barring corporate independent expenditures and upheld the state’s restrictions on corporate contributions to political candidates.
Photo of the State capitol in Helena by Monty Johnson on Wikipedia.
November 3, 2010 •
A media review of major Utah county political parties recently revealed 71 percent had failed to file the financial disclosure statements supposedly required of them by August 31.
Now, Lt. Governor Greg Bell has informed the county parties they are not required to file. Going forward, only registered political parties will be required to file financial disclosure statements. Under state law, county parties are not required to register with the state. This new guidance runs contrary to previous statements which said all state and county parties were required to file disclosure statements.
The Salt Lake County Democratic Party has indicated it disagrees with the decision by the Lt. Governor’s office and plans to pursue the matter further. At this time, though, its legal options are unclear as the Utah Supreme Court has so far refused to hear their case. For its part, the Lt. Governor’s office plans to ask the legislature this coming January for a change in state law reflecting the new disclosure decision.
November 2, 2010 •
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle denied a request for a preliminary injunction against a Florida law that requires two or more people who want to contribute or expend $500 on a ballot issue to form a political action committee.
The plaintiffs, four Sarasota, Florida residents seeking to pool their monetary resources to buy radio ads against a proposed state constitutional amendment on the November ballot, wanted to avoid registration as a political action committee and disclosure requirements required of their desired radio advertisement.
“This ruling means that our clients will not be able to speak freely in the 2010 election,” said Paul Sherman, attorney for The Institute for Justice, who represented the plaintiffs.
For the complete story, here are two articles:
“Judge won’t block Fla. campaign law enforcement,” by Bill Kaczor in the Miami Herald.
“Judge refuses to throw out political-committee requirement of campaign finance law,” from the Central Florida Political Pulse blog on the Orlando Sentinel.
Photo of the Old Florida Capitol building by Diligent Terrier on Wikipedia.
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.
November 1, 2010 •
State and Federal’s President and CEO discusses Missouri campaign finance.
After retired St. Louis businessperson Rex Sinquefield gave $13.3 million to various Missouri campaigns, The Columbia Missourian wrote an article sorting out the issues of campaign finance and disclosure in the state. The newspaper turned to Elizabeth Bartz, with her 34 years of experience in campaign finance, to put the donations in perspective.
With no limit on campaign contributions from individuals in Missouri, the article offered the following comparison by Bartz:
One expert compared Missouri to a Caribbean territory notorious for money laundering and tax evasion: “It’s like the grand Cayman Islands,” said Elizabeth Bartz, the CEO and president of an organization that provides consulting services to organizations interested in making contributions on a state level.
But Bartz also noted that the disclosure requirements in Missouri are strong:
“It’s not like they can just give and give and give and nobody can find out,” Bartz said. “It is public information, and it is information you can find out.”
You can find the text of the full story in The Columbia Missourian here.
October 27, 2010 •
Most of the spending is on the governor’s race.
The Fair Political Practices Commission, California’s ethics and elections watchdog organization has released information on independent expenditures made in advance of the November general election.
More than 150 individuals have contributed approximately $28.8 million to independent expenditure committees in contributions of at least $10,000. The overwhelming majority of these expenditures are being made in the governor’s race.
As of June 9, 2010, committees had spent more than $23 million on communications designed to impact the election for the state’s highest executive office. The contest for state Superintendent registered a distant second with slightly less than $3 million in related independent expenditures.
Photo of the California State Capitol building by Sascha Brück on Wikipedia.
October 27, 2010 •
A federal judge in Florida has questioned the motive behind a recent lawsuit over the state’s campaign finance requirements.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle has questioned whether the suit regarding a law which requires registration and reporting by political action committees contributing or expending in excess of $500 is “just a little too convenient,” as the suit was filed merely a month prior to the upcoming election and the plaintiffs in the action are reportedly seeking to spend $600. The judge has yet to rule on a temporary injunction on enforcement of the law, as the plaintiffs, represented by The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, ultimately seek to have the law completely thrown out.
Map of Florida from the National Atlas of the United States.
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 26, 2010 •
On Friday, October 22, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States denied an application for an emergency writ of injunction in the pending case of Respect Maine PAC v. McKee.
In their application, the plaintiffs, represented by James Bopp, Jr., the Indiana attorney who helped launch the landmark Citizens United v. FEC litigation, requested an order blocking portions of Maine’s campaign finance law which provides matching for candidates as well as the part of Maine law capping contributions to gubernatorial candidates at $750. By the time the plaintiff’s motion reached the high court for the second time, it had been denied three times: by Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Circuit Justice for the First Circuit, by the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and by the Maine District Court where the litigation originated.
The plaintiff’s last resort to enjoin the law prior to the November 2nd election was the emergency writ of injunction to the Supreme Court which was presented to Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy who then referred it to the Supreme Court for consideration. The writ’s denial was not unexpected as the Supreme Court has not granted such a motion for two decades.
Photo of the Supreme Court by UpstateNYer on Wikipedia.
October 25, 2010 •
Barbara Wong retiring at the end of this month.
The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission has selected Kristin Izumi-Nitao as the new Executive Director effective November 4, 2010. She has been with the Department of the Attorney General, State of Hawaii, since 1999, and is currently responsible for overseeing and administering the Hawaii Internet and Technology Crimes Unit which includes the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in the state of Hawaii and the territory of Guam.
Izumi-Nitao will replace Barbara Wong who is retiring at the end of October.
October 21, 2010 •
Montana Judge Rules Law Prohibiting Independent Corporate Contributions is Unconstitutional
District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena ruled Monday that the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibited corporations from making independent political expenditures, is unconstitutional. Bozeman attorney Margot Barg argued on behalf of the plaintiffs, a gun rights organization and a local painting company, that corporations are entitled to make the same sort of free political speech as individuals citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Judge Sherlock wrote that the Montana law, “insofar as it prevents corporations from making independent expenditures to support or oppose political candidates or political parties, is declared unconstitutional.” Restrictions on corporate contributions to political candidates are not affected by the decision. Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock plans to appeal the district court’s ruling.
October 20, 2010 •
City Council to Consider Pay to Play Restrictions
The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission voted in favor of a planned ballot measure to bar city contractors from making campaign contributions to candidates running for mayor and city council. Los Angeles City Council will decide by the end of November whether to place this law on the ballot for the March 8 municipal election.
Under the proposal, those who do not abide by the new restrictions risk being barred from winning a city contract for four years. This type of ban has been under consideration several times since 2005 but has stalled at various stages of the legislative process each time.
Photo of Los Angeles City Hall by Brion VIBBER on Wikipedia.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.