January 7, 2011 •
An Advisory Committee on Campaign Finance created by Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has issued a report recommending changes to the state’s campaign finance laws. Among the 25 recommendations are treating LLC clusters and all other legal entities with common ownership or control as single entities for contribution limit purposes, requiring disclosure from any non-political party group making independent expenditures for the election or defeat of a candidate, and requiring loan-related violations of campaign contribution limits to be assessed against candidates as well as lenders.
The committee suggested further study for issues regarding how campaign finance laws apply to “new media,” including requiring the reporting of sub-vendor information, to prevent covert campaigning by candidates and their committees through anonymous sources.
January 6, 2011 •
It’s not too late to consider your compliance obligations for the upcoming year!
All of the legislatures, even those that do not meet every year, are in session in 2011. Thus, it is important to know the registration obligations for your lobbyists in all of the jurisdictions in which they will be active. The most important pieces of information you need to know are whether they will need to register and when the registration will need to be filed. Many jurisdictions have a threshold, based on expenditures, salary, or time spent lobbying, that needs to be crossed before registration is required. Depending on your situation, you may not need to register if your lobbying activities will be minimal. Many other jurisdictions, however, have no threshold and will require registration before or within a certain amount of time of your lobbyist engaging in lobbying.
This brings up an important point: it is crucial that you understand what activities comprise lobbying in the jurisdiction. A lobbyist may meet the definition of “lobbyist” before contact is even made with an official. And do not forget that once registered, you will have ongoing reporting requirements. Illinois and Georgia, in particular, will have more frequent reporting than in past years. (more…)
January 4, 2011 •
Commission on Governmental Ethics Seeks Independent Investigatory Powers and New Campaign Finance Restrictions in 2011
The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices has issued a memo outlining the agencies priorities for 2011. The commission seeks to investigate possible violations of legislative ethics on its own, even if no formal complaint is filed.
The commission also wishes to enact regulations that restrict legislative candidates from using Clean Election money to buy computers, cell phones, and other electronic equipment and increase the fine for failing to include a disclaimer on campaign communications from a maximum of $200 to a maximum of $5,000.
The Great Seal of Maine courtesy of Wikipedia.
December 30, 2010 •
News Rules Respond to Citizens United
Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has announced permanent rules affecting the disclosure of corporate independent expenditures in Ohio.
The rules address the impact of the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The new rules address campaign expenditures by corporations, nonprofit corporations and labor organizations by requiring disclosure of the amounts the groups spend for independent campaign advertisements for or against a candidate or committee.
Affected groups who make independent expenditures will now have to include their Internet web address in their ads and must also disclose their ads have not been authorized by a candidate or committee. Independent expenditures by corporations or businesses with 20 percent or more foreign ownership are prohibited by the new rules. Finally, corporations or businesses which have been awarded state or federal money will not be allowed to influence Ohio elections with independent expenditures within a year of the award.
“The Citizens United case now allows corporations to make independent expenditures for and against candidates in state and federal campaigns, “ said Secretary Brunner. “I am pleased Ohio has in place new rules so Ohioans will know who is trying to influence their votes in Ohio elections.”
The new rules take effect January 7, 2011. You may view the rules at the Register of Ohio Web site.
Photo of Ohio Statehouse by Alexander Smith on Wikipedia.
December 29, 2010 •
In a continuing effort to better serve the needs of its clients, State and Federal Communications, Inc. is expanding coverage of laws and regulations for political contributions, lobbying, and procurement lobbying to more municipalities, regional governments, and governmental organizations.
State and Federal currently offers coverage for 187 municipalities, in addition to the 50 U.S. states, other U.S. jurisdictions, and Canada.
We have added six new jurisdictions for which our online clients will find comprehensive, timely, and accurate information that includes: complete calendar of reporting deadlines; critical statutory citations; extensive directories of contact information; summaries of each state law; detailed reference charts on goods and services contributions; highlights of every statute; copies of all required forms; and much more.
The new jurisdictions are:
- Bridgeport, CT
- Huntsville, AL
- Provo, UT
- Rockford, IL
- West Valley City, UT
- Winston-Salem, NC
The image of North America by Bosonic dressing on Wikipedia.
December 21, 2010 •
Alabama Governor Bob Riley signed seven bills relating to lobbying, campaign finance, and ethics into law yesterday.
While not as strict as the bills originally proposed by the Governor, the newly passed rules represent a dramatic overhaul to Alabama ethics law. Under the new rules, PACs will be forbidden from making transfers of funds to other PACs with a few exceptions.
State lawmakers will be unable to hold a second public job, and one bill imposes a ban on “pass-through pork” whereby a legislator can appropriate funds to a specific agency or project without legislative approval. In the new year, lobbyists will be required to complete a training program, and the State Ethics Commission will have subpoena power.
Another bill signed by Governor Riley will forbid public employees from donating to political groups via payroll deduction. This law has been criticized as politically motivated by state Democrats.
December 20, 2010 •
Two jurisdictions grapple with the regulation of campaign finance in social media.
Just as the use of social media has exploded with the average person in everyday interaction, so it goes with the use the of social media in political campaigns. And just as political ads have prompted regulations in traditional media – in print, radio, and television – ethics oversight agencies in the states are now facing the need to regulate political ads in social media.
In essence, we have a 1970s post-Watergate system of political ads regulation facing a completely new set of challenges with today’s political activity on the internet. How do you get all parties to agree on meanings and terms for features in electronic ads when there is no industry standard? How do you identify the source of funding for a Google or Facebook ad? How would you fit a disclosure statement into a tweet when you are limited to 140 characters? Some have said regulation of political ads in social media constitutes a restriction of the exercise of freedom of speech. Others have argued that endorsements by influential bloggers should be considered as in-kind contributions.
Two states to watch are Maryland and California. The Maryland State Board of Elections and California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) have established rules for proper use of social media by political campaigns, PACs, and private individuals. At the Council on Government Ethics Laws 2010 conference in Washington, D.C., I had the privilege of meeting Jared DeMarinis, Maryland’s Director for the Maryland Board of Elections Division of Candidacy and Campaign Finance, and Roman Porter, Executive Director of the FPPC. It was a COGEL breakfast group discussion with them that prompted me to offer these resources in this post.
Here is the link for Maryland’s Summary Guide to Candidacy and Campaign Finance Laws. Chapter 12, section 6 deals with electronic media. Maryland’s answer to the issue of disclosure within the limited space of a social network appears to be requiring a hyperlink to a landing page that would host the disclosure information. Government Technology has a nice article from August 3, 2010 called, “Maryland Social Media Campaign Rules Take Effect,” which describes the new regulations.
California’s FPPC offers a report from the Subcommittee on Internet Political Activity called “Internet Political Activity and the Political Reform Act,” dated August 11, 2010. Here is a memorandum describing amendments, from October 2010. They also offer a helpful online FAQ page called “Electronic Media: Paid Political Advertisements.” These resources have a great deal of guidance regarding disclosure in social media political ads, what triggers the need for disclosure, and how disclosure is to be done in social media.
Perhaps the work of these two agencies will be the template for other jurisdictions! We will be watching…
December 13, 2010 •
Georgia State Ethics Commission Increases Contribution Limits
The State Ethics Commission has approved an increase in contribution limits for both statewide and other offices. The contribution limit for a statewide office during each primary and general election has been increased from $6,100 to $6,300, while the limit for a runoff election for the primary or general election has increased from $3,600 to $3,700.
Additionally, contribution limits for all other offices during each primary and general election have increased from $2,400 to $2,500, and from $1,200 to $1,300 for a runoff election resulting from the primary or general election.
December 13, 2010 •
Appeal filed by James Bopp
The Republican National Committee has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court challenging limits on the amounts a political party can spend in coordination with candidates. Filed on the RNC’s behalf by James Bopp, Jr., the RNC argues the expenditures constitute the party’s free speech.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele said, “The right of political parties to express their members’ views about their candidates for office while also working directly with those candidates to help elect them is crucial to a healthy democracy.”
The case being appealed, Cao v. FEC, found contribution limits constitutional as applied to the RNC.
December 10, 2010 •
Public Comment Sought
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has proposed a ban on political contributions from banks which arrange derivative trading with federal, public, and municipal agencies. The banks would be prohibited from making campaign donations to public officials who have the power to award work to the banks.
The commission voted unanimously to seek public comment on December 16 with the view to complete the regulations by 2011.
December 9, 2010 •
The regulatory board releases a statement regarding municipal entities and advisors who have made political contributions.
Following a recent meeting, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board issued a request for comment on a rule regulating the business activities of municipal advisors with municipal entities when they have made political contributions to officials responsible for awarding that business.
You can read the press release from the MSRB here.
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 •
Bank Challenges Missouri SB 844’s Limits on Political Contributions; Bill Sponsor Seeks Change in Law
Legends Bank is seeking to block enforcement of Missouri’s new ethics law, found in Senate Bill 844, which took effect August 28. Legends Bank and its president filed suit Monday in Cole County Circuit Court citing language that limits the bank’s right to make political donations. Senate Bill 844 sought to limit politicians’ ability to conceal the source of money by moving it through several political action committees.
Legends Bank claims that in determining which individuals and entities can donate to political action committees, lawmakers appear to have limited the ability of state-chartered banks to donate. Republican Senate president pro-tem Charlie Shields, who sponsored Senate Bill 844, stated to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the goal of the bill was never to stop banks or corporations from making political donations and that the disputed language should be fairly easy to fix.
Photo of the Missouri Capitol by RebelAt of English Wikipedia.
December 9, 2010 •
Colorado Supreme Court to Make Decision in Regards to Campaign Finance
The Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by Colorado Ethics Watch concerning the so-called “magic words” required of political ads. Colorado Ethics Watch filed the complaint against Senate Majority Fund and Colorado Leadership Fund after the two 527 political organizations ran campaign ads supporting state legislative candidates in the 2008 election but did not register as political committees or submit independent expenditure disclosures for the ads.
An Administrative Law Judge determined, and the Colorado Court of Appeals agreed, registration and reporting were not required because the ads did not contain terms such as “vote for” or “defeat.” It is expected the case will be briefed in early 2011, with oral arguments taking place in the spring.
Seal of the State of Colorado by Svgalbertian on Wikipedia.
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