November 16, 2010 •
FPPC sorting out disclosure issues for political campaigns using social media.
The Fair Political Practices Commission passed rules late last week to regulate electronic communications and internet advertisements in the same manner as traditional media. Campaigns and those making independent expenditures will be required to place disclaimers and disclosures in text messages, e-mail, and other electronic advertisements to the extent it is practical.
If size or character-limit constraints make the full disclosure unrealistic, the ad must at least include the candidate or committee’s FPPC number and, if possible, a link containing the full campaign finance information. These new rules include exceptions for uncompensated and other grassroots internet activity in the interest of keeping the internet a prime forum for political activity and discussion among citizens.
Image of the Seal of the State of California by Zscout370 on Wikipedia.
November 15, 2010 •
Federal Appellate Court Finds Colorado Campaign Finance Limits on Small Groups Unconstitutional
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals determined Colorado’s voter-approved campaign reporting requirement for small groups promoting ballot initiatives to be unconstitutional. The case stems from a challenge by a group of homeowners who failed to register as an issue committee upon becoming a group of two or more persons and accepting or making contributions or expenditures in excess of $200. Six homeowners had raised and spent less than $1,000 fighting a ballot question concerning the annexation of their subdivision, Parker North, into the town of Parker, Colorado.
Plaintiff’s attorney Steve Simpson, a member of the Arlington, Virginia-based Institute for Justice, has stated this case is the first ruling in the nation wherein reporting requirements for issue committees have been linked to the First Amendment and deemed unconstitutional. Simpson also added the decision in this case signals a split with another appellate court, causing the case to be ripe for appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.
You can read the full text of the opinion here.
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 8, 2010 •
The agency will offer instruction and take your questions regarding campaign finance law.
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) will host a campaign finance seminar on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at the OCPF offices located at One Ashburton Place, Room 411 in Boston. Topics under discussion include but are not limited to: filing and disclosure requirements for all types of candidates, PACs and other committees; the application of the campaign finance law to political activity by public employees, including the restriction on employees’ fundraising and on fundraising in government buildings; restrictions on the use of public resources to influence voters in ballot question elections on the local level, and electronic filing.
The seminar begins at 2 p.m. Reservations are not required.
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 4, 2010 •
New York City Voters Approve New Law Requiring Disclosure of Independent Expenditures
New York City voters supported, by a vote of 83 percent to 17 percent with 87 percent of precincts reporting, a referendum item which called for several changes to the city charter. The changes include requiring disclosure of campaign contributions by independent groups and raising the maximum fine for violating conflicts of interest law. Currently, people and organizations that spend money independently of any candidate to support or oppose political candidates or to influence votes in a referendum are not required to report those expenditures publicly.
The new voter approved law requires any individual or group that spends $1,000 or more to support or oppose a candidate or referendum to disclose the expenditure to the city’s Campaign Finance Board and include in any literature the name of any individual or organization that paid for it. The law also requires any group spending $5,000 or more to support or oppose a candidate to disclose any organizations that made contributions to that group and any individual who contributed $1,000 or more during the 12-month period preceding the election.
Photo of the New York City Municipal Building by Momos on Wikipedia.
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.
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