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.
September 21, 2010 •
Ballot issue PACs allowed to receive contributions from other PACs
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has announced it will not enforce a law banning PAC-to-PAC transfers of funds in an instance where one PAC supports or opposes a ballot issue.
The commission recognizes the rule, as written, is unconstitutional because of the U.S. Supreme Court case “First National Bank of Boston v. Belloti”. The ethics commission will likely rewrite the rule in 2011.
September 20, 2010 •
Court Finds Part of Ethics Statute Unconstitutional
A U.S. District Court has invalidated a South Carolina statute defining committees, including those commonly known as PACs. In South Carolina Citizens for Life, Inc. v Krawcheck, the Court found the South Carolina Ethics Act placed significant burdens on groups qualifying as committees without giving meaningful consideration of a group’s major purpose, threatening to chill their First Amendment rights. Specifically, the definition of committee in S.C.C. §8-13-1300(6) could encompass any group, without reference to the entity’s major purpose, and was unconstitutionally overbroad.
Photo of the South Carolina statehouse by Nikopoley on Wikipedia.
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.
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