December 14, 2011 •
A divided FEC has trouble deciding on campaign finance regulations
The 6 member Federal Election Commission, split equally along partisan lines, is often seen “hanging each other out to dry”.
In an article posted on Politico, Republican member of the FEC, Don McGahn states, “These public spats we have are very, very healthy. It’s a healthy ugly.” McGahn himself tore pages of regulations out of a book during a hearing, letting the scraps fall in order to prove a point to his Democratic colleagues whom he accused of disregarding their own rules.
With court decisions such as Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission, the FEC has had more trouble than ever making decisions regarding campaign finance, and leaving politicians and their benefactors unsure what regulations they have to follow.
During the upcoming election season, the members of the FEC will have to set aside their differences so that they may set concrete campaign finance guidelines for the United States.
To read more, read FEC dysfunction not just politics, it’s personal by Dave Levinthal and Robin Bravender.
December 2, 2011 •
But Unanimously Decides Against Senator Lee’s PAC
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) addressed two highly anticipated requests for advisory opinions yesterday.
In the first decision, the commissioners were unable to reach an agreement as to whether American Crossroads, an independent expenditure-only political committee, could produce and distribute television and radio advertisements with supported federal candidates involved in the creation of those messages. Although none of the four drafts of an advisory opinion were accepted by a majority of the six commissions, they released separate statements regarding the request. The statements can be found here:
- Commissioner Steven T. Walther;
- Vice Chair Caroline C. Hunter and Commissioners Donald F. McGahn and Matthew S. Petersen; and
- Chair Cynthia L. Bauerly and Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub
In the second decision, the commission voted unanimously to deny the request of Senator Michael Lee’s Leadership PAC, Constitutional Conservatives Fund PAC. The commission concluded the PAC could not act as an independent expenditure committee, receiving contributions from corporations and unlimited contributions from individuals, because the PAC is controlled by a federal office holder, Senator Michael Lee.
They reached this conclusion even though separate accounts would be used, as recently allowed for independent expenditure committees by the FEC after the Carey v. FEC court decision and a Stipulated Order and Consent Judgment. They were also not persuaded by the fact the funds would only support candidates other than Senator Lee.
This blog post follows previous entries regarding these issues, including: American Crossroads Wants Candidate Participation in its Ads, FEC Will Not Be Enforcing Certain Laws, and One PAC Is Enough.
December 1, 2011 •
November 28, 2011 •
Here are highlights from the latest edition of News You Can Use:
From the States and Municipalities:
District of Columbia
State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.
News You Can Use is a news service provided at no charge only to clients of our online Executive Source Guides, or ALERTS™ consulting clients.
November 17, 2011 •
Web Based Donations from Rebates
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has issued an advisory opinion approving plans of a for-profit company’s mobile-based financial processing platform to collect and distribute funds to candidates, committees, and PACs.
GivingSphere, which allows individuals to make donations to charitable groups through the internet and mobile devices, requested an opinion about implementing contributions to political entities. Customer funds for contributions are accumulated by rebates earned by purchasing goods from merchants who participate in the GivingSphere affiliate program.
Advisory Opinion 2011-19 allows GivingSphere to transmit its customers’ funds in the form of political contributions. Additionally, the company may sell advertising space to political committees on its website, provide a searchable database of political committees to its customers, and permit political committees to post a ‘badge’ of the GivingSphere on their website.
Because GivingSphere is merely processing contributions, it will not be subject to any reporting requirements. The FEC press release can be found here.
November 7, 2011 •
The Federal Election Commission has received an advisory opinion request asking if an independent expenditure-only PAC may use incumbent members of congress in its advertisements.
Independent expenditure PAC American Crossroads has formally requested it be allowed to produce and distribute television and radio advertisements featuring on camera footage or voice-overs of incumbent members of congress up for re-election. Conceding the purpose of the ads would be to improve the public’s perception of the congress member, the advertisements would focus on policy and legislative issues.
American Crossroads is seeking confirmation and guidance as to whether the advertisements qualify as coordinated communications, are in-kind contributions, or may limit the PAC’s ability to independently expend funds in favor of the candidate.
The advisory opinion request can be found here.
November 4, 2011 •
Here are news items resulting from the oversight hearing where the Federal Election Commission gave testimony before the Subcommittee on Elections of the Committee on House Administration.
Politico published “FEC can’t explain secrecy” by Dave Levinthal.
The Hill posted “Lawmakers demand FEC documents, threaten subpoena” by Debbie Siegelbaum and Kevin Bogardus.
November 3, 2011 •
The FEC and the president take some heat over transparency.
The Boston Globe’s Political Intelligence just published this article, “Transparency groups lash out at FEC, Obama” by Donovan Slack.
Here are some of the questions the article raises: “… [C]an foreign companies with some US operations legally contribute to US elections? In the past, foreign citizens and companies have been barred from spending money in the American political system. Also unanswered: Should American organizations who spend money to influence elections have to disclose the source of the money?”
Bruce Watson offers an opinion piece called “Really Want to Influence Politicians? Stop Donating to Campaigns” on AOL’s Daily Finance page. Watson puts particular focus on the increase in fundraising by the members of the Super Committee. He references a recent study by the Project On Government Oversight. As we recall, Politico offered a bit of a different view with “Supercommittee panelists don’t cash in” by Abby Phillip.
November 2, 2011 •
Clear Authority Sought
The amendment, a response to last year’s Supreme Court decision, Citizens United v FEC, grants Congress and the states the power to “regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents” in their laws for their respective elections.
The bill allows the government to set limits on both the amount of direct political contributions to candidates and the amount of independent expenditures that may be made in support of or in opposition to those candidates.
According to his press release, Senator Udall states, “With the Supreme Court striking down the sensible regulations Congress has passed, the only way to address the root cause of this problem is to give Congress clear authority to regulate the campaign finance system.”
The full text of the proposed amendment reads as follows:
SECTION 1. Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on:
(1) The amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and
(2) The amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.
SECTION 2. A State shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents with respect to State elections, including through setting limits on:
(1) The amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, State office; and
(2) The amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.
SECTION 3. Congress shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
A different constitutional amendment addressing the Citizen’s United decision was introduced in September by Congressman John Conyers. Information about that amendment may be found in a prior LobbyComply post here.
October 20, 2011 •
Wagner v. FEC
Individuals with federal contracts should be allowed to make political contributions to federal candidates or political parties, a lawsuit filed yesterday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argues.
The suit, Wagner v. Federal Election Commission, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, challenges the constitutionality of section 441c of Title 2 of the U.S. Code, which prohibits any vendors with contracts with the federal government from making such contributions.
According to its press release, the ACLU is asking the Court, on behalf of the three named plaintiffs, to declare the law unconstitutional as applied to individuals who have personal services contracts with federal agencies. Because federal workers who are not contractors may make federal political contributions, while contractors performing the same work may not, the suit argues section 441c violates both the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and the First Amendment.
Photo of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia courtesy of the Court’s website.
October 13, 2011 •
October 12, 2011 •
Commissioners to Appear
The Committee on House Administration’s Subcommittee on Elections has designated the scheduled meeting “Federal Election Commission: Reviewing Policies, Processes and Procedures.”
Among its other election-related duties, the Subcommittee on Elections oversees the FEC.
October 11, 2011 •
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is soliciting comments for possible regulations concerning exceptions to its rules regarding disclaimers on internet communications, hoping to glean insights to keep pace with the rapidly evolving technological advances available to practitioners of campaign finance.
In its draft Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FEC invites comments addressing the ways that campaigns, political committees, and others use or may soon use the internet, mobile devices, and other technologies to disseminate and receive campaign and other electoral information. The Commission is also interested in possible modifications and technological alternatives to the current disclaimer requirements, and data or experiences “in purchasing, selling, or distributing small or character-limited advertisements online.”
The FEC anticipates any final rules would not become effective until after the 2011-2012 election cycle.
October 6, 2011 •
Consistent with Carey v. FEC
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) will no longer prohibit nonconnected political committees from accepting corporate and labor organization contributions, provided the political committee maintains and deposits those contributions into separate bank accounts.
The Commission will also not limit the amounts permissible sources can contribute to such accounts.
In an statement released by the FEC, it stated, consistent with its agreement to a stipulated order and consent judgment in Carey v. FEC, it would no longer enforce 2 U.S.C. §§ 441a(a)(1)(C) and 441a(a)(3), as well as any implementing regulations, against any nonconnected political committee with regard to contributions from individuals, political committees, corporations, and labor organizations under certain conditions.
A single committee may now contribute directly to candidates and political committees, and make independent expenditures, separating the funds only by using two separate bank accounts. The committee must maintain the statutory limits on the solicitation of funds used for direct contributions while it may simultaneously seek unlimited funds for use in their independent expenditures.
The FEC intends to develop new regulations and amend its reporting forms. Until that time, the Commission says committees should follow the procedures the FEC outlines in its current statement, which is located here.
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