March 9, 2012 •
The much anticipated government ethics clearing house is here as the White House promised.
The Obama administration has unveiled Ethics.gov, the site that provides sets of data for those interested in White House visitors, data from Lobbying Disclosure Act reports, campaign finance data, travel records of elected officials, and much more.
As part of the larger Data.gov, the new site has a great deal of muscle: “Ethics.Data.gov brings records and data from across the federal government to one central location, making it easier for citizens to hold public officials accountable.”
According to the Ethics.gov site, this is what you’ll find:
“On www.Ethics.gov, the public will be able to find millions of White House Visitor records. You will be able to see agency reports of payments from non-Federal sources for travel to meetings and conferences.
You’ll find records for entities registered with the Federal Election Commission. This includes federal political action committees and party committees, campaign committees for presidential, House and Senate candidates, as well as groups or organizations who are spending money in connection with elections for federal office.
You’ll also find records for each candidate who has either registered with the Federal Election Commission or appeared on a ballot list prepared by a state elections office. This includes contributor information for each contribution of $200 or more from an individual to a federal committee.
Finally, you’ll be able to find lobbying registrations and reports filed under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.”
For a good summary, read “White House Launches Ethics.gov” by Samuel Rubenfeld in The Wall Street Journal.
March 8, 2012 •
Today we have stories about the FEC, the latest news on the investigation surrounding the D.C. mayor’s 2010 campaign, Super PACs, Super Tuesday, and more:
“FEC told to tread carefully with post-Citizens United rule” by Rachel Leven in The Hill.
“FEC moves on outdated rules” by Robin Bravender in Politico.
“DC mayor defends himself amid probe into campaign finance irregularities” by The Associated Press in The Washington Post.
“Super PACs Outspent Candidates in Run-Up to Tuesday” by Brody Mullins and Alicia Mundy in The Wall Street Journal.
“Super PACs Could Drive Total 2012 Election Spending to $9.8B” by Cotton Delo in Ad Age.
“Son of legendary lobbyist starts own firm” by Kevin Bogardus in The Hill.
“Between the Lines: The Last Two Redistricting Holdouts” by Shira Toeplitz, Abby Livingston, and Joshua Miller in Roll Call.
February 22, 2012 •
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) released its annual adjustment of the threshold limit for lobbyist bundling disclosure.
The federal lobbyist bundling disclosure threshold has been increased from $16,200 for 2011 to $16,700 for 2012.
The FEC is required to adjust the threshold amount annually to account for inflation, rounding to the nearest multiple of $100.
February 10, 2012 •
Also Affects Lobbyist Reporting
Like the similarly entitled bill introduced and defeated in 2010, House Resolution 4010, the Disclosure of Information on Spending on Campaigns Leads to Open and Secure Elections Act of 2012, aims to increase the reporting requirements of political expenditures and contributions by corporations and other outside groups.
Corporations, unions, and other groups, will be required to report certain campaign-related activity to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), to disclose their campaign-related expenditures to their shareholders and members, and to make their political spending available to the public, through a hyper-link to the FEC, on their websites.
In his press release, Congressman Van Hollen states, “I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this legislation – if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear from the DISCLOSE 2012 Act.”
Additionally, the bill also requires lobbyists to disclose their political expenditures in their lobbying disclosure reports in conjunction with the report of their lobbying activities.
January 27, 2012 •
“Campaign finance information is now available via easy to use maps of the USA for both Presidential and House and Senate elections through the most recent reporting period.”
Our Highlighted Site of the Week is the Federal Election Commission’s 2012 Campaign Finance Maps page. You can play with interactive maps of the states for information about the 2012 Presidential Candidates, or the House and Senate elections.
With just a mouse-over you can view the amount of contributions by state, and with just a bit more work you can search the amount received by each candidate, and the amount given by a donor’s name.
For the presidential races, you can drill down in each state for data down to the zip code level. For the candidates in the congressional elections, you can view the campaign finance information by the congressional district of each state.
January 12, 2012 •
They hope to push Obama to make new appointments to the broken FEC.
The Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the League of Women Voters for the U.S., and other groups are petitioning the White House in order to get President Obama to make new appointments to the Federal Election Commission, which they deem ineffective because of political division. The terms for five of the six commissioners have expired.
The groups plan to do this via the administration’s “We the People” online petitioning tool, for which they will need 25, 000 signatures for their petition will be officially considered.
Here is the coverage this afternoon of the breaking news issue:
“Watchdogs push Obama to make FEC appointments before election” by Alicia Cohn in The Hill.
“Advocates Again Press Obama to Name FEC Appointees” by Eliza Newlin Carney.
“Watchdogs to Obama: Fix the FEC” by Susan Crabtree in the Washington Times.
December 30, 2011 •
Politico reports today how – thanks to loopholes – Super PACs are able to keep their donors secret throughout the first four GOP contests: the Iowa caucuses and primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida.
You can find Politico’s coverage in “Super PACs go stealth through first contests” by Dave Levinthal and Kenneth P. Vogel.
According to the article, some in the Federal Election Commission are calling for a change of the rules to allow for greater disclosure:
The disclosure rules may need to be updated to reflect the rise of super PACs as driving forces in presidential politics, two Democratic FEC commissioners suggested in interviews with POLITICO. “Super PACs are functioning as the alter egos of the campaigns, and their activity was clearly not anticipated when the statutes were put in place,” said Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic FEC appointee. The commission, she said, “should reconsider the regulations about caucuses and disclosure or at least take a hard look at them.”
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.
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