April 24, 2013 •
Bi-Partisan Campaign Finance Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate
The Follow the Money Act of 2013
Leaders of corporations, unions, and other organizations responsible for independent political advertisements may have to be identified if a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday passes.
Senate Bill 791 was introduced jointly by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). The bi-partisan bill, called The Follow the Money Act of 2013, requires entities, regardless of tax status, to identity the funders of any political activity in which the entity engages.
An organization involved in political activity not regulated under the Federal Election Campaign Act will also be subject to a separate set of Internal Revenue Service penalties, including the possible loss of its federal tax exemption.
The Federal Election Commission will be required to replace quarterly reporting with a more frequent reporting schedule and will be required to disclose the information to the general public upon receipt.
Senator Wyden’s press release can be found here.
Video courtesy of Sen. Wyden’s YouTube channel.
April 8, 2013 •
Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Aggregate Contribution Limits
McCutcheon v FEC
The United States Supreme Court has decided to hear a case challenging the aggregate federal limits for a person making contributions to candidates, party committees, and PACs. The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), is expected to be argued and decided during the Court’s next term, which begins in October, 2013.
The plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, is an Alabama businessman who regularly makes political contributions to Republican candidates and the Republican National Committee (RNC). Mr. McCutcheon wishes to contribute $26,200 more to candidates and committees than the aggregate ceiling would allow. However, he is not challenging the limits on contributions to individual candidates and entities. Mr. McCutcheon wants to give to more candidates and political entities. The RNC is also a plaintiff in the suit.
Federal law imposes two types of limits on individual political contributions, base limits and biennial limits.
Base limits restrict the amount an individual may contribute to:
- A candidate committee;
- A national party committee;
- A state, local, and district party committee; and
- A political action committee.
Biennial limits restrict the aggregate amount an individual may contribute biennially, using the 2011-2012 election cycle limits argued against in the lawsuit, as follows:
- $46,200 to candidate committees; and
- $70,800 to all other committees, of which no more than $46,200 may go to non-national party committees (e.g., state parties and PACs).
The plaintiffs are only challenging the overall limits (the biannual limits) and not the base limits.
The attorneys for McCutcheon and the RNC argue the two-year ceilings federal law sets on what an individual can contribute during a campaign are unconstitutional. Specifically, they assert the limits on contributions violate a contributor’s right to free speech; the limits for biennial contributions are too low; and the distinction between contributions and expenditures articulated in the 1976 US Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo are no longer applicable because of the changes in campaign finance laws over the last 30 years. Buckley v. Valeo allowed for government regulation of contributions to prevent political corruption and prohibited government regulation of expenditures because of First Amendment protections.
Unlike Citizens United v FEC, which concerned political expenditures, McCutcheon v. FEC addresses contribution limits. Additionally, this case does not involve the political contributions or expenditures of corporations.
February 23, 2013 •
Lobby Comply Weekend Report
Your place to keep up with the latest government relations news! Have a great weekend.
“Watchdogs call for new campaign regulator to replace ‘woefully inept’ FEC” by Megan R. Wilson in The Hill.
“Campaign Finance Poll Finds Most Support Donation Limits” by Emily Swanson in the Huffington Post.
Arizona: “2 Arizona bills target campaign finances” by Mary Jo Pitzl in the Arizona Republic.
Montana: “Campaign finance reforms bills pass Montana House vote” by Marnee Banks in KBZK News.
New York: “Conference to tackle lobbying and campaign finance” by Ilene Fleischmann in the UB Reporter.
Alaska: “Alaska: Who’s lobbying Alaska’s lawmakers? And for how much?” by Laurel Andrews in the Alaska Dispatch.
Florida: “Lobbying a lucrative cap for a legislator’s career” by Aaron Deslatte in the Orlando Sentinel.
Georgia: “Lobbying Restrictions Vote Scheduled” by The Associated Press in Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Utah: “Ethics bill emerges in wake of probes of Utah Lt. Gov Bell, Swallow” by Robert Gehrke in the Salt Lake Tribune.
February 19, 2013 •
U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Campaign Finance Case
McCutcheon v. FEC
Today the United States Supreme Court decided to grant a review to a case challenging the aggregate limits on federal campaign contributions. The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, seeks to allow Shaun McCutcheon to make political contributions to several federal candidates exceeding the two-year aggregate limit currently set at $48,600 as provided in 2 U.S.C §441a(a)(3)(A).
Photo of Supreme Court building by UpstateNYer in Wikipedia.
January 30, 2013 •
FEC Updates Contribution Limits
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has published the 2013-2014 election cycle contribution limits indexed for inflation. As required by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, the FEC must adjust certain contribution limits every two years.
The individual and non-multicandidate PAC contribution limit to federal candidates has increased from $2,500 to $2,600 for both primary and general elections, allowing for a total of $5,200 for a federal candidate. The overall biennial limit for individuals has increased to $123,200, with a maximum of $48,600 for all candidates and $74,600 for all PACs and parties. Among the other adjustments is the increased contribution limit of $32,400 per year to national parties from individuals and non-multicandidate PACs.
January 14, 2013 •
Monday News Roundup
Let’s start off the week with these lobbying, campaign finance, and ethics news articles:
“Newly unemployed lawmakers buzzing about million-dollar lobbying jobs” by Kevin Bogardus in The Hill.
California: “Interactive graphic: Hidden lobbying expenses” by Sharon Okada in the Sacramento Bee.
California: “California’s lobby laws keep many influence-peddling details secret” by Laurel Rosenhall in the Sacramento Bee.
Nevada: “Lobbyists sit through ethics training in Carson City” by David McGrath in the Las Vegas Sun.
“Two Buerkle staffers land jobs with Washington, D.C., lobbying firms” by Mark Weiner in the Post-Standard.
“Money in Politics This Week” by Syed Zaidi in the Brennan Center for Justice Blog.
“FEC Appointments Are Deciding the Future of Campaign Finance” by Alex Gauthier in the Independent Voter Network.
Mississippi: “Judge sets trial date for campaign finance case” by The Associated Press in the Mississippi Business Journal.
Wisconsin: “Mike McCabe featured speaker, topic is Campaign Finance Jan. 26 public meeting” in the Bay View Compass.
“Harry Reid Disavows Report Linking Him to Bribery Case” by Neils Lesniewski in Roll Call.
Texas: “Some State Legislators Blur Line Between Public and Private Interests” by Emily Ramshaw in The New York Times.
“More than Half of State Legislatures Convened this Week” by Angela Andrews in NCSL’s The Thicket blog.
Washington: “Key players to watch in the Washington Legislature, which convenes Monday” in the Seattle Times.
The Presidential Inauguration
“Critics Decry Looser Rules For Inauguration Fundraising” by NPR in Oregon Public Broadcasting.
“Fund-Raising Is Lagging, So Far, for Inaugural Plans” by Nicholas Confessore in The New York Times.
“An inauguration first: Apps” by Steve Freiss in Politico.
December 10, 2012 •
FEC Issues Advisory Opinion Concerning Excess Funds to SuperPAC
AO 2012-34 – Freedom PAC and Friends of Mike H
The Federal Election Commission issued an Advisory Opinion on December 6, 2012, concluding a federal candidate’s campaign committee may make a contribution to an independent expenditure-only committee from funds raised for the federal candidate’s terminated political campaign.
Friends of Mike H, the principal campaign committee of former candidate Mike Haridopolos, requested an opinion to determine whether it could give $10,000 or more of its excess funds raised for Mr. Haridopolos’s 2012 U.S. Senate primary election campaign in Florida, from which he withdrew, to an independent expenditure-only committee called Freedom PAC. Currently, Mr. Haridopolos does not hold federal office and is not seeking any elected federal office.
Because Friends of Mike H. is not using its funds for personal use or for any unlawful use, the Commission found Mr. Haridopolos’s political committee may make its requested contributions to Freedom PAC. The Commission also noted that “amount limitations are generally unconstitutional as applied to contributions that will be used to finance independent activity.”
November 5, 2012 •
Congress May Constitutionally Bar Federal Contractors from Contributing to Candidates
District Court Decision
A Federal District Court has held Congress may constitutionally bar federal contractors from contributing to candidates, parties, and their committees.
Finding in favor of the Federal Election Committee (FEC), the United States District Court for The District of Columbia granted a summary judgment on Friday, November 2.
In Wagner v. FEC, the Court rejected challenges to 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 political contributions to federal candidates or political parties.
The case, initially brought by the ACLU, asked the Court 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 argued section 441c violates both the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and the First Amendment.
The Court found no First Amendment or Equal-Protection violations, noting “the dissimilar roles of contractors and employees, moreover, justify the distinct regulatory schemes that the Government has fashioned.”
September 25, 2012 •
Contributions by Texting: The FEC Explains
Six Common Questions
Today the FEC posted an article answering some questions about political contributions made and received by text messaging.
The article can be found here.
September 18, 2012 •
Back to the FEC
A federal appellate court has reversed a district court’s electioneering reporting decision, sending the issue back to the FEC.
The significance of today’s decision, pending further possible rule changes or court decisions, is that political contributors giving to an organization making an electioneering communication will not have to be disclosed to the FEC unless the donor specifically earmarks his or her contributions to fund electioneering communications.
This was the rule from 2007 until this spring when a district court ruled that all contributors giving over $1,000, regardless of whether they gave for the specific purpose of electioneering communications, had to be disclosed to the FEC.
In the initial lawsuit, Van Hollen v. FEC, the plaintiff, U.S. Representative Van Hollen, claimed the FEC regulation 11 C.F.R. §104.20(c)(9), which requires disclosure only of those making contributions over $1,000 to an entity for the purpose of furthering electioneering communications, contradicts the statute requiring disclosure of all donors making contributions over $1,000.
In the spring, a U.S. district court agreed and declared 11 C.F.R. §104.20(c)(9) invalid and vacated the regulation. The court reinstated the FEC’s prior regulation, which was promulgated on December 17, 2002 and was in effect until December 25, 2007. The FEC had formally reiterated the district court’s requirement on July 27, 2012, retroactively applying the disclosure of donors to March 30, 2012.
Today, in Center for Individual Freedom v. Van Hollen, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed Van Hollen v. FEC, vacated the district court’s prior judgment, and remanded the case to the district court. Presently, under the jurisdiction of the district court, the FEC must pursue rulemaking to address the issues brought by the lawsuit or defend 11 C.F.R. §104.20(c)(9) in court against the parties bringing the action.
This is a signature issue for Representative Van Hollen who will probably continue to vigorously litigate this issue.
The FEC has not publicly declared its next course of action.
August 27, 2012 •
FEC Advisory Opinion Addresses “Expressly Advocating”
Not All Issues Resolved
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued an advisory opinion offering limited guidance on what type of solicitations for political contributions are permissible and what type of advertisements qualify as expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate.
In Advisory Opinion 2012-27, the FEC found two of four proposed donation requests permissible. The Commission also concluded three of seven proposed advertisements did not expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified federal candidate.
The remaining advertising and donation requests were not decided by the FEC because it lacked the required four affirmative votes for agreement.
August 3, 2012 •
News You Can Use Digest – August 3, 2012
Here are highlights from the latest edition of News You Can Use:
Conservatives Work to Cull Moderate Republicans
Poll: Public doesn’t like lobbyists, OK with lobbying
Conservative Group Challenges Red Line Dividing Candidates, Super-PACs
FEC Says It Will Enforce Nonprofit Disclosure Rules
Households Divided by Campaign Donations
From the States and Municipalities:
Two Former Lynwood Officials Guilty of Illegally Boosting Salaries
Georgia Voters Back Limits on Lobbyist Spending
Contributions Dodged Rules, Records Show
Kentucky Lawyer’s Threatened Sanction Rejected on Free-Speech Grounds
Trenton Residents Lobby for Creation of City Ethics Board
Lobbyists to Disclose Donors Since July 1
New Lobbyist Rankings Reflect GOP Takeover of NC Legislature
Jimmy Dimora Sentenced to 28 Years in Prison, ‘A Life Sentence,’ Lawyers Say
Utah Supreme Court Ruling Ends Ethics Initiative Bid
W.Va. Election Commission Votes to Defend Public Financing Plan
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.
July 30, 2012 •
More Disclosure Required by FEC
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced persons reporting electioneering communications must report the name and address of each donor giving $1,000 or more, aggregated since the first day of the preceding calendar year.
The application of this rule applies retroactively to March 30, 2012, coinciding with a court decision in Van Hollen v. FEC that ruled the current regulation, 11 C.F.R. 104.20(c)(9), is invalid.
Previously, donors were only required to be disclosed if their donations were “made for the purpose of furthering electioneering communications.” The FEC will now consider all donors as contributors “regardless of their subjective purpose in contributing.”
As the Commission has not adopted any new regulations or explanation of its rules, and Van Hollen v FEC is still pending, the FEC outlined this requirement in a public statement issued Friday.
July 27, 2012 •
News on Disclosure Rules from the FEC
Nonprofit groups that put out issue ads will have to disclose who is paying for them
“FEC says it will enforce nonprofit disclosure rules” by Dan Eggen in The Washington Post.
“FEC Releases Disclosure Rules” by Elahe Izadi in the National Journal’s Influence Alley.
“Outside groups may have to disclose donors” by Robin Bravender and Dave Levinthal in Politico.
Here is the Federal Election Commission’s news release.
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