March 16, 2012 •

New York Campaign Finance Board Adopts Independent Expenditure Disclosure Rules

The final rules can be found online.

Flag of New York CityThe New York City Campaign Finance Board has voted to adopt its final rules for the disclosure of independent expenditures.

The rules require the reporting of independent expenditures by individuals, organizations, corporations, and other entities in New York City elections.

The adopted rules are available here.

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March 14, 2012 •

Judge Throws Out Illinois Limits on Contributions to Independent Expenditure Committees

Limits Ran Afoul of Citizens United Decision

IllinoisU.S. District Court Judge Marvin Aspen has removed limits on political contributions to groups that make independent expenditures on behalf of or against a candidate.

The decision in Personal Pac v. McGuffage specifically overturns the annual limits of $10,000 per individual, $20,000 per corporation or union, and $50,000 from a political action committee to an independent expenditure committee.

Noting the U.S. Supreme Court struck down such limits in the Citizens United case, Judge Aspen concluded that preventing actual and apparent corruption cannot justify restrictions on independent expenditures.

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March 5, 2012 •

Tennessee Legislators Introduce Bills to Remove Limitations on PAC Contributions

Bills Relax Reporting Requirements and Allow Contributions by Insurance Companies

Tennessee State Capitol
Tennessee State Capitol

Legislators have introduced bills to remove limitations on the amount of money they can accept from PACs.  Senate Bill 3645 and companion House Bill 3281, remove the aggregate limitations on PAC donations to candidates.  The bills also remove the reporting requirements for large contributions made within 10 days of an election and remove an existing prohibition on insurance companies making campaign contributions.

Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, who introduced the senate bill, has stated the bill is a logical follow through to Senate Bill 1915 enacted last year that authorized direct corporate contributions to state candidates and treats corporations as if they were PACs for reporting purposes.

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February 28, 2012 •

Supreme Court Upholds Maine Campaign Finance Law

Laws Found Constitutional

Seal of MaineThe U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to Maine election laws brought by the National Organization for Marriage claiming Maine’s reporting requirements for political action committees are vague and over-broad.

The Supreme Court let stand the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold the constitutionality of the laws requiring the disclosure of contributions and expenditures in elections by PACs and by independent groups.

Maine defended its laws by arguing the laws were designed to inform voters about who is spending money to influence their votes.

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February 24, 2012 •

New York Bill Would Forbid Lobbying by Convicted Lobbyists

JCOPE Would Have Authority to Remove or Extend Suspension after Mandatory Period

Seal of New YorkNew York Senator Gustavo Rivera has introduced Senate Bill 6533 that would forbid lobbyists convicted of class D felonies or more serious offenses from lobbying in the state for three years.

The barred person may seek to re-register as a lobbyist with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics after three years.

The commission may determine if the suspension should be lifted or extended for a maximum of an additional two years.

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February 16, 2012 •

New York City Campaign Finance Board Releases Revision to Proposed Rules on Independent Expenditures

Board Accepting Comments Until March 2nd

ManhattanThe New York City Campaign Finance Board has released revised proposed rules regarding the disclosure of independent expenditures in city elections.

The revised proposed rules are available here.

The revisions include a new definition of electioneering communication, different reporting requirements, and changes to covered expenditures.

The board will accept public written comment on the rules until March 2, 2012. The final rules will be adopted at a subsequent meeting of the board.

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February 15, 2012 •

Wisconsin Bill Targets Special Interest Organizations that Craft Bills for Legislators

Bill Requires Increased Disclosure for American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Activities

Wisconsin CapitolDemocratic legislators have submitted a bill for introduction that restricts the activity of special interest organizations that write bills for legislators.

The bill titled the ALEC Accountability Act applies existing lobbying laws to any organization or person who advocates for the introduction of model legislation. The bill also requires the reporting of any “scholarships” organizations pay to legislators and prohibits state taxpayer funds from being used to pay for attendance at the organization’s conventions.

The bill is currently awaiting a bill number and committee referral.

Photo of the Wisconsin State Capitol building by Darin ten Bruggencate onWikipedia.

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February 10, 2012 •

Wayne County Executive Releases New Executive Ethics Policy

Policy Addresses Lobbying, Gifts, and Conflicts of Interest

Wayne County, MIWAYNE COUNTY, MICHIGAN:  County Executive Robert Ficano has issued a new executive ethics policy that contains lobbyist registration provisions, gift restrictions, and conflict of interest disclosure requirements for executive appointees.

The policy requires a lobbyist who lobbies any executive appointee to register with the State of Michigan and bars lobbyists not verified as registered from meeting with executive appointees.

Additionally, the policy prohibits lobbyists from providing executive appointees with food or beverage valued at more than $100 annually and prohibits all other monetary or non-monetary gifts or gratuities.

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February 2, 2012 •

New York J.C.O.P.E. Appoints Executive Director

Inspector General Ellen Biben Named Head of Ethics Agency

Flag of New YorkThe Joint Commission on Public Ethics has selected Ellen Biben to serve as its executive director.

Biben is a former federal prosecutor, who served as a deputy in the attorney general’s office, and now serves as inspector general.

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January 31, 2012 •

Tennessee Bill Broadens Lobbyist Entertainment Exception

Bill Introduced to General Assembly

Tennessee House chamberRepresentative Philip Johnson has introduced House Bill 3025, which would allow employers of lobbyists to host receptions for standing committees in either chamber of the general assembly.

Tennessee law prohibits lobbyist employers from holding receptions, unless all state legislators are invited.

The current prohibition was part of ethics reforms enacted after the Tennessee waltz scandal.

Photo of the Tennessee House Chamber by Ichabod on Wikipedia.

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January 23, 2012 •

Philadelphia Adjusts Contribution Limits

Increases Made to Reflect Changes in C.P.I.

PhiladelphiaThe board of ethics has released new campaign contribution limits adjusted for changes in the cost of living.

The new limits for individual contributions have been raised from $2,600 to $2,900 and for political committees or businesses from $10,600 to $11,500.

When the campaign finance law was passed in 2008, a provision was included to increase the maximum contribution every four years based upon the board’s review of the consumer price index.

Photo of Philadelphia by Parent5446 on Wikipedia.

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January 17, 2012 •

Proposed Ballot Initiative Seeks to Reduce Role of Corporate Money in D.C. Politics

Initiative Could Appear on November Ballot

Seal of the District of ColumbiaA former D.C. council candidate and a ward commissioner are submitting a ballot measure which would ban corporate contributions to electoral campaigns if approved by voters this November.

The summary of the initiative states that it will restore the public trust by eliminating the outsized influence corporate money has in D.C. government and elections by prohibiting direct contributions from corporations to elected officials and candidates for public office. The measure would align D.C. with federal law, which bans direct corporate contributions to public officials and candidates.

Proponents of the measure need to collect over 22,000 signatures from registered voters within six months for it to appear on the November ballot.

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January 9, 2012 •

North Carolina Lobbyist Fine Overturned

Portions of Lobbying Law Found Ambiguous As Applied

North CarolinaNORTH CAROLINA: Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway has cleared former lobbyist Don Beason of misconduct, finding parts of North Carolina’s lobbying reform law are ambiguous as applied and the secretary of state overreached in fining Beason.

The court held that Beason does not have to pay the $30,000 fine imposed on him. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall fined Beason a record-setting $111,000 in 2010, an amount that was later reduced, for failing to make required disclosures about companies he was representing.

Judge Ridgeway stated North Carolina law defines a lobbyist as someone who communicates directly with legislators or their employees, but there was no evidence Beason directly contacted anyone on behalf of the companies he represented. Additionally, because the law gave the state ethics commission the authority to interpret the act and the secretary of state the power to administer it, Marshall overstepped her authority in interpreting the act and fining Beason.

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January 3, 2012 •

Philadelphia Lobbyist Registration Begins

Board of Ethics Creates Interim Paper Filing System

Seal of PhiladelphiaThe City of Philadelphia Board of Ethics has provided interim paper registration forms and instructions for lobbyists, lobbying firms, and principals to be used until an online registration and reporting system is completed.  The registration forms allow filers to fill-in information before printing.

The board reminds filers that registration is not complete until a form is printed, signed, and mailed or delivered to the board of ethics with the registration fee.

Registration must occur within ten days after both the commencement of lobbying and the exceeding of thresholds.  However, no event occurring prior to January 3, 2012 is relevant to determining the thresholds, registration date, or expense reporting.

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