July 15, 2010 •
News concerning the campaign finance overhall.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) announced he would oppose the DISCLOSE Act, depriving Democrats of an important swing vote on the legislation. For more insight on the future of the campaign finance bill, here are three articles:
Brown’s opposition dims chances for campaign finance overhaul, by Matt Viser in the Boston Globe.
July 14, 2010 •
The Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) discusses its Pay-to-Play priority recommendation to the state legislature in its July, 2010 newsletter which is now available on-line.
ELEC recommends four Pay-to-Play reform steps it would like to see passed into law. First, ELEC recommends any reform of Pay-to-Play regulations should address the patchwork quilt of local Pay-to-Play laws which have developed over time. Current state law allows municipalities and counties to adopt their own ordinances provided they are consistent with the theme of “Pay-to-Play”. The lack of a standardized Pay-to-Play theme across jurisdictions has led to a myriad collection of laws which vary from place to place throughout the state.
Second, ELEC would like to see the confusing “Fair and Open” loophole as it is known, closed at the local level. “Fair and Open” allows local governments to forego the Pay-to-Play rules where bids are publicly advertised. In such a case, the $300 campaign contribution limit imposed by state law does not apply if a local jurisdiction has its own procedures for bidding and awarding contracts.
Third, ELEC asks for every public contract over $17,500 to be subject to disclosure requirements which are now reserved for vendors whose contracts exceed $50,000 statewide. Finally, ELEC would like to see the campaign contribution limit raised above $300. Citing the high cost of media advertising in New Jersey, ELEC states that the present limits provided by law are comparatively low.
The commission explains it is mindful of public concerns regarding the presence of money in politics. That said, ELEC feels its recommendations regarding contribution limits would be offset by corresponding enhancements to disclosure requirements. The ELEC newsletter may be found at: www.elec.state.nj.us .
July 13, 2010 •
Legislature May Change the Election Code in Special Session This Month
Attorney General Darrell McGraw issued a statement suggesting a special primary election be held in November to begin the process of filling U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd’s seat despite the fact current law does not allow for it. Byrd, who served in the Senate for more than 50 years, passed away on June 28, 2010. The initial ruling from Secretary of State Natalie Tennant says the election may not be held until November, 2012 because the filing deadline to be a candidate has passed. McGraw says Tennant’s ruling does not give enough weight to the Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution, which provides for popular election of Senators and only temporary appointments. Under McGraw’s plan, the legislature would actually change the state election code to allow for an election this year under these circumstances. Governor Joe Manchin has indicated he will speak with legislative leadership about changing the election code at the special session scheduled to convene on July 19, 2010.
July 13, 2010 •
The City of Akron Charter Review Commission has issued its final report to city council.
Among the recommendations submitted to the council is a proposal to remove campaign finance reform from the City Charter. The commission found, with one exception, campaign finance reform was not contained in the city charter of any other major Ohio city. Citing the need for periodic amendments to campaign finance legislation and the need to adjust campaign contribution limits from time to time to account for inflation, the commission recommended the city adopt future campaign finance regulations by means of ordinances rather than charter amendments. Given the potential complexity of the issues involved, commissioners concluded campaign finance regulations require a level of detail inappropriate for a charter. The Commission’s recommendations also include a mandatory review of campaign finance legislation every two years going forward. The review would include a public hearing to obtain public comment on any proposed changes to campaign finance ordinances. The proposal must now be passed by council and then submitted to Akron voters for final adoption.
July 8, 2010 •
State and Federal Communications’ Experts Answer Your Questions.
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc. You can directly submit questions for this feature, and we will select those most appropriate and answer them here. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Of course, we have always been available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or e-mail us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need.) Our replies to your questions are not legal advice. Instead, these replies represent our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.
Q. My employer makes corporate contributions in California. We have not yet exceeded $10,000 in calendar year 2010. The primary election and special elections are taking place, along with the general election in the fall. If we decide to make contributions, when do we have a late contribution report due?
A. The California “Late Contribution Report” [Form 497], sometimes referred to as the “24-hour report” is due during the 16-day period preceding any election if all of the following criteria are met:
- The contribution is $1,000 or more. This includes non-monetary and in-kind contributions.
- The corporation making the contribution must have already qualified as a major donor, or the contribution made during the 16-day period before the election puts them over the $10,000 threshold and they become a major donor.
- The recipient candidate or ballot committee must appear on the ballot at the election for which the 16-day period applies.
- Contributions to political parties made during the 16-day period are also included.
The filing requirements for Form 497 are:
- The report is due within 24 hours of making the contribution.
- No signature is required.
- The report must be filed electronically with the California Secretary of State, Political Reform Division, and then followed up by paper filing via facsimile to the following:
- California Secretary of State, Political Reform Division
- Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder
- San Francisco City and County Registrar
If the contribution is non-monetary or in-kind, the contributor must notify the recipient of the value of the contribution within 24 hours of making the contribution. The notice of value does not need to be filed with the state or any of the other filing offices listed above.
There is no standardized form. The notice should be sent to the recipient by personal delivery, fax, or guaranteed overnight delivery.
As a reminder, the late contribution must still be reported on the next major donor report that is due. In 2010, major donor reports are due July 31, 2010, for the period covering January 1 to June 30; and January 31, 2011, for the period covering July 1 to December 31.
July 7, 2010 •
Greg McNeilly is filing suit in federal court.
A former top Michigan Republican Party official has filed suit in federal court to strike down limits on campaign contributions to state candidates. Greg McNeilly, who served as executive director of the state GOP, says caps on donations to legislative candidates have not been adjusted for inflation since their enactment in 1976, and impose an unconstitutional restraint on his right to back candidates of his choice. McNeilly’s attorney claims Michigan’s contribution limits of $500 for state House candidates and $1,000 for state Senate candidates have lost nearly 75% of their value since 1976, and the result has been to limit the ability of outsiders to mount a credible challenge to incumbent politicians.
July 7, 2010 •
A bill amending the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 has passed the House of Representatives.
H.R. 5609, which passed on a vote of 408-4, prohibits any registered lobbyist whose clients include foreign governments which are found to be sponsors of international terrorism or include other foreign nationals from making contributions and other campaign-related disbursements in elections for public office. The bill moves to the Senate.
July 6, 2010 •
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed House Bill 292.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed House Bill 292, a measure which will switch the state’s congressional elections to an open primary system, effective for the 2012 congressional elections.
Instead of the currently utilized three-tiered election cycle, wherein there is a party primary, followed by a party runoff, and culminating with the general election, HB 292 now advances the candidates with the top two vote totals from the primary to the November general election, regardless of party affiliation.
Jindal was under pressure from both political parties to not sign the bill into law, but he noted that the measure will potentially save the state more than $13 million during each congressional election cycle.
July 2, 2010 •
On July 1, 2010, three retired judges and two former lawmakers were named to the state legislature’s new independent ethics commission.
The new five-member commission, which will handle ethics complaints against lawmakers, was created in response to a grassroots citizens’ initiative for legislative ethics. The panel includes a retired member of the Utah Supreme Court as well as a former lieutenant governor. The commission’s first organizational meeting has yet to be scheduled but it will be open to the public. Utah voters will have the opportunity to decide whether or not to make the new panel a permanent part of the state constitution.
July 2, 2010 •
State and Federal Communications, Inc. represented at organization’s annual meeting.
Amber Fish Linke, Esq., manager of compliance at State and Federal Communications, Inc., will speak on lobbying regulations to non-profit executives from across the country in Pittsburgh on July 15.
Her talk, Do you comply? A Guide to Federal and State Lobbying Regulations, will provide the executives an overview of lobbying laws on the federal and state levels, including grassroots lobbying. The presentation is tailored for lobbying done by non-profit organizations.
“In today’s heavily regulated environment, it is important to know and understand lobbying rules and regulations in all jurisdictions before undertaking lobbying efforts, not afterward,” Fish Linke said.
Her talk is sponsored by the host organization, the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives.
July 1, 2010 •
The Georgia SEC will be hosting a training July 7.
The Georgia State Ethics Commission will be offering training for committees other than candidate committees on Wednesday, July 7, 2010. The training session is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. and be completed by 11:00 a.m. Training will take place in Suite 1514C-West Tower of the Commission’s offices located at 200 Piedmont Avenue in Atlanta. Those wishing to attend the training may RSVP online or contact Maria Cartwright for further details.
July 1, 2010 •
There will be no special election this year in West Virginia to fill the seat of the late Sen. Byrd.
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant has announced a special election will not be held this year to fill the seat of Senator Robert Byrd, who passed away on June 28, 2010. Under West Virginia law, Governor Joe Manchin will appoint someone to serve until a replacement is elected at the next possible election. Senator Byrd’s replacement cannot be elected in the November, 2010 election, however, because the filing period for candidates has long passed. This means there will be two elections for the same Senate seat in November 2012. One will be a special election for the remaining five weeks of Byrd’s term, and the other will be for a full six-year term since Byrd was due to stand for re-election in 2012 regardless.
June 30, 2010 •
News from the Supreme Court ruling.
The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed without comment a lower court ruling upholding a ban on soft-money contributions to political parties.
From The Hill – “Supreme Court affirms ban on soft money,” by Russell Berman 6-29-2010
June 30, 2010 •
State and Federal Communications, Inc. packs the macaroni at the 2010 United Way Day of Action.
When you think of macaroni, what comes to mind? Macaroni and cheese, comfort food, good times in the kitchen, childhood memories …
After serving at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, a team of State and Federal Communications employees will never look at macaroni – or hunger – in quite the same way.
Our team was privileged to serve at the Foodbank as a part of the United Way Day of Action on June 18, 2010. Day of Action serves as a catalyst to advance the common good by joining thousands of corporate volunteers with area non-profit organizations to improve opportunities for education, income, and health in their communities.
Our assignment was to assist the Foodbank by repacking bulk food items into smaller quantities for distribution to clients. We understood the concept, but after a quick tour of the Foodbank’s amazing facility, we were surprised to see 3 huge tubs (imagine the size of a small above ground pool) each filled with 800 pounds of macaroni. Forget the club store’s definition of bulk – when the Foodbank says bulk – they mean BULK.
Throughout the day, fourteen of us worked to repack almost 6,000 pounds of macaroni into smaller containers for distribution to non-profit organizations, and from them, to the people in our community needing food. By the end of the day, we worked through over 7 tubs, packed over 2,400 individual containers of pasta, and had a blast working with each other to serve our community.
All around it was a win-win situation. The Foodbank benefited from our service to move the macaroni along, and with the help of many other volunteers, set a new record for the amount of food repacked in a week – 76,825 pounds! Our company benefited from the team building fostered by volunteering together and the understanding gained about what can be – and what is being – done to feed people and fight hunger in our community.
As we finished our work, I thought of all those little pieces of macaroni, each one individually so small, and almost, insignificant. However, there is nothing insignificant or small about thousands of pounds of macaroni able to nourish individuals and families in need. And how do you get thousands of pieces of pasta – one by one. When you think your contribution is too small to make a difference, think again. If you contribute, and I contribute, and we all contribute, our impact grows exponentially and our communities, our nation, and our world are nourished.
Now, where’s that blue box? I think I need some mac and cheese, please.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com