July 20, 2010 •
The five members of the state’s new independent legislative ethics commission met for the first time on Monday, July 19, 2010.
The commission is open for business even though, at this time, the commission has no staff, no Web site, no e-mail address, and only received a temporary mailing address in the Lt. Governor’s office on Monday evening. For the time being, complaints may be sent to Lt. Governor Bell’s office in confidence to P.O. Box 142525, Salt Lake City, UT 84114. Complaints may also be delivered in person to Bell’s office in Suite 220 at the State Capitol.
The Utah Legislature created the commission this year as part of an effort to reform legislative ethics. Utah voters will be able to vote in November on whether or not to make the new commission a permanent part of the state constitution.
Photo by Scott Catron on Wikipedia.
July 19, 2010 •
We always wanted to race, and now we got our chance!
The five-member pit crew arrived at Derby Downs early in the morning and spent a majority of the day assembling and decorating a classic soapbox derby car. The team, lead by driver Sarah Gray took fourth place.
Here is a video of Sarah in her first trial run:
The event is an opportunity for local companies to participate in the lead-up to the All-American Soap Box Derby, which will be held the weekend of July 24, 2010 and a chance to help Summit County United Way. Other major Summit County businesses participated in the event this year including PNC Bank, Bridgestone, and Summa Healthcare. Bridgestone was the champion of the Corporate Derby this year.
Teams decorated their derby cars with paint, decals and the classic derby tin-can headlights. The double-elimination tournament was an excellent way for participating companies to give back the community, spend time with one another in a less formal setting, and take part in one of the few remaining true slices of Americana.
Sarah Gray shared her thoughts:
Have you ever thought something was a good idea until you were about to do it? Racing a soapbox derby car down a 25-foot hill for the United Way Corporate Derby was one of those ideas for me—it sounded fun until I stood at the top and looked all the way down to the finish line.
When I first arrived at Derby Downs, I was excited about the race… until I saw the monster they call a “hill”. I knew I had to focus on the more urgent matter at hand—turning the pile of wood and wheels provided to us into a well-oiled, State-and-Federalized machine of terror! Together with my four colleagues, we did just that, except the only person feeling the “terror” was me!
I was selected to be the first crash test dummy, that is, take the first test drive down the hill. I asked everyone I saw, whether I knew them or not, if they worked for the Derby or not, and if I should be scared. Suffice it to say, I was the entertainment that morning. I’ve been told even the timekeeper watching the finish line was amused at how frightened I was. As I coasted down the hill, I had two options—steer or push on the brake. There was no “off” button, no reverse.
The cheers from the crowd as I sped down the hill eased my fears. Nearly the entire staff from State and Federal was there to root me on, some bearing signs, still more with cameras at the ready. I glided over the finish line and caught my breath—I made it!
The fear I originally held was gone. I couldn’t wait to get back to the top of the hill and zoom down again. Each time there were more people giving me advice, keep your head down, keep your rear-end back, don’t look up, don’t swerve, and just relax. After six exhilarating rides, I finished fourth place, not bad for an amateur. Not many people can say they have raced a soapbox car down Derby Downs and I would have regretted not following through with race. The memories I gained were well worth it and will last a lifetime.
Here is a picture of Team State and Federal!
July 19, 2010 •
The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) will convene a two-day meeting beginning July 21, 2010 at 9:30 A.M.
The two-day session will continue on July 22, 2010 beginning at 8:30 A.M. There will be open and closed door sessions on both days. The G.A.B. is expected to discuss a request to extend G.A.B. Emergency Rule 1.91 relating to organizations making independent disbursements.
Among the other proposed campaign finance issues on the agenda are guidelines concerning charitable contributions, campaign fundraising, campaign contributions by lobbyists and principals, candidates and the lobby law, and campaign finance registration and reporting. Day One of the two-day meeting will be held in the Joint Committee on Finance Hearing Room located at 412 East in the State Capitol. Day Two will convene in the G.A.B. board room located at 212 East Washington Avenue, third floor in Madison.
Here are some great resources from the GAB Web site!
Photograph taken by Dori
July 16, 2010 •
Mason submits campaign finance and lobbying recommendations for new Cuyahoga County Government.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason and the Campaign Finance Reform Committee, which convened in March 2010 to study campaign finance reform issues in Cuyahoga County, have announced four recommendations that will be forwarded to the new Cuyahoga County government due to take office on January 1, 2011. The recommendations include the establishment of an electronic filing system for campaign finance reports, the establishment of a lobbyist registry for Cuyahoga County, and the establishment of campaign contribution limits for county-wide offices. Finally, the committee recommends the new county government adopt a Clean Elections Act which would implement a voluntary, publicly funded campaign financing option for candidates for Cuyahoga County offices. Mason hopes the new county government will take up the recommendations quickly once it takes office next year.
Here are some resources for further reading:
New campaign finance rules proposed for Cuyahoga County, by Kevin Niedermier at WKSU
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason announces campaign finance reforms, by Laura Johnston at the Cleveland Plain Dealer
July 16, 2010 •
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued two separate decisions in regards to the case of Green Party of Connecticut v. Garfield on July 13, 2010, one decision affecting the Connecticut Campaign Finance Reform Act (CFRA) and another affecting the state’s Citizens Election Program (CEP).
In the first decision, the court affirmed the U.S. District Court’s decision upholding the CFRA’s ban on contributions by state contractors, prospective state contractors, and the principals of contractors and prospective state contractors, as well as the spouse and dependent children of these individuals. However, in a reversal of the lower court’s decision, the Second Circuit struck down the ban on contributions from lobbyists and their families.
In the second decision, the court overturned a prior U.S. District Court decision which had declared the Citizens Election Program’s public financing for qualifying candidates as unconstitutional on the basis it discriminated against minor parties and their candidates. The court, however, agreed with the earlier decision in finding the CEP to unconstitutionally infringe upon the First Amendment rights to free speech of privately funded wealthy candidates when the state’s program required extra public funds be distributed to publicly funded candidates when certain financing “triggers” had been achieved. The Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission is expected to meet with the attorney general to determine the next course of action.
(Image from the National Atlas of the United States)
July 15, 2010 •
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed ethics legislation designed to help clean up Missouri’s political culture.
This ethics overhaul was a top priority for Nixon and legislative leaders this year. Among the major changes, the new law requires elected officials and candidates to report larger campaign donations within 48 hours. It also gives the bipartisan Missouri Ethics Commission the power to begin investigations on its own, without waiting for a complaint. The law also expands reporting requirements for lobbyists who invite groups of state officials to events. Under this new law, campaign disclosure reports must be filed electronically beginning in January, 2011 and the fines for late reports are increased significantly.
July 15, 2010 •
New Jersey elections agency will be holding a meeting.
The Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) will have a meeting at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 at the Commission’s office located at 28 West State Street, 12th floor, in Trenton. Executive Director Jeff Brindle will be on hand to chair the meeting. The agenda is expected to include recent staff activities, campaign financing, and other matters of concern and interest to the Commission. There will be an opportunity for public comment.
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.
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.