July 23, 2010 •
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has filed cloture on the DISCLOSE Act, Congress’ response to the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
The measure will come to a vote on the floor of the Senate early next week. Reid’s move begins the endgame for the legislation even though he does not yet have the votes to overcome the anticipated filibuster from the bill’s opponents.
New York Senator Charles Schumer, who authored S. 3295, the Senate’s version of the DISCLOSE Act, has modified the bill to address concerns raised when H.R. 5175 was passed by the House earlier this summer. Democrats hope the changes will be enough to win the support of Maine GOP Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of whom expressed reservations regarding the House bill. For example, Senator Collins believes H.R. 5175 provides unions with special exemptions and a corresponding unfair political advantage over corporations.
It is unclear at this time whether or not changes to the Senate bill offered by Schumer will be enough to overcome Collins’ and Snowe’s objections. The Senate vote could come as early as Tuesday.
If you are looking for more coverage, the Hill has two articles by Susan Crabtree:
“Sen. Reid sets up showdown next week on campaign finance,” July23, 2010
July 23, 2010 •
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has vetoed legislation that would have permitted members of the Executive Branch Ethics Committee to participate in partisan political activities.
Senate Bill 440 would have permitted members of the committee, during their term of service, to participate in elections for federal offices, including allowing their names to be in used in endorsements of candidates. Members would have also been permitted to campaign for candidates seeking federal offices and make contributions to their campaigns.
Citing the potential conflict-of-interest that could arise from members of the ethics committee engaging in political activity, Governor Lynch vetoed the measure on July 20, 2010. “I believe that SB 440 would weaken the Executive Branch Ethics Committee and would compromise the ability of its members to discharge their obligations impartially in the eyes of the public. It could create the perception that partisan politics plays a role in the decisions of the committee,” Lynch said.
For further reading here is the governor’s press release.
Photo by Marc Nozell used under a Creative Commons license.
July 22, 2010 •
Maryland Lawmakers Regulate Social Media Activity
Lawmakers adopted rules for candidates using social networking Web sites, making Maryland one of the first states to regulate such activity.
Here are two articles for further reading:
“Candidates Must Adhere to New Social Media Rules,” by Julie Bykowicz in the Baltimore Sun
“Maryland Lawmakers Pass New Election Law Restricting Facebook Today,” by Chet Dembeck in the Baltimore Examiner
July 21, 2010 •
A new Massachusetts rule regarding independent expenditure PACs takes effect July 16.
The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) has issued an emergency rule regarding independent expenditures by political action committees.
Emergency Rule 970 C.M.R. 2.17, which states a political action committee only raising funds to make independent expenditures, and then only making independent expenditures, will be regarded as an independent expenditure PAC. Unlike other PACs, independent expenditure PACs may raise funds from individuals without limit, and from corporations and other entities otherwise prohibited from contributing to PACs pursuant to Massachusetts law. Independent expenditure PACs are subject to all other requirements applying to other PACs, including disclosure requirements.
An independent expenditure PAC may not directly or indirectly coordinate its campaign activity with any Massachusetts candidate or political committee. If the independent expenditure PAC makes a coordinated expenditure it becomes a PAC subject to all requirements, including limits on contributions applying to other PACs.
Finally, the term “election” includes any preliminary, primary, or special general election. All preliminary reports of independent expenditures must be filed electronically. The emergency rule was effective upon filing on Friday, July 16, 2010.
Photo from the National Atlas of the United States.
July 21, 2010 •
State and Federal Communications, Inc. is sharing a report on how states are responding to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
To view the report, go to www.stateandfed.com and click on the “Citizens United Update” in the lower left of the home page. The report is free and available to the public.
The report tracks new and updated laws, and pending legislation, in every state responding to the January 21, 2010, Supreme Court decision. The court’s ruling had the practical effect of removing restrictions from corporations, labor unions, and others in making independent expenditures and electioneering communications regarding candidates.
“Back in January, we said the most important developments would come when the various states began reacting to the court’s decision. Our research team has found many states are responding with new legislation, while others are loosening rules and regulations in place for years,” said Elizabeth Z. Bartz, president and CEO of State and Federal Communications.
“Rules are changing all the time. Corporations, trade and professional organizations, labor unions, and government affairs professionals need to stay current on these changes to ensure they do not inadvertently violate recently passed legislation,” Bartz said.
“Updated and accurate information is of vital importance. That is why we are sharing this report with the public,” Bartz added.
The State and Federal Communications document – researched and developed by the firm’s in-house staff of government affairs compliance experts – is broken down by state and includes:
- Court decisions affecting particular laws in the states.
- Rules state commissions and ethics administrators have put into place.
- Opinions issued by state authorities in charge of campaign finance rules.
“We provide this information to our clients, along with comprehensive resources on the rules and regulations in the areas of lobbying, procurement lobbying, and political activities,” Bartz said.
“We help our clients stay compliant. That’s our mission.”
July 20, 2010 •
The West Virginia legislature worked quickly over the weekend and Monday late into the night to make changes to the state’s election code.
With the passage of House Bill 201, a special election has been authorized to fill the vacant Senate seat long held by U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, who passed in June. Governor Manchin signed the bill late Monday night.
There will be a special primary election on August 28th and a special general election on November 2nd in conjunction with the mid-term congressional contests. Joe Manchin, a popular two-term governor has announced his intentions to run for this senate seat.
In a political compromise, this legislation declares November’s special election a “legally separate” contest from the general election, meaning Rep. Shelly Moore Capito, considered the top Republican candidate for the seat, may run for Byrd’s seat without giving up her seat in the House. The filing period for the special election begins Tuesday morning and will last through 5 p.m. Friday.
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.
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.