October 27, 2010 •
A federal judge in Florida has questioned the motive behind a recent lawsuit over the state’s campaign finance requirements.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle has questioned whether the suit regarding a law which requires registration and reporting by political action committees contributing or expending in excess of $500 is “just a little too convenient,” as the suit was filed merely a month prior to the upcoming election and the plaintiffs in the action are reportedly seeking to spend $600. The judge has yet to rule on a temporary injunction on enforcement of the law, as the plaintiffs, represented by The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm, ultimately seek to have the law completely thrown out.
Map of Florida from the National Atlas of the United States.
October 26, 2010 •
Relief Sought by Foreign Nationals
A lawsuit has been filed in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia seeking to allow foreign citizens to make political contributions. 2 U.S.C. § 441e and its implementing regulations prohibit political contributions and independent expenditures by foreign nationals living lawfully in the U.S.A. but without legal permanent residence. In Bluman v. FEC, the two plaintiffs, a doctor in residency and a recent law school graduate, both citizens of other countries, are seeking to make political contributions in support of various candidates and political issues ranging from both ends of the political spectrum.
The plaintiffs are specifically requesting the court declare 2 U.S.C. § 441e and its implementing regulations unconstitutional as applied to foreign nationals lawfully residing and working in the United States. They have asked for a three-judge court decision, which may allow for a direct appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
Photo of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse by AgnosticPreachersKid on Wikipedia.
October 26, 2010 •
On Friday, October 22, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States denied an application for an emergency writ of injunction in the pending case of Respect Maine PAC v. McKee.
In their application, the plaintiffs, represented by James Bopp, Jr., the Indiana attorney who helped launch the landmark Citizens United v. FEC litigation, requested an order blocking portions of Maine’s campaign finance law which provides matching for candidates as well as the part of Maine law capping contributions to gubernatorial candidates at $750. By the time the plaintiff’s motion reached the high court for the second time, it had been denied three times: by Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Circuit Justice for the First Circuit, by the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and by the Maine District Court where the litigation originated.
The plaintiff’s last resort to enjoin the law prior to the November 2nd election was the emergency writ of injunction to the Supreme Court which was presented to Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy who then referred it to the Supreme Court for consideration. The writ’s denial was not unexpected as the Supreme Court has not granted such a motion for two decades.
Photo of the Supreme Court by UpstateNYer on Wikipedia.
October 25, 2010 •
Barbara Wong retiring at the end of this month.
The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission has selected Kristin Izumi-Nitao as the new Executive Director effective November 4, 2010. She has been with the Department of the Attorney General, State of Hawaii, since 1999, and is currently responsible for overseeing and administering the Hawaii Internet and Technology Crimes Unit which includes the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in the state of Hawaii and the territory of Guam.
Izumi-Nitao will replace Barbara Wong who is retiring at the end of October.
October 25, 2010 •
New York Inspector General Finds Potential Ethics Violations in Video Lottery Terminal Bidding Process
New York State Inspector General Joseph Fisch has released a report that criticizes New York State leaders for failing to fulfill their public duty in the January 2010 selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) to operate video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The 300-page report concludes that AEG should have been disqualified, and that the chaotic process resulting in AEG’s multi-billion dollar award was a “political free-for-all” marked by unfair advantages and more than $100,000 in campaign donations.
The report found that Governor Paterson, Senate Democratic Conference Leader Sampson, Senate President Pro Tempore Smith, and Assembly Speaker Silver each contributed to the multi-million dollar debacle. The report strongly recommends that the bidding process used to select AEG never be repeated and that New York State impose stringent procurement restrictions on all major contracts to ensure that they are competitive, transparent and fair.
The Inspector General’s Office is forwarding the report to United States Attorney and New York County District Attorney, for appropriate action and referring Senators Sampson and Smith to the Legislative Ethics Commission.
Map of New York by Huebi on Wikipedia.
October 22, 2010 •
A place where the public and government can solve problems together.
This is the phrase that has launched a new movement and Web site – Challenge.gov – encouraging the American people to take on challenges presented to them from some of the nation’s largest agencies, including NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the Social Security Administration.
Why create such a Web site?
“This is a fundamental shift in power,” Vivek Kundra, federal chief information officer, said at the Gov 2.0 Summit conference announcing Challenge.gov, along with Aneesh Chopra, White House chief technology officer. “This engages the American people to be co-creators to solve some of the toughest problems America faces.”
Ranging from challenges involving emerging designers and architects turning a mid-century federal office building into a model of environmental efficiency, to creating original music and/or music videos that celebrate healthy and inspirational living, people of all ages can participate and become developers in this “national science fair” for America.
One challenge proposed by the site is called “How do I become president?” with the solutions being judged on an 8-10 year-old basis. A sister site, “Kids.gov,” started this challenge because it was continually asked the question “How can I become the President when I grow up?” The winners of the challenge, set to be announced on November 29, 2010 will be featured on Kids.gov. Their best overall “infographic” will be printed as posters and distributed to schools and libraries across the country.
Not everyone has the opportunity or desire to work for the federal government or hold public office, but with this new Web site they can play a vital role in helping improve our country while at the same time putting some cash in their pocket. —– Chickasha Express Star – Sep 27, 2010
October 21, 2010 •
Montana Judge Rules Law Prohibiting Independent Corporate Contributions is Unconstitutional
District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena ruled Monday that the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibited corporations from making independent political expenditures, is unconstitutional. Bozeman attorney Margot Barg argued on behalf of the plaintiffs, a gun rights organization and a local painting company, that corporations are entitled to make the same sort of free political speech as individuals citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Judge Sherlock wrote that the Montana law, “insofar as it prevents corporations from making independent expenditures to support or oppose political candidates or political parties, is declared unconstitutional.” Restrictions on corporate contributions to political candidates are not affected by the decision. Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock plans to appeal the district court’s ruling.
October 20, 2010 •
City Council to Consider Pay to Play Restrictions
The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission voted in favor of a planned ballot measure to bar city contractors from making campaign contributions to candidates running for mayor and city council. Los Angeles City Council will decide by the end of November whether to place this law on the ballot for the March 8 municipal election.
Under the proposal, those who do not abide by the new restrictions risk being barred from winning a city contract for four years. This type of ban has been under consideration several times since 2005 but has stalled at various stages of the legislative process each time.
Photo of Los Angeles City Hall by Brion VIBBER on Wikipedia.
October 20, 2010 •
Bill Introduced to City Council
Baltimore City Council President Bernard Young introduced legislation to expand the city’s rules on lobbying. The Promoting Honesty in Lobbying bill requires individuals paid any dollar amount for lobbying to register as lobbyists. Currently, individuals are only required to register as lobbyists if they earn $2,500 or more.
Registration would also be required of individuals spending 20 percent or more of their time over a six-month period on lobbying. Lobbyists would have to report total expenditures for grassroots lobbying, including those for print, audio, visual, and electronic publications. Among other provisions of the bill is the prohibition of a lobbyist stating he or she can obtain the vote of a councilmember.
Photo by Nfutvol on Wikipedia.
October 19, 2010 •
New Law Required
The State Ethics Commission will not appeal South Carolina Citizens for Life, Inc. v Krawcheck, a federal court decision finding South Carolina’s statutory definition of committee unconstitutional. The commission has already voluntarily announced it will not enforce provisions of the law concerning committees making independent expenditures.
State Ethics Commission Executive Director Herb Hayden says groups can now both raise and spend unlimited amounts of money and likely will not have to report their donors. He and Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Wes Hayes say a new law is needed to govern committee contribution limits.
October 18, 2010 •
Commission to Review Ethics Rules
Potential loopholes in the recently passed Palm Beach County Ethics Ordinance have some lawmakers once again working on ethics legislation. The new ethics rules, which went into effect on May 1, 2010, require a financial benefit to result from prohibited conduct, but do not include other benefits derived which are not financial in nature.
A proposed revision is in the early stages of legislation. Since 2006, four county commissioners have resigned their positions to face criminal charges over their misuse of office. Despite the potential loopholes, commissioners still hope the ethics reforms which took effect earlier this year will result in ethical relief to the scandal-plagued county.
October 18, 2010 •
Agency reminds filers they must file 72-hour reports for late contributions
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) has reminded state and county candidates, state party committees, and ballot question committees they must now file 72-hour late contribution reports if they receive and deposit contributions of $500 or more shortly before a primary or general election. In the case of the upcoming November 2nd general election, the reporting period runs from October 16 to October 29.
The new change to state law specifically requires disclosure, within 72 hours, of contributions of $500 or more which are deposited within 18 days of an election. The new law does not, however, require 72-hour reports for large deposits made within three days before an election. For instance, reports would not have to be filed for for late contributions deposited from October 30 to November 1, the three days prior to Election Day on November 2nd.
October 18, 2010 •
New requirements for groups funding ads in California
The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has promulgated a rule requiring groups paying for political advertisements expressly advocating for the election or defeat of a candidate or ballot measure to disclose who paid for the message, even in when the messages do not contain so-called magic words such as “vote for,” or “elect”. Those words have previously been the legal threshold for disclosure.
This rule will apply to messages appearing in the final 60 days before an election. The regulations will not take effect until after the November general election.
“The commission has adopted what is likely the first statewide rule of its type in the nation,” said FPPC Chair Dan Schnur. “By forcing the disclosure of those who truly attempt to influence the outcome of an election, we have put an end to the most egregious of campaign tactics.”
Here is the original press release: “FPPC Shines Light on “Thinly Veiled” Campaign Speech”
Photo by Zscout370 on Wikipedia.
October 14, 2010 •
If you want to stay up on the latest happenings in the world of social media, political campaigns, and government, follow techPresident!
With the 2008 presidential election, the relationship between social media and elections undoubtedly changed. Campaigns utilized Facebook and Twitter as a powerful campaign tool. But the change was also felt in the way the average person, through social media, was able to stay connected to the candidates and to generate their own political campaign content on YouTube, blogs, etc.
Recognizing the unfolding revolution, Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry founded a Web site in 2007 called techPresident, reporting on the 2008 presidential campaigns. Through charts, graphs, and blog posts, techPresident kept track of every promotion and attack ad that hit the internet. From Hillary Clinton’s “Let the Conversation Begin” promotion in January 2007, and ads attacking John McCain, to techPresident’s favorite videos of 2007 list showing the top “voter generated” videos in December 2007.
But the election came and went, so techPresident decided to change its focus to how the White House and the public interact on the web, plus going forward they are covering the use of social media in presidential, legislative, and state races.
The same team runs a sister Web site called the Personal Democracy Forum, which claims a broader focus:
Technology and the Internet are changing democracy in America. This site is one hub for the conversation already underway between political practitioners and technologists, as well as anyone invigorated by the potential of all this to open up the process and engage more people in all the things that we can and must do together as citizens. We value your input and ideas.
You can get involved on these sites, too! You can vote for your favorite campaign video, see which politician has the most Facebook supporters, check the job board for listings for a job with a campaign or PAC, follow the techPresident Tweet stream, or stay on top of campaign events on techPresident’s calendar.
Best of all, they want your input: “Got tips, leads, or suggestions for techPresident? By all means, send them in.”
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.