November 4, 2010 •
Voters Approve Changes to New York City Charter
New York City Voters Approve New Law Requiring Disclosure of Independent Expenditures
New York City voters supported, by a vote of 83 percent to 17 percent with 87 percent of precincts reporting, a referendum item which called for several changes to the city charter. The changes include requiring disclosure of campaign contributions by independent groups and raising the maximum fine for violating conflicts of interest law. Currently, people and organizations that spend money independently of any candidate to support or oppose political candidates or to influence votes in a referendum are not required to report those expenditures publicly.
The new voter approved law requires any individual or group that spends $1,000 or more to support or oppose a candidate or referendum to disclose the expenditure to the city’s Campaign Finance Board and include in any literature the name of any individual or organization that paid for it. The law also requires any group spending $5,000 or more to support or oppose a candidate to disclose any organizations that made contributions to that group and any individual who contributed $1,000 or more during the 12-month period preceding the election.
Photo of the New York City Municipal Building by Momos on Wikipedia.
November 4, 2010 •
Voters Approve Campaign Finance Charter Reform
On November 2nd, 2010, Akron voters, by a margin of nearly 56 percent in favor to 44 percent against, approved Issue 14 amending the city charter’s campaign finance provisions.
City council now has 90 days to pass a new ordinance which will implement the charter amendment language. Campaign finance contribution limits will increase to $200 for ward candidates and $450 for city-wide candidates. It is anticipated the new legislation will require council to review, and if necessary, amend, the city’s campaign finance legislation every two years beginning in 2012.
A provision is also expected to be made which will allow for public comment on any proposed changes to the city’s campaign finance rules. Finally, the legislation is expected to remove the city’s campaign finance language from the city charter itself. Going forward, campaign finance regulations will be authorized by ordinance.
November 3, 2010 •
Oklahoma Ethics Commission Releases Updated Proposed Rule Changes
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has issued a draft of proposed changes to the state’s campaign finance rules.
Under the process in place for changing these rules, the proposals will be sent to the state legislature who will either approve or override them. The approved rules become law on July 1 of each year.
The highlights of this year’s proposals include changes to bring Oklahoma law into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, and the abrogation of a rule restricting PAC contributions to ballot-measure committees. The restrictions on contributions to ballot committees have not been enforced in several years because they are unconstitutional.
Photo of the Oklahoma State Capitol copyright © Caleb Long on Wikipedia.
November 3, 2010 •
Montana Contribution Law Challenged Again
Tea Party Organization Seeks to Further Topple Montana Campaign Contribution Law
Montana Shrugged, a tea party group, filed suit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Billings, naming as defendants the state political practices commissioner and Attorney General Steve Bullock. The lawsuit, filed with the help of the James Madison Center for Free Speech in Terre Haute, Ind., says Montana laws requiring financial reporting by political committees and corporations are unconstitutionally vague.
Montana Attorney General Bullock stated the lawsuit is part of a nationwide plot to torpedo state laws that require public reporting on who funds political campaigns. The lawsuit specifically challenges Montana’s restrictions on corporate contributions after a Montana court ruling last month overturned a law barring corporate independent expenditures and upheld the state’s restrictions on corporate contributions to political candidates.
Photo of the State capitol in Helena by Monty Johnson on Wikipedia.
November 3, 2010 •
Utah Lt. Governor Revises Campaign Finance Disclosure Guidance for Parties
A media review of major Utah county political parties recently revealed 71 percent had failed to file the financial disclosure statements supposedly required of them by August 31.
Now, Lt. Governor Greg Bell has informed the county parties they are not required to file. Going forward, only registered political parties will be required to file financial disclosure statements. Under state law, county parties are not required to register with the state. This new guidance runs contrary to previous statements which said all state and county parties were required to file disclosure statements.
The Salt Lake County Democratic Party has indicated it disagrees with the decision by the Lt. Governor’s office and plans to pursue the matter further. At this time, though, its legal options are unclear as the Utah Supreme Court has so far refused to hear their case. For its part, the Lt. Governor’s office plans to ask the legislature this coming January for a change in state law reflecting the new disclosure decision.
November 2, 2010 •
Federal Judge Denies Injunction Against Florida PAC Statute
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle denied a request for a preliminary injunction against a Florida law that requires two or more people who want to contribute or expend $500 on a ballot issue to form a political action committee.
The plaintiffs, four Sarasota, Florida residents seeking to pool their monetary resources to buy radio ads against a proposed state constitutional amendment on the November ballot, wanted to avoid registration as a political action committee and disclosure requirements required of their desired radio advertisement.
“This ruling means that our clients will not be able to speak freely in the 2010 election,” said Paul Sherman, attorney for The Institute for Justice, who represented the plaintiffs.
For the complete story, here are two articles:
“Judge won’t block Fla. campaign law enforcement,” by Bill Kaczor in the Miami Herald.
“Judge refuses to throw out political-committee requirement of campaign finance law,” from the Central Florida Political Pulse blog on the Orlando Sentinel.
Photo of the Old Florida Capitol building by Diligent Terrier on Wikipedia.
November 2, 2010 •
Supreme Court Rejects Campaign Committee Appeal
Compliance Reporting Still Required Even With Unlimited Contributions
The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal seeking to eliminate a political committee’s disclosure and administrative requirements. In SpeechNow.org v FEC, the appellants had argued the requirements violate the First Amendment.
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found individual contribution limits to the committee unconstitutional. It additionally held independent expenditure–only groups like SpeechNow must still comply with organizational, administrative, and reporting requirements in the law.
SpeechNow is an unincorporated nonprofit association which supports candidates for federal office who share its views on First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom to assemble.
November 1, 2010 •
Elizabeth Bartz Quoted in the Columbia Missourian
State and Federal’s President and CEO discusses Missouri campaign finance.
After retired St. Louis businessperson Rex Sinquefield gave $13.3 million to various Missouri campaigns, The Columbia Missourian wrote an article sorting out the issues of campaign finance and disclosure in the state. The newspaper turned to Elizabeth Bartz, with her 34 years of experience in campaign finance, to put the donations in perspective.
With no limit on campaign contributions from individuals in Missouri, the article offered the following comparison by Bartz:
One expert compared Missouri to a Caribbean territory notorious for money laundering and tax evasion: “It’s like the grand Cayman Islands,” said Elizabeth Bartz, the CEO and president of an organization that provides consulting services to organizations interested in making contributions on a state level.
But Bartz also noted that the disclosure requirements in Missouri are strong:
“It’s not like they can just give and give and give and nobody can find out,” Bartz said. “It is public information, and it is information you can find out.”
You can find the text of the full story in The Columbia Missourian here.
November 1, 2010 •
California Law Allows for Paid Time Off on Election Day
Secretary of State’s office sends reminder
The California Secretary of State’s office released a statement earlier this week reminding voters they are entitled to take up to two paid hours off from work in order to vote.
Secretary Bowen reminds employees they must provide two days’ notice to their employers in order to exercise this privilege.“California’s time-off-to-vote law ensures all voters, regardless of their work schedules, will be able to vote on November 2″, said Bowen.
Photo of the California Secretary of State Building by Mav on Wikipedia.
October 29, 2010 •
Highlighted Sites of the Week – VOTE411.org and the Power of Google
For those of you who have the upcoming elections on your mind, here are some great Web sites to visit.
VOTE411.org, hosted by the League of Women Voters Education Fund, has everything you could possibly need regarding voting and the coming elections. With VOTE411.org, no one can use the excuse that they did not have enough information to vote. Not sure about where to go to vote? VOTE411.org can tell you where your polling place is. Overseas during the elections? No problem, they have a Military and Overseas Voter page. You can learn about absentee voting, early voting, election dates, information about candidates, and ID requirements tailored to your state!
My favorite thing on VOTE411.org is the “Build Your Ballot” feature. Just type in your street address, city, and zip code, and Build Your Ballot will tell you all about your U.S. Congress District and your State Upper and Lower House Districts. From there it will tell you exactly what races will be on your ballot.
If you are the type who likes to see into the future, Google 2010 U.S. Election Ratings has map overlays showing the predictions of CQ Politics, Rothenberg Political Report, Real Clear Politics, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and the Cook Political Report. All in one place. You can look at the trends for the U.S. races as well as drill down into the states.
You can always go to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog. Silver not only gives you a color-coded map of the states, but also a set of percentages for the probabilities of race outcomes.
You say you want more? How about trying a search of “U.S. 2010 election predictions” on YouTube? YouTube serves up a mix of serious television news coverage clips, to the silly Politizoid animated video.
There. That should keep even the most election-obsessed people busy… lots of hand-wringing to do.
Vote sign photo by Tom Arthur on Wikipedia.
October 28, 2010 •
Get Out the Vote!
It has become a tradition for State and Federal Communications to send a GOTV (Get Out the Vote) card each October.
It is our way of saying hello and thank you to our clients and friends across the country.
We have fun each year deciding where to gather for the photograph. This year, the staff had a treat when they rode the Akron trolley to the University of Akron.
We gathered at the Polymer Building, in front of the beautiful Dale Chihuly sculpture. How should we pose? Our instructions were to make one serious pose, and one fun pose.
So from all of us at State and Federal Communications, we wish you a healthy and prosperous year and say:
Exercise your right to vote! It is your personal opportunity to be heard across the nation!
Elizabeth Z. Bartz
President and CEO of State and Federal Communications, Inc.
Thank you to Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic for the use of the trolley and to the University of Akron President Luis Proenza for allowing us on campus for the photos.
October 27, 2010 •
California Releases Latest Independent Expenditure Figures
Most of the spending is on the governor’s race.
The Fair Political Practices Commission, California’s ethics and elections watchdog organization has released information on independent expenditures made in advance of the November general election.
More than 150 individuals have contributed approximately $28.8 million to independent expenditure committees in contributions of at least $10,000. The overwhelming majority of these expenditures are being made in the governor’s race.
As of June 9, 2010, committees had spent more than $23 million on communications designed to impact the election for the state’s highest executive office. The contest for state Superintendent registered a distant second with slightly less than $3 million in related independent expenditures.
Photo of the California State Capitol building by Sascha Brück on Wikipedia.
October 27, 2010 •
Motives Behind Florida Campaign Lawsuit Under Question
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 •
Lawsuit Seeks to Allow Foreign Political Contributions
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.
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.