November 22, 2010 •
$5,000 Contribution Limit Upheld
District Court Finds Law Constitutional
A District Court has issued a judgment upholding $5,000 limits on party contributions to candidates.
In Cao v. FEC, the District Court Eastern District of Louisiana, following a prior judgment from the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on other grounds, found 2 U.S.C. §441a(a)(2)(A) constitutional even though it imposes the same contribution limits on parties as on PACs and the limits are not adjusted for inflation.
The suit had been brought by Louisiana Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao, the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Louisiana.
November 19, 2010 •
Highlighted Site of the Week – Code for America
“Code the next chapter of American History!”
Cities in Crisis: We just came back from the Capitolbeat 2010 Conference in Phoenix, where many of the session offerings were discussing the alarming budget situations in the state governments. The effects of the recession are felt especially in the cities. We are in Akron, where our city faces tremendous pressure to address ever-growing needs with ever-shrinking resources. That equation is even more true in Cleveland, and surely is the case in Detroit and many other cities.
Code for America’s Answer: There are many urban renewal efforts out there – but I would like to hold up a very exciting one: Code for America. With its call to connect city governments with web 2.0 talents, Code for America’s idea could bring about a revolution. Any government can run more efficiently and Code for America believes that what we have learned from the social media revolution can be applied to city governments to “become more transparent, connected, and efficient.” Brainstorming, collaboration, experimentation, and new technology – this is what they will bring to address city infrastructure and operations.
“Code for America was founded to help the brightest minds of the Web 2.0 generation transform city governments. Cities are under greater pressure than ever, struggling with budget cuts and outdated technology. What if, instead of cutting services or raising taxes, cities could leverage the power of the web to become more efficient, transparent, and participatory? We believe there is a wealth of talent in the web industry eager to contribute to the rebuilding of America. Code for America gives them the means.”
“Every movement needs heroes.” Code for America is accepting applications from the “best of the best” in web 2.0 coders to become fellows in their program. Fellows would commit to an 11-month program writing code to solve a specific need in a city. (The program would give them a crash-course in city government.) Fellows would receive a stipend in the amount of $35,000, travel expenses, and healthcare benefits. Then they are turned loose to come up with technological magic.
The Cities’ Commitment: Four cities are participating in the 2011 project: Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Seattle. Each city committed $250,000 to the project. Companies are encouraged to help underwrite the time the fellows spend on the project, and individual donations big or small are greatly appreciated. Applications from other cities are being accepted for the 2012 calendar year.
Code for America offers everything you need to help promote the program to your city government and to your employer.
I am really excited about this program and I plan to spread the word. I would love to see Cleveland participate. As Code for America’s site says: “It’s time to stop wondering, and start coding. It’s time to make it happen.”
November 19, 2010 •
Wisconsin G.A.B. releases Fall 2010 Independent Expenditure Figures
The Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.) has released figures detailing the $9.96 million spent in 2010 as independent expenditures by groups including labor union and corporation political action committees.
Ninety-nine percent of expenditures went to the Fall general election. Corporations and other organizations registered with the G.A.B., so-called 1.91 organizations, spent $2,499,494. Labor union PACs spent $1,688,880 with corporation PACs spending $1,950,524. Other committee types spent $3,791,573 for a grand total of independent expenditures for the Fall 2010 Elections of: $9,930,472.
“This is the first time corporations and organizations other than PACs have been required to report spending on political campaigns, “ said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B. “This shows the importance of disclosure of political activity. And yet, so much more campaign spending was not required to be disclosed”.
You can read the G.A.B.’s news release here. Data on independent expenditures is available to the public in Wisconsin’s Campaign Finance Information System at: http://cfis.wi.gov.
Photo of the Wisconsin State Capitol at night by Darin ten Bruggencate on Wikipedia.
November 19, 2010 •
No Texting Political Contributions
FEC Finds Proposal for Texting Political Contributions Lacking
The Federal Election Commission issued Advisory Opinion 2010-23 denying a request allowing for political contributions to be made through cell phone texting. CTIA, a nonprofit trade association representing the wireless communications industry, proposed a program where political contributions could be made by texting five or six digit code numbers in the same manner which contributions are made for charitable donations. As proposed by CTIA, the contribution would be made at the time the phone user pays their monthly bill which would include the charge from the text pledge.
Over a 30-day period, a connection aggregator would collect contributions from all wireless service providers and then transfer the funds to the particular political committee. The Commission found the time frame for contributions to be forwarded to political committees would take longer than permissible under the law, contributions would not be segregated from other corporate funds, and CTIA’s safeguards to ensure the contributions were not from impermissible sources were inadequate.
November 18, 2010 •
See Us in Person
Plan to say hello at future events where State and Federal Communications will be attending and/or speaking regarding compliance issues.
November 20-23, 2010 – SGAC Leaders’ Policy Conference, Scottsdale, Arizona
November 30, 2010 – American League of Lobbyists Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.
December 3 – 5, 2010 – CSG National Conference, Providence, Rhode Island
December 5-8, 2010 – 2010 COGEL Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C.
December 8-11, 2010 – NCSL Fall Forum, Phoenix, Arizona
December 14, 2010 – Women in Government Relations PACs, Politics and Grassroots Conference, Washington, D.C.
December 14, 2010 – SGAC Holiday Party, Washington, D.C.
January 9-13, 2011 – PAC Public Affairs Institute, Laguna Beach, California
November 17, 2010 •
Gubernatorial Recount Spurs Campaign Finance Staff Opinion
Minnesota Campaign Finance Board Finds Recount Fund Exempt From Registration and Reporting Requirements.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board provided guidance on questions relating to funding of recount efforts, in light of the gubernatorial recount scheduled to begin November 29th.
The board concluded that contributions to a recount fund made by a candidate’s principal campaign committee, a party unit, or a political committee do not require registration and reporting in accordance with Minnesota law. The board clarified that this opinion does not allow a recount fund to accept contributions from lobbyists or lobbyist principals without further seeking an Advisory Opinion from the Board concerning the application of Minnesota’s gift law.
Map of Minnesota from the National Atlas of the United States on Wikipedia.
November 16, 2010 •
Houston Group Sues to Strike Down Texas Campaign Finance Law
The King Street Patriots, a non-profit, non-partisan group, have counter-sued the Texas Democratic Party while simultaneously asking a state judge to strike down significant portions of the Texas Election Code.
Citing extensively to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, King Street Patriots, with the aid of Indiana attorney James Bopp, allege Texas law governing campaign finance contributions is unconstitutional. King Street Patriots claim Texas’s general ban on corporate political contributions violate the principles established in Citizens United because it permits non-corporate groups and individuals to make political contributions, but bans corporations from making the same speech.
The claim is also advanced Texas’s ban violates the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendments because it creates an unconstitutional content and speaker-based restriction on speech.King Street Patriots have also targeted Texas law’s reporting requirements associated with direct campaign expenditures by individuals as well as the 30 and 60-day blackout provisions banning contributions by political committees which form close to election dates.
Finally, The King Street Patriots allege Texas law unconstitutionally burdens the free speech of individuals by imposing the same reporting burdens on individuals who wish to make direct campaign contributions over $100 as are associated with political committees conducting a similar activity. The case is currently pending in Travis County District Court.
November 16, 2010 •
California Sets Regulations for Political Communications in New Media
FPPC sorting out disclosure issues for political campaigns using social media.
The Fair Political Practices Commission passed rules late last week to regulate electronic communications and internet advertisements in the same manner as traditional media. Campaigns and those making independent expenditures will be required to place disclaimers and disclosures in text messages, e-mail, and other electronic advertisements to the extent it is practical.
If size or character-limit constraints make the full disclosure unrealistic, the ad must at least include the candidate or committee’s FPPC number and, if possible, a link containing the full campaign finance information. These new rules include exceptions for uncompensated and other grassroots internet activity in the interest of keeping the internet a prime forum for political activity and discussion among citizens.
Image of the Seal of the State of California by Zscout370 on Wikipedia.
November 15, 2010 •
Next Stop: U.S. Supreme Court? Colorado Campaign Finance Case Appears Ripe for Appeal
Federal Appellate Court Finds Colorado Campaign Finance Limits on Small Groups Unconstitutional
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals determined Colorado’s voter-approved campaign reporting requirement for small groups promoting ballot initiatives to be unconstitutional. The case stems from a challenge by a group of homeowners who failed to register as an issue committee upon becoming a group of two or more persons and accepting or making contributions or expenditures in excess of $200. Six homeowners had raised and spent less than $1,000 fighting a ballot question concerning the annexation of their subdivision, Parker North, into the town of Parker, Colorado.
Plaintiff’s attorney Steve Simpson, a member of the Arlington, Virginia-based Institute for Justice, has stated this case is the first ruling in the nation wherein reporting requirements for issue committees have been linked to the First Amendment and deemed unconstitutional. Simpson also added the decision in this case signals a split with another appellate court, causing the case to be ripe for appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.
You can read the full text of the opinion here.
November 15, 2010 •
State and Federal at Capitolbeat 2010
Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors holds 2010 Conference and State and Federal was there!
Three of us from State and Federal Communications attended the Capitolbeat 2010 Conference in Phoenix, Arizona from November 11-13. When Ren Koozer, Jim Sedor, and I arrived, we were greeted by sunshine, palm trees, and seventy-five degree weather.
Capitolbeat is an organization for reporters and editors covering state and local governments. The conference this year offered 29 general and break-out sessions with topics ranging from the budget crisis in the states to redistricting in the state Legislatures and Congressional districts. There were amazing presenters from the Pew Center on the States, PBS Newshour, Moody’s Corporation, the Associated Press, the Census Bureau, and more. I did chin-ups on every word.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was a highlighted speaker on Saturday morning. He spoke on immigration law, the implications of the recent elections, and the crucial role that journalists have in holding state and local governments accountable. Richardson appeared happy to be there and peppered his speech with jokes – and if we didn’t respond, he said, “That was supposed to be funny,” which got him the laughter he was seeking.
Capitolbeat 2010 gave us the chance to meet many journalists from around the country, and they had a chance to get to know State and Federal Communications as well. I don’t know where the conference will be next year, but you can be sure we’ll be there. We look forward to seeing all of our old and new friends next year.
November 10, 2010 •
Louisiana Extends Lobbying Law to Local Governments
With the passage and subsequent gubernatorial approval of Senate Bill 507, Louisiana has extended the application of its lobbying law to local governments. The provisions of the bill take effect on January 1, 2011.
Although the provisions of the bill were enacted as a new and separate chapter in the Louisiana Revised Statutes, they largely mirror the requirements of the lobbying laws already applicable to legislative and executive branch lobbying on the state level. For example, as it is on the state level, registrations expire on December 31st of each year and registration renewals are due on January 31st at the latest. Reports of local lobbying activity are due on the 25th day of each month, as they are at the state level. And the information required to be disclosed is largely the same.
The bill contains a provision found in the state executive branch lobbying law, but not in the legislative branch lobbying law, which allows an employer to file reports on behalf of all the lobbyists representing that employer’s interests. An employer wishing to exercise that option must notify the board of ethics by January 31st.
Unlike the state-level lobbying laws, the bill does not specify a registration fee for local lobbyists.
The Louisiana Board of Ethics is responsible under the bill for administering and enforcing the provisions of the bill. This includes educational activities and seminars related to the bill, as well as the assessment of late filing fees.
State and Federal Communications will continue to monitor developments with regard to local lobbying laws in Louisiana as the bill goes into effect and is implemented by the board of ethics.
Photo of the Louisiana State Capitol by Bluepoint951 on Wikipedia.
November 9, 2010 •
Ohio Ethics Commission Director Freel to Retire at End of 2010
David E. Freel, Executive Director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, has announced his retirement after 17 years at the head of the agency.
During Director Freel’s tenure, the Commission issued ethics advice and guidance concerning Ohio’s Ethics Law to thousands of Ohio’s public officials and employees. Director Freel also supervised hundreds of investigations of Ethics Law violations at the local and state levels.
“I have truly enjoyed my work with so many Ethics Commission members and professional staff of high integrity over the years – they represent the finest ethical standard in public service for Ohio and its citizens,” said Executive Director Freel. “After 17 years as the Executive Director, I decided several weeks ago that it was time to hand over the reins to a new Director the Commission would choose.”
The Commission will discuss the search and selection process for a new executive director at its November meeting. Director Freel will step down at the end of the year.
You may read the Ethics Commission’s press release here.
November 9, 2010 •
Court Rules Louisiana Ethics Board Must Refer Violations
Public Hearing for Late Filing of Campaign Reports
The 19th Judicial District Court of Baton Rouge has ruled the Ethics Board cannot enforce penalties for campaign finance violations. The court found a separate Ethics Adjudicatory Board must conduct public hearings when the Ethics Board alleges the late filing of, or absence of filing, campaign reports.
The Ethics Board had argued campaign violations requiring investigations were already referred to the Ethics Adjudicatory Board, but cases involving the mere failure to file reports on time, or not at all, did not require any investigation, and therefore did not require a separate hearing. The division of giving the Ethics Board investigatory and prosecutorial authority, while giving the Ethics Adjudicatory Board judicial power, comes from a 2008 change in the law meant to streamline the regulatory process.
November 9, 2010 •
Minnesota Board Releases Advisory Opinion
Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board Issues Advisory Opinion to Clarify Lobbyist Registration Requirement
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board issued Advisory Opinion 413 clarifying the state’s lobbyist registration requirements. The Board sought to answer whether a lobbyist is required to register multiple times when employed by an entity which consists of a parent company and a number of affiliates, including subsidiaries and joint ventures controlled by or under common ownership and control of the parent company.
Several of the affiliates have legislative and administrative interests in Minnesota, and lobbying is conducted on their behalf. The Board concluded that a lobbyist must register on behalf of each association whose interests they promote, regardless of the mechanism used to retain or direct the efforts of the lobbyists. The opinion continued that a lobbyist who represents an association such as a trade or business association is not required to register separately for each member of the association.
Photo of the Minnesota State Capitol by Mulad 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.