October 18, 2010 •
Palm Beach County Looks to Close Ethics Loophole
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 •
Massachusetts OCPF Reminder
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 •
FPPC Expands Independent Expenditure Disclosure Rules
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 •
Highlighted Site of the Week – techPresident
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.”
October 13, 2010 •
New Hampshire Lobbyist Registration Requirement Draws Criticism
Legislator’s Complaint Raises Concerns over New Hampshire Lobbyist Registration Requirement
A 2006 New Hampshire ethics reform law requiring any non-public official who meets with a lawmaker to discuss legislation to register as a lobbyist has recently come under fire. The law currently exempts lawyers who are full-time employees of a public body from the registration requirement. Opponents of the law argue small towns and school districts that cannot afford a full-time attorney are put at a disadvantage to larger governmental organizations in efforts to influence legislation.
Citing the law, New Hampshire Rep. Rick Watrous recently asked the attorney general’s office to investigate the actions of attorney John Teague. Teague serves as the Concord School District’s lawyer, but is not a full-time school district employee. Teague participated in a meeting with Senate President Sylvia Larsen, Sen. Betsi DeVries, and the Superintendent of the Concord School District to discuss a House bill dealing with the school district’s charter. The attorney general’s office found that Teague ran afoul of the law by meeting with lawmakers privately and issued a public warning and ordered Teague to register retroactively as a lobbyist and pay the $50 annual filing fee. The finding has raised concerns about the propriety and application of the current registration requirement, including calls for legislative reform of the statute.
Photo of New Hampshire State Capitol Building by Nikopoley on Wikipedia.
October 13, 2010 •
Supreme Court Declines to Hear Long Beach Appeal
PACs will continue to be allowed to receive unlimited contributions for independent expenditures.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the city’s appeal of a lawsuit brought by the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce over the city’s campaign finance rules involving independent expenditures.
Long Beach appealed to the high court after the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling stating the Chamber’s PAC may receive unlimited contributions to fund their independent campaign expenditures in city elections.
Photo of Long Beach by WPPilot on Wikipedia.
October 12, 2010 •
Plaintiffs in Hawaii Campaign Finance Case Win First Fight in Court
Order Issued Enjoining Enforcement of Hawaii Campaign Finance Law Specific to Plaintiffs
A federal judge has granted the request of two men seeking to be able to contribute in excess of the state’s limit of $1,000 to a noncandidate political action committee. U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright issued an order permitting the plaintiffs in the action to contribute $2,500 to the Aloha Family Alliance, a noncandidate political action committee which supports traditional marriage and opposes abortion and physician-assisted suicide, for the general election.
Hawaii law limits contributions to a noncandidate committee to $1,000 per election, with the primary and general election counting as two separate elections. Neither plaintiff in this action had made a contribution during the primary election. Further, the written order does not allow others exceed the $1,000 limit for the general election.
State Attorney General Mark Bennett has requested a stay of the order while the case is appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. This order only speaks to this particular facet of the lawsuit, not to the additional plaintiff complaints regarding disclaimers and attribution related to advertisements, political reporting requirements, and pay-to-play restrictions, which Judge Seabright will rule on at a later date.
October 11, 2010 •
Akron: Council endorses Issue 14: Municipal Campaign Finance Reform
Akron City Council has approved a resolution of support for issues 11 to 17 which will appear on the November 2 ballot.
If approved, Issue 14 will require the council to pass legislation within 90 days amending the city’s campaign finance regulations. The caps on individual contributions would increase from $100 to $200 per candidate per election for ward candidates and from $300 to $450 for candidates for mayor and council members-at-large.
Also, the council will be required to hold mandatory public hearings every two years to revisit the city’s contribution limits to consider adjustments for inflation and costs of living.
October 11, 2010 •
New Ethics Ordinance in Jacksonville, Florida?
The city council is expected to vote on a new ordinance concerning the creation of an independent ethics commission at the next city council meeting.
During a recent session of the council Rules Committee, the measure received unanimous support, with similar support expected before the full council at their Tuesday, October 12, 2010 meeting.
The new ordinance not only creates an independent ethics commission, but also provides for the operation of an ethics hotline and the mandatory ethics training of all consolidated government officials within 90 days of being elected. The ordinance, if passed, would reinstitute ethics features similar to the city’s originally chartered Code of Ethics, which was removed in the early 1970’s reportedly due to potential conflicts with a new statewide ethics law adopted by the Florida legislature which covered all public officials.
Photo of Jacksonville skyline by Jonathan Zander on Wikipedia.
October 11, 2010 •
Utah: Salt Lake County Democrats seek campaign finance disclosure enforcement
The Salt Lake County Democratic Party has filed a petition with the Utah Supreme Court asking it to intervene in the enforcement of state campaign finance law.
The plaintiffs allege the lieutenant governor’s office, which is charged by law to enforce the state’s campaign finance regulations, has taken no enforcement action against the 41 of 58 major county political parties which failed to submit their campaign finance disclosure statements by the recent August 31st deadline. The plaintiffs then turned to the Utah Attorney General asking for enforcement of the disclosure requirements.
The Attorney General’s office did not respond to the plaintiff’s enforcement request but later explained through a spokesman state law authorizes the lieutenant governor to act in matters touching upon campaign finance. For its part, the lieutenant governor’s office advises political parties to submit their financial disclosure statements even though state law does not specifically require them to do so.
According to Mark Thomas, elections director for the lieutenant governor, state law remains ambiguous on the question of the reporting responsibilities of county political parties; a question which will persist until state lawmakers clarify the law. “We would all like to get it better clarified,” Thomas said.
Photo of Salt Lake City by Skyguy414 on Wikipedia.
October 8, 2010 •
Elizabeth Bartz Quoted by Public Affairs Council
Impact article discusses the Tea Party and anti-incumbent political climate.
Elizabeth Bartz, President and CEO of State and Federal Communications, Inc. was quoted in Impact, the Public Affairs Council’s digital newsletter. The article is titled “Has the Tea Party Already Peaked? Some Say: Don’t Be Too Certain.”
According to Bartz, the topic of the National Conference of State Legislatures was not the Tea Party:
“Everybody was talking about health care,” says Bartz. “None of the people there were talking about the Tea Party or Sarah Palin or Ron and [Kentucky Republican Seante nominee] Rand Paul, or anything of that ‘anti-establishment’ stuff.”
October 8, 2010 •
Highlighted Site of the Week – “I Do Solemnly Swear…”
Presidential Inaugurations from George Washington to Barack Obama.
The Library of Congress hosts a Web site of historical collections called American Memory. One of that site’s hidden gems is “I Do Solemnly Swear…”: Presidential Inaugurations. The Library of Congress has pulled 2,000 digital documents from their many divisions and includes transcripts of the speeches, as well as “diaries and letters of presidents and of those who witnessed inaugurations, handwritten drafts of inaugural addresses, broadsides, inaugural tickets and programs, prints, photographs, and sheet music.”
Would you like to see the hand-written copy of George Washington’s first inaugural speech? How about a photo from Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration? The site offers a series of 12 videos ,with Marvin Kranz, historical specialist in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress giving commentary.
Did you know the oath each president recites is in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution?
I love finding out about firsts and mosts, so I was delighted by the fun page of Precedents and Notable Events. George Washington had the shortest inaugural speech at 135 words and William H. Harrison had the longest with 10,000 words! The inauguration of James Polk was the first to be covered by telegraph, James Buchanan’s the first to be photographed, William McKinley’s the first to be filmed (silent movie), Herbert Hoover’s the first to be covered by talking newsreel, Harry Truman’s the first to be televised, and – you probably have guessed – Bill Clinton’s was the first to be broadcast live on the internet.
So have fun. I do solemnly swear you’ll love “I Do Solemnly Swear …” : Presidential Inaugurations!
October 8, 2010 •
News from the Maine Ethics Commission
They will be closed for Furlough Day and Columbus Day Holiday.
The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices will be closed on Friday, October 8, 2010 for a mandatory furlough day and Monday, October 11, 2010 in observance of Columbus Day.
The commission advises independent expenditure reports which are due by October 12, 2010 (the October Summary Report) may be submitted to the commission by fax. The fax number which may be used is: (207) 287-6775.
October 7, 2010 •
Court Keeps Washington Campaign Spending Limit in Place
Court of Appeals Issues Stay of Decision Declaring Washington Law Limiting Late Campaign Spending Unconstitutional
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the decision in Family PAC v. McKenna, et al. which declared a Washington law limiting campaign contributions in the final weeks of ballot measure campaigns unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled last month that the Washington limit is an unconstitutional infringement on political speech. Late Tuesday, a panel of Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges blocked that ruling from taking effect while the state appeals.
The three-judge panel wrote “Washington and its voters have a significant interest in preventing the State’s long-standing campaign finance laws from being upended by the courts so soon before the upcoming election.” The Court also considered that Family PAC had failed to identify any contributions greater than $5000 that it expected to receive in the event the law would be overturned and appeared not to be participating in the upcoming general election, mitigating any harm that may come from the stay of the ruling. Family PAC was created shortly after last year’s legal deadline for large campaign contributions had passed. The committee said it had an offer for a large donation to finance political ads but could not accept the money because of the state law.
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.