News You Can Use Digest - August 8, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

August 8, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – August 8, 2014



Tea Party Group Loses Appeal on Corporate PAC Limits

BusinessWeek – Andreew Zajac | Published: 8/5/2014

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. kept in place limits on political donations by corporate PACs. The judges turned aside a challenge by Stop This Insanity Inc., an Arizona-based not-for-profit organization created to advance the values of the tea party movement. The group sought to allow corporate PACs to accept funds from the general public and to eliminate a $5,000-a-person annual limit on contributions earmarked for independent support or opposition to candidates.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Powerhouse GOP Group Snared in Money Scheme

Politico – Alexander Burns | Published: 8/4/2014

The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) has spent tens of millions of dollars to flip state legislative chambers and redraw the congressional map in Republicans’ favor, and is poised to spend millions more this fall. A report by a Washington law firm detailed an investigation into alleged misconduct by multiple RSLC officials during the crucial 2010 election cycle. It charged that national leaders conspired improperly with the leader of the Alabama Republican Party to use the RSLC as a pass-through for controversial Indian tribe donations, essentially laundering money from the gaming industry by routing it out of state and then back into Alabama.

Florida – Deadline Set to Redraw Voting Map in Florida

New York Times – Frances Robles | Published: 8/1/2014

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ordered Florida lawmakers to revise a map of 27 congressional districts by August 15, raising the possibility of delayed elections in November. The judge previously found the current map violated a state prohibition of gerrymandering. Lewis said until a new map is in place, it will be “difficult, if not impossible” to evaluate whether an election with new district lines is feasible before the new Congress takes office in January. The primary is set to take place August 26. A hearing, if needed, is set for August 20 to hear objections to the revised map or a proposed election schedule.

Maryland – Despite 2012 Law, Casino Interests and Md. Candidates Remain Intertwined

Washington Post – John Wagner | Published: 8/4/2014

Maryland’s ban on casino owners making campaign contributions is limited and has done little to stop the flow of funds associated with one prolific donor – William Rickman, Jr., owner of the Casino at Oceans Downs. Rickman has stopped giving as an individual and through the company he set up to operate the casino. But money has been donated to candidates through a separate Rickman company that owns the racetrack where the casino was built, and through a company established to provide food and beverage services there, among other avenues. Critics say the contributions tied to Rickman offer a prime example of how campaign finance reform often falls short of its goal: donors simply find other ways to give.

Massachusetts – Gov. Deval Patrick Signs Super PAC Disclosure Law – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 8/4/2014

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill into law that increases individual campaign contribution limits for state candidates and requires additional disclosures for super PACs. Beginning immediately, the law requires that all groups making independent expenditures to disclose their donors within seven days, or within 24 hours if it is 10 days or less before an election. Beginning in January, the law raises the amount an individual can contribute to a state candidate from $500 to $1,000.

Massachusetts – State Fines Super PAC that Backed Walsh

CommonWealth Magazine – Paul McMorrow | Published: 8/6/2014

The two super PACs that supported Boston Mayor Martin Walsh in the closing days of the 2013 election are settling claims they violated Massachusetts campaign finance law. The groups behind $500,000 in pro-Walsh television ads, One New Jersey and One Boston, have agreed to pay $30,000 in fines. The money for the ads originated with the American Federation of Teachers, something that did not become known until after the election.  The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance found One New Jersey failed to identify itself as a political committee and One Boston failed to disclose the true origins of its donations.

Mississippi – Miss. Appeals Federal Judge’s Block of Small-Group Political Spending Laws; Hearing Sept. 3

Greenfield Reporter; Associated Press –   | Published: 8/4/2014

The state of Mississippi is asking a federal appeals court to overturn a lower court ruling that part of its campaign finance law creates an unconstitutional burden for people or groups that spend at least $200 to support or oppose a ballot initiative. Opponents of the law argue the threshold is so low it would be impossible for a group of people to run a quarter-page ad in their local newspaper without having to become a political committee. State Attorney General Jim Hood said the disclosure requirements are “substantially related to the sufficiently important government interest” of educating voters about those who seek to influence their vote.

Tennessee – Conservatives See Potential in Tennessee Judicial Race

New York Times – Alan Blinder | Published: 8/5/2014

Most elections to retain state Supreme Court justices are bland affairs, but this year, Tennesseans have been inundated with mailings, venomous campaign ads, and more than $1 million of local and out-of-state money for the battle over three of the five seats on the court. The big push against the incumbents has come from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey. His PAC gave the largest recorded campaign contribution, more than $400,000, to a conservative group opposing the justices. Ramsey’s efforts have drawn national groups into the fight, like the Charles and David Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity, the State Government Leadership Foundation, and the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Utah – Utah Lobbyists Required to Wear Badges at Capitol

Charlotte Observer – Michelle Price (Associated Press) | Published: 8/1/2014

As of August 1, lobbyists in Utah must don name tags featuring the word “lobbyist” whenever they are trying to influence public officials at the Capitol. The law also requires lobbyists to disclose who they are working for before advocating to an official. Frank Pignanelli, who has been a lobbyist for the last 17 years after spending a decade as a lawmaker, said wearing badges is irritating and unnecessary. “I just think it’s silly and it’s not necessary and it smacks of a nanny state; our forefathers didn’t cross the plains so we can stick badges on lobbyists,” said Pignanelli.

Vermont – Searchable Campaign Finance System Goes Live

Burlington Free Press – Terri Hallenbeck | Published: 8/5/2014

Vermont now has a searchable computer system that will make it easier to track how much money candidates are raising and spending. Candidates, political parties, and PACs may start using it for campaign finance reports due later in August. Those who prefer the old paper system may continue using it this year, said Secretary of State Jim Condos. The new system becomes mandatory in January.

Wisconsin – Another Blow to Campaign Finance Disclosure in Wisconsin?

Captal Times – Jack Craver | Published: 8/1/2014

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) recently told a number of electioneering groups that they are welcome to disclose their spending activity and donors, but are not required to. That is a change from previous years, when organizations that expressly advocated for the election or defeat of a candidate have been required to periodically submit reports that listed their donors and spending activity. Groups that engaged solely in issue advocacy were not required to disclose. Now, however, the GAB is allowing even organizations that engage in a certain amount of express advocacy to forego disclosure.

Wyoming – Federal Court Rules in Favor of Third-Party Fundraising in Wyoming

Casper Star-Tribune – Trevor Graff | Published: 8/6/2014

A federal judge ruled a provision of Wyoming law that restricted third-party candidate fundraising is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced. Jennifer Young, who is running for secretary of state as a Constitution Party candidate, and one of her supporters sued the state. They challenged a campaign finance law that limited fundraising for candidates whose parties do not participate in primary elections. The contested provision barred third-party candidates from accepting political contributions before the primary election. Major party candidates faced no such restriction.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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