November 26, 2012 •
Fines and illegal contributions may finally become public
The Legislative Assembly of Alberta crept closer to approving changes to the province’s elections act last week. The bill, which is in the process of going through its second reading, will give the chief electoral officer the power to inform the public who is being fined and to better identify parties receiving cash.
This past May, Elections Alberta fined over 20 corporations for making illegal donations, but was unable to identify the corporations fined or the parties receiving the illegal contributions. The bill will allow the department to go back and reveal the fines of the past three years.
The new bill will also increase disclosure rules for people making political contributions. If the bill is approved, parties or constituency associations will have to disclose any donors who contribute $250 or more. Currently, donors can remain anonymous until they contributed at least $375.
However, many in the province do not think the bill goes far enough. Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman said the new bill is “feeble, weak, pale, insufficient, and poor. This is not 21st century thinking and it does not address any of the recent scandals that have come up.”
Once the bill passes the second reading, which it is expected to do, it will head to the Committee of the Whole.
February 10, 2012 •
A Montana Supreme Court’s decision upholding the state’s law prohibiting independent political expenditures by a corporation related to a candidate, in spite of Citizens United v. FEC, has been appealed to the US Supreme Court.
According to the SCOTUSblog, Justice Kennedy has called for a response from the state of Montana by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15.
For a detailed explanation of the appeal, see Lyle Denniston’s article on SCOTUSblog at http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/02/new-citizens-united-sequel-2.
In December of last year, the Montana Supreme Court found Citizens United v. FEC did not compel invalidating the state’s 1912 Corrupt Practices Act.
In the Court’s majority opinion in Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Attorney General of the State of Montana, the Court wrote, “The corporate power that can be exerted with unlimited political spending is still a vital interest to the people of Montana.”
The Court concluded the state, because of its history and the history of the Act, has a compelling interest to impose statutory restrictions, emphasizing the Citizens United decision allows restrictions to be upheld if the government demonstrates a sufficiently strong interest.
In making its argument, the decision asserts that a “material factual distinction between the present case and Citizens United is the extent of the regulatory burden imposed by the challenged law.” The Court found in contrast to the “complexity and ambiguity” of restrictions for federal PACs, PACs formed and maintained in the state are “easily implemented” by the filing of “simple and straight-forward forms or reports.”
Attorney James Bopp, Jr., counsel of record for the petitioner, argues for the US Supreme Court to summarily reverse the Montana decision, writing, “The lower court’s refusal to follow Citizens United is such an obvious, blatant disregard of its duty to follow this Court’s decisions that summary reversal is proper.”
January 17, 2012 •
Initiative Could Appear on November Ballot
A former D.C. council candidate and a ward commissioner are submitting a ballot measure which would ban corporate contributions to electoral campaigns if approved by voters this November.
The summary of the initiative states that it will restore the public trust by eliminating the outsized influence corporate money has in D.C. government and elections by prohibiting direct contributions from corporations to elected officials and candidates for public office. The measure would align D.C. with federal law, which bans direct corporate contributions to public officials and candidates.
Proponents of the measure need to collect over 22,000 signatures from registered voters within six months for it to appear on the November ballot.
August 25, 2011 •
100 other CEOs follow suit
The Wall Street Journal reported last night that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will not give a penny in campaign contributions to incumbents until Congress comes up with a long-term solution to the debt problem. According to the article, 100 other heads of corporations have joined him in that pledge.
Schultz also made a plea to business leaders to start hiring again.
In “Starbucks CEO: Pledge to Halt Campaign Donations Gains Steam,” Julie Jargon names a few of the other CEOs following Schultz in the promise.
Could a movement be brewing?
June 8, 2011 •
Limits To Case Before Him
Yesterday, the judge who ruled corporations may contribute directly to federal candidates reaffirmed his decision, but held it only applies in the criminal case before him. Federal District Judge James C. Cacheris continues to find the “logic remains inescapable” that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United dictates corporations have the same contribution rights as human beings.
The judge writes: “Again, for better or worse, Citizens United held that the First Amendment treats corporations and individuals equally for the purposes of political speech. This leaves no logical room for an individual to be able to donate $2,500 to a campaign while a corporation … cannot donate a cent.” However, his decision states the “flat ban on direct corporate contributions to political campaigns is unconstitutional as applied to this case, as opposed to being unconstitutional as applied to all corporate donations.”
After reviewing the possible impact of his decision in US v Danielczyk, and the unaddressed political contribution issues since the Citizens United decision, the judge characterizes his ruling by concluding it “adds a small drop to what is already a very large bucket.”
This blog post updates a previous article, “Corporate Contribution Ban Found Unconstitutional” by George Ticoras on May 27.
June 2, 2011 •
Contribution Limits Increased
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has signed Senate Bill 1915 (companion to House Bill 1003) into law.
The bill allows corporations to contribute to candidates by removing the previous statutory prohibition. The bill also adjusts contribution limits to reflect change in the Consumer Price Index.
The new law is effective immediately.
May 3, 2011 •
Increased Contribution Limits Also Included
Bills legalizing direct corporate contributions and increasing contribution limits have moved one step closer to becoming law.
The bills would allow direct corporate contributions to candidates and would increase contribution limits by nearly 40 percent.
Photo of the Tennessee State Capitol by Ichabod on Wikipedia.
April 20, 2011 •
A bill to tighten restrictions on political contributions has been introduced in the California legislature.
Assembly Bill 860 would prohibit corporations or labor unions from making contributions to a candidate for elected office. Additionally, this legislation would strengthen the state pay-to-play laws.
The bill would prohibit government contractors from making contributions to an official or candidate who is or would be elected to a position responsible for awarding a government contract to the contributor.
Finally, this bill would also prohibit any employer from using payroll deduction to fund any political activity.
Photo of the California State Capitol by Nikopoley on Wikipedia.
February 18, 2011 •
A campaign finance bill has been introduced in the state senate to allow corporate contributions to PACs.
Currently, corporations are prohibited from any campaign activity other than those contributions allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its “Citizens United” decision.
Corporations would still be forbidden from contributing to a candidate committee or political party committee.
South Dakota seal from an image of the state flag by Denelson83 on Wikipedia.
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 5, 2010 •
Court to Examine Long-standing Montana Law Banning Corporate Campaign Contributions
A Montana district judge will rule on a challenge to Montana’s nearly century-old, voter-passed restriction on direct corporate spending to support or oppose political parties or candidates. The Montana law is being challenged based upon the U.S. Supreme Court’s January ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturned a federal ban on corporate spending in political campaigns.
Attorneys for the State of Montana defended the law stating that a law enacted in 1912 should not be lumped with a law Congress enacted 90 years later under a one-size-fits-all federal rule. They added that corporations do speak freely in Montana elections under current law with nearly 200 political action committees active in state politics in the past decade and warned unlimited corporate campaign spending would drastically alter Montana’s current campaigns that rely on person-to-person contact.
September 21, 2010 •
A federal court has set aside the state’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures.
Under the consent decree signed by Judge George C. Smith, corporations may engage in express advocacy for or against a candidate for Ohio office. Corporations are still prohibited from making direct contributions to a candidate or working with a candidate on these independent expenditures. This order brings Ohio elections into compliance with the January “Citizens United” decision which held corporations have a First Amendment right to make independent expenditures.
The decision may have a major impact on Ohio’s campaign finance regulation because the statute in question contains a clause which states if any section of the law is deemed unconstitutional, the entire law is automatically repealed. A federal court will determine the validity of the remainder of the law next week.
July 29, 2010 •
Four Wyoming lawmakers are challenging the provisions of the state election code prohibiting political contributions by corporations.
The legal petition filed by the lawmakers asks a state district court to review Wyoming’s election law in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. At present, Wyoming law prohibits corporations from making campaign contributions, a position which puts it at odds with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
While Wyoming’s election law hasn’t yet been challenged on grounds raised by Citizens United, it is seen by some lawmakers in Cheyenne as only a matter of time before a lawsuit emerges. The lawmakers hope their petition will preempt any such litigation against the state.
Here are some useful Wyoming links:
Wyoming State Legislature Web site
July 8, 2010 •
State and Federal Communications’ Experts Answer Your Questions.
Here is your chance to “Ask the Experts” at State and Federal Communications, Inc. You can directly submit questions for this feature, and we will select those most appropriate and answer them here. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Of course, we have always been available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or e-mail us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need.) Our replies to your questions are not legal advice. Instead, these replies represent our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.
Q. My employer makes corporate contributions in California. We have not yet exceeded $10,000 in calendar year 2010. The primary election and special elections are taking place, along with the general election in the fall. If we decide to make contributions, when do we have a late contribution report due?
A. The California “Late Contribution Report” [Form 497], sometimes referred to as the “24-hour report” is due during the 16-day period preceding any election if all of the following criteria are met:
- The contribution is $1,000 or more. This includes non-monetary and in-kind contributions.
- The corporation making the contribution must have already qualified as a major donor, or the contribution made during the 16-day period before the election puts them over the $10,000 threshold and they become a major donor.
- The recipient candidate or ballot committee must appear on the ballot at the election for which the 16-day period applies.
- Contributions to political parties made during the 16-day period are also included.
The filing requirements for Form 497 are:
- The report is due within 24 hours of making the contribution.
- No signature is required.
- The report must be filed electronically with the California Secretary of State, Political Reform Division, and then followed up by paper filing via facsimile to the following:
- California Secretary of State, Political Reform Division
- Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder
- San Francisco City and County Registrar
If the contribution is non-monetary or in-kind, the contributor must notify the recipient of the value of the contribution within 24 hours of making the contribution. The notice of value does not need to be filed with the state or any of the other filing offices listed above.
There is no standardized form. The notice should be sent to the recipient by personal delivery, fax, or guaranteed overnight delivery.
As a reminder, the late contribution must still be reported on the next major donor report that is due. In 2010, major donor reports are due July 31, 2010, for the period covering January 1 to June 30; and January 31, 2011, for the period covering July 1 to December 31.
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.