November 7, 2011 •
Committee Designation to be Addressed
The Fair Political Practices Commission has issued notice of proposed amendments to the California Code of Regulations to be considered at a public hearing on December 8, 2011. The proposed regulations codify commission guidance instructing filers to treat an in-kind contribution of the services of salaried personnel to a committee and the expenditure by the person making the salary payment as a contribution made on the payroll date of the salaried personnel.
The commission will also consider regulations which differentiate a contribution from a donation. Under the proposed regulation, a contribution is a payment made for a political purpose and includes payments to a multi-purpose organization. By contrast, a payment to a multi-purpose organization that is not made or used for a political purpose is to be treated as a donation and not a contribution for the purposes of identifying reportable contributions.
Lastly, the commission will consider amendments to the provisions pertaining to primarily formed and general purpose committees to assist filers in determining which label fits the purpose and structure of their committee.
The regulations define a general purpose committee as an ongoing committee which supports multiple candidates and measures in successive elections. General purpose committees include associations, political action committees, political party committees, major donors, as well as entities and individuals making independent expenditures.
The regulation proposes a standard for determining whether a committee is a state, county, or city general purpose committee. A committee will be considered a city or county committee if more than 70 percent of their activity is at the city or county level. Classification as a state committee will be the default.
Pursuant to the proposed regulation, a primarily formed committee is a committee formed or existing to support a single candidate or measure in a specific election. A committee will be considered primarily formed if more than 70 percent of the committee’s contributions and expenditures are for specific candidates or measures during the 24 months preceding the date where the candidate or measure is on the ballot.
Image of the Seal of California by Zscout370 on Wikipedia.
August 2, 2011 •
Special Elections August 9th and 16th
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has enjoined enforcement of a Wisconsin law that makes it illegal for anyone to give more than $10,000 in a calendar year to a political committee that makes independent expenditures in elections.
The Wisconsin Right to Life State PAC sought to halt enforcement of the contribution limit in light of the special elections to be held on August 9 and 16, 2011.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals enjoined enforcement of the Wisconsin contribution limit finding that Wisconsin Right to Life State PAC had a reasonable likelihood of succeeding on the merits of its appeal, and set the case for expedited appeal.
July 18, 2011 •
WRPAC Requests Exemption from FEC
An advisory opinion request seeking to lift the requirement of the 24- and 48-hour reporting of independent expenditures for bulk e-mailing during the 2012 presidential primaries has been filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Western Representation PAC (WRPAC), which has 140,000 e-mail addresses, and estimates it will have 500,000 by the end of the year, intends to send the entire list an indeterminate number of e-mail messages during the more than 24 president primaries in 2012. The frequency of messages would range “from as few as four a month to as many as thirty, depending on the unpredictable political developments of the day and the fluctuating urgencies of the primary season.”
Because WRPAC will be paying a fixed monthly price for the e-mail service, and because the number of e-mails is unpredictable, WRPAC is asking the FEC to grant an exemption from the 24- and 48-hour reporting requirement, stressing the difficulty in determining what share of the fixed monthly price would apply in order to determine whether a reporting requirement would be triggered across the various different primary dates. WRPAC’s request includes several scenarios to illustrate the burdens on WRPAC’s planned independent expenditures, arguing “that they rise to the level of an infringement on WRPAC’s First Amendment rights.”
You can find the press release here.
May 24, 2011 •
FEC Advisory Opinion Requested
The House Majority PAC and the Majority PAC, two independent expenditure entities, formally requested an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission asking whether federal officeholders and candidates may solicit unlimited contributions on behalf of PACs. The request was sparked by the newly created Republican Super PAC, founded by James Bopp, and its plan to ask candidates to solicit and direct unlimited contributions on its behalf.
These solicited funds would be earmarked for independent expenditures supporting or opposing specifically designated candidates. Additionally the request asks if candidates may participate in fundraisers for PACs even if they cannot solicit contributions.
May 23, 2011 •
Directly to Shareholders or Link From Homepage
Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law a bill which requires corporations to disclose to shareholders the dates and amounts of political independent expenditures and the candidate or ballot issue to which the expenses related, or post a link to this information from its homepage.
All entities making an aggregate independent expenditure of $10,000 or more in an election cycle will be required to file reports detailing information such as the identities of those making, or those exercising direction or control over those making, the independent expenditures. Included in the report must be the identity of each person who made cumulative donations in excess of $51 to the entity making the independent expenditure. Entities include corporations, partnerships, committees, associations, and labor organizations.
The law redefines independent expenditure to mean expressly advocating the success or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or ballot issue. Separate and distinct from the definition of independent expenditure, the law also defines electioneering communications to cover expenditures for broadcasts made within 60 days of an election. Based on the amount of money spent and the size of the audience of the broadcast, separate and additional disclosure reports may be required for electioneering communications.
The new law takes effect December 1.
May 4, 2011 •
The new law takes effect August 1.
Governor Jack Dalrymple has signed Senate Bill 2073 into law.
The legislation, effective August 1, 2011, requires corporations making independent expenditures relating to ballot measures to file a report including the company’s name, the measure supported or opposed, and the monetary amount of the expenditure made.
This report, known as a “direct expenditure statement,” is due within 48 hours of making such an expenditure.
Photo of Governor Dalrymple courtesy of the North Dakota Office of the Governor website.
April 21, 2011 •
Lawsuit and Petition Filed
U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen has filed both a lawsuit against the FEC and a petition at the FEC seeking to challenge regulations of disclosure requirements of contributions for “electioneering communications” and “independent expenditures”. In Van Hollen v. FEC, he claims the FEC regulation 11 CFR §104.20(c)(9), which requires disclosure only of those making contributions over $1,000 to an entity for the purpose of furthering electioneering communications, contradicts the statute which requires disclosure of all donors making contributions over $1,000.
The separately filed petition with the FEC requests they revise and amend regulations currently allowing independent expenditure groups to not reveal donors giving over $200 except for those contributors who gave for the purpose of furthering the reported independent expenditure. Representative Van Hollen alleges this contradicts the statute, which requires disclosure of all donors who gave over $200 to the entity.
October 27, 2010 •
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 18, 2010 •
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 13, 2010 •
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.
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.
September 14, 2010 •
A pro-life group has filed suit in federal court challenging aspects of Iowa’s legislative response to “Citizens United.”
The new law requires groups like The Iowa Right-to-Life Committee, which is organized as a corporation, to form a PAC if they wish to make independent expenditures. The group claims this requirement and the new disclosure requirements are an unconstitutional burden on their First Amendment rights.
Supporters of the law are calling this suit a “political stunt.”
Photo of the Iowa Capitol by Cburnett on Wikipedia.
August 27, 2010 •
The Maine Ethics Commission adopted emergency rules to address regulations deemed “unconstitutionally burdensome” by a federal court last week. The new rules apply to political action committees, party committees, and other outside groups making independent expenditures.
Beginning September 7th, independent expenditures exceeding $250 must be reported within 48 hours of the expenditure. Starting on October 20th, independent expenditures exceeding $100 must be reported within 24 hours. Other reports of independent expenditures will be required on September 7th, October 12th, and October 19th.
Here is the Notice on Reporting Independent Expenditures on the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices Web site.
Photo by AlbanyNY on Wikipedia.
July 27, 2010 •
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has issued two advisory opinions approving the creation of two independent campaign committees which plan to solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, political committees, corporations, labor organizations, and the general public.
The committees plan to use funds to make independent expenditures. Citing the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission as well as a less-well known decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued this year called SpeechNow.org v. FEC, the FEC concluded corporations, labor organizations, and political committees may make unlimited independent expenditures from their own funds, and individuals may pool unlimited funds in an independent expenditure-only political committee.
In the case of the independent committee Commonsense Ten, a registered, non-connected political committee (Advisory Opinion 2010-11), the FEC concluded it could solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, labor organizations, and political committees for the purpose of making independent expenditures.
In the case of Club for Growth, Inc., a 501(c)(4) corporation, (Advisory Opinion 2010-09),the FEC concluded on the same basis provided by Citizens United and SpeechNow.org it could establish and administer a committee to solicit and accept unlimited contributions from individuals in the general public, including contributions given for specific independent expenditures.
The FEC issued both advisory opinions on a vote of 5 to 1. Commissioner Steven T. Walther dissented in both opinions.
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