October 9, 2013 •
Here is our roundup of the latest articles on lobbying, campaign finance, ethics, and more!
“Lobbying World” in The Hill.
Louisiana: “Veteran lobbyist leaves Louisiana Association of Business and Industry” by Julia O’Donoghue in The Times-Picayune.
“Justices clash over campaign finance law” by Sam Baker in The Hill.
“Supreme Court conservatives skeptical of campaign finance limits” by Josh Gerstein and Byron Tau in Politico.
“Chief Justice Roberts: A Campaign Finance Moderate Who Gets It?” by Rick Hasen in the Election Law Blog.
California: “Brown signs three FPPC bills, vetoes campaign finance bill” by Laurel Rosenhall in The Sacramento Bee.
Colorado: “Campaign-finance complaint filed against opponents of pot-tax issue” by Jeremy P. Meyer in The Denver Post.
Kentucky: “Supreme Court ruling in campaign finance case could affect Kentucky Senate race” by Sam Youngman in the Lexington Herald-Leader.
New York: “NY Minute: Will voters decide fate of publicly financed campaigns?” by Teri weaver in the The Post-Standard.
California: “Gov. Brown gives public a closer look at elected officials’ finances” by Patrick McGreevy and Anthony York in the Los Angeles Times.
Georgia: “Ex-state IT specialist claims he removed documents from Gov. Deal ethics file” by Greg Bluestein in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Ohio: “Letters from Mandel show he lobbied for donor” by Joe Vardon in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
South Carolina: “SC senators not sold on independent ethics panel” by Adam Beam in The State.
Tech and Social Media
“Chicago Candidate Wants to Transform Political Discussion” by Colin Wood in Government Technology.
Maryland: “City broke laws by meeting in secret, state board rules” by Luke Broadwater in the Baltimore Sun.
April 8, 2013 •
McCutcheon v FEC
The United States Supreme Court has decided to hear a case challenging the aggregate federal limits for a person making contributions to candidates, party committees, and PACs. The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), is expected to be argued and decided during the Court’s next term, which begins in October, 2013.
The plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, is an Alabama businessman who regularly makes political contributions to Republican candidates and the Republican National Committee (RNC). Mr. McCutcheon wishes to contribute $26,200 more to candidates and committees than the aggregate ceiling would allow. However, he is not challenging the limits on contributions to individual candidates and entities. Mr. McCutcheon wants to give to more candidates and political entities. The RNC is also a plaintiff in the suit.
Federal law imposes two types of limits on individual political contributions, base limits and biennial limits.
Base limits restrict the amount an individual may contribute to:
- A candidate committee;
- A national party committee;
- A state, local, and district party committee; and
- A political action committee.
Biennial limits restrict the aggregate amount an individual may contribute biennially, using the 2011-2012 election cycle limits argued against in the lawsuit, as follows:
- $46,200 to candidate committees; and
- $70,800 to all other committees, of which no more than $46,200 may go to non-national party committees (e.g., state parties and PACs).
The plaintiffs are only challenging the overall limits (the biannual limits) and not the base limits.
The attorneys for McCutcheon and the RNC argue the two-year ceilings federal law sets on what an individual can contribute during a campaign are unconstitutional. Specifically, they assert the limits on contributions violate a contributor’s right to free speech; the limits for biennial contributions are too low; and the distinction between contributions and expenditures articulated in the 1976 US Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo are no longer applicable because of the changes in campaign finance laws over the last 30 years. Buckley v. Valeo allowed for government regulation of contributions to prevent political corruption and prohibited government regulation of expenditures because of First Amendment protections.
Unlike Citizens United v FEC, which concerned political expenditures, McCutcheon v. FEC addresses contribution limits. Additionally, this case does not involve the political contributions or expenditures of corporations.
February 19, 2013 •
McCutcheon v. FEC
Today the United States Supreme Court decided to grant a review to a case challenging the aggregate limits on federal campaign contributions. The case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, seeks to allow Shaun McCutcheon to make political contributions to several federal candidates exceeding the two-year aggregate limit currently set at $48,600 as provided in 2 U.S.C §441a(a)(3)(A).
Photo of Supreme Court building by UpstateNYer in Wikipedia.
October 24, 2012 •
State to Continue to Enforce Limits
Yesterday the United States Supreme Court denied an application to vacate the stay allowing Montana to enforce its political contribution limits.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had stayed a District Court’s decision ruling certain state contribution limits unconstitutional and unenforceable. The U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, issuing a decision in Lair v. Murry, found the contribution limits in Montana Code Annotated §13-37-216 “prevent candidates from ‘amassing the resources necessary for effective campaign advocacy.’”
The case is pending in the Court of Appeals.
June 26, 2012 •
Appellate court ruled city’s laws constitutional
The United States Supreme Court declined to review a federal appeals case that held New York City’s campaign finance laws are constitutional. Tom Ognibene, a New York republican, challenged the city’s laws saying that the Citizens United decision effectively overruled the provisions.
In December, a federal appeals court disagreed with Ognibene, holding that the city’s rules prohibiting corporate contributions to political campaigns and requiring candidates to disclose all contributions from individuals and organizations were justified to prevent corruption in elections. The appellate court held that the Citizens United decision only applied to independent expenditures by corporations, not to contribution limits.
February 28, 2012 •
Laws Found Constitutional
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to Maine election laws brought by the National Organization for Marriage claiming Maine’s reporting requirements for political action committees are vague and over-broad.
The Supreme Court let stand the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold the constitutionality of the laws requiring the disclosure of contributions and expenditures in elections by PACs and by independent groups.
Maine defended its laws by arguing the laws were designed to inform voters about who is spending money to influence their votes.
February 21, 2012 •
Call by Justice to Revisit Citizens United v FEC
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, concluding the state, because of its history and the history of the Act, has a compelling interest to impose statutory restrictions. The Montana Court emphasized the Citizens United decision allows restrictions to be upheld if the government demonstrates a sufficiently strong interest.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling stays the state Court’s ruling until either a formal appeal to the US Supreme Court is denied, or, if an appeal is accepted, the US Supreme Court mandates the termination of the stay.
In the one page order by the US Supreme Court, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, “Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court’s decision in [Citizens United v. FEC], make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’ A petition for certiorari will give the Court an opportunity to consider whether, in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.”
Associate Justice Steven G. Breyer joined in Justice Ginsburg’s statement.
Photo of the United States Supreme Court building frieze by UpstateNYer on Wikipedia.
January 20, 2012 •
The U.S. Supreme Court threw out the Texas redistricting plans created by a federal court and calls for new plans, plus more redistricting news from the states:
“Attorney General: Redistricting Commissioners can’t be fired” in the Spokesman-Review.
“Beshear Signs Redistricting Bill, Decries Process” by Phillip M. Bailey from the WFPL News.
Here is opinion piece by Kentucky Rep. Kelly Flood: “Senate redistricting ‘a display of arrogance, bullying‘” from the Lexington Herald-Leader.
“Justices’ Texas Redistricting Ruling Likely to Help G.O.P.” by Adam Liptak in the New York Times.
“Supreme Court throws out Texas election maps” by James Vicini on Reuters.
“Supreme Court sides with Texas on redistricting plan” by Robert Barnes in the Washington Post.
“Virginia Senate narrowly passes GOP-backed congressional redistricting bill” by The Associated Press in the Washington Post.
“Senate approves GOP congressional redistricting plan” by Jim Nolan in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
January 9, 2012 •
Federal campaign contributions are prohibited from individuals living in the U.S. but not admitted for permanent residency, the Supreme Court affirmed today.
The Supreme Court, through a summary disposition, upheld a lower court ruling finding aliens who are in the United States on temporary work visas may not make political contributions to federal candidates or political parties, as proscribed in 2 U.S.C. §441e and its implementing regulations.
Bluman v FEC was brought on behalf of two plaintiffs, a doctor in residency and a recent law school graduate, both citizens of other countries. They argued the Court’s earlier Citizens United v FEC decision mandated allowing financial political contributions by the plaintiffs as part of their protected free speech.
In upholding the law and denying the plaintiff the relief they sought, the lower court had written in its decision, “It is fundamental to the definition of our national political community that foreign citizens do not have a constitutional right to participate in, and thus may be excluded from, activities of democratic self-government.”
Today’s one-line summary disposition by the Supreme Court affirms the lower court’s holding without judicial opinion.
Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court Building by Joe Ravi on Wikipedia.
December 13, 2011 •
Campaigns and Fundraising Affected by Competing District Lines
The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will hear arguments on January 9 regarding Congressional and State Legislature districts in Texas. This has put Texas campaigning and fundraising in a state of confusion.
You can find the news coverage here:
“Redistricting Orders Throw Texas Politics Into Disarray” by Ross Ramsey in the Texas Tribune.
“Texas Elections Are in Limbo Over Redistricting Issue” by Manny Fernandez in the New York Times.
“Judges to offer guidance to party leaders after Supreme Court blocks maps” by Tim Eaton in the American-Statesman.
June 27, 2011 •
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Arizona campaign finance law that offered extra public funding to state political candidates who faced increased opposition spending.
The Citizens Clean Elections Act, passed by voters in a 1998 ballot initiative, gave candidates extra money if they face well funded opponents that opted out of the state election financing system.
Candidates also could qualify for greater public financing based on political spending by independent political groups that ran advertisements opposing their candidacy or supporting other candidates.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote “laws like Arizona’s matching funds provision that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand.”
March 23, 2011 •
Coordinated Expenditure Limits Remain
The Supreme Court has denied a petition for a writ of certiorari challenging the limits a political party can spend in coordination with a candidate, leaving in place the $5,000 limits on party contributions to candidates. In Cao v. FEC, the Republican National Committee had argued making their expenditures in coordination with Louisiana Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao, as opposed to making completely independent expenditures for him, constituted both Representative Cao’s and the RNC’s free speech.
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), limiting the amount of the contributions, constitutional. The RNC’s appeal had been filed by James Bopp, Jr.
This post is follows two previous Lobby Comply articles by George Ticoras:
“$5,000 Contribution Limit Upheld” from November 22, 2010
“RNC Argues for Coordinated Campaign Spending” from December 13, 2010
Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court Building inscription by UpstateNYer on Wikipedia.
February 24, 2011 •
Ninth Circuit Court Decision Upheld
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Human Life of Washington challenging Washington’s campaign finance disclosure law. The Supreme Court let stand without comment a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the state’s disclosure requirements for political committees, independent expenditures and political advertising.
Human Life of Washington challenged the requirements as a violation of its free-speech rights, as it sought to keep donors in a 2008 campaign opposing an assisted-suicide ballot measure confidential. The group argued that it was not required to register as a political-action committee and disclose donors because its advertisements did not specifically reference the ballot measure.
Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court by UpstateNYer on Wikipedia.
December 13, 2010 •
Appeal filed by James Bopp
The Republican National Committee has filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court challenging limits on the amounts a political party can spend in coordination with candidates. Filed on the RNC’s behalf by James Bopp, Jr., the RNC argues the expenditures constitute the party’s free speech.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele said, “The right of political parties to express their members’ views about their candidates for office while also working directly with those candidates to help elect them is crucial to a healthy democracy.”
The case being appealed, Cao v. FEC, found contribution limits constitutional as applied to the RNC.
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