March 22, 2021 •
SB1, For the People Act, Introduced in Senate while HR1, Passed in House, also in Senate
On March 17, a comprehensive bill aimed at reforming U.S. campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws, and improving voter rights and election integrity, was introduced in the U.S. Senate. The sweeping bill, Senate Bill 1, For the People Act of 2021, is companion legislation to House Bill 1, which passed the House on March 3. That bill, also called the For the People Act of 2021, was received in the Senate on March 11.
The bill would require the registration as a federal lobbyist for those counseling in support of lobbying contacts; require super PACs, 501(c)4 groups and other organizations spending money in elections and on judicial nominations to disclose donors who contribute more than $10,000; and, under the definitions of the Federal Election Campaign Act, add “paid internet or paid digital communication” to the definition of public communication and add “qualified internet or digital communication” to the definition of electioneering communication.
The bill creates a reporting requirement under campaign finance laws for disclosing certain foreign contacts and creates an obligation for political committees to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Election Commission of those contacts. It also prohibits foreign nationals from participating in decision-making about contributions or expenditures by corporations and other entities; prohibits the establishment of a corporation to conceal election contributions and donations by foreign nationals; and requires foreign agents to disclose transactions involving things of financial value conferred on officeholders.
The bill defines the prohibited coordination between campaigns and super PACs, includes creating a “coordinated spender” category in the law to ensure single-candidate super PACs do not operate as arms of candidates, and defines the prohibited coordination between campaigns and super PACs. The bill would repeal existing prohibitions on the Securities and Exchange Commission from finalizing rules to afford shareholders the opportunity to know about the political spending of publicly traded companies and would require shareholder authorization before a public company may make certain political expenditures. It would also repeal existing prohibitions on the executive branch from promulgating rules to require government contractors to disclose all of their political spending.
The bill requires presidential inauguration committees to disclose their expenditures, limits aggregate contributions, and restricts funds being used for purposes unrelated to an inauguration. Additional measures in the bill include a publicly financed 6-1 matching system on small-dollar donations for Senate and presidential candidates, more ethics changes to the executive branch, and substantial changes to federal election law and voter rights.
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