Archive for the ‘Campaign Finance’ Category
Friday, May 27th, 2016 by Matthew Barnes
As previously discussed in Lobby Blog, we are experiencing an election cycle filled with much anti –lobbying rhetoric from leading presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Donald Trump. Nevertheless, lobbyists have come to play a significant role supporting many of the 2016 presidential campaigns through direct donations and fundraising. Lobby Blog has previously reported that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton “received more than $600,000 from more than 300 different registered lobbyists and PACs in the first half of 2015.”
The support for candidates from lobbyists has continued into 2016. According to the Hill, “Lobbyists may well give more in 2016 than they did in previous cycles… And with control of the Senate in play, it’s increasingly difficult for lobbyists from both parties to resist fundraising pleas.” Already in this election cycle “the top 20 givers among registered federal lobbyists, as identified by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, have collectively donated more than $2.5 million.”
The Hill argues that on the Democratic side one explanation of the increase in lobbying contributions is because of “new arrangements such as joint fundraising committees have also driven up the requests for money. And registered Democratic lobbyists, who for two presidential cycles were blocked by President Barack Obama from donating to his campaigns, have now been liberated. They have made Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton the top recipient of K Street cash among White House hopefuls this election cycle. The Democratic National Committee is also once more welcoming lobbyist checks.”
Lobbyists, such as Pat Raffaniello, who runs Raffaniello & Associates, also argue that while there may be an increase in spending from the industry, it is nothing compared to the millions of dollars raised and donated to PACs by highroller groups such as hedge funds. According to Raffaniello “Unless you are raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, it seems like a wasted effort from a lobbying point of view…You don’t get on anybody’s radar screen.” However, some like Nick Penniman, Executive Director of Issue One, argue that “direct donations from lobbyists to lawmakers and congressional candidates have special value, even if they’re comparatively low…Lobbyists don’t have the big checks, but lobbyists’ money, because it’s going directly to the campaigns, is pure gold…It’s the highest currency in political giving.”
Friday, November 4th, 2011 by Vbhotla
The L.A. Times reported last week on a study that suggests that in this post-Citizens United world, companies are regulating their own spending in political campaigns. The study, conducted by the Center for Political Accountability and the University of Pennsylvania’s Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research, evaluated companies based on board oversight of political giving, disclosure practices and company restrictions on political spending.
The study found that “voluntary disclosure of political spending is becoming a mainstream corporate practice, and [a] growing number of companies are putting restrictions on the political use of their money.” According to its research, 57 of the S&P 100 index companies voluntarily disclose their political spending and have adopted board oversight over spending. Just under half, 43, of the companies voluntarily disclose some of their independent spending through associations and nonprofits.
One in six do not allow funds to be spent directly on candidates or political committees. It also found two companies, Colgate-Palmolive and IBM, prohibit spending entirely. Nearly one-third (30) of companies “place some Levitra prohibitions on using corporate funds for political activity.”
“Our findings are striking. They offer hope for increasing corporate political transparency and accountability at a time when everyone expects massive hidden spending to influence elections,” CPA President Bruce Freed said in a statement.
Twenty-four of the companies have explicit statements on their websites letting Super PAC committees know that they will not spend on independent expenditures. The study ranked the top-ten companies based on political transparency:
- Colgate-Palmolive Co.
- Exelon Corp.
- International Business Machines
- Merck & Co. Inc.
- Johnson & Johnson
- Pfizer Inc.
- United Parcel Service Inc.
- Dell Inc.
- Wells Fargo & Co.
- EMC Corp.
In 2003, the Center for Political Accountability started a campaign to urge corporations to voluntarily disclose political spending and exercise greater oversight in this area. “Few, if any, companies disclosed their political spending then,” the report says, going on to note that the results of this study “[reflect] significant progress. [They] also [reflect] troubling gaps that leave many shareholders, and citizens, in the dark.”
Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 by Vbhotla
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) has proposed a constitutional amendment to change the campaign finance landscape yet again, by “effectively revers[ing] two landmark Supreme Court decisions — the 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which said spending money in elections is a form of speech, and the 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which ruled it unconstitutional to regulate the money spent to influence elections by corporations and unions.
The amendment would allow Congress and the states to regulate campaign contributions and expenditures, by allowing Congress to regulate the amount of money raised and spent for federal campaigns (including independent expenditures), allowing states to regulate fundraising and spending at in state elections, and opening the door for Congress to pass unspecified campaign finance reform legislation in the future.
“Letting this go unchecked is a threat to our democracy. Campaigns should be about the best ideas, not the biggest checkbooks,” Udall said at a press conference.
Huffington Post reports, “Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of the proposed amendment, called the Buckley case ‘one of the worst decisions that the Supreme Court has rendered in the last hundred years’ and described the Citizens United ruling as ‘Buckley on steroids.'”
A reversal of the Citizens United decision has been one of the demands of Occupy Wall Street protesters. “The extent to which money and corporations have taken over the [campaign] process is reflected across our cities in the Occupy movement,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) says. “It is something we have to do something about if we are going to reclaim American democracy as the shining light to other countries that it has always been.” Sen. Whitehouse is also co-sponsoring the amendment.
Monday, August 8th, 2011 by Vbhotla
Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) filed paperwork to create Reclaim America PAC, but the PAC does not yet have a website, and representatives have declined to comment to the press. The PAC will benefit like-minded candidates as the 2012 election season gets underway, and is projected to position Rubio for the national stage. Rubio is the second freshman Tea Party senator to establish a leadership PAC this year. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) founded the Constitutional Conservatives Fund, “dedicated to the cause of finding, funding, and supporting conservative candidates who are committed to the cause of restoring constitutionally limited government,” according to its website.
Sens electronic cigarette sales. Lee and Rubio join Sens. Rand Paul (R- Ky.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) in creating PACs to help further the Tea Party agenda.
According to the FEC definition, a Leadership PAC is “a political committee that is directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained or controlled by a candidate or an individual holding federal office, but is not an authorized committee of the candidate or officeholder and is not affiliated with an authorized committee of a candidate or officeholder (so is not campaigning on behalf of that person’s election).” Individuals, including lobbyists, can still contribute up to $5,000 per year to federal PACs.
Thursday, April 21st, 2011 by Vbhotla
Sarah Palin this week launched Sarah Pac‘s new website, an indication that she may be seriously considering a run for the GOP candidacy for president in 2012. While the former vice presidential candidate does have quite a following, she does not have one key thing she needs to begin organizing for a 2012 election: contact info for these supporters. The page also serves as a landing ground for would-be donors to contribute to Sarah Palin’s campaign efforts, stating that Sarah PAC can accept up to $5,000 annually from individuals. According to FEC guidance, this is still considered a solicitation, despite the fact that the PAC is not directly asking for contributions.
The bundling rules for lobbyist contributions to PACs (including leadership PACs, of which Sarah PAC is one) state that the PAC must reveal the name of lobbyists who bundle two or more contributions totaling more than $16,000 during a reporting period. While it does not impose any specific obligation on the lobbyist, it is important to note that the PACs may expect lobbyists who bundle contributions to cooperate with their efforts to report contributions.
Forwarded contributions are defined as any contribution delivered physically or electronically to the candidate by the lobbyist (or non-lobbyist employee of a registered lobbying entity). Credited contributions are less concrete, and presuppose that committees know who is raising funds for the committee. Contributions must be credited and received by the campaign committee to be subject to disclosure. Written records, designated titles, event invitations, and mementos can all determine “credit,” and they do not have to be documented to be applied.
Tuesday, March 15th, 2011 by Vbhotla
Under new pay to play laws that go into effect today, the SEC will restrict investment advisers from directly or indirectly providing any advisory services to a state or local government entity for two years following a campaign contribution. The ban extends to “covered associates” who consist of any general partner, managing partner, or “executive officer,” or other individuals with a similar status or function; any employee who solicits government business or supervises someone who does; any PAC “controlled by” the investment adviser or one of its covered associates; all employees who solicit a government entity for the investment; and, in some cases, employees of a parent company, which could, in some cases, include employees of a parent company.
The title “executive officer” was clarified to exclude those with titles that may indicate significance, but who, in reality, do not impact policy. For the purposes of this exclusion, “executive officer” has been defined as the president and vice presidents fast bad credit payday loans
in charge of principal business units.
De minimis contributions (those of $350 or less per election per candidate if the contributor is eligible to vote for the candidate, $150 or less if outside of the contributor’s district) are exempt from the restriction.
Also included in the new law is a bundling prohibition. Investment advisers may not solicit or coordinate contributions for candidates or political parties in the states or localities in which they practice and may be looking to provide advisory services to the government. There is no outright ban on third party solicitors, but an investment adviser may not pay non-regulated persons to provide the services. Any third party solicitor must be subject to similarly stringent pay to play regulations.
The rules apply not only to registered investment advisers, but anyone who employs the private adviser exemption, and covers even indirect acts which, if done directly, would be in violation of the rule.
Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 by Vbhotla
So you’re the owner of a corporation that controls a PAC and you want to host a campaign event for one of the many potential 2012 presidential candidates — let’s just say Tim Pawlenty for giggles. Should you pay for the event with your own checkbook? Expense it to the company? Maybe use PAC funds? Here’s a quick breakdown of the rules governing campaign event financing:
If the audience is limited to the “restricted class” then the corporation may pay for the event and:
•The corporation may, during the event, endorse or otherwise expressly advocate for the candidate’s election.
•The corporation may solicit contributions on behalf of the candidate; and
•The candidate may accept contributions during the event; but
•The corporation may not facilitate the contributions by collecting them or providing envelopes or stamps.
If the audience includes other employees, then:
•The corporation must allow opposing candidates for the same office to address a similar audience in a like manner;
•The corporation must refrain from endorsing the candidate or soliciting contributions to the candidate’s campaign; and
•Though the candidate may solicit contributions, the candidate is not permitted to accept contributions during the event.
A PAC may pay for campaign events if:
•The PAC pays for the use of any corporate resources, including employee time (in most cases, payment must be in advance);
Use of Meeting Rooms – A corporation that customarily makes its meeting rooms available to clubs, civic or community organizations, or other groups at a discount or for free, may also make those rooms available to a campaign on VigRX the same terms.
•The PAC notifies the campaign of all payments made on behalf of the campaign and reports them as in-kind contributions to the campaign; and
•The payments do not exceed the PAC’s $5,000 candidate contribution limit.
An individual may pay for campaign events if:
•The individual pays for the use of any corporate resources, including employee time (in most cases, payment must be in advance);
Volunteer Safe Harbor – An individual may use corporate facilities for personal volunteer campaign activity without paying for them provided that the individual’s use does not exceed one hour per week or four hours per month and does not result in any increase to the operating costs or overhead of the corporation.
Use of Meeting Rooms – As previously discussed, a corporation that customarily makes its meeting rooms available to clubs, civic or community organizations, or other groups at a discount or for free, may also make those rooms available to a campaign on the same terms.
•The individual notifies the campaign of all payments made on behalf of the campaign; and •All payments by the individual do not exceed the individual’s $2,500 candidate contribution limit.
Residential Fundraising – If the event is held at an individual’s personal residence, then the individual may pay up to an additional $1,000 for food, drink, and invitations without having to report the costs to the campaign or applying them to the $2,500 contribution limit.
For more information on PACs and campaign finance, join the us for the intensive “PACs & Campaign Finance Lobbying Certificate Program” Monday.
Monday, January 17th, 2011 by Vbhotla
The Wesleyan Media Project released two studies last week detailing its findings on campaign ads and spending. The group found that 2.8 million ads ran in the midterm campaign cycle, amassing over $1.4 billion in spending between January and November 2010. It also deemed the most recent campaign cycle the “most negative,” noting that 87.2% of ads run by independent expenditure groups, made more powerful by the Citizens United ruling, were negative, versus just over 37% of ads run by candidates’ campaign committees.
In the House, where significant Republican gains were projected, the group found that the number of ads by interest groups increased 168%, compared to just a 44% increase in Senate races. In the first study, the authors concluded “with the increase in competitive races in 2010, the volume of advertising rose too, as did its negativity.” They also mentioned that “Republicans [took] up some unusual themes, like health care and ‘change.’”
The second study, which analyzed the impact of the Citizens United ruling, found that “while interest groups were aggressive players in the air war, their impact may not have been as negative or as large as initially predicted.”
The group admonishes that “knowing what campaign themes brought [the 112th Congress] to power is an important prerequisite of holding government accountable.”
Thursday, December 16th, 2010 by Vbhotla
Q: My company operates on a calendar year and is looking for places to unload corporate funds before the end of the tax period. Can we support the RNC under the Citizens United decision, as long as we disclose the donations with the FEC?
A: No. Contrary to media reports, the Supreme Court’s decision does NOT permit corporations to make contributions to specific candidates or parties. In addition to the traditionally-allowed PAC donations and issue ads, you are now allowed to independently support specific candidates or parties, by urging people to “vote for candidate Johnson” or “remember to support the Republican candidates,” which was not previously allowed.
Be diligent about state disclosure requirements, which have increased since the ruling, in what many view as an attempt to dissuade corporations from increasing political spending.
Thursday, November 18th, 2010 by Vbhotla
The changing environment of campaign finance regulations means lots of fun for lobbyists trying to do their job effectively. Actually, what it really means is a pain in the rear. Luckily, we here at LobbyBlog are combing through the laws on your behalf. If you are a lobbyist, you need to know the basic rules about bundling contributions.
Who is covered by the bundling rule?
A: Any lobbyist registered under the LDA and any PAC that is “established or controlled” by a lobbyist so registered is subject to the bundling restrictions.
What qualifies as “bundling”?
Contributions that are either “forwarded” — delivered or transmitted, either electronically or physically– or “received and credited” — received directly from a contributor, but credited to a specific lobbyist–are treated as “bundled.” It is worth noting that some campaigns now forbid lobbyists from “forwarding” any contributions because reporting these bundled funds has become too much of a hassle.
What is reportable?
Aggregate contributions of $16,000 or more during a single reporting period meet the trigger for report. However, all reporting committees must file semi-annually as well as quarterly to ensure that any contributions of $16,000 in aggregate funds is disclosed to the FEC, even if the contributions are not made in the same quarter.
Thursday, November 11th, 2010 by Vbhotla
This election saw record campaign spending from outside groups. What changed to enable such astonishing third-party contributions?
- Citizens United – for the first time in over 60 years, unions and corporations were permitted to spend treasury funds on ads calling for the election or defeat of certain candidates. Prior to the ruling, these organizations were only permitted to advertise around particular issues, not in favor or opposition to particular candidates. Corporate executives can donate business funds to nonprofits to advertise on behalf of the corporation anonymously — without anyone ever knowing where the money originated — providing incentive for CEOs reluctant to have a company openly endorse candidates in the past.
- New FEC interpretation – The FEC has not required as much disclosure about advertising as it has in previous years, releasing a rule revision requiring only funds specifically donated for advertisements be disclosed. This made it possible for contributors to avoid disclosure by simply not specifying where their money should be spent. Half of the commissioners narrowed the margin for disclosure requirements even more, allowing funds to be designated for advertising and still avoid disclosure, as long as the contributors didn’t specify for which ad the money would be spent. This drastically decreases the donation disclosure.
- Super-PACs and the Speechnow aftermath – Citizens United opened the door for unlimited spending, which may have been the Pandora’s Box that led to the verdict in Speechnow.org v. FEC. Thanks to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (and the U.S. Supreme Court who later refused to hear the case to overturn the verdict), groups can now identify as “independent expenditure committees,” allowing unlimited contributions from unlimited sources, though they must register as PACs.
To recap: thanks to two anti-regulatory court rulings, now groups can receive unlimited contributions fro
m unlimited sources, then spend in unlimited amounts with fewer restrictions, as long as they continue to register with the FEC. The changing of the guard in the Capitol when the newly-elected Congressmen are seated should afford more changes, and less regulation, thanks to small-government favoring Republicans. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 by Vbhotla
Lobbyist bundling activities must be reported
In the run-up to the mid-terms, government relations professionals might be engaged in a little campaign contribution bundling. This is a perfectly acceptable form of political fundraising, in which one lobbyist gathers campaign contributions from a group of colleagues and presenting the resulting “bundle” to lawmakers.
Regulations and disclosure:
Under HLOGA, candidate committees, leadership PACs and federal party committees are required to disclose to the Federal Election Commission the names of individual lobbyists, registered lobbying entities, or PACs maintained by lobbyists or lobbying entities that donate bundled contributions of $15,000 or more.
The “bundle” can be a physical pile of checks, or a method of assigning credit for certain amounts of money raised.
Registrant PACs and Leadership PACs were required to identify themselves as such on FEC Form 1 no later than March 29, 2009.
As always, members of Congress are prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions in regard to any kind of official action.
Links to information regarding the new rules, related forms and committee filings are here, at the FEC’s site.