Archive for the ‘Campaign Finance’ Category

DISCLOSE Act fails… again

Monday, September 27th, 2010 by Vbhotla

The DISCLOSE Act came up for a cloture vote again in the Senate on Thursday, September 23. The Democrats’ campaign finance reform bill has been on life support since it failed a prior cloture vote in July. The newest vote, which failed on party lines, 59-39, was seen as a last-ditch attempt to get a top priority through the Congress.

The Democrats, led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), had promised to bring the bill to a vote after the August recess, when they said that Republicans’ suspicions about the timing of the bill being intended to benefit Democratic incumbents in November’s mid-terms would be mitigated. However, Democrats were unable to sway moderate Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Scott Brown (Massachusetts) into supporting the legislation.

President Obama’s office released a statement saying the President was “deeply disappointed” by the bill’s failure to pass. The President has been pushing for the “fix” to the Citizens United decision since the House passed their version of DISCLOSE in June.

CQ Politics reports that it may be a possibility that the legislation will keep coming back – “but it is unclear whether Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will try to take the issue up again during a lame-duck session.

The CQ Politics article is here:   “Senate GOP Again Blocks DISCLOSE”. Read more about the DISCLOSE Act here, and at Eric Brown’s site (for news round-ups).

Campaign Finance in the News

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010 by Vbhotla

The Federal Election Commission published two new final rules on August 27, and also issued two advisory opinions.

First is a final rule pertaining to coordination of political communications by outside groups with campaigns. The rule now:

add[s] a new standard to the content prong of the coordination rules to cover public communications that are the functional equivalent of express advocacy. The final rules do not alter the conduct prong of the coordination rules, but provide further justification for retaining the 120-day time period in the common vendor and former employee conduct standards. The final rules adopt a new safe harbor for certain commercial and business communications.

Second is a change to several federal election activity definitions:

The final rules revise the definitions of “voter registration activity” and “get-out-the-vote activity” (GOTV) to cover activities that urge, encourage or assist potential voters to register to vote, regardless of whether the message is delivered individually or to a group of people via mass communication. Brief, incidental exhortations to register to vote are exempt from the new definitions. The final rules clarify that certain voter identification and GOTV activities conducted solely in connection with a non-Federal election are not subject to the Commission’s Federal election activity regulations and provide that certain de minimis activities are not subject to the Federal election activity funding restrictions.

The rules do not take effect until December 2010.

View the FEC’s press release here: FEC Adopts Final Rules on Coordinated Communications and Federal Election Activity, Approves Two Advisory Opinions. (Link included on page to final rules and two published advisory opinions).

Washington Post reports on reactions by campaign finance reformers, “FEC Answers a Nagging Question – Sort Of”.

The FEC’s newsletter, the RECORD, is now online as well.

Is DISCLOSE On Its Way Back?

Monday, August 23rd, 2010 by Vbhotla

Will Washington once again see action on a signature piece of Democratic legislation? According to National Journal’s Hotline On Call, Senate Democrats are planning to reopen the campaign finance issue after the August recess – in the hope that the delay will mitigate some moderate Republicans’ objections to the hurried legislation.

Although the process from conception of the legislation to passage in the House took more than 4 months, Sen. Harry Reid chose to bring up the issue for a cloture vote on July 27 in the Senate. It ultimately failed, with Sen. Reid voting no ultimately to preserve his right of cloture. Moderate Republican Senators Scott Brown (Mass.), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and Susan Collins (Maine) are the swing votes on this issue – all have expressed reservations about what they view as the majority’s unseemly haste – seemingly in order to influence the November elections.

Since passing the bill in September or October would mean that it would not impact this year’s pivotal elections, Democrats hope that the moderate Senators, who may have supported campaign finance reform in a different format, will be able to overcome their skepticism. Express Advocacy’s William McGinley reports that Sens. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Leahy (D-Vermont) sent a campaign email specifically mentioning the DISCLOSE Act.

Story from Hotline on Call is here: “DISCLOSE Act will get second look.”

Failure to DISCLOSE

Monday, August 9th, 2010 by Vbhotla

The Democrats’ signature campaign finance bill failed in the Senate on a cloture vote on July 27. After a contentious road to final passage in the House on July 24, the act needed a supermajority of 60 affirmative votes to invoke cloture, leading to passage, but was only able to gain 57 votes.

The vote broke down on party lines, with no Republicans crossing the aisle, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) absent, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), voting no in order to preserve the majority’s right of cloture. The Act provoked strong reactions – supporters hyped the bill’s ability to “overturn” the Supreme Court’s Citizens United campaign finance decision, while opponents decried the legislation’s stifling of First Amendment political speech rights.

To pass the contentious legislation in the House earlier this summer, Democrats created an exemption that allowed a few large advocacy nonprofits to bypass the bill’s disclosure requirements. In order to qualify, the groups had to have at least 500,000 members, among other things; qualifying groups included the National Rifle Association (for which the “carve out” was patched together), AARP and Sierra Club.

Sierra spokesman David Willett said that despite falling under the exemption, the organization is against the bill. “We opposed the idea of a two-tier system. The irony is, the bigger groups like NRA and Sierra Club have the resources to … handle the additional disclosure requirements” found in the bill, he said. “We just feel the rule should apply to everybody, so we remained opposed. [The exemption] is not in line with the spirit and goals of the bill.”

When the bill was first introduced, the NRA stated its opposition and announced its intention fight vigorously for its First Amendment rights. Shortly after the organization’s stance on the bill became known, House Democrats crafted the initial exemption. When the exemption became public, the outcry caused Democrats to revise the original language to include other qualifiers, widening slightly the applicable-organization pool.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NM) vowed to continue the push on the DISCLOSE Act; however, with lawmakers leaving DC for August recess, new action is delayed until at least September.

DISCLOSE Gets a Second Life

Monday, July 26th, 2010 by Vbhotla

When DISCLOSE went to the Senate after passage in the House on June 24, it included some controversial elements – and faced a tough road in the Senate.

But this week, it may have a chance at final passage. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) push for the bill now includes a brand-new version of the bill. Introduced on July 22 (after the first attempt at passage had been shelved) Sen. Schumer’s new bill, at 116 pages, seems to include much of the original language, and seeks to amend the FECA.

The original legislation, H.R.5175 and S.3295, was under fire by moderates and more conservative Senators alike, with complaints ranging from accusations of attempts by Democrats to change the political landscape from the top down, to complaints of special treatment of the National Rifle Association or various unions.

The bill aims to shortcut the committee process and bring the bill to a vote on Tuesday. Read the new version of the bill here (PDF).The text has not yet been received in the Government Printing Office, and is therefore not available on Thomas. However, a PDF of the bill is available here at Express Advocacy.

According to Politico, “Schumer has left intact a contentious provision exempting the National Rifle Association and several other large organizations from the reporting requirements of the legislation. But he has removed other language that had been backed by the AFL-CIO and other unions excusing the labor organizations from having to report money transfers between affiliates.”

Read the story at Politico.


Monday, June 21st, 2010 by Vbhotla

The DISCLOSE Act has encountered some difficulties navigating through the world of lobbying. Democrats, who have been pushing the legislation as a fix to January’s Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision on campaign finance, have amended their bill several times in the past weeks – leading to grumbles about the manner of passing the bill, and one postponement of the floor vote.

The National Rifle Association has successfully defended their desire to see a disclosure exemption for large organizations with a specific budget, number of members, and number of chapters. The problem for several advocacy groups which previously supported the bill seems to be that the exemption really only covers one organization – the NRA. This leads to charges of buddying up with the very special interest groups whom the bill purports to police.

Most legislators have not expressed a problem with the way the bill stands now – with the controversial NRA exemption. But it could be a problem for Speaker Pelosi’s attempt to pass the bill before July 4; and on Thursday, the floor vote on the legislation was pushed back a week.

Some public interest groups have expressed disappointment with some provisions of the bill but recognize that the overall legislative package helps to accomplish their stated desire for more accountability and disclosure.

A Politico story with full background is here.

Lobbying Compliance Handbook adds new campaign finance chapter

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 by Brittany
This practical and easy-to-use guide provides authoritative answers to all your questions about lobbying under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 as amended by HLOGA.  Reserve your copy today!

The Lobbying Compliance Handbook covers everything from the lobbying activities that require disclosure to the specific steps government relations professionals, lobbying firms, associations and government contractors must take to maintain the required records and paperwork certifications.

The 2010 edition will be released this July. Click here to reserve or renew your copy.

Lobbyist Bundling Rules

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010 by Vbhotla

This week, our campaign finance update is a refresher on Lobbyist Bundling rules.

The disclosure of bundled contributions to federal candidates, leadership PACs and party committees was a provision in HLOGA, but it is a reporting requirement imposed on the recipient committees, not the lobbyists or lobbyists PACs that engage in fundraising and bundling of contributions.

The FEC finalized the bundling regulations in 2009, which include certain requirements for reporting bundled contributions.

  • Any PAC controlled by an individual lobbyist or an association registered to lobby should have amended its PAC statement of organization by March 29, 2009 disclosing that the PAC is a “Lobbyist/Registrant PAC”. All new PACs established or controlled by a registered lobbyist or organization must now indicate the lobbying relationship when filing the initial statement of organization.
  • Candidate committees, leadership PACs and national party committees are now required to disclose the names of lobbyists who bundle two or more contributions totaling more than $16,0005 during a reporting period.

The regulations define two categories for “bundled” contributions:

  1. Contributions forwarded by a lobbyist or a PAC controlled by a lobbyist or registrant
  2. Contributions credited to a lobbyist or a PAC controlled by a lobbyist or registrant

Next week, we’ll look at the definitions of “forwarded” and “credited,” as  detailed by the FEC’s final regulations published in February 2009.

This post is condensed from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook.

If you’re not attending the Disclose Act mark-up…

Thursday, May 20th, 2010 by Vbhotla

You can watch it live at the House Committee on Administration’s website.

The mark-up will also be archived, and you can watch the hearings the Committee has held on the issue, at the same site.

PACs and Campaign Finance Training Event Monday

Thursday, May 20th, 2010 by Vbhotla and the American League of Lobbyists are hosting our second Lobbying Certificate Program session this year on PACs & Campaign Finance this coming Monday, May 24, from 8:45am-1:15pm.

Our sessions include a detailed presentation on rules, reporting, and thinking through an ethics situation in regard to a PAC; legal implications of LD-203 filings and other campaign finance laws; a look at the different types of PACs and Q&A with PAC experts.

In attendance to talk about registering, reporting, fundraising, staying on the right side of the FEC, and all things PAC, we’ll have:

  • Officials from the FEC
  • Caleb Burns, Wiley Rein LLP
  • Gregg Knopp, American Council of Engineering Companies
  • Wade Williams, PAC Outsourcing LLC
  • Latasha Kindrick, PAC Outsourcing LLC
  • Gordon Reel, Enterprise Holdings

Join us for a great session! Register here. More information on the Lobbying Certificate Program is here at the American League of Lobbyists’ site.

May FEC Record and Other Updates

Thursday, May 13th, 2010 by Vbhotla

The Federal Election Commission has released their May edition of the Record newsletter. Some highlights from this issue:

  • Background and continuing coverage of Speechnow v. FEC, RNC v. FEC, and FEC v. Novacek
  • An announcement that the FEC Record will soon be web-based, rather than print / PDF
  • Final rules on debt collection
  • Stats on PAC activity: “The 4,618 federally-registered political action committees (PACs) raised $555.7 million, spent $464.6 million and contributed $174.4 million to candidates, according to reports filed with the Commission for January 1 through December 31, 2009, the first calendar year of the 2009-2010 election cycle.”

The FEC now has a section on their website “which provides downloads of itemized disbursements reported by U.S. House and Senate candidate committees for the 2010 election cycle.” See the new database over here at the FEC.

The Center for Competitive Politics is not a big fan of the DISCLOSE Act, and shows an interesting look at White House Counsel Bob Bauer’s previous statements on campaign finance disclosure requirements. Read about their views over on their site. (A taste of the post: Brad Smith makes up a new acronym for DISCLOSE: “Democratic Incumbents Seeking to Contain Losses by Outlawing Speech in Elections”).

Covington & Burling takes a detailed look at the DISCLOSE Act (including definitions). A PDF is available here.

Refreshing: Non-Citizens United Campaign Finance News

Thursday, May 6th, 2010 by Vbhotla

This week for our campaign finance update we’re taking a break from the Citizens United coverage. The FEC has adopted new rules for non-federal fundraising; these rules are a final implementation of requirements from 2002’s Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA / McCain-Feingold). The new rules were announced April 29.

BCRA states that federal candidates cannot solicit, receive, or spend “soft money.” The FEC had previously concluded based on the statute’s language that federal candidates may attend, be a featured guest, or speak at a state/local party fundraising event, without restriction on their actions at such an event; some argued that this left the door open for candidates and officeholders to solicit soft money at such events.

In several court cases, the FEC’s interpretation of the regulation was challenged; the courts  held that the FEC had failed to adequately explain and justify the rule, and the rule was invalidated.

The new rule from the FEC repeals the provision that permitted federal candidates to speak without restrictions at non-federal fundraising events.  The new rule makes clear that although the federal candidate or officeholder may attend such events, he or she may not solicit soft money contributions.

Oh, and I know I said no Citizens United-related news today, but I thought I should bring this post from Eric Brown’s Political Activity Law to your attention: DISCLOSE Act’s new requirements for lobbyist disclosure. Yes, there is something in that bill for everyone.

To legislate or not to legislate — UPDATED

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 by Vbhotla

With a bill framework now titled the DISCLOSE Act, the Democrats, led by DCCC chair Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Charles Schumer, are pushing ahead on a legislative response to Citizens United. DISCLOSE is an acronym for “Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections.”

As reported previously when the framework was first announced, the two legislators seek to set stricter limits on foreign entities’ ability to participate in American elections, and requires disclosures of donors to entities’ major ad buys. A “stand by your ad” provision, requiring top execs of corporations is also in the bill.

A Republican, Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) was announced as having signed on to the bill. The Democrats had been searching for some Republican support on the framework, which is sure to be contentious. Rep. Van Hollen and Sen. Schumer have been unsuccessful in finding a Senate Republican co-sponsor so far.

Democrats have declared that their money in politics bill should be passed in time to “blunt the impact” of Citizens United for the 2010 elections. The bill is expected to be introduced within the next week. Democrats’ self-imposed deadline for passage is July 4.

The Chamber, not known for supporting Democratic proposals across the board, announced that it would oppose the DISCLOSE Act as well.

A Roll Call story is here:

UPDATE: The bill text is now available here. (H/T SkepticsEye 2.0 Blog)