Posts Tagged ‘Citizens United’
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.”
Monday, March 28th, 2011 by Vbhotla
Absent intervention into campaign finance reform by the judicial branch, those hoping to put limits on what has been referred to as a”floodgate” of campaign funding made possible by last year’s Citizens United ruling have sought help from the Federal Communications Commission.
Media Access Project senior vice president and policy director Andrew Schwartzman argued last week that the FCC has long had the power to require political groups to disclose donors when running political ads. In a petition filed March 22, he calls on the agency “to amend and strengthen its rules to require on-air identification of persons paying” ‘25% or more of the cost of an ad, according to the organization’s official press release.
Schwartzman said, “The FCC has repeatedly said that members of the public are entitled to know by whom they are being persuaded, and it has stressed that this is especially important in the case of political messages. This petition simply seeks to update the FCC’s rules to fulfill its Congressional mandate.”
The petition points out what it believes to be “a fundamental policy…that ‘listeners are entitled to know by whom they are being persuaded.”
This effort by the Media Access Project is the latest attempt by campaign finance reformers seeking to narrow the reach of theCitizens United decision. Several attempts have been made to urge the Supreme Court to re-define the judgement’s implications, but the Court has declined to hear these appeals.
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 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!
Monday, November 8th, 2010 by Vbhotla
In what many are calling a follow-up to the Citizens United ruling, and a blow to campaign finance reform, the Supreme Court declined to hear arguments in the Speechnow.org vs. FEC case last week. Many are suggesting this broadens the reach of Citizens United and allows for increases freedom of speech in the electoral process.
The decision allows for unlimited donations to “independent expenditure groups” such as Speechnow.org, and challenges FEC regulation of campaign donations. While unlimited donations allows for greater spending on campaigns, it also maintained disclosure requirements, noting that continued registration and disclosure will be required.
Under the ruling, Speechnow and similar groups must register as a PAC and disclose contributions. As a result, over 50 such groups popped up around the country ahead of the mid-term elections, and this election cycle saw record spending. Watchdog group opensecrets.org noted that “significant investments from outside groups helped elect more than 200 federal candidates.”
Though both Democrats and Republicans received outside donations, it was Republicans who saw the greatest benefits of organizations’ ability to receive unlimited donations, and in turn, spend in unlimited proportions.
Monday, October 25th, 2010 by Vbhotla
The Federal Election Commission does not intend to publish a rulemaking on the Citizens United decision until after the November mid-terms, despite having had almost ten months to do so. Democrats have urged the FEC to utilize their rulemaking power to blunt what they see as overwhelming corporate money in federal elections.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) led the charge of 15 senators requesting greater regulation of foreign campaign contributions, penning a letter to the FEC saying “while Congress will need to act, the Commission must immediately do its part to protect our elections from foreign influence,” and calling for strengthened policies and less ambiguous interpretations of the ruling.
After the failure of this summer’s DISCLOSE Act in the Senate, campaign finance reformers are not seeing action on the controversial judicial decision in the immediate future. Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s campaign finance lobbyist, told Politico, “This is a low point for the campaign finance reform movement — I’ve never seen it lower.”
Indeed, the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act has suffered tremendous blows at the hands of the Supreme Court and FEC regulation. The agency has said it will alter its enforcement to be in compliance with the ruling, but has failed to implement any actual policies to do so thus far. Lobbyists who manage PACs or contribute to federal campaigns should be aware of the massive amount of maneuvering going on behind the scenes with campaign finance reform and potential implementation.