Posts Tagged ‘FEC’
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!
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.
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.
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:
- Contributions forwarded by a lobbyist or a PAC controlled by a lobbyist or registrant
- 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.
Thursday, May 20th, 2010 by Vbhotla
Lobbyists.info 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.