Posts Tagged ‘Super PACs’

Meredith McGehee: Lobbyists Shouldn’t Let Lax Fundraising Rules Complicate Their Work

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 by Geoffrey Lyons

Meredith McGehee is the Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center and principal of McGehee Strategies.  She has been named five times by The Hill as one of the top nonprofit/grassroots lobbyists in Washington.  McGehee can be reached at mmcgehee@campaignlegalcenter.org

IT'S A TRUISM that Members of Congress greatly depend on lobbyists for campaign fundraising.  This is because lobbyists can do more than just give direct contributions: they can solicit the support of the entire company, industry, or organization they represent.

Until recently, this was a relatively coherent process.  Lobbyists would help channel money to the right PACs, give advice to executives on individual contributions, and aid in managing bundling efforts.  All of this was done under the fundraising restrictions imposed by the FEC, such as the $2,500 limit for individual candidates.

But things are different now, and $2,500 looks like chump change.

After the Citizens United

and SpeechNow.org court decisions, meaningful limits are gone.  Members of Congress are still turning to lobbyists for campaign funds, but now the “ask” is for $10 million instead of $10,000.  The pressure to deliver this money will only grow as Democrats begin to fully embrace Super PACs, which they originally shunned.

Also burdening lobbyists is the rise of “dark money” groups that aren't required to disclose their donors.  Members of Congress see these as excellent avenues to get funding from a company or industry that they’d rather not associate with publicly.

Lobbyists at the center of the Washington money game will therefore be spending more time than ever figuring out how to respond to Member’s demands for money.  So too will they be occupied trying to decipher who is behind the funds pouring in against their clients.

For the lobbyists who believe more in their powers of persuasion than their ability to solicit contributions, now is the time to speak up and support the American Bar Association's proposal to detach lobbying from fundraising.

zp8497586rq

Campaign Finance in 2010

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!