Archive for the 'Campaign Finance Laws' Category
Nonprofit groups that spend hidden money on elections in New York will now be required to disclose how much they raise and spend and the identity of their donors, reports the Associated Press.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (photo) is aiming to force groups to be transparent and reveal “dark money” spent in elections.
“When people spend money to try to influence our elections, the public needs to know where that money is coming from, and how it is being spent,” Schneiderman said. “Simply put, transparency reduces the likelihood of corruption.”
Schneiderman’s campaign directive came into effect Wednesday, ensuring that nonprofit groups and “social welfare” organizations report their campaign activities if they spent $10,000 or more in a New York race.
The article says this encompasses expenses for TV, radio, Internet and print advertising. Money spent on forums and “town hall” meetings will not have to be disclosed. Once this information is posted to the Attorney General’s Office website, the public will be able to track campaign expenditures, the article notes.
Public officials from California, New York, Alaska, Maine and other states dialed in to a conference call last month to discuss how to address the rise in undisclosed campaign funds that abounded in the 2012 election, reports the Los Angeles Times.
State officials said they took initiative after federal government actors failed to make any progress on campaign finance laws.
“There is no question that one of the reasons to have states working together is because the federal government, in numerous areas, has failed to take action,” said Ann Ravel, chairwoman of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
According to the article, more than $1 billion was spent in 2012 federal races by independent groups. That number is three times as much as it was in 2008. Nonprofit advocacy groups and trade organizations that do not have to disclose their donors spent almost $309 million in 2012, the article says. Read more
Campaign finance doesn’t rank as a hot issue for American voters, but there is nonetheless overwhelming popular support for banning super PACs, the committees that can engage in unlimited fundraising and spending on federal campaigns.
Those findings come from polls cited in a Washington Post blog post. Sixty-nine percent of Americans said in a poll last year that the super Political Action Committees should be prohibited, the article said.
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have sponsored a bill to require super PACs to identify their sources of money. In elections, voters “deserve to know where the money is coming from and where it’s going,” Wyden said.
At a Hill newspaper blog, Jonathan Backer of the Brennan Center for Justice said such bipartisan efforts suggest an easing in the “rigid partisan stalemate” on campaign finance disclosure. The Republican-controlled Texas state Senate recently approved a similar measure, he wrote. The Brennan Center is a Justice at Stake partner group. Read more
Individuals contributing to political campaigns are looking for more ways to endorse candidates while avoiding campaign finance laws, according to Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
Robinson met with members of the League of Women Voters recently to discuss the issues in campaign finance, reports the Observer & Eccentric Newspaper. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is a Justice at Stake partner organization.
Robinson says many TV ads for campaigns are “issue advertisements.” They don’t endorse or oppose a candidate; the ads urge the listener to contact a candidate and express their opinion on an issue, the article says.
While speaking at the Livonia Civic Center Library, Robinson noted that expenditures for these advertisements do not have to be reported to the Department of State’s campaign finance reporting system. Read more
In declining to hear a campaign finance case on Monday, the Supreme Court “delivered good news … for all Americans who expect their courts to be fair and impartial,” Justice at Stake said.
JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg was commenting in a statement on the high court’s decision not to weigh an appeal in Danielczyk vs. U.S., a case challenging a ban on direct corporate contributions to federal candidates (see Gavel Grab).
In a climate of exploding special-interest spending on court elections, “[W]e are concerned about new threats to fair courts,” Brandenburg said. He noted that three in four Americans say the believe campaign cash influences courtroom decisions. With its action, the Supreme Court eliminated one potential threat, he added:
“A broad and adverse decision in Danielczyk could have affected similar laws in close to 20 states that ban direct corporate contributions to judicial candidates.
“Removing bans on direct contributions to judicial campaigns by corporations, some of whom may have a case before a judge, could further harm public trust in fair courts. Interest group spending also imperils our right to impartial justice by pressuring judges to rule with one eye on big-money contributors.”
The Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to a federal ban on direct corporate contributions to federal candidates.
The court said on Monday it would not review a ruling by the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the ban. The Fourth Circuit had reversed District Judge James Cacheris of Virginia’s ruling that, in the wake of Citizens United, had struck down the century-old ban (see Gavel Grab).
The court’s decision Monday came in a case brought by William P. Danielczyk Jr. and Eugene R. Biagi. They contended the ban tramples on free-speech rights of corporations, according to an Associated Press article.
The two political fundraisers for Hillary Clinton were indicted on charges they broke campaign finance law; they have been accused of using corporate cash to reimburse donors to Clinton’s campaigns.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court decided to hear a major campaign finance case involving a challenge to aggregate limits on campaign donations to candidates and committees. The decision has ignited heated debate over how the court will rule and a decision’s impact.
A New York Times editorial called it a “deeply worrisome move” and said reversing a lower court in the case, McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, “would eliminate an essential tool in combating the corrupting effects of money in politics.”
At the Washington Post, T.W. Farnam wrote that hearing McCutcheon “gives the justices a chance to continue their dismantling of restrictions on money in politics, most notably with the landmark Citizens United v. FEC decision of early 2010.”
The case challenges overall federal campaign contribution limits to candidates and political committees. “This could be the start of chipping away at contribution limits,” said election law expert Richard Hasen of the University of California, Irvine, according to a New York Times article.
Entitled McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, the case specifically challenges aggregated limits imposed on an individual’s campaign donations to multiple candidates and committees. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the aggregate limits in September.
Record-setting spending and the heavy involvement of super PACs in the recent state judicial elections have critics concerned, reports an ABA Journal article.
Citing a recent New York Times editorial, the article reports that as of Election Day, spending on TV ads for state supreme court races had topped $28 million, with more than half of the ads funded by groups unconnected to the candidates. Referencing statistics from an analysis conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake, the editorial reports that this cycle’s spending surpassed the previous record on $24.4 million, set in 2004.
“The Times says the trends could be addressed by replacing judicial elections with merit selection,” says the ABA Journal. “States with elections should revise judicial recusal rules to take contributions into account, the newspaper says, and should require disclosure of all donations to judicial candidates.”
While Citizens United has drawn its fair share of deserved criticism, it cannot be held responsible for the two most “outrageous aspects of the 2012 campaign”: super PACs and secret donors, writes Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter in a Washington Post op-ed. The Campaign Legal Center is a JAS partner group.
The Supreme Court, Potter writes, promised full, speedy disclosure of funding sources for election ads and “wholly” independent unlimited campaign expenditures. This year’s election saw neither of these, but it wasn’t the court’s fault: According to Potter, the fault belongs to the Federal Election Commission.
Over the past decade, the “permissive regulations” implemented by the FEC’s have allowed candidates, parties and political action committees to work in close connection, turning “the Supreme Court’s promise of transparency into a joke,” writes Potter. Read more