Inside Political Law Staff

Inside Political Law Staff

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Vermont Moves Closer to Imposing Contribution Limits on Super PACs

Yesterday the Vermont House of Representatives moved the State one step closer to imposing contribution limits on independent-expenditure only committees, more commonly known as Super PACs. As we reported here, the Senate has passed a bill (S. 82) that would limit contributions to Super PACs to $3,000, but only if the U.S. Court of Appeals … Continue Reading

Update on Corporate Political Activity Disclosure

A hot topic we’ve been tracking closely this year concerns the regulatory and legal battles over corporate political activity disclosure.  This past week has been notable in two respects. As we’ve previously reported here, in December 2012 the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) identified potential rulemakings that it might undertake in 2013.  Among the items … Continue Reading

New Maryland Campaign Finance Law

Last Thursday, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a new campaign finance law.  Among other provisions, the law requires disclosure of contributors to independent expenditure and electioneering groups.  The new law, which generally goes into effect in 2015, will require disclosure of the identity of any person contributing $6,000 or more to independent expenditures or independent … Continue Reading

Vermont Bill Proposes Cap on Contributions to State Super PACs

Although over the last year many states have exempted Super PACs—i.e., groups that only make independent expenditures—from the strictures of contributions limits, Vermont may be headed in another direction. This is not the first chapter in the Vermont Super PAC story.  As we noted last July, the Vermont Attorney General declared that the State would … Continue Reading

New York State Lobbying and Ethics Rules

The Associated Press reports that New York State is poised to loosen lobbying disclosure requirements and tighten gift restrictions.  The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which has broad jurisdiction over New York state ethics and lobbying laws, has proposed new rules governing both lobbying disclosure requirements and ethical restrictions on gifts. First, … Continue Reading

Super PAC Files Challenge to New Jersey Contribution Limits

A few weeks ago the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission issued an advisory opinion indicating that it would enforce the state’s contribution limits against groups that (i) have a major purpose of influencing New Jersey elections and (ii) do so exclusively by making independent expenditures.  Although the Commission recognized that its position might be … Continue Reading

Utah Corporate Disclosure Bill Signed Into Law

This year’s march of state government campaign finance reforms continues, with the Governor of Utah signing H.B. 43 into law earlier this week. Utah already requires corporations—including nonprofits—to report how much they spend on political expenditures once they reach a $750 threshold for a calendar year.  But the newly enacted law requires these corporations to … Continue Reading

Florida Legislators Take First Look at Proposed Lobbyist Gift Ban Exceptions

Since 2005, Florida has had one of the strictest restrictions on lobbyists and principals giving gifts to state legislators.  Except for “floral arrangements” or “other celebratory items” given on the opening day of regular session, the law flatly prohibits a lobbyist or principal from making “any expenditure” with respect to a member or employee of … Continue Reading

New Jersey Commission Intends to Enforce Contribution Limits Against State Super PACs

Groups that are planning to run independent expenditures in the New Jersey gubernatorial election this year should be aware of a new advisory opinion issued by the State’s Election Law Enforcement Commission late last week.  Under this latest guidance, groups that support or oppose New Jersey candidates may have to register as political committees and … Continue Reading

Shareholder Proposals on Corporate Political Spending are Common, but not Popular

Political spending proposals were among the most common shareholder proposal topics in 2012, with more than 90 political spending proposals being submitted to S&P 500 companies (only 56 were voted upon). Despite the significant number of such proposals submitted in 2012, political spending proposals did not fare well with shareholders, garnering only 26% support from … Continue Reading

SEC Staff Takes the Position that Political Spending Proposals Are Substantially Identical to Lobbying Proposals

One issue that confronted many public companies this year was how to respond when they received multiple shareholder proposals relating to political contributions and lobbying matters. One approach that some companies have turned to relies on Rule 14a-8(i)(11) under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which allows a company to exclude from its proxy materials … Continue Reading

The Dangers of Sua Sponte

Yesterday’s guilty pleas in the Danielczyk criminal trial leaves open an important question that campaign finance practitioners must consider closely going forward: when does the government consider a sua sponte submission itself to constitute a criminal violation, and seek to compel counsel to become a witness against their client?  As BNA first reported, the Justice … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Declines Review in Corporate Contributions Case

This morning the Supreme Court denied review in Danielczyk v. United States, a criminal case in which the defendants challenged the century-old federal ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates.  The district court had granted a motion to dismiss Count Four of the indictment, alleging that the defendants had directed corporate money to a 2008 … Continue Reading

Supreme Court to Take Up Biennial Contribution Limits

The top story in today’s campaign finance press is the Supreme Court’s decision to hear McCutcheon v. FEC, a challenge to the Federal Election Campaign Act’s biennial limits on individual contributions to candidate and non-candidate committees.  Here are a few key take-aways. Timing.  The Court’s argument calendar is full for the remainder of the Term, … Continue Reading

SEC Rulemaking on Corporate Political Spending Disclosure

As has been widely reported, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) recently made some rumblings about undertaking a rulemaking requiring corporations to disclose their funding and participation in political activities to shareholders.  The move has been heralded by corporate governance reform groups and decried by some from the business sector.  But what exactly does this … Continue Reading

New Report Shows Surge in Outside Group Spending Relative to Candidates and Parties

Outside groups spent more than $1 billion during the 2012 election, according to a report released last week by Public Citizen.  Public Citizen asserts that this record-setting figure exceeds the total spent by outside groups in the four previous election cycles combined.  Other key findings of the report include: In four of the top 10 … Continue Reading

Another New Jersey Pay-to-Play Law

As part of a continuing trend of New Jersey municipalities adopting local pay-to-play laws, Jersey City, NJ, has enacted an ordinance that “restricts city vendors that win no-bid contracts from donating more than $200 to the campaigns of school-board candidates and to some state Senate and Assembly candidates.”  According to NJ.com, the ordinance also restricts … Continue Reading

Poetic Ethics (Not To Be Confused with Ethical Poetry)

Last week, the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) issued a memorandum with a reminder about executive branch ethics rules governing holiday gifts and fundraising.  There is nothing unusual about guidance like this—late last month, for example, the House Ethics Committee issued one for House members and staff—but OGE’s guidance stands out for its poetic formulation: … Continue Reading

‘Tis the Season!

Like the men and women in red suits ringing bells on street corners, press reports are springing up everywhere alleging that numerous 501(c)(4) social welfare groups—including groups on both sides of the aisle—have violated their tax-exempt status by spending too much time and money on political campaign activities during the recent campaigns. For any such … Continue Reading

New Rules for LLPs?

At a public hearing tomorrow, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) will discuss a proposed rulemaking that would allow certain Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) to establish separate segregated funds (SSFs), commonly known as PACs.  If the proposed rule were ultimately to be adopted, it would create rules for LLPs that are similar to the existing rules … Continue Reading

Nonprofit to Disclose Donors in California

According to press reports, the legal fight between the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) and Americans for Responsible Leadership (ARL), an Arizona-based 501(c)(4), appears to have drawn to a close.  ARL apparently has dropped its bid to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  And instead of producing documents to the FPPC for an audit, … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Orders Arizona Nonprofit to Undergo Audit

At the close of last week, we were tracking the California Fair Political Practices Commission’s (FPPC) efforts to conduct an audit of Americans for Responsible Leadership (ARL) to determine whether the Arizona-based 501(c)(4) needed to disclose its donors under California law.  A state trial court had ordered ARL to submit documents and ARL had taken an … Continue Reading

California Targets Nonprofit Donor Disclosure

In California, the Fair Political Practice Commission (“FPPC”) is facing off against an Arizona nonprofit, Americans for Responsible Leadership (“ARL”), in a dispute that is quickly making its way through the state court system.  The case may ultimately have important implications for donors who give to certain nonprofits that in turn fund political activities.  Since … Continue Reading
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