Tag Archives: Citizens United

St. Petersburg Passes Anti-Super PAC Ordinance, Hoping to Set Up Constitutional Showdown

The City of St. Petersburg, Florida yesterday passed an ordinance designed to take the question of “Super PACs” to the Supreme Court for the first time.  The ordinance, which we discussed in detail earlier this year, imposes a $5,000 limit on contributions to groups that raise money for or make independent expenditures or electioneering communications … Continue Reading

The FEC Revisits the Ban on Foreign Nationals’ Financing of American Elections

On Thursday, the FEC will return to the question of foreign nationals’ involvement in United States elections. This is an important question that deserves appropriate attention from our government.  Be it the role of Chinese government-linked funds in the 1996 presidential campaign or the Russian government-linked cyber intrusion in the 2016 presidential race, Congress and … Continue Reading

Forming and Operating Super PACs: A Practical Guide for Political Consultants in 2016

Covington recently released a high-level primer that provides political consultants with a practical resource for creating and running a federal Super PAC in a legally compliant manner.  The primer, which is available here, explains the history and basic rules that apply to federal Super PACs.  The primer then discusses the following key topics: checklist of … Continue Reading

Highlights from Wagner; D.C. Circuit Upholds Contributions Restrictions But Limits Ruling

The Wagner case, decided today by the D.C. Circuit, is important because of its analysis of the constitutionality of federal campaign contribution restrictions and, by extension, of pay-to-play laws generally. Covington has been monitoring this case since the district court decision in 2012, to the argument before the D.C. Circuit in 2013, and the decision … Continue Reading

5 Myths about Super PACs

Few subjects in federal campaign finance law are so frequently garbled by commentators, the press and the public as what a Super PAC is and how it operates.  Here is a short list of common mistakes. 1.  Super PACS are “shadowy” “dark money” groups that mask where their money comes from and how its spent.  … Continue Reading

In Chevron Case, FEC Brings Clarity to the Federal Contractor Ban and Super PACs

The rules on corporate contributions to Super PACs were made clearer today when the Federal Election Commission (FEC) released its finding that Chevron Corporation’s $2.5 million contribution in 2012 to the Congressional Leadership Fund (a Super PAC) had not violated the bar on government contractors making contributions in federal elections. Public Citizen and several environmental … Continue Reading

Will States Ignore the Supreme Court’s Coming McCutcheon Decision?

The Supreme Court is expected to rule soon, in McCutcheon v. FEC, on whether the Federal Election Campaign Act’s biennial aggregate limits on individual political contributions are constitutionality permissible.  Many have argued that, if the Supreme Court strikes down the federal limits, aggregate limits imposed by state law will likewise be tossed aside.  That may … Continue Reading

Federal Court Enjoins Enforcement of Pennsylvania Ban on Corporate Contributions to Super PACs

On Monday, a federal court granted a preliminary injunction preventing Pennsylvania from enforcing its ban on corporate contributions and expenditures insofar as the challenged statute forbids corporations from contributing to political committees that exclusively make independent expenditures. In General Majority PAC v. Aichele, No. 1:14-cv-00332 (M.D. Pa. 2014), a DC-based Super PAC brought a First … Continue Reading

The More Things Change: The FEC and Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A.

On Thursday, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was unable to agree on whether Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. could sponsor a Separate Segregated Fund (a corporate “SSF” or “PAC” in common parlance) that solicited contributions from the employees of its dealers and service centers.  The request resulted in an unsurprising deadlock and a surprising discussion about … Continue Reading

Tenth Circuit Upholds FEC’s Broader Definition of “Express Advocacy”

In a rare move for a federal appellate court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit yesterday released a two-paragraph precedential opinion upholding various federal campaign finance laws and policies by simply adopting the district court’s decision.  The case is captioned Free Speech v. FEC. The most notable part of the district court … Continue Reading

Wisconsin Assembly Votes to Permit Corporate Independent Expenditures, Double Contribution Limits

Yesterday, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill that would modify Wisconsin’s ban on corporate expenditures  and double the state’s political contribution limits.  In response to Citizens United, the bill lifts Wisconsin’s blanket prohibition on corporate expenditures.  If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the bill would permit corporate independent expenditures and corporate contributions … Continue Reading

Vermont Super PAC Contribution Limit Bill Stalls

Despite seemingly widespread agreement between and among Vermont state legislators and Governor Shumlin that contributions to Vermont Super PACs should be capped in principle, it now appears unlikely that Senate Bill 82 will make it to the Governor’s desk in 2013.  The two chambers of the state legislature were unable to agree on the specifics … Continue Reading

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

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

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

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

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

Straw Contributors and Corporate Contributions

Corporations can engage in political activity.  But they must be careful how they do so; corporations still face restrictions, such as the prohibition on making contributions to federal candidates.  As we have seen, following a line of cases culminating in Citizens United, corporations may give unlimited sums to Super PACs.  They may also contribute to … Continue Reading

Recent Appeals Court Decision Could Send Campaign Finance Reformers Back To Drawing Board

A federal appeals court last week dealt a blow to legislative efforts to limit the effects of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.  Following Citizens United, campaign finance reformers attempted to restrain independent corporate political speech by pushing for laws which prohibited corporations from funding independent political advertisements unless shareholders first vote to approve … Continue Reading

Federal Court Upholds Super PAC Contribution Limit in New York Races for Now

Since the federal court decisions in Citizens United and SpeechNow, courts, state campaign finance regulators, and state attorneys general have consistently found that Super PACs—entities that make only independent expenditures—are not bound by contribution limits.  Yesterday, a federal court in New York bucked this trend—at least preliminarily. For years the New York State Board of … Continue Reading

Court Upholds Aggregate Federal Contribution Limits

Earlier today, a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected a constitutional challenge to the Federal Election Campaign Act’s (“FECA”) biennial aggregate contribution limits in McCutcheon v. FEC, No. 12-cv-1034 (D.D.C. Sept. 28, 2012).  Under FECA, an individual may contribute no more than $117,000 in the aggregate on federal … Continue Reading

Eighth Circuit Decision Strikes Down Minnesota Super PAC Restrictions

Since the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, courts and some state attorneys general have drawn a rather firm line in the sand: independent expenditure-only entities (so-called “Super PACs”) are not subject to contribution limits, but they must comply with registration and reporting requirements.  Indeed, the Supreme Court’s statement in Citizens United that … Continue Reading

West Virginia Super PACs Freed From Contribution Limits

Yesterday, a federal judge in West Virginia ruled that the state cannot enforce its $1,000 contribution limit against Super PACs.  The ruling is only preliminary and for the duration of the litigation, but the challengers were able to demonstrate a likelihood of success on their claim that the law infringes their First Amendment rights.  In … Continue Reading
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