Tag Archives: litigation

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

MSRB Pay-to-Play Challenge Stymied by Sixth Circuit over Standing

Over the past few years, a few state political party committees have relentlessly sought to block or overturn pay-to-play laws overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Yesterday, the Sixth Circuit delivered another defeat to an ongoing effort to challenge federal pay-to-play laws. Last year, we noted that the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) … Continue Reading

Federal Court in D.C. Rules Against FEC in Important Disclosure Case

In an important decision, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper today ordered the Federal Election Commission to reconsider its dismissal of a complaint filed by CREW against two tax-exempt advocacy organizations that have never registered with the FEC.  CREW alleged that the two groups, American Action Network and Americans for Job Security, had as their “major … 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

Hawaii Pay-To-Play Law Survives Legal Challenge

Despite potential vulnerabilities, Hawaii’s pay-to-play law survived a significant challenge in the Ninth Circuit last week.  The matter involved an electrical-construction company, its CEO and a second individual who challenged several sections of Hawaii’s campaign finance law, including a requirement that the company register and report its activities once it crossed a $1,000 threshold, and … Continue Reading

D.C. Circuit Hears Constitutional Challenge to SEC Pay to Play Rule

A constitutional challenge to the SEC’s “pay to play” rule moved one step closer to resolution today, even as significant hurdles remain in an effort to strike down the rule. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments this morning on an appeal brought by two state political parties challenging … Continue Reading

The SEC Pay-to-Play Rule Year in Review

When the history of the Securities & Exchange Commission’s pay-to-play rule is written, 2014 could be the inflection point.  Developments this year suggest two dramatically different paths for the rule in the years to come: either the rule will unravel from court challenges or it will become an increasingly prominent enforcement weapon in the SEC’s … Continue Reading

A Pyrrhic Victory? The Impact of Today’s District Court Decision on Electioneering Communications (Van Hollen v. FEC)

A U.S. District Court judge today vacated an FEC regulation that limited the degree to which corporations and labor unions must disclose their donors when they pay for an Electioneering Communication.  Van Hollen v. FEC  An Electioneering Communication is a broadcast, cable or satellite communication that features a federal candidate, airs within 30 days of … Continue Reading

Court Dismisses Challenge to SEC Pay to Play Rule (For Now)

In an important decision, the US District Court for the District of Columbia yesterday dismissed a constitutional challenge to the SEC’s “pay to play” rule, which restricts contributions and fundraising by some individuals who are associated with hedge funds, private equity funds, and other registered investment advisers. The Court ruled that the case had been … Continue Reading

Record-Setting Enforcement by California’s Campaign Finance Regulator

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is more aggressive than ever and is employing new tactics.  The FPPC’s recently-released end-of-year report detailing enforcement activities in 2013 highlights some interesting statistics that should be on the radar of every company doing business in California. Prosecutions of both “serious campaign cases” and lobbying violations were both “at … Continue Reading

Update #2: Appeals Court Reinstates Legal Challenge to Ban on Lobbyists Serving on Advisory Committees

On January 17, 2014, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a legal challenge to President Obama’s ban on lobbyists serving on advisory boards and commissions in federal agencies.  The appellate decision overturned a lower court judgment, issued in September 2012, that dismissed the claims of several lobbyists who alleged that the ban violated their … Continue Reading

Agreed-Upon Permanent Injunction Releases N.J. Super PACs from Limits

As forecasted, a federal court has entered a permanent injunction that permits Super PACs in New Jersey to raise unlimited funds, pursuant to the parties’ agreement.  This resolves the suit brought by the Fund for Jobs, Growth & Security after the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission advised the Fund in March that it was powerless … Continue Reading

DOMA Invalidation Will Likely Impact Federal Contribution Limits

The Supreme Court’s decision today invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act will impact campaign finance laws as well, probably nowhere more clearly than in casting doubt on the FEC’s February decision advising a candidate for the special U.S. Senate Primary Election in Massachusetts that he could not treat contributions from a same-sex couple married under … 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

Courts Struggle to Draw Constitutional Lines for Disclosure

When the Supreme Court issued Citizens United v. FEC, there was little question that the landscape of campaign finance law shifted.  Much of the aftermath continues to focus on independent spending, contribution limits, and outright contribution bans on corporations and government contractors—restrictions that may have been upended by the notion that Citizens United narrowed the … Continue Reading

Wisconsin Aggregate Contribution Limit Challenged

A Wisconsin resident has brought a federal lawsuit challenging the state law that restricts individual political contributions to candidates and committees to $10,000 in a calendar year.  As alleged in the complaint in the case, captioned Young v. Vocke, the aggregate limit is so low that if an individual were to make a maximum contribution … Continue Reading

D.C. Circuit Vacates Federal Contractor Ban Decision on Way to En Banc Review

Earlier today a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its opinion in Wagner v. FEC, sending the legal challenge brought by three federal contractors back to the start. The contractors had sued the Federal Election Commission back in October 2011, arguing that federal law unconstitutionally prohibits federal contractors … Continue Reading

New Jersey to Allow Unrestricted Super PAC Contributions

With the New Jersey gubernatorial primary election fast approaching, we have been tracking a legal challenge to the State’s treatment of contributions to Super PACs.  Back in March, the Election Law Enforcement Commission issued an advisory opinion to the Fund for Jobs and Growth, explaining that the group would need to adhere to contribution limits … Continue Reading

Group Sues Treasury and IRS to Amend 501(c)(4) Regulations

All eyes are on the IRS and its regulation of 501(c)(4) organizations these days, with the agency’s mishandling of exemption applications, the release of the Treasury Inspector General’s report, and the lengthy hearings held by the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee examining the … Continue Reading

Challenge to Federal Contractor Contribution Ban Awaits D.C. Circuit Decision

On Thursday,  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit wrapped up its 2012–2013 Term by hearing argument in Wagner v. FEC, a case that challenges the Federal Election Campaign Act provision prohibiting federal contractors from making political contributions in connection with federal elections.  The court typically issues opinions argued during a term by … Continue Reading

Update: Lobbyists Appeal Decision Upholding Ban on Advisory Board Service

In September 2012, we reported that Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a complaint filed by several registered lobbyists that challenged the Obama Administration’s policy barring lobbyists from federal advisory boards and commissions.  Although Judge Jackson acknowledged potential implications for rights guaranteed by the First Amendment … 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

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
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