- Legal Center Files FEC and Department of Justice Complaint Against Mystery Million Dollar Donor to Romney-Supporting Super PAC
- Legal Center & Democracy 21 Urge IRS to Issue New Regulations to Enforce the Statutory Limits on Campaign Activity by Section 501(c)(4) Organizations
- Ninth Circuit Denies Petition for Rehearing in Challenge to San Diego Campaign Finance Laws
- Back Door Attempt to Scuttle Office of Congressional Ethics Condemned by Legal Center – and Fails
- Legal Center Tells Ethics Committee that Rep. Waters Investigation Requires Outside Counsel
- Reform Groups Urge Ethics Committee to Move Forward and Provide Accounting of Rep. Waters’ Investigation
- Legal Center Officers Help Pass American Bar Association Resolution Urging Congress to Strengthen Lobbying Laws
- Policy Director Discusses History of Public Presidential Campaign Financing on C-SPAN
- Associate Counsel Addresses Midwest Democracy Network Summer Meeting
- FEC Program Director Speaks at Brookings Institution
Legal Center Files FEC & Department of Justice Complaints Against Mystery Million Dollar Donor to Romney-Supporting Super PAC
On Friday, August 5, the Campaign Legal Center, together with Democracy 21, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and also sent the complaint to the Department of Justice (DOJ), urging investigation of a fly-by-night company called W Spann LLC, which was created in March, contributed $1 million to the Romney-supporting Super PAC Restore Our Future in April and then dissolved in July. The next day, the anonymous donor behind the W Spann LLC donation, Edward Conard, came forward – a former Bain Capital official with longstanding ties to Romney.
The complaint filed by the Legal Center and Democracy 21 urged investigation into whether W Spann LLC and the donor behind it violated a federal campaign finance law that prohibits making political contributions in the name of another to evade disclosure. The complaint further urged investigation into whether W Spann LLC violated the laws requiring a group with the major purpose of influencing federal elections to register with the FEC as a “political committee” and file disclosure reports.
“We are pleased to see that our complaint prompted this immediate disclosure by Mr. Conard,” said Campaign Legal Center attorney Paul S. Ryan. “The FEC and DOJ will still have to determine whether the actions to date violated federal law and, if so, pursue appropriate penalties to deter such conduct in the future.”
To read the FEC complaint, click here.
To read the letter to the Department of Justice, click here.
To read the Legal Center’s initial press release, click here.
Legal Center & Democracy 21 Urge IRS to Issue New Regulations to Enforce the Statutory Limits on Campaign Activity by Section 501(c)(4) Organizations
On July 27, 2011 the Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed a petition with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), arguing that existing IRS regulations permit section 501(c)(4) groups to make far more campaign expenditures than is allowed by the Internal Revenue Code and requesting that the IRS issue new regulations that better enforce the law.
According to Legal Center FEC Program Director and Associate Legal Counsel Paul S. Ryan, “The IRS has a duty to issue a clear set of regulations that state what type and level of campaign activity 501(c)(4) groups may engage in and maintain their tax-exempt status. What we have seen in recent years is a proliferation of c4 political front groups that abuse their privileged tax exempt status to evade campaign finance disclosure laws. What was once a small trickle of abuse by these organizations is now a gusher.”
The petition called on the IRS “to expeditiously adopt new regulations to provide that an organization that intervenes or participates in elections is not entitled to obtain or maintain tax- exempt status under section 501(c)(4) if the organization spends more than an insubstantial amount of its total expenditures in a tax year on campaign activity.”
To read the full petition, click here.
Ninth Circuit Denies Petition for Rehearing in Challenge to San Diego Campaign Finance Laws
On July 19, 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the plaintiffs-appellants’ petition for a rehearing en banc in Thalheimer v. City of San Diego. This ruling leaves standing the Ninth Circuit’s previous decision of June 9, 2011, which affirmed the district court's decision not to preliminarily enjoin several challenged campaign finance regulations of the City of San Diego.
Among the campaign finance laws upheld by the Ninth Circuit is San Diego’s prohibition on political contributions by “non-individual entities” (e.g., corporations, labor unions and other groups) to candidates, political parties and other PACs that contribute to candidates.
The Campaign Legal Center, together with the Center for Governmental Studies and Common Cause, filed an amici curiae brief on April 9, 2010 with the Court of Appeals supporting the City of San Diego.
Back Door Attempt to Scuttle Office of Congressional Ethics Condemned byLegal Center and Reform Groups – and Fails
On July 21, 2011, the Legal Center and six other reform groups urged every Member of the House of Representatives to vote down an amendment to the Congressional budget bill that would slash the budget for the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) by 40 percent ($619,000). In a letter the groups praised the work of the OCE and condemned the attempt by Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) to defund it.
The organizations included the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG.
To read the letter, click here.
The vote failed, but 102 Members supported the amendment offered by Rep. Watt, to which Policy Director Meredith McGehee stated that those Representatives “…sent a signal to the American people that they see themselves as insulated against any credible questioning of their ethical behavior.”
To read her entire statement, click here.
Legal Center Tells Ethics Committee Rep. Waters Investigation Requires Outside Counsel
Reform groups urged the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Ethics Committee on July 20, 2011 to engage an outside counsel to complete the long-delayed investigation of Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA). The groups also praised the work of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and urged an expansion and strengthening of the office.
The letter was sent in the wake of recent press reports and indicated severe “partisan dysfunction and accusations of professional misconduct,” with respect to the Committee's investigation of Rep. Waters (D-CA).
The organizations involved include the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG.
Later that same day the Ethics Committee announced the hiring of Billy Martin, of the firm Dorsey & Whitney, as outside counsel to “review, advise and assist the committee in completing the matter of Rep. Maxine Waters.”
To read the letter, click here.
Reform Groups Urge Ethics Committee to Move Forward and Reform Groups Urge Ethics Committee to Move Forward and Provide Accounting of Rep. Waters’ Investigation
On July 8, 2011 a coalition of reform groups urged the House ethics committee to resume work on the long-pending investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and to provide a public accounting of the status of the case.
No public notice of the status of the case had been provided since the abrupt and unexplained cancellation of a scheduled hearing in November. The case has been pending for more than two years and the letter stressed that the unexplained delay undermines confidence in the ethics process and is unfair to all parties involved in the case.
To read the letter, click here.
Legal Center Officers Help Pass American Bar Association Resolution Urging Congress to Strengthen Lobbying Laws
On August 9, 2011 the American Bar Association’s (ABA) House of Delegates passed a resolution urging the Congress to amend and strengthen the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). The resolution, which passed without opposition, urges a narrowing of the reporting threshold (currently 20%), requiring disclosure of “lobbying support” activities by strategists, pollsters, and “grass tops” firms paid as part of lobbying campaigns, prohibiting fundraising by lobbyists for Members of Congress they lobby, and transferring authority to enforce the LDA to a suitable administrative authority.
“This resolution urges Congress to bring the Lobbying Disclosure Act into line with the sort of lobbying that occurs today,” said Legal Center President Trevor Potter, who was also a co-chair of the ABA Task Force on Lobbying Regulation. “These are common sense solutions to restore the faith of citizens in their elected officials by bringing the business of government out into the sunlight.”
The Task Force on Lobbying Disclosure Reform was appointed by the ABA’s Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section to study the issue in 2010. The Task force was co-chaired by Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter (a former Chair of the FEC and General Counsel to the McCain Presidential campaign); Harvard Law Professor Charles Fried (who was Solicitor General of the United States under President Reagan); Rebecca Gordon of the law firm of Perkins Coie; Joseph Sandler of the Sandler, Reiff and Young law firm (and former General Counsel of the DNC), and included a broad spectrum of academics and practitioners, including Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee.
To read the full ABA Resolution, click here.
To read the Task Force Report from January 2011, click here.
Policy Director Discusses History of Public Presidential Campaign Financing on C-SPAN
Meredith McGehee was the guest on an hour-long segment of C-SPAN’s Washington Journal on July 23, 2011. Ms. McGehee talked about the history of public presidential campaign financing, who is eligible for funding and the amount taxpayers pay for presidential elections, the future of campaign finance, and the 2012 elections. She also responded to telephone calls and electronic communications from viewers.
To watch, click here.
Associate Counsel Addresses Midwest Democracy Network Summer Meeting
On July 27, the Legal Center’s Paul S. Ryan spoke on a panel entitled “The future of reducing the influence of money in politics” at the Midwest Democracy Network’s Summer Meeting in Detroit, MI. Paul reviewed recent developments in campaign finance disclosure law and proposed legislative ideas for improved disclosure.
FEC Program Director Speaks at Brookings Institution
On July 11, the Legal Center’s Paul S. Ryan addressed the Brookings Institution’s “Inside Congress” seminar, giving a talk entitled “The Status of Campaign Finance: Has the Supreme Court Tilted Elections in Favor of Big Spenders, or Can Sunlight Provide Balance?” Paul’s remarks focused on the likely flood of Super PAC and other outside group spending in the 2012 elections and deficiencies in disclosure laws that will enable funders of such spending to remain anonymous.