- Legal Center Urges FEC to Reject Super PAC American Crossroads’ Request for Permission to Coordinate Ads with Candidates
- Legal Center Files Comments in Internet Ad Disclaimer Rulemaking Proceeding
- House Urged to Vote Down Effort to Repeal Presidential Public Financing System and Terminate Election Assistance Commission
- Reform Groups Press Congress to Curb Congressional Insider Trading
- Legal Center President Participates in World Forum on Governance
- Legal Center Staff Addresses National Press Club’s Regional Reporters
Legal Center Urges FEC to Reject Super PAC American Crossroads’ Request for Permission to Coordinate Ads with Candidates
On November 14, the Campaign Legal Center, together with Democracy 21, filed comments with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), urging the Commission to reject a request from the Super PAC American Crossroads for permission to fully coordinate campaign ads with candidates despite clear laws prohibiting Super PACs from making expenditures coordinated with candidates.
The comments point out that the American Crossroads request (AOR 2011-23) is preposterous in light of the laws passed by Congress and upheld by the courts.
“American Crossroads’ request is absurd and flies in the face of decades of Supreme Court decisions upholding laws to prevent political corruption,” said Campaign Legal Center FEC Program Director Paul S. Ryan. “The Supreme Court has long recognized the importance of contribution limits to preventing corruption, and that expenditures coordinated with candidates must be treated as contributions in order to prevent easy circumvention of the limits.”
American Crossroads’ request urges the FEC to ignore federal statutes and court decisions and, instead, to pretend that its ads intended to improve voters’ perceptions of candidates in the 2012 election, paid for with unlimited contributions from corporations and wealthy individuals, and fully coordinated with the candidates featured in the ads, nevertheless are not “coordinated communications” under the law.
The FEC has been sued twice since passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, by the law’s principal sponsors in the House of Representatives, for the Commission’s failure to enact adequate coordination rules. In both cases, the courts have struck down the FEC’s rules and ordered the Commission to rewrite them.
“A green light from the FEC on this request would be an admission by the agency that its own rule defining ‘coordinated communication’ is invalid and that the Commission had failed yet again to promulgate effective rules in compliance with court orders,” said Ryan.
To read the full comments filed by the Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.
Legal Center Files Comments in Internet Ad Disclaimer Rulemaking Proceeding
On November 14, the Campaign Legal Center, together with Democracy 21, filed comments with the Federal Election Commission in response to an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM 2011-14) on whether the Commission should conduct a rulemaking to revise its regulations concerning disclaimers on certain Internet communications.
Twice within the past year the Commission had been asked through advisory opinions requests from Google (AOR 2010-19) and Facebook (AOR 2011-09) to exempt certain political ads on the Internet from the federal law “paid for by” disclaimer requirements, under the “small items” or “impracticable” exceptions to the disclaimer rules.
In the November 14 comments, the Legal Center expressed its support for the contemplated rulemaking and noted the Supreme Court’s consistent recognition of the importance of the disclaimer requirements. Most recently, in Citizens United, eight of the Court’s nine justices upheld the disclaimer requirements because they “provid[e] the electorate with information” and “‘insure that the voters are fully informed’ about the person or group who is speaking.”
The Legal Center reiterated its view that neither the “small items” exception (e.g., buttons, pens) nor the “impracticable” exception (e.g., skywriting, water towers) to the disclaimer requirements apply to Internet ads. The Internet’s ability to facilitate communication—including not only political advertising, but also communication about who is paying for political advertising—is among its principle virtues. The Internet suffers none of the limitations of buttons, pens, skywriting or water towers. Innovation, not exemption, is the answer to any challenges that arise in the context of Internet ad disclaimers.
House Urged to Vote Down Effort to Repeal Presidential Public Financing System and Terminate Election Assistance Commission
On November 30, the Legal Center along with other reform groups, urged the full U.S. House of Representatives to vote against legislation to repeal the presidential public financing system and terminate the Election Assistance Commission by folding its responsibilities into the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission. The letter was sent on the eve of an expected vote on the legislation, H.R. 3463, by the full House.The groups urged Members not only to oppose the effort to repeal the presidential public financing system but to co-sponsor H.R. 414, legislation introduced by Rep. David Price (R-NC) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) that would “repair the presidential public financing system to take account of the current costs of running a presidential campaign and to increase the incentives for small donors to contribute to presidential candidates.”
Further the letter stressed the EAC should be strengthened rather than weakened and emphasized how damaging it would be to transfer EAC functions to an FEC, “widely recognized as an ineffectual and discredited agency.”
The reform groups sending the letter include: Americans for Campaign Reform, Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Democracy 21, League of Women Voters, People For the American Way, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG.
To read the full text of the letter click here.
Judiciary Committee Urged to Pass Bill Tomorrow to Help Prosecutors Battle Public Corruption
On November 30, the Campaign Legal Center and a coalition of reform groups called on the House Judiciary Committee to pass the bipartisan “Clean Up Government Act of 2011” (H.R. 2572) at a markup December 1. This legislation would restore important tools for federal prosecutors fighting public corruption – specifically revisions to the Honest Services and illegal gratuities statutes – that have gradually been pared away by adverse court decisions.
“This is legislation is vitally important if prosecutors are to stand any chance of holding public officials accountable for most public corruption,” said Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director. “Most public officials are not foolish enough to jot down a price list for earmarks on a cocktail napkin like former Rep. Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham (R-CA), but a series of court rulings have stripped prosecutors of important anti-corruption tools other than the bribery statute which requires a quid pro quo. ”
H.R. 2572 responds to last year’s Supreme Court decision in Skilling v. United States, which eliminated an entire category of deceptive, fraudulent and corrupt conduct from the Honest Services fraud statute. The “Clean Up Government Act” would restore that statute in line with Court’s direction for more clarity. In addition, the bill would restore the illegal gratuities statute so that public officials may not accept gifts given because of their governmental position and makes clear public officials who accept private compensation for using their the powers their jobs afford them may now be subject to prosecution. With this statute significantly compromised by the Court, prosecutors have had their hand weakened and have had to turn to other statutes not as well suited to prosecute public corruption Companion legislation (S. 401) has already passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
To read the full text of the letter click here.
Reform Groups Press Congress to Curb Congressional Insider Trading
On November 28, the Campaign Legal Center and other reform groups urged Members of the House and Senate to co-sponsor and push for passage of the “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act” (STOCK Act) designed to prevent congressional insider trading
In the House the STOCK Act (H.R. 1148) was introduced by Rep. Timothy Walz (D-MN) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). A companion Senate bill (S. 1871) has been introduced by Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and another was expected shortly from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
"The STOCK Act deserves strong bipartisan support. By design Congress is intended to be filled with citizen-legislators with outside interests, but that design shouldn’t be used by elected officials and their staffs as an excuse to cash in on the public trust,” said Meredith McGehee, Legal Center Policy Director. “Members of Congress using insider information to enrich their private portfolios have drawn considerable public attention and disgust, and it will be politically difficult for Members to oppose this bill -- at least publicly.”
The STOCK Act, the letter stresses, provides a balanced application of the laws against insider trading to both the private and public sectors and offers the important tool of disclosure for ensuring compliance with the law.
For the full text of the letter to the House click here.
Legal Center President Participates in World Forum on Governance
From November 9-11, Legal Center Founding President & General Counsel Trevor Potter participated in the First Annual World Forum on Governance in Prague in the Czech Republic. The gathering, organized by the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute with the assistance of the U.S. Embassy in Prague, brought together government officials and representatives of NGOs, the media, businesses and investors from the U.S., central Europe and nation of the former Soviet Union. Participants discussed transparency in politics, government and lobbying, with discussions of corruption and regulation as well as campaign finance, elections, lobbying, and corporate involvement. The Forum endeavored to identify “best practices” for regulatory standards in these areas.
Legal Center Staff Addresses National Press Club’s Regional Reporters
On November 15, the Legal Center’s FEC Program Director Paul S. Ryan and Communications Director David Vance were invited to address the Regional Reporters Association of the National Press Club in Washington. Ryan and Vance along with Sheila Krumholtz and Michael Beckel of the Center for Responsive Politics discussed the evolving campaign finance landscape in the 2012 election cycle with reporters and editors from Gannett, McClatchy, Hearst, Crain and Scripps Howard news services as well as with journalism school professors and reporters from The Dallas Morning News, The Denver Post, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Indianapolis Star, The Seattle Times and a number of other newspapers and Minnesota Public Radio.