- Challenge to Florida’s Political Disclosure Laws Draws Legal Center Brief in 11thCircuit
- Legal Center Files FEC Complaint Filed Against Perry Campaign and Perry-Supporting Super PAC Urging Investigation of Shared Video Footage
- Legal Center Presses for IRS Action on Groups that Continue to Abuse Tax Laws
- Legal Center Urges Legislative Activity on Insider Trading
- The FEC Deadlocked – Refusing to Grant Permission to American Crossroads to Run “Fully Coordinated” Ads with Candidates
- Legal Center Calls for Passage of Legislation to Help Prosecutors Battle Public Corruption
- Legal Center President Addresses International Corporate Governance Network
- Legal Center Attorney on Multiple Panels at COGEL Annual Conference
- Legal Center President Keynotes at Texas Lobbying and Ethics Conference
Challenge to Florida’s Political Disclosure Laws Draws Legal Center Brief in 11th Circuit
On December 15, the Campaign Legal Center filed an amicus brief to support Florida’s “electioneering communications” disclosure law with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in National Organization for Marriage (NOM) v. Browning. The case is the latest in a string of challenges to disclosure laws across the country.
“Although the Supreme Court has repeatedly and unequivocally endorsed the constitutionality of political transparency – as recently as its 2010 decision in Citizens United – disclosure laws at the federal and state level are under unprecedented attack, “said Tara Malloy Campaign Legal Center Associate Legal Counsel. “In fact, NOM itself has challenged the disclosure laws of Maine, New York and Rhode Island in addition to this Florida-based suit.”
The Florida statute under challenge requires groups to register and report if they make over $5,000 of electioneering communications in a calendar year. In August 8, 2011, a Florida district court upheld the law, and NOM appealed the decision to the Eleventh Circuit.
In the NOM v. Browning case, NOM argues that the state definition of “electioneering communication” is vague because it includes the “appeal to vote” test devised by the Supreme Court in its 2007 decision in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC. NOM also claims that Florida’s disclosure requirements are so onerous as to warrant strict scrutiny review, although Citizens United held that the federal electioneering communications disclosure law was constitutional under “exacting scrutiny.”
To read the brief, click here.
Legal Center Files FEC Complaint Filed Against Perry Campaign and Perry-Supporting Super PAC Urging Investigation of Shared Video Footage
On December 15, the Campaign Legal Center, together with Democracy 21, filed a complaint urging the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate possible violations of campaign finance law by presidential candidate Rick Perry’s campaign committee, RickPerry.org, and the Perry-supporting Super PAC Make Us Great Again.
Based on published media reports, Make Us Great Again produced video footage of Rick Perry and gave that video footage to Perry’s campaign without charge. Such a gift of video footage would be an in-kind “contribution” from Make Us Great Again to RickPerry.org likely exceeding the $2,500 candidate contribution limit and violating the outright ban on Super PAC contributions to candidates.
“For decades, federal law has recognized that giving something of value to a candidate—like video footage—is the same thing as giving money to the candidate,” said Campaign Legal Center attorney Paul S. Ryan. “The Perry campaign is prohibited from accepting such in-kind contributions with a value exceeding the $2,500 contribution limit and, further, Super PACs are prohibited altogether from making contributions to candidates.”
To read the complaint, click here.
Legal Center Urges Presses for IRS Action on Groups that Continue to Abuse Tax Laws
On December 14, the Legal Center and Democracy 21 provided additional materials to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), supplementing previous documentation regarding controversial organizations that appear to be in clear violation of their tax status as 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations. The letter sent to the IRS urges the agency to act on an earlier request made by CLC and Democracy 21 to investigate Crossroads GPS, the American Action Network, Americans Elect and Priorities USA.
“These organizations have chosen to file for special tax status seemingly for no other purpose than to hide the identities of their donors while pursuing blatantly political agendas,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of the Legal Center. “The IRS must step up and do its job by curbing these abuses and enforcing the laws on the books.”
To read the full letter filed on December 14, click here.
To read the earlier letter to the IRS, click here.
Legal Center Urges Legislative Activity on Insider Trading
The Campaign Legal Center and a coalition of reform groups have made significant efforts to urge Congress to pass legislation to curb congressional insider trading. The “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act” (STOCK Act) has been introduced previously but garnered few sponsors until a damning report aired recently on the CBS News magazine “60 Minutes”. After the report and the ensuing public outcry, Members rushed to co-sponsor the legislation and schedule hearings.
“It is unfortunate that such vehement public outrage is needed to spur congressional support for legislation, but that is regrettably how things work on Capitol Hill, particularly when Members are faced with making rules that deal with policing their own conduct,” said Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee.
On December 14, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the bill by a vote of 7-2. Despite its recent popularity on the Hill and a public outcry for action, the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the STOCK Act was canceled abruptly.
The Legal Center and a coalition of reform organizations (including Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Common Cause, Democracy 21, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation and U.S. PIRG) have repeatedly urged Members to support the Stock Act.
To read the statement, criticizing the House Majority Leader’s abrupt cancellation of the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the STOCK Act, click here.
The FEC Deadlocked – Refusing to Grant Permission to American Crossroads to Run “Fully Coordinated” Ads with Candidates
On December 1, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) voted 3-3 in response to the advisory opinion request from Super PAC American Crossroads to “fully coordinate” ads with candidates and using unlimited corporate and individual contributions to pay for these ads.
“The result of today’s deadlock is that American Crossroads did not get the green light it sought from the FEC to fully coordinate ads with candidates,” said Legal Center FEC Program Director Paul S. Ryan. “Instead, any ads run by American Crossroads that feature federal candidates will be subject to legal scrutiny and may be deemed illegal.”
Click here to read the comments filed by the Legal Center and Democracy 21 in this matter.
Legal Center Calls for Passage of Legislation 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 the next day. The 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.
On December 1, the committee passed the bill unanimously, but not before the bill came under considerable criticism from Members during the debate.
“Fortunately the verbal heel-dragging ceased when the vote was called,” said Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee in a statement. “Still, there may be attempts, cloaked in the guise of concerns about over-criminalizing politics, to weaken the measure as it moves forward. This legislation is too important to fall victim to Congress’ reticence to pass anything that might hold Members accountable.” McGehee went on to call for a vote on the bill by the full House before the holiday recess.
Other organizations that signed onto the letter included Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Democracy 21, League of Women Voters, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, and U.S. PIRG.
To read the full December 1, statement, click here.
To read the full letter from November 30, click here.
Legal Center President Addresses International Corporate Governance Network
On December 13 in Miami, Legal Center President Trevor Potter addressed the International Corporate Governance Network, a London-based shareholder/investor/corporate not-for-profit organization with a global membership focused on corporate governance issues internationally. Mr. Potter participated in a panel discussion entitled “Paying for Power” that addressed Citizens United and focused on the continuing constitutionality of restrictions on corporate contributions to candidates, limitations of involvement of foreign nationals, and disclosure requirements. Other panelists included Tom Hamburger of the Los Angeles Times, Leon Kamhi of Hermes Equity Ownership Services of the UK, and Sarah Teslik, Snr. Vp for Policy and Governance at Apache, USA.
Legal Center Attorney on Multiple Panels at COGEL Annual Conference
On December 5-6, Legal Center Associate Legal Counsel and FEC Program Director, Paul Ryan, attended the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws’ (COGEL) 33rd annual conference in Nashville. This four-day conference hosted many panels and discussions, with Ryan presenting on two separate panels: “Campaign Finance I: Litigation” and “Campaign Finance II: Legislation”.
Legal Center President Keynotes at Texas Lobbying and Ethics Conference
On December 2, Legal Center President Trevor Potter was the keynote speaker at the Professional Advocacy Association of Texas annual 7th annual Ethics Compliance Institute conference. He addressed the state of campaign finance and best practices for lobbyists in the current landscape. Mr. Potter also conducted a Q&A with the Texas Tribune on the state of campaign finance, which is available here.
To read the full address, click here.