- Legal Center Seeks Investigation of Contribution from Super PAC to Romney Campaign
- Senate Passes STOCK Act; House Removes Anti-Corruption Provisions
- Legal Center Releases Report on Maxed Out Donors Contributing Heavily to Super PACs
- Legal Center, Reformers Call for Bipartisan Cosponsors for Stripped-Down Disclosure Legislation
- Legal Center, Reformers and More Than 25,000 Americans Call on President Obama to Replace Lame Duck FEC Commissioners
- Coalition Calls for Senate Hearings on Corporate Governance Solutions
- Legal Center President Discusses Legacy of Citizens United on NPR’s Fresh Air
- Interview with Legal Center President on PRI’s The Takeaway
- Legal Center President, Board Members, Featured at Brookings Institution Discussion
- FEC Program Director Addresses American University Students
- Policy Director Addresses William & Mary Students
Legal Center Seeks Investigation of Apparent Illegal Contribution from Super PAC to Romney Campaign
On February 27, the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) over an apparent illegal in-kind contribution made by Restore Our Future, Inc. to presidential candidate Mitt Romney. According to multiple press reports, the Romney-linked Super PAC paid to air television advertisements originally produced and aired by Romney’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. Such an action would constitute a violation of the law.
“Restore Our Future’s expenditure to republish a Romney campaign ad is considered a contribution from the Super PAC to the Romney campaign under FEC regulations, but Super PACs are prohibited from contributing to candidates,” explained Legal Center counsel Paul S. Ryan. “The airing of these ads constitutes a clear violation of federal law by the shadow campaign committee Restore Our Future.”
Restore our Future reportedly made an extensive ad buy to air the 2008 Romney campaign television advertisement. Under FEC regulations, financing the republication of any campaign materials prepared by a candidate, or an agent of the candidate, “shall be considered a contribution for the purposes of contribution limitations” of the person or group making the expenditure. Super PACs like Restore Our Future, however, are prohibited from contributing to candidates.
To read the full complaint, click here.
Senate Passes STOCK Act; House Removes Anti-Corruption Provisions
On February 2, the U.S. Senate passed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, to prohibit Congressional insider trading by a vote of 96-3. The Senate bill also included anti-corruption provisions from a bipartisan bill originally sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX), that seeks to fix the flaws in the laws governing illegal gratuities (the giving of gifts to public officials in order to curry favor) and honest services (a scheme to defraud the government through unethical conduct).
The Legal Center strongly supported the legislation and sent multiple letters (Jan. 27 and Jan. 31) to Senators urging them to pass the bill with the strengthening amendments. Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee praised the passage of the bill in a statement and called on the House to follow the Senate’s lead.
“Passing the STOCK Act, including the anti-corruption measures, would represent a significant gesture by Congress to the American people to say that ‘we hear you, we do not believe we are above the law, and we are making an effort to hold ourselves accountable,’” said Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director. “Public trust of Members of Congress has sunken below used car salesmen, telemarketers and lobbyists in national polls, and it is time for Congress to enact strong measures like the STOCK Act in order to begin to restore America’s faith in its elected officials.”
Despite a series of letters and contacts with Members, the House ultimately passed a watered down version of the Senate STOCK Act which eliminated the anti-corruptions provisions and a requirement that political intelligence consultants register as lobbyists. With those provisions eliminated the House passed its version of the STOCK Act by a vote of 417-2.
Among the groups joining the Legal Center in the letters of support for the legislation were Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters, OMB Watch, Project On Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation and U.S. PIRG.
The Legal Center continues to push for a Senate-House conference and is urging Members to restore the anti-corruption provisions to the final bill.
Legal Center Releases Report on Maxed Out Donors Contributing Heavily to Super PACs
On February 21, the Campaign Legal Center, the Center for Responsive Politics and Democracy 21 issued a second report entitled, “Double-Dipping Donors”, which focused on the overlap between ‘maxed out’ donors and candidates-specific Super PACs. The report documented that Super PACs supporting presidential candidates continue to take in six- and seven-figure contributions from individuals who also have given the legal maximum to the candidate's campaign committee.
“Recent announcements by the Obama and Romney campaigns that high-level campaign staff will be appearing at super PAC fundraising events make clear that these super PACs are simply shadow candidate committees set up to evade the $2,500 candidate contribution limit,” said Paul S. Ryan, FEC Program Director at the Campaign Legal Center. “Million-dollar contributions to the super PACs pose just as big a threat of corruption as would million-dollar contributions directly to candidates.”
To read the full press release, click here.
To read the full analysis, click here.
Legal Center, Reformers Call for Bipartisan Cosponsors for Stripped-Down DISLCOSE Legislation
On February 15, the Campaign Legal Center, and a coalition of reform groups, called on House Members to co-sponsor the DISCLOSE 2012 Act (H.R. 4010), a measure that seeks to ensure that voters know where the funding originates for hundreds of millions of dollars in secret political spending. The legislation introduced by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) eliminates provisions critics used to justify filibustering disclosure legislation in 2010.
“While addressing criticisms does not always mean legislation gets passed in Washington, we remain hopeful that this new bill rises above the partisan bickering that has engulfed the 112th Congress,” said Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee in a statement. “Citizens deserve to know who is spending millions of dollars to buy influence in Washington.”
The groups signing onto the letter with the Campaign Legal Center include: Americans for Campaign Finance Reform, the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, People For the American Way, Public Campaign, Public Citizen and the Sunlight Foundation.
To read the letter, click here.
To read the press statement of Meredith McGehee on the new Disclose Act, click here.
Legal Center, Reformers and More Than 25,000 Americans Call on President Obama to Replace Lame Duck FEC Commissioners
More than 25,000 Americans joined the Legal Center and other reform groups in calling on President Barack Obama to nominate new Commissioners to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) through the White House petition process. In a letter sent to the White House on February 28, the Campaign Legal Center and 11 other groups called on the President to act on the petition and meet his own 2008 campaign commitment to appoint FEC Commissioners committed to enforcing U.S. election laws.
The letter notes that more than 25,000 individuals have now signed the “We the People” petition filed with WhiteHouse.gov and, according to the rules of the website, the President is supposed to respond to the petition. While running for office, President Obama expressed his support for a stronger, more functional FEC and promised to put forward Commissioners who would uphold the law. To date, he has not done so.
To read the letter, click here.
To see the “We the People” petition, click here.
Coalition Calls for Senate Hearings on Corporate Governance Solutions
On February 14, the Campaign Legal Center, as part of a broad coalition of organizations, called on the Senate Banking Committee to hold hearings on the need to increase corporate disclosure and accountability to shareholders with relation to corporate political spending in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The letter cited the fourfold spike in political spending in federal elections by outside groups, funded largely by corporate interests, between the 2006 and 2010 midterm elections and emphasized that the significant early signs of corporate attempts to sway the 2012 presidential election.
“Two years after the Citizens United decision, shareholders remain in the dark while a flood of corporate political spending plays an increasingly disproportionate role in picking winners and losers in our elections,” said Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director in a statement. “The staggering amounts of money spent by outside groups in the midterms elections – which saw more than $22 million spent in the Colorado Senate race alone – shook public confidence in our democratic process. All early indicators for 2012 point toward an even more extensive erosion of public confidence in the system and by extension public trust in Congress which has already fallen to its lowest point ever.”
The letter urges the committee to hold hearings this year to send a clear signal that it is willing to hold management accountable to stockholders and ensure that “political spending decisions are made transparently and in pursuit of sound business goals” for the good of the market and of our democracy.
To read the letter, click here.
Legal Center President Discusses Legacy of Citizens United on NPR’s Fresh Air
February 23, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter was the guest on NPR’s Fresh Air and heard on more than 450 public radio stations across the country. Host Terry Gross and Potter discussed the impact of the controversial Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, subsequent lower court rulings and the abject failure of the Federal Election Commission to enforce U.S. campaign finance laws.
The interview also focused on Potter’s representation of Stephen Colbert and his Super PAC “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” and Colbert’s related 501(c)(4) organization. Potter explained the political satirist’s use of these entities to make a mockery of the real-world obvious coordination between candidates and their supposedly independent Super PACs, an eventuality somehow unanticipated by the Supreme Court. Colbert’s riff on coordination is the latest chapter in his repeated skewering of the new campaign finance reality brought about by the Citizens United decision.
To listen to NPR’s “Fresh Air” Interview with Trevor Potter, click here.
Interview with Legal Center President on PRI’s The Takeaway
On February 1, 2012, Legal Center President Trevor Potter made a guest appearance on the Public Radio International’s popular radio show, “The Takeaway”. Host Jillian Weinberger and Potter discussed the creation of the Super PAC through Citizens United as well as Potter’s involvement with “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” – the Super PAC run by noted comedian Stephen Colbert.
To listen to “The Take Away” interview with Trevor Potter, click here.
Legal Center President, Board Members, Featured at Brookings Institution Discussion
On March 1, Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter and Legal Center board members Anthony Corrado and Thomas Mann made up the panel of experts at a discussion “exploring the role of Super PACs in the broader campaign finance landscape” in the 2012 election cycle at the Brookings Institution in Washington. The well-attended event, “Campaign Finance in the 2012 Elections: The Rise of Super PACs”, was hosted by the Government Studies program at Brookings. Mr. Corrado of Colby College is a leading authority on campaign finance issues and Mr. Mann is the W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow at Brookings.
FEC Program Director Addresses American University Students
On February 22, 2012, Legal Center FEC Program Director Paul S. Ryan addressed a Washington Semester class at American University. The subject of the class was the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United and its effects on the 2010 midterm and the 2012 presidential election cycles.
Policy Director Addresses William & Mary Students
On Friday February, 24, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee addressed the College of William & Mary’s Washington Semester Program at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington. McGehee discussed lobbying in Washington, the role of ethics in politics and the 2012 elections and the way the campaigns are being financed. McGehee also fielded questions from the students spending the semester in the nation’s capital.