- More Bailouts of Covered Jurisdictions Moving Forward as Supreme Court Weighs Voting Rights Act
- Reform Groups Call Out President Obama on Broken Promises and Lack of Leadership to Reform the Corrupt Campaign Finance System
- Watchdogs Urge FEC to Halt Proposal to Worsen Its Already Ineffective Enforcement of Campaign Finance Laws
- Reform Groups Urge Congress to Close Gaping Disclosure Loopholes
- Legal Center President Participates in Event Marking 500,000 Comments to SEC Urging Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending
- Legal Center Hosts Libyan International Exchange Fellow
- Senior Counsel Participates in Symposium Focusing on Citizens United Fallout
- Legal Center President Participates in “Restore the Republic” Conference
- Senior Counsel Participates in Webchat on OpenSecrets Report on Political Activity by Tax-Exempt Groups
- Policy Director Addresses Students at American University
More Bailouts of Covered Jurisdictions Moving Forward as Supreme Court Weighs Voting Rights Act
In late April, two more jurisdictions moved forward with bailouts from the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act as the Supreme Court weighs a challenge to the constitutionality of those provisions. On April 25, a three-judge court in Washington, DC approved a final consent decree exempting the City of Wheatland, California from the Act’s preclearance provisions. On the same day, the Justice Department announced that it had reached agreement on a bailout with the City of Falls Church, Virginia (along with the Falls Church City Public School District) and submitted a proposed consent decree for approval to a three-judge court in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The preclearance provisions, known as Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, are being challenged in Shelby County v. Holder, a case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The covered jurisdictions, including all or parts of sixteen states, are required to seek preclearance before changing any election practice or procedure, such as moving polling locations or altering voting districts. However, when jurisdictions, like Falls Church, Wheatland and others can demonstrate that they have had a clean record of voting practices over a ten-year period and have taken additional steps to ensure non-discriminatory elections, they are permitted to “bail out” of this preclearance requirement.
“There has been a parade of successful bailouts and it just keeps going, eviscerating the argument that the process is both too arduous and too expensive,” said Campaign Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert, who serves as legal counsel to both Wheatland and Falls Church in his capacity as a solo practitioner. “These and the many other bailouts also prove that the coverage formula self-tailors, and therefore Section 5 coverage adjusts to current needs required to protect the franchise.
To read the consent judgment and decree for Wheatland, California, click here.
To read the joint motion to enter consent judgment and decree for Falls Church, Virginia, click here.
The Campaign Legal Center filed a friend of the Court brief in Shelby County v. Holder. To read the brief, click here.
Reform Groups Call Out President Obama on Broken Promises and Lack of Leadership to Reform the Corrupt Campaign Finance System
On April 29, the Legal Center joined with other reform groups in sharply criticizing President Obama’s many failures and broken promises on the campaign finance reform front and urging him to live up to his commitments in his second term. In the letter, the groups reminded the President of his many unfulfilled commitments to reform the nation’s corrupt campaign finance system and emphasized that he and his political operatives are leading the race to the bottom with Organizing for Action (OFA), a privately-funded outside group essentially functioning as an arm of the Administration.
The letter asked President Obama to change course in the second half of his presidency and to assume a leadership role in reforming the broken and corrupt campaign finance system through both legislative efforts and executive actions.
To read the full letter and release, click here.
Watchdogs Urge FEC to Halt Proposal to Worsen Its Already Ineffective Enforcement of Campaign Finance Laws
On April 19, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed comments with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) urging the agency not to further weaken its already ineffective enforcement of campaign finance laws. In response to a Commission notice requesting comment as to whether the FEC is effectively enforcing the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), the watchdogs’ response was an emphatic “no.” The agency also asked for comments as to whether it should further undermine its anemic enforcement process by adopting an official policy of willfully ignoring publicly available information and legal theories not specifically cited in complaints filed with the agency. The watchdogs warned the FEC that the proposed policy of willful ignorance would only worsen an already ineffective enforcement process.
“We certainly hope the Commission will refrain from adopting this nonsensical proposal to intentionally ignore readily accessible public information and valid legal theories during the enforcement process. It is vitally important that hardworking FEC staff investigators not have their hands tied behind their backs by the political appointees, when it comes to using the few tools at their disposal as they attempt to fulfill the mission of the agency.” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel.
To read the comments filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21,click here.
To read the letter referenced in the comments, click here.
Reform Groups Urge Congress to Close Gaping Disclosure Loopholes
On May 2, the Campaign Legal Center joined with other reform groups in urging both houses of Congress to pass campaign finance disclosure legislation this year. The letter reminds Congress that more than $300 million in secret contributions were spent in presidential and congressional races in 2012. That total is widely expected to grow exponentially in coming election.
The letter also emphasized that opponents of disclosure have lost the overwhelming number of cases they have brought to challenge disclosure laws since the Citizens United decision. Those successes in the Supreme Court and the lower courts are outlined in a summary and chart prepared by the Campaign Legal Center that were sent with the letters to Members.
The other organizations signing the letter included Americans for Campaign Reform, the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Demos, the League of Women Voters and Public Citizen.
To read the full letter, click here.
Legal Center President Participates in Event Marking 500,000 Comments to SEC Urging Disclosure of Corporate Political Spending
On April 16, Legal Center President Trevor Potter joined in a Corporate Reform Coalition press call urging newly confirmed Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Mary Jo White to act expeditiously to require disclosure of corporate political spending. The call drew attention to the record-breaking 500,000 investors and members of the public who have submitted comments supporting the rule. Joining Potter on the call were Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-MA), New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, as well as business leaders and reform advocates.
The half-million comments have been filed in response to a December 2012 SEC announcement that it would consider a proposed rule to require that public companies provide disclosure to shareholders regarding the use of corporate resources for political activities.
Legal Center Hosts Libyan International Exchange Fellow
From April 17 through May 2, the Legal Center hosted an international cultural/political exchange fellow from Libya, Salaheddin Gharman. He is founder and CEO of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Shahed Organization, which organized 3,000 Libyan volunteers to observe and monitor the nation’s post-revolution elections in 2012. Mr. Gharman came to the U.S. interested in learning about electoral integrity and transparency issues, the role that nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations play in promoting transparency in U.S. elections, as well as nonprofit organization management generally. During his two weeks with the Legal Center, Legal Center staff arranged meetings between Mr. Gharman and a variety of nonprofits in the Washington, DC area, as well as meetings with numerous government officials and staff.
Mr. Gharman’s two weeks at the Legal Center were part of a larger, month-long exchange program hosted by the U.S. nonprofit Legacy International and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The role as host to Mr. Gharman is part of a longer-running Legal Center international exchange with North Africa and the Middle East facilitated by Legacy International and the State Department. In March of this year, Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan participated in a Legacy International/State Department exchange delegation to Egypt. Last fall, the Legal Center hosted a group of Legacy International delegates from North Africa and the Middle East for a discussion of money in U.S. elections.
Senior Counsel Participates in Symposium Focusing on Citizens United Fallout
On April 25, Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan participated in a symposium in Providence, Rhode Island on the dramatic transformation of the political landscape and the inherent threat to the integrity of the political process in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The event was sponsored by the Federal Bench/Bar Committee of the Rhode Island Bar Association, the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, and Johnson and Wales University, which also hosted the event. The symposium also featured Anthony Corrado, Colby College Professor of Government and member of the Legal Center Board.
Legal Center President Addresses Rootstrikers’ “Restore the Republic” Conference
On April 20, Legal Center President Trevor Potter addressed the Rootstrikers “Restore the Republic” conference in San Francisco. Potter discussed campaign finance reform and voting rights issues, past, present and future. The conference featured experts, activists, watchdogs and former elected and appointed officials from across the country – including representatives from groups as diverse as The Tea Party Patriots and People for the American Way - to discuss the next generation of reform to fix our broken democracy.
Senior Counsel Participates in Webchat on OpenSecrets Report on Political Activity by Tax-Exempt Groups
On April 22, Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan participated in a live webchat hosted by the Center for Responsive Politics on its report on political activity by tax-exempt groups. The report about these nondisclosing groups, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2012 elections to influence our elections, “Shadow Money Magic,” ran as a 5 part series on CRP’s OpenSecrets blog. Joining Ryan on the panel fielding questions from the public were Peter Overby of NPR, Professor Ellen Aprill of Loyola Law School and the report’s authors Viveca Novak and Robert Maguire of the Center for Responsive Politics.
To watch a replay of the webchat, click here.
To read the report, click here.
Policy Director Addresses Students at American University
On April 13, Policy Director Meredith McGehee spoke to American University students participating in Prof. Jim Thurber’s workshop on Ethics and Lobbying Workshop. The topic of the class was “Lobbying and Campaign Finance: Sources of Ethical Dilemma.” McGehee highlighted the problems in the existing campaign finance system, the role that lobbyists play in Washington fundraising and ideas for changes and reforms. McGehee also showed the students videos on CLC's YouTube channel.