- Supreme Court Leaves Hundreds of Thousands of Texans Without the Ability to Vote
- 7th Circuit Overturns Ruling Halting ‘John Doe’ Investigation of Gov. Walker’s Campaign in Wisconsin
- Appeals Court Affirms Sweeping Decision Upholding Texas Campaign Finance Laws
- District Court Rejects Challenge to Disclosure Provisions Upheld by Supreme Court in Citizens United
- Court Dismisses Challenge to SEC’s Pay-to-Play Rules Covering State Investment Funds
- District Court Rejects Challenge to Colorado Disclosure Provisions for Electioneering Communications
- Appellate Oral Arguments for Wagner v. FEC Heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals
- 9th Circuit Orders Rehearing of Case Striking Down Judicial Campaign Laws
- Groups Challenging FEC Dismissal of Crossroads GPS Complaint File Reply Brief
- Oral Argument Held in State of Delaware’s Appeal of Decision Enjoining Application of State Disclosure Law
- FEC Invites More Influence Buying in Washington – Approves Request to Double Limits on Contributions to RNC & DNC
- Washington Area ABC Affiliate Continues to Violate Ads Disclosure Rules Drawing Another FCC Complaint
- Distinguished Litigator Roger Witten Joins Campaign Legal Center Board
- Miami Hosts Latest Voting Rights Institute to Train New Generation of Voting Rights Lawyers
- Groups from Across the Political Spectrum Call for Reform of the Congressional Ethics Process
- Montgomery County Maryland Passes Legislation Creating a Small Donor Matching System
- Megan McAllen Gives Testimony before the Philadelphia Board of Ethics Hearing
- Trevor Potter Delivers Keynote Address at 40th anniversary of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento
- J. Gerald Hebert Joins Issues Panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference
- Tara Malloy and Lawrence Noble Join Panel Discussion at the George Washington School of Law
- Executive Director Addresses American University Washington Program
- Campaign Legal Center Releases “Federal Rules for Political Advertising on Television and Radio” Chart
Supreme Court Leaves Hundreds of Thousands of Texans Without the Ability to Vote
On October 18, in Veasey v. Perry, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop a Texas photo voter ID (SB 14) law from being used in the upcoming election, despite the fact that one week earlier a U.S. District Court ruled the law unconstitutionally racially discriminatory and a poll tax. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had subsequently stayed the trial court’s ruling, leaving the photo ID law based on concerns that enjoining the law so close to the election would lead to confusion and disrupt the upcoming election. The Campaign Legal Center is part of the legal team representing voters and elected officials adversely impacted by the law, and has argued that permitting the discriminatory photo ID law to remain in effect will cause more confusion for voters and election officials.
“Today’s inaction by the Supreme Court is a bitter disappointment and a travesty of justice for hundreds of thousands of validly registered Texas voters who will be unable to exercise their right to vote in the November elections,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of The Campaign Legal Center, on the day of the ruling. “It is appalling that the Supreme Court could not muster five votes to protect the rights of all Texas registered voters to cast ballots on Election Day, especially since a lower court, after a year of factual discovery and a two week trial, had found the law intentionally racially discriminatory and deemed it a ‘poll tax’.”
Justice Ginsburg issued a strong dissent criticizing the Court’s failure to protect the rights of Texas voters, stating:
“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”
The first challenge to the controversial photo ID law was filed by the Campaign Legal Center in the summer of 2013 alleging that the voter photo ID law (SB 14) violates the 1st, 14th, 15th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution, as well as Section 2 of Voting Rights Act. Several challenges (including one brought by the United States) were then brought against the Texas law, which is one of the most restrictive laws in the nation. All of the cases were consolidated with the case brought by the Campaign Legal Center in the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi.
The Campaign Legal Center is part of the legal team that includes Chad Dunn and K. Scott Brazil (Brazil & Dunn), Neil G. Baron, David Richards (Richards, Rodriguez & Skeith), Armand Derfner (Derfner, Altman & Wilborn), Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. (LULAC) and Craig M. Wilkins and Teresa G. Snelson (Dallas County District Attorney’s Office).
To read the order of the Supreme Court and Justice Ginsburg’s dissent, click here.
To read the reply brief filed in response to the State of Texas’ brief, click here.
To read the emergency application for a stay, click here.
To read the Fifth Circuit Court’s opinion granting a stay pending appeal, click here.
To read the Legal Center's Brief in Opposition to the Emergency Motion to Stay Final Judgment Pending Appeal (October 12, 2014), click here.
To read the opinion of the District Court, click here.
7th Circuit Overturns Ruling Halting ‘John Doe’ Investigation of Gov. Walker’s Campaign in Wisconsin
On September 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed a district court order that halted an investigation into apparent illegal coordination between the campaign of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and ostensibly “independent” outside groups. In May, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa had issued a preliminary injunction in O’Keefe v. Chisholm halting the Wisconsin prosecutors’ investigation and ordering them to destroy evidence gathered in the case tying the Governor and his campaign to outside groups, including Wisconsin Club for Growth. On August 8, 2014, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed an amici brief, focusing on the flawed constitutional argument that Judge Randa relied upon in enjoining the investigation, and urging the Seventh Circuit to reverse the district court order.
“We are relieved to see the Seventh Circuit reverse Judge Randa’s outrageous ruling, which not only halted the investigation but ordered the destruction of evidence gathered by prosecutors of potential coordination between the Walker campaign and outside groups,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “While the Circuit Court did not reach a decision on the merits, its ruling reads as a rebuke of Judge Randa’s interpretation of existing precedent.”
The Court of Appeals concluded that the injunction was an abuse of discretion, and that moreover, all of the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity with respect to their involvement in the investigation
To read the Seventh Circuit’s order reversing the District Court’s injunction, click here.
The Legal Center and Democracy 21 were aided in the filing of the amici brief by Paul Smith of Jenner and Block. To read the brief, click here.
Appeals Court Affirms Sweeping Decision Upholding Texas Campaign Finance Laws
On October 8, the Texas Court of Appeals for the Third District affirmed a sweeping lower court decision upholding numerous provisions of Texas campaign finance law in Texas Democratic Party v. King Street Patriots. The Campaign Legal Center filed amicus briefs in both the District Court and the Court of Appeals defending the constitutionality of Texas’s campaign finance laws.
“The King Street Patriots’ claims had no merit and the Court of Appeals, like the district court, saw right through the legal smoke and mirrors and upheld the laws,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “The case is part of a wave of litigation across the country attempting to overturn a host of state campaign finance laws following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.”
The Texas Democratic Party filed an action against the King Street Patriots, alleging that the non-profit 501(c)(4) corporation made in-kind contributions to the state Republican Party in violation of Texas’s restriction on corporate political contributions, and failed to register as a “political committee” and comply with state disclosure law. The King Street Patriots, in response, filed a broad counterclaim challenging the constitutionality of numerous provisions of Texas campaign finance law. Those challenges were roundly rejected by the Court of Appeals.
The lower court had granted summary judgment to the Texas Democratic Party and dismissed the counterclaim, allowing the original Texas Democratic Party action to move forward on a separate track seeking damages and declaratory and injunctive relief in connection to the alleged violations of state campaign finance law.
To read the opinion of the Appeals Court, click here.
To read the brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center in the Appeals Court, click here.
To read the summary judgment opinion of the district court, click here.
District Court Rejects Challenge to Disclosure Provisions Upheld by Supreme Court in Citizens United
On October 6, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a challenge to the federal “electioneering communications” disclosure provisions in Independence Institute v. Federal Election Commission (FEC). On September 19, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, filed an amici brief in the case, urging the Court to reject the suit, arguing that the exact same disclosure provisions had been upheld by the Supreme Court as recently as the 2010 Citizens United decision.
“We are pleased the court recognized what plaintiff ignored: that the Supreme Court upheld this disclosure requirement not only in McConnell v. FEC, but also under Chief Justice Roberts in Citizens United v. FEC,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel.
Plaintiff Independence Institute sought to run a broadcast ad referring to Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) shortly before Election Day without disclosing its donors. The challenged law requires such disclosure when groups spend more than $10,000 on “electioneering communications”—defined as any television or radio ad that mentions the name of a federal candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary election. Congress enacted the “electioneering communications” disclosure law as part of the McCain-Feingold law to curb widespread evasion of earlier disclosure requirements that applied only to “express advocacy” ads. Since then, the Supreme Court has twice upheld the “electioneering communications” disclosure requirements: first, in McConnell v. FEC (2003) in a facial challenge; and again, in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) in an as-applied challenge nearly identical to the Independence Institute’s lawsuit.
To read the court’s opinion, click here.
To read the brief, click here.
Court Dismisses Challenge to SEC’s Pay-to-Play Rules Covering State Investment Funds
On September 30, in New York Republican State Committee v. SEC, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a challenge to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) pay-to-pay rule. The regulation bars investment firms from managing state assets for two years after a firm or its associates make more than de minimis contributions to officeholders or candidates in a position to award investment contracts. On August 29, 2014, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, filed an amici brief arguing that the challenged rule was consistent with the First Amendment and that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the case.
The district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, agreeing with the SEC that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals was vested with jurisdiction to hear the challenge to the play-to-play rule.
“While we fully expect this case will be refiled, we find this ruling dismissing the case and questioning plaintiffs’ standing encouraging,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “But even without the question of standing, the courts have long recognized the vital public interest in such pay-to-play restrictions, as well as their role in safeguarding the public’s faith in government.”
The rule was implemented after SEC and state investigations uncovered extensive evidence of fraud in the award of state investment contracts. One such scheme involved former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who was ultimately convicted of steering $250 million in pension funds to an investment firm in exchange for gifts and more than $500,000 in contributions.
To read the brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.
District Court Rejects Challenge to Colorado Disclosure Provisions for Electioneering Communications
On October 22, in Independence Institute v. Gessler, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado dismissed a challenge to the “electioneering communications” disclosure provisions enshrined in Colorado’s state constitution. The state measure is materially indistinguishable from the federal “electioneering communications” disclosure statute which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, as recently as the 2010 Citizens United decision. On September 25, the Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, filed an amici brief to defend Colorado’s law.
“Independence Institute asked the court to ignore Supreme Court precedent and permit it to conceal the ‘dark money’ donors underwriting its ad campaign on the eve of an election,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “We are pleased Judge Jackson acted quickly and decisively in rejecting this outrageous suit, which is just one of a flood of legal challenges to disclosure laws across the country.”
Independence Institute wished to run a broadcast ad referring to Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO) shortly before Election Day without disclosing its donors. The challenged law requires donor disclosure when groups spend more than $1,000 on “electioneering communications”—defined as certain television, radio and print ads that mention the name of a state candidate within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary election.
The Legal Center was assisted in the filing of the amici brief by Steven K. Imig of Lewis, Bess, Williams & Weese P.C.
To read the amici brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21 and Public Citizen, click here.
Oral Arguments for Wagner v. FEC Heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals
On September 30, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard the oral arguments for Wagner v. FEC, concerning the federal contractor contribution ban. The Campaign Legal Center, along with Democracy 21 and Public Citizens, previously filed amici briefs in this case in the district court and in the Court of Appeals in defense of the ban.
“Multiple courts nationwide have recognized the inherent susceptibility of the government contracting process to corruption and have repeatedly upheld federal, state and local restrictions on contractor campaign contributions,” said Tara Malloy, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “Plaintiffs ask the Court of Appeals to ignore both this legal precedent and the realities of the pay-to-play system and overturn the longstanding contractor contribution ban. The federal ban is a bulwark against corruption and a check on the seemingly endless string of scandals that has seen government officials going to jail for almost as long as government contracts have been handed out.”
This restriction on campaign contributions from persons and entities contracting with the federal government was enacted in 1940 to address corruption in federal contracting in the wake of persistent scandals, most notably the “Democratic campaign book” scandal.
In November 2012, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the FEC, finding that the federal ban was enacted to “prevent corruption and the appearance thereof and, in so doing, to protect the integrity of the electoral system by ensuring that federal contracts were awarded based on merit.” But on May 31, 2013, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the district court decision on procedural grounds, holding that the plaintiffs should have instead proceeded directly to the en banc Court of Appeals. The case was remanded to the district court, which then certified constitutional questions back to the en banc Court of Appeals. Last year the ongoing case was put on hold pending the outcome of McCutcheon v. FEC.
To read the amici brief filed by the Campaign Legal Center and other groups, click here.
9th Circuit Orders Rehearing of Wolfson v. Concannon, Striking Down Judicial Campaign Laws
On September 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed to review en banc Wolfson v. Concannon, a case striking down judicial campaign laws. An amici curiae brief, filed on behalf of the Campaign Legal Center and other reform organizations in June, asked the court to do just that. The brief raised other issues with the decision, including the standard of scrutiny applied by the three-judge panel and warning that if let stand, the opinion will spur a run of challenges on laws in other states within the Ninth Circuit.
The three-judge panel struck down Arizona’s ban on judicial candidates personally soliciting political contributions, as well as its ban on judicial candidates endorsing, speaking in favor of or campaigning for non-judicial candidates—but only as these bans apply to non-judge candidates.
“Public trust in the judicial process is vital to the public’s faith in the courts, and the decision of the three-judge panel not only flies in the face of precedent, but also seriously threatens to undermine public trust in the judicial branch,” said Paul S. Ryan, Senior Counsel for The Campaign Legal Center. “The ruling creates patently unfair electoral system where candidates running head-to-head for the same judicial office are subject to completely different sets of rules and begs a rehearing by the full Ninth Circuit.”
The other groups signing the brief included the Brennan Center for Justice, the Arizona Judges’ Association, the American Judicature Society and Justice at Stake. Randolph Sherman and Robert Grass of Kate Scholer LLP are serving as attorneys for amici curiae.
To read the original brief, click here.
To read the order of the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case en banc click here.
Groups Challenging FEC Dismissal of Crossroads GPS Complaint File Reply Brief
On October 22, in Public Citizen v. FEC, reform groups filed a reply brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia reiterating a request that the court declare the FEC’s dismissal of a complaint against the secretive 501(c)(4) political group Crossroads GPS contrary to law, and arbitrary and capricious.
The lawsuit stemmed from the FEC’s failure to investigate a complaint that Crossroads GPS violated the law in refusing to register as a political committee in 2010. The FEC Office of General Counsel had strongly recommended that the agency investigate the matter because Crossroads GPS spent $20.8 million on federal campaign activity between June and December 2010 – more than half of what Crossroads GPS reported spending the entire year. The Commission deadlocked 3-3 along party lines, resulting in the dismissal of the complaint. The three Commissioners refusing to investigate the matter argued that only those ads that constitute express advocacy bear on whether Crossroads GPS should disclose as a federal political committee, and the FEC’s lawyers in this case demanded that the Court pay deference to the views of these three Commissioners.
The lawsuit was brought by the parties to the 2010 complaint: Public Citizen; Craig Holman, campaign finance expert for Public Citizen; ProtectOurElections.org; and Kevin Zeese of ProtectOurElections.org. The Campaign Legal Center and Public Citizen are handling the legal work on the case as co-counsel for the parties.
“Despite the laundry list of arguments the FEC now makes in attempting to get this case dismissed, this case is about three Republican FEC Commissioners ignoring the advice of their own General Counsel and failing to come up with any reasonable explanation for their refusal to initiate an investigation,” said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. “The FEC is clearly unwilling to enforce the law but we hope this court will compel the agency to do its job.”
The groups contend that Crossroads GPS – an organization created by Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie to influence the 2010 midterm elections – fits the legal definition of a political committee: any group that receives or spends more than $1,000 during a calendar year to influence elections and whose major purpose is federal campaign activity. Political committees must disclose information about their donors and expenditures, which Crossroads GPS has failed to do. The FEC’s refusal to investigate Crossroads GPS for failing to register as a political committee has allowed the organization to continue to keep its donors secret for the last three election cycles.
To read the reply brief filed with the court, click here.
To read the original motion for summary judgment, click here.
To read the original FEC complaint, click here.
To read the statement by the Democratic Commissioners of the FEC, click here.
To read the FEC General Counsel’s recommendation, click here.
Oral Argument Held in State of Delaware’s Appeal of Decision Enjoining Application of State Disclosure Law
Today, oral arguments will be heard in Delaware Strong Families v. Biden, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. The State of Delaware is urging the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court decision that preliminarily enjoined Delaware’s disclosure law as applied to a nonprofit group, Delaware Strong Families (DSF). The case, involves a constitutional challenge to Delaware's new electioneering communications law. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly and by overwhelming 8-1 margins supported political disclosure laws similar to the one at issue in this case and recognized the vital governmental interest in promoting transparent elections.
To read the brief filed in the Court of Appeals by the WilmerHale team and the Campaign Legal Center, click here.
FEC Invites More Influence Buying in Washington – Approves Request to Double Limits on Contributions to RNC & DNC
On October 9, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) ignored the laws passed by Congress in order to provide wealthy individuals a way to double the amount they can contribute to the national political parties. Vice Chair Ann Ravel joined with Republican Commissioners to greenlight the gutting of existing federal limits on contributions to national political parties established in the wake of Watergate. A single individual can now give more than $250,000 to either the RNC or the DNC each presidential cycle.
The Campaign Legal Center, joined by Democracy 21, had strongly urged the FEC to reject the request from the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Democratic National Committee (DNC) seeking to undermine the existing federal limits on contributions to national political parties established in the wake of Watergate. The watchdog groups filed comments on the FEC’s draft responses to Advisory Opinion Request 2014-12, where the national party committees seek permission to raise funds for party conventions under a separate contribution limit.
“This is a disgraceful and activist decision that ignores the laws passed by Congress to combat corruption,” said Larry Noble, of the Campaign Legal Center. “One has come to expect such efforts to dismantle the current contribution limits brick by brick from the current Republican Commissioners, but Vice Chair Ravel’s vote to give the national party committees a new way to tap wealthy donors is incredibly disappointing and irresponsible.”
In response to the Advisory Opinion Request filed by the RNC and the DNC, the FEC had produced two alternative draft advisory opinions. The comments filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 strongly supported Draft A, which concluded that raising convention funds under a separate limit is clearly prohibited by federal statute and under existing FEC regulations. The comments strongly condemned Draft B’s assertion that convention committees can be considered separate “national committees” with their own contribution limits on the basis that this view is not only contrary to the law, but is based on misrepresentations of previous rulings by the FEC. The comments went on to warn that such an advisory opinion from the FEC would lead to a proliferation of ‘separate’ national committees that could be utilized to skirt existing contribution limits on a massive scale.
The RNC and DNC Advisory Opinion Request was filed after Congress repealed the federal funding for national party conventions that had been in place for more than four decades. Democratic Commissioners Ellen Weintraub and Steven Walther voted against the new limit.
To read the comments filed with the FEC by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, click here.
Washington Area ABC Affiliate Continues to Violate Ads Disclosure Rules Drawing Another FCC Complaint
On October 20, the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause and the Sunlight Foundation filed a complaint at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) alleging violations of long-standing rules and law by WJLA, an ABC-affiliated broadcast station in Washington, D.C. The complaint noted that WJLA continues to refuse to disclose the "true identity" of the sponsor of political ads being run by NextGen Climate Action Committee and asks for expedited action, given that Election Day is just a week away.
“Despite being warned that it was in violation of the law, WJLA continues to ignore the requirements to disclose on-air the ‘true identity’ of the funders of the political ads that the station is running. The FCC must hold this station accountable for these knowing and willful violations,” said Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director.
The groups filed a similar complaint on October 2, noting that WJLA was running ads with the on-air sponsorship disclaimer identifying the sponsor as "NextGen Climate Action Committee." The Media Bureau of the FCC later dismissed the earlier complaint.
The new complaint notes that WJLA filed an opposition in response to the earlier complaint and thus demonstrated its awareness that Tom Steyer provided, and continues to provide, substantially all of NextGen's funding. Today's complaint requests the FCC to declare that, for its failure to include the true identity of the sponsor of the ad, WJLA is not in compliance with Section 317 of the Communications Act and 47 CFR Section 73.1212. If a violation is found, the FCC can assess a forfeiture for WJLA's willful noncompliance with the law and grant other relief at its discretion.
To read the complaint, click here.
Distinguished Litigator Roger Witten Joins Campaign Legal Center Board
On October 22, the Campaign Legal Center announced that Roger Witten is joining the organization’s board of directors. Mr. Witten is Senior Counsel at WilmerHale where he co-chaired the litigation department for a number of years.
In the area of campaign finance, Mr. Witten has been involved in many of the landmark cases dating back to Buckley v. Valeo, the challenge to the post-Watergate reforms. He also led the legal team representing the Congressional sponsors in the litigation over the McCain-Feingold law (McConnell v. FEC).
“We have been fortunate enough to work with Roger in many pivotal campaign finance cases over the years, including McConnell v. FEC, and we are honored that he has agreed to join our board to help chart our future course as an institution,” said Trevor Potter, President of the Campaign Legal Center “He brings an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience to our board.”
“I have worked with Campaign Legal Center attorneys for years so I know firsthand the important and effective work they undertake to protect the public's interest on issues dealing with campaign finance, redistricting, and government ethics,” said Mr. Witten. “I am excited to join the board and look forward to working with colleagues at the Campaign Legal Center to further support the Center's work at a time when common sense campaign finance and voting rights laws are threatened across the country.”
To read Mr. Witten's biography on the Campaign Legal Center website, click here.
Miami Hosts Latest Voting Rights Institute to Train New Generation of Voting Rights Lawyers
On October 7, Campaign Legal Center’s latest Voting Rights Institute training took place in Miami, Florida. At the session, co-hosted by American Constitution Society, practitioners learned the ‘ins and outs’ of protecting the right to vote through the enforcement of voting rights laws. Cases brought to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, were a particular focus of the training.
Experts in the field provided background on the Voting Rights Act and relevant federal court cases to participants and focused on the mechanics of litigating voting rights cases. Campaign Legal Center’s Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert served as lead instructor and moderator. He was joined by veteran voting rights litigators and scholars in the field.
In addition to Mr. Hebert, the Institute’s expert faculty included: Nancy Abudu (Director of Legal Operations , ACLU of Florida); Neil Bradley (Former Associate Director at the ACLU Voting Rights Project in Atlanta); Chad Dunn (Partner, Brazil & Dunn); and Franita Tolson (Betty T. Ferguson Professor of Voting Rights, Florida State University College of Law).
Financial support for the Voting Rights Institute was provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, and the Wallace Global Fund. Holland & Knight also generously provided the use of its Miami offices for the training.
Groups from Across the Political Spectrum Call for Reform of the Congressional Ethics Process
On October 15, a range of groups from across the political spectrum called on both the House and Senate to make significant reforms to their ethics processes to increase public confidence in the integrity of the institution. At a roundtable event on Capitol Hill, the groups discussed proposed reforms with staff from congressional offices as well as reporters. The groups sent letters pushing ethics reform to leaders in both the House and the Senate earlier in the month.
Groups supporting the ethics reforms are the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Judicial Watch, League of Women Voters, Thomas Mann, National Taxpayers Union, Norman Ornstein, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation, Taxpayers for Common Sense, James Thurber.
Among the reforms proposed at the roundtable on congressional ethics reforms are creating an ethics office for the Senate, giving subpoena power to the Office of Congressional Ethics and increasing transparency for the House and Senate ethics committees. Letters outlining the proposals have been sent to congressional leaders urging action before the 114th Congress convenes. At the roundtable, Public Citizen released a new study, “The Case for Independent Ethics Agencies: The Office of Congressional Ethics Six Years Later, and a History of Failed Senate Accountability.”
“Facing historically low approval numbers, remedial action is needed immediately to strengthen the congressional ethics process and help restore public confidence in Congress,” said Meredith McGehee, Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center. “Without meaningful transparency, the public is expected to simply take Congress’ word for it that the process is working. Given the record that the House and Senate have compiled in dealing with allegations of ethics violations the past several years, that is just not good enough.”
To watch the roundtable event on C-SPAN, click here.
To read the House letter, detailing the recommendations to the House leaders,click here.
To read the Senate letter, detailing the recommendations to Senate leaders, click here.
To read the Public Citizen report, click here.
Montgomery County Maryland Passes Legislation Creating a Small Donor Matching System
On September 30, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to create a small donor matching system for county races. Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel, worked with Public Campaign serving as an advisor to the drafting of the legislation. The program (implemented in the most populous county in the state) is the first of its kind in the state of Maryland.
Megan McAllen Gives Testimony before the Philadelphia Board of Ethics Hearing
On September 17, Associate Counsel Megan McAllen gave expert testimony at the Philadelphia Board of Ethics hearing held in Philadelphia. In response to next year’s mayoral election, the Board of Ethics is implementing a set of rules to help regulate the flow of money in the election. Ms. McAllen and other reform experts provided testimony concerning the practicality and constitutionality of the Board’s new regulations. The new regulations are currently under review and could be implemented by early next year.
To read Mrs. McAllen’s full testimony, click here.
Trevor Potter Delivers Keynote Address at 40th Anniversary of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento
On September 17, Trevor Potter delivered the keynote address at the 40th anniversary of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) in Sacramento. Potter praised the outstanding work of the FPPC and compared it to its dysfunctional federal cousin, the Federal Election Commission – also created 40 years ago in the wake of Watergate. Potter reviewed how we arrived in this current Wild West era of campaign finance and suggested ways to fix it and restore the public’s faith in its elected officials.
To read Mr. Potter’s full speech on our blog, click here.
J. Gerald Hebert Joins Issues Panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference
On September 26, J. Gerald Hebert took part in an issues panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Conference in Washington D.C. Speaking on the Panel “Voting Rights: Protecting the Right to Vote” Mr. Hebert was joined by other distinguished members of the Voting Rights community. The forum focused on improving conditions for African-American voters. Mr. Hebert discussed the evidence that had been produced at the recent trial involving a challenge to the Texas photo ID law (Veasey v. Perry) and the Campaign Legal Center’s role in that case.
Tara Malloy and Lawrence Noble Join Panel Discussion at the George Washington School of Law
On September 17, Tara Malloy and Lawrence Noble spoke at a panel discussion concerning campaign finance reform at the George Washington School of Law. Ms. Malloy and Mr. Noble participated in the panel “Political Parties and the New Campaign Finance Paradigm.” They were joined by both Chairman Lee Goodman and Vice Chair Ann Ravel of the FEC and others. The panel discussed the current state of campaign finance reform and solutions to current issues in the field.
Executive Director Addresses American University Washington Program
On September 30, Legal Center Executive Director J. Gerald Hebert addressed American University’s Washington Semester Program, discussing the current state of money in politics and outlining potential reforms that the Campaign Legal Center is currently pursuing. The program hosts students from around the country and schedules discussions for students with leading figures on the important political issues of the day.
Campaign Legal Center Releases “Federal Rules for Political Advertising on Television and Radio” Chart
On September 24, the Campaign Legal Center released a chart giving an overview of political advertising rules. The chart breaks down the types of ads, their permitted funding sources, FEC and FCC disclosure requirements and other rules that apply to each type of broadcast advertisement.
To view the “Federal Rules for Political Advertising on Television and Radio” chart, click here.
To view a related chart defining the types of outside groups (527s and the various 501(c) organizations) and outlining their tax status, permitted activities, and disclosure requirements under federal tax and election laws, click here.