b2tfIn January 2010 –  as almost everyone already knows by now – the Supreme Court struck down major portions of campaign finance laws, allowing corporations to make independent expenditures in support of, or opposition to, candidates for federal office. Super PACs that could accept unlimited individual and corporate contributions soon followed based on lower court

California’s ethics watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission, adopted a new rule that prohibits lobbyists from hosting fundraisers in their homes. This rule implements legislation passed after a lobbyist was fined for hosting what the LA Times called “lavish fundraisers” featuring “wine, liquor, and cigars,” in his home. Lobbyists in California are prohibited from making campaign contributions, but the statute previously exempted from the definition of a “contribution” the use of one’s home for a campaign event, along with$500 for food and drink. The legislation eliminated this exemption, providing that any “payment made by a lobbyist or a cohabitant of a lobbyist for costs related to a fundraising event held at the home of the lobbyist, including the value of the use of the home as a fundraising event venue,” is now a contribution.


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SpiderWebAs we have discussed, Maryland amended its pay-to-play rules to impose new reporting requirements on entities that do business with state or local governments. The first report under the new system is due on February 5, and if the roundtable hosted yesterday by the State Board of Elections is any indication, confusion abounds regarding the law’s core requirements.

This post highlights a few of the issues discussed at that roundtable.  
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As it has done every two years since the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act indexed contribution limits for inflation, the FEC has announced revised contribution limits for the 2016 election cycle. In addition to the traditional limits for candidates, PACs, and parties, the FEC also set the indexed limit for the new special accounts created at the end of 2014 for the national political parties. This first chart shows the limits for individual and PAC contributions to candidates, PACs, and state and local party committees:

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This next chart shows the amounts that an individual may give to the national party committees. The general fund is the account that has always existed, while the other funds are the new accounts Congress created in 2014 to help the parties to defray certain costs:
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CoffeeCupWhen Arkansas legislators gave voters a chance to approve a constitutional amendment banning corporate contributions and gifts from lobbyists, even the referendum’s sponsor thought it was doomed.  Why?  Because coupled with these reforms was a provision extending legislators’ term limits, a measure so unpopular that voters had previously rejected it by a 40-point margin.  Indeed, a committee opposing the referendum brought a 10-foot wooden horse to campaign events to help convince voters that the only real intention of the referendum was to get rid of term limits.

Whatever the motivations – which at times were hard to discern as the Republican legislature that placed the referendum on the ballot later passed a resolution to oppose it – the referendum passed last week with 53% of the vote.  It makes a number of important changes in Arkansas law, including: 
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The LD-203 obviously includes a number of different disclosures. In practice, many reports show very little activity because the categories to be disclosed are fairly narrow. However, the report is filed under penalties of making false statements, so organizations have to know that they did not make any covered payments.

The Whole Company

ChartAs our previous posts have explained, many of the contributions that must be disclosed are not necessarily in the purview of the government affairs department. For example, a corporate philanthropy department might make a contribution to a charity that focuses on hunger relief. But, if a Member of Congress established that charity, it has to be disclosed on the LD-203. Similarly, an executive might ask the company to contribute to a charity active in a community where the company is located. But, again, if the executive were responding to a request from the Congressman’s district director, and that DD serves on the board of the charity, it is a contribution “designated” by a covered official.
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FlagsIn every election, campaigns and their political fundraisers must navigate a complex and ever-changing array of laws, which increasingly are being rewritten by the courts. The rules changed again last month, when the Supreme Court in McCutcheon v. FEC struck down the limit on the amount an individual may give during an election cycle to all federal candidate and PACs, and to the national political parties. While the ruling did not directly involve any state laws, the Court’s reasoning – that the First Amendment forbids restrictions on how many candidates or committees a donor may support – cast doubt on the constitutionality of laws in about a dozen states that also impose aggregate limits.

Yet with elections just weeks or months away, only a few of the states potentially affected by McCutcheon have indicated how they will interpret and apply it. Most have been silent, perhaps waiting for a lawsuit to force the issue, or a contributor who flouts the aggregate limit and dares the state to enforce it.
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SCOTUSMuch of the post-McCutcheon discussion has focused on what might follow from the decision: are there other dominos to fall? Some predicted the ban on direct corporate contributions might be in play and noted that there was a case pending for the Supreme Court to consider. But Monday, the Court declined to hear that

aftershockThe Supreme Court yesterday struck down the limit on the total amount an individual may contribute to federal candidates, PACs and political parties in a two-year election cycle. The 5-4 ruling is unlikely to have a major impact on political giving this year, but casts serious doubt on the constitutionality of similar state contribution schemes