State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Tag: Campaign Finance (page 1 of 6)

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them: Seattle’s counterintuitive response to too much money in politics

By: Anna Ellermeier

In November 2015, voters in Seattle approved Initiative 122, creating the first-ever Democracy Voucher Program. The program provides registered Seattle voters with four vouchers—or “democracy dollars”—each worth $25. Voters can then take these vouchers and give them to any candidate for city council, mayor, or city attorney who participates in the program.

Graphic_Democracy Voucher program

The idea for the initiative grew out of a concern about the role campaign financing plays in Seattle elections, and the sentiment that the rich, through their money, have a larger voice in politics. For example, a 2013 study revealed that half of the money raised for races in Seattle’s 2013 election cycle came from just 1,683 donors, which is about 0.3% of Seattle adults.

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The Sunlight Keeps Shining: The Supreme Court’s Denial of Certiorari Means that Delaware’s Disinfectant Election Disclosure Law Remains

By: Owen Ecker

In the wake of Citizens United v. FEC, Delaware took it upon itself to counteract the perceived “opening of the floodgates” ushered in by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of corporate third party political expenditures.  As the state’s first major alteration in campaign finance laws for over two decades, House Bill 300, established to generate a greater amount of disclosure from third party advertisers, passed both houses of Delaware’s General Assembly by large margins (about 65 percent in the House of Representatives and 100 percent in the Senate) in 2012.  Thereafter, the Governor of Delaware signed the Delaware Elections Disclosure Act (the “Act”) into law, which became effective in 2013.  However, litigation ensued over the Act’s constitutionality, with one lawsuit making its way up to the Supreme Court.

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Winds of Change in the Mount Rushmore State

By: Bethany Bostron

Voters in the unassuming prairie paradise of South Dakota will have the opportunity this fall to decide whether the state should create a new public finance system. The state usually flies under the national radar, so when it peeks its head above, you want to pay close attention. The question will be posed as Initiated Measure 22 – “An instituted measure to revise State campaign finance and lobbying laws, create a publicly funded campaign finance program, create an ethics commission, and appropriate funds.” According to State Attorney General Marty Jackley, the measure revises State campaign finance laws by limiting contribution amounts to political parties, political action committees, and candidates running for legislative, state-wide, or county office. The main portion of the plan creates a state-funded campaign finance program. Statewide and legislative candidates who agree to certain limits on campaign contributions and expenditures are able to participate in the funding program. Each registered voter is then assigned two $50 “credits” that he or she is free to assign to any participating candidate. Funding for the program comes from a “State general-fund appropriation of $9 per registered voter,” which is not allowed to exceed $12 million at any given time. An ethics commission is also created to administer the credit program and enforce state law. An additional measure prohibits high-level officials and government employees from lobbying for two years after leaving the government and limits lobbyists’ gifts to officials. The initiative is effectively an overhaul of the current system and Attorney General Jackley cautions voters that “the measure may be challenged in court on [state] constitutional grounds.”

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The Big Apple and Big Money: Matching Public Funds in New York City

By: Caiti Anderson

It seems that New York politicians can’t catch a break – or they just can’t stop getting caught for their indiscretions. Celia Dosamantes, a 25-year-old rising star in Queens, learned this the hard way. Arrested on September 7, 2016, Ms. Dosamantes allegedly forged campaign donations to receive the 6-for-1 matching funds during her failed 2015 run for City Council. While other news organization will surely cover Ms. Dosamantes scandalous trial, New York City’s unique and progressive campaign finance laws stand at the center of this story, and deserve recognition.

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The Political Power of Wealth?: An International Perspective on Campaign Financing

By: Hannah Thompson

In June 2013, the New Zealand Parliament passed the Local Electoral Amendment Act 2013 with the primary intention of tightening rules on campaign financing in local elections. The Act determined that donations exceeding NZD $1,500 (roughly USD $995) – whether in cash, or in goods and services – made to candidates in relation to an election campaign could not be done so anonymously. Any person involved in the administration of the affairs of a candidate, relating to his or her election campaign, can now be liable for failing to disclose a donor’s identity (where it is known) for a fine not exceeding NZD $5,000 (USD $3,380). The relative modesty of the donation amount to be disclosed is intended to ensure that the identities of all moderate financial contributors to local electoral campaigns are publicly accessible information. In addition, the Electoral Act 1993 determines that candidates must file a return with the New Zealand Electoral Commission in respect of all donations from a single donor exceeding a total of NZD $30,000 (USD $19,900).

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NY Loophole Allows Individual’s $4.3 Million in Direct Contributions, Part II

By: Dan Carroll

As detailed in a recent State of Elections post, a misguided 1996 New York State Board of Elections (BOE) decision treating limited liability companies (LLCs) as individual people rather than corporate entities. The decision allows LLCs to directly contribute up to $60,800 to an individual candidate for statewide office while traditional corporate entities are limited to $5,000 in aggregate contributions to all candidates in a year. LLCs need not disclose the identities of their founders, membership or officers, so their political activities are difficult to link to their funders.

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Nebraska: Cattle, Corn, and the Unicam

By: Eleyse D’Andrea

Debate over partisanship has been a major point of contention throughout American history.  Nonpartisanship in the early twentieth century focused on removing party politics from election processes to lessen the power and influence of political machines on citizens’ voting decisions. At the other end of the spectrum, proponents of partisan structure supported the positive role of political parties as a means of mobilizing citizens to participate in the political process, and furthermore lauded party identification on ballots as central to informed voting. In today’s America, partisanship is common and party ballot identification is a central element of many voting models. Nebraska, however, stands alone as the only state to remove party labels from state legislature ballots

Nebraska

Nebraska sample nonpartisan ballot

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Dark Money Influences Wyoming Politics

 

By: Gordon Dobbs

In response to concerns around the country, the Wyoming U.S. Attorney appointed an attorney to monitor complaints of election fraud and voter intimidation on Election Day. This move in Wyoming was largely seen as a precautionary measure. Despite the fact that the state does not require proof of citizenship and allows same-day registration, Wyoming has not endured allegations of election rigging. But as the Republican Secretary of State assured the public that the election would not be rigged in any way, Wyoming dealt with a more substantial concern: the influx of anonymous, out of state money.

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Alaskan Mayor In Trouble

By: Eduardo Lopez

The issue of campaign contribution reform has always been a major topic in American politics, but especially in recent years, with the United States Supreme Court striking down limitations on federal campaign donations. Although the Supreme Court of the United States has made a final decision with regard to federal campaign donation limitations, states still possess the power to implement limitations on contributions on the state level.

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Colorado School Board Recall Election Raises Questions about Campaign Finance Disclosures and the Role of Outside Money

By: Eric Speer

A county school board recall election in Colorado has brought focus once again to the influence of outside “dark money” on local political races. And campaign finance observers say that much of it will never be traced back to its source because of a confluence between IRS reporting regulations and a 2002 amendment to the Colorado constitution.

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