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Tag: Campaign Finance (page 2 of 6)

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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West Virginia Moves to Nonpartisan Judicial Elections in 2016

By: Stephanie Wilmes

As of 2013, thirteen states used nonpartisan judicial elections to select their state Supreme Court justice, and eighteen states used nonpartisan elections to select trial court judges at all levels. On March 25, 2015, West Virginia joined their number when Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed HB 2010 into law.

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

By: Dan Carroll

Given the controversy surrounding the Supreme Court’s decisions upending federal campaign finance law in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the average voter might be surprised to find out that federal law still prohibits corporations from making direct contributions to candidates for federal office and limits the amount individuals can contribute to a particular campaign. On the other hand, twenty-two states allow but limit direct contributions from corporations to candidates for state office.

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Toeing the Line: FEC, DOJ, and Coordination Between Super PACs and Candidates

By Staff Writer:

Five years ago, the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and Speechnow v. FEC led to the creation of Super PACs, or independent expenditure-only political committees. Super PACs differ from candidate or political party committees in that they cannot contribute directly to candidates; they may only engage in independent spending on advertising, voter outreach, and the like. Furthermore, although Super PACs may support a particular candidacy, they are strictly prohibited from “coordinating” with candidate or political party committees. Continue reading

“War Chests” and Political Spending in Massachusetts: Are Unions and Corporations Similarly Situated?

By Allison Davis

In March of 2015, two family-owned companies headquartered in Massachusetts filed suit in state court challenging certain provisions of Massachusetts’ campaign finance laws. The provisions in question prohibit corporations and corporate PACs from contributing to candidates or political party committees, but permit labor unions and their PACs to directly contribute up to $15,000 per calendar year to candidates or parties. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint (filed as 1A Auto, Inc. v. Sullivan), this law represents a “lopsided ban” that stifles First Amendment-protected speech and associational rights for corporations. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution by granting unions and their PACs a privilege that is forbidden to their corporate counterparts. Continue reading

William & Mary Election Law Society Co-President Published

By William & Mary Election Law Society

We are excited to announce that Allison Davis, one of this year’s co-presidents of the Election Law Society, has been accepted for publication in the William & Mary Business Law Review, Vol. 7 (2016). Davis’s note, “Presupposing Corruption:  Access, Influence, and the Future of the Pay-to-Play Legal Framework” examines the Court’s shifting views on corruption, applies it to various pay-to-play laws currently in effect, and ultimately concludes that the legal and constitutional framework for much of pay-to-play law as it currently stands rests on shaky ground.

See more from McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP: http://www.paytoplaylawblog.com/2015/04/articles/first-amendment/pay-to-play-law-blog-makes-the-law-review/

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Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Race marred by Campaign Finance Allegations

By Lance Woods:

Since 1970, no Pennsylvania Governor has lost a reelection bid, however Pennsylvania’s 2014 Governor’s race ended with Tom Wolf (D) defeating incumbent Gov. Corbett (R). The election is arguably Pennsylvania’s most expensive, with Governor-elect Wolf spending $27.9 million, including $10 million of his own money, and Gov. Corbett spending $23.8 million. This historic defeat was marred by accusations from both parties claiming campaign finance violations.  Regardless of the merits of these accusations, it is very unlikely that any changes will be made to Pennsylvania’s toothless campaign finance laws.

No One Has Clean Hands

In June 2014, reports surfaced that billionaire casino investor Sheldon Adelson donated $987, 844 to a political action committee (“PAC”) set up by Gov. Corbett to help his bid for reelection. Great for Gov. Corbett, right? No, because Pennsylvania’s law strictly prohibits casino owners in the state from making contributions to candidates for state office or political committees and Mr. Adelson owns a casino in the commonwealth. The penalties for violating this provision range from fines to the revocation of the contributor’s gaming license. This “illegal accidental” contribution was quickly remedied because the large contribution was moved from Gov. Corbett’s PAC to the Republican Governors’ Association PAC (“RGA”). Although the RGA was Corbett’s biggest donor when he ran for Governor in 2010 an RGA spokesman claims that none of Adelson’s money was included in Corbett’s 2014 spending.

August 2014, the GOP accused Tom Wolf and his treasurer of numerous violations of Pennsylvania’s Election Code. The central claim is that Wolf created “Campaign for a Fresh Start” (“CFS”) to circumvent the Election Code rules that govern an authorized candidates political committee and the required disclosures that apply to such a committee. Specifically, that despite Wolf’s active participation in the creation of CFS, he never disclosed that CFS was an Affiliated and Connected Organization of his Campaign pursuant to § 3244(b)(4). The GOP claims that Wolf’s explanation for the creation of CFS is merely pretext and that its primary purpose is to contribute to his campaign. This allegation is based on the fact that Campaign for a Fresh Start has made numerous public broadcasts and communications directly advocating for the election of Tom Wolf.

Toothless laws

Although the penalties for such violations appear to have teeth, these provisions have never actually been used. Once certified by the attorney general, a judgment of ouster from office can be entered against the candidate who has been found to knowingly and willfully accept contributions, or make expenditures in contravention of PA’s election code. Attorney General Kathleen Kane has not responded to any of these claims. Disclosure requirements are intended to ensure that voters are fully aware of who is funding campaigns, however it is easy to question the utility of these requirements because they are so easily circumvented without any serious consequences. In the wake of Tom Wolf’s historic victory, it appears that all of these allegations will soon be forgotten. Until investigation of these violations are expedited and candidates are held accountable Pennsylvania’s campaign finance laws will continue to be ignored.

Oil-lections: North Dakota Elections Are Corrupted But Nothing Needs To Change

By August Johannsen

North Dakota is perhaps best known for the Midwestern “charm” portrayed in the 1996 film, Fargo. However, even that movie took place almost entirely in Minnesota. In other words, North Dakota is about as nondescript a State as States come. But then North Dakota suddenly hit the national headlines when technological advances allowed for the extraction of oil from the state’s Bakken Shale Formation. This oil boom has drastically increased the state’s financial well-being, its oil output, and its population. By now, you may be asking, “What does this have to do with state election law?” The answer is, “A lot.” Continue reading

California’s Continuing Complicated Relationship with Direct Democracy

By: Aaron Colby

This year, like other states, California worked to complete another midterm election season. Also like other states, this means that candidates participated in major fundraising and spending efforts, to increase their chances of a favorable election result. However, unlike many other states, a great deal of these campaign contributions are going not to a particular candidate, but rather to a specific cause: support of or opposition to a particular ballot initiative. California law requires supporters and opponents of ballot initiatives to form a committee, to which donations are made, and to disclose the amount of the donations they receive. Continue reading

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