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Tag: PAC

Release from a Political Life Sentence: How Florida Voters Approved the Largest Enfranchisement in 47 Years – Part II

By: Zach McDonnell

This post is the second post of a two-part series. Part One focused on the provisions of the Florida Constitution that disenfranchises ex-felons, how the administration of Governor Rick Scott strictly interpreted those provisions, and the now-moot lawsuit to upend Governor Scott’s felon-disenfranchisement rules.

In late 2014, the PAC Floridians for a Fair Democracy started the long process of putting a rights-restoration amendment in front of Florida voters, with an initial goal of making it to the ballot in 2016; however, the signature threshold required under Florida law (eight percent of votes cast in the previous presidential election—which in 2014 amounted to 766,200 signatures) was far too formidable to be met in such a short amount of time. By October 2016, restoration advocates, led by the non-profit Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), had garnered only enough signatures to trigger review by the Florida Supreme Court for the ballot initiative’s language—a mere 76,632 (the Florida Supreme Court later approved the language on April 20, 2017).

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Massachusetts Rules against Ban on Lying in Campaigns

By: David Schlosser

Over the summer of 2015, a Massachusetts law banning lying in campaign ads was struck down by that state’s highest court. This decision mirrors that of an Ohio federal judge last year, a case previously covered on this blog by Sarah Wiley. Like the Ohio law, the Massachusetts law criminalized telling lies about candidates for political office, and was as on the books for several decades before being successfully challenged in court. The lawsuit arose when a Democratic state representative alleged that a right-leaning PAC lied in a campaign brochure. The brochure in question alleged that Rep. Brian Mannal sponsored a bill that would “help convicted sex offenders” because he—as a defense attorney who had represented sex offenders in the past—stood to profit. Mannal maintained that he never provided legal representation to sex offenders. One of the bills in question would make GPS tracking devices optional for sex offenders on parole, rather than mandatory. After filing the bill in 2013, Mannal reported that he received death threats.

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Who is stuffing the politicians’ pockets: Alabama and PAC-to-PAC contributions

by John Alford 

Alabama Legislatures are trying to clean up the state’s political landscape. The problem at hand is that money is being shifted around without a clear understanding of where the funds originated. Political action committees (“PACs“) are, essentially, groups that take in funds and redistribute contributions to candidates or to advocate particular issues. Prior to 2011, a PAC in Alabama could receive money from a donor and then transfer the funds to another PAC. The second PAC can then put funds into half a dozen other PACs, which use the money to help advocate issues. The identity of the individuals who originally donated the funds is lost in the mix. This means that people trying to influence, or even corrupt, politicians, can play this “shell game” and hide the money trail. Keep in mind, there are 859 PACs in Alabama.

An attempt to hide the money trail is exactly what happened when gambling interest groups began trying to increase their odds of success. The U.S. Justice Department wiretapped a session where this statement came to light:  “We’re gonna support who supports democracy. And the (expletive deleted) who doesn’t support democracy [should] get ready to get their (expletive deleted) (expletive deleted) busted.” Certainly this crass statement could be taken admirably, but chances are the gambling tycoon was not strictly supporting democracy given that statement is taken in the context of extortion, bribery, fraud, and conspiracy charges. Shifting money from PAC-to-PAC to hide the connection to gambling money, however, was perfectly legal. This confusion of contributions was an integral means of getting support for the gambling agenda since politicians did not need to fear disclosure. Continue reading

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