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October 23, 2015

Sec of State threatens out-of-state PACs

Alabama Political Reporter reports: On Wednesday, October 21, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) issued a warning to groups who may attempt to use out of state Political Action Committees (PACs) to hide the source of their funds.

Secretary of State Merrill said, "It has been brought to the attention of the Secretary of State's Office that there may be current plans to circumvent the reporting requirements of the Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act by utilizing out-of-state PACs and the reporting requirements of other states to hide the source of contributions to Alabama campaigns."

Secretary Merrill warned, "I have been and will continue to be in contact with my counterparts in other states to work to reveal the source of contributions to candidates in Alabama in order to protect and enforce the transparency mandate for political contributions in our State."

Merrill said that, "If we discover that there has been a violation of this law, we will identify the perpetrator and investigate that entity or individual. If it is warranted, we will seek indictment while working with the District Attorney's Office and Attorney General's Office to ensure they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." -- Merrill Threatens Legal Actions Against Political Action Committees

October 17, 2015

Ben Carson leads in campaign cash raised in Alabama reports: Surging in the polls since the first Republican debate, retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson has now raked in the most campaign cash from Alabama of any 2016 presidential candidate, raising about $215,000 from July through September and now has raised about $272,000 from the Yellowhammer State, according to new Federal Election Commission data.

Carson overtook former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who led all candidates with about $70,000 raised last quarter and now has more than $125,000 from Alabama contributors. Carson, who has wide appeal with evangelicals and conservatives, also has somewhat of a built-in advantage in Alabama. His national finance chairman, Dean Parker, is from Mobile.

Aside from Carson, Clinton was leapfrogged by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Bush raised about $165,000 from Alabama donors from July through September, an increase from the roughly $54,000 he brought in from the state from April to June. -- Feeling blue: Democrats deny Artur Davis

August 19, 2015

State Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker begins raising money for 2016 election

The Anniston Star reports: The next general election is more than a year away, but one of the men on the state's highest court has raised $47,000 for his re-election campaign.

Justice Tom Parker, one of three justices up for re-election in 2016, picked up donations from seven law firms and one individual lawyer in July and August. Parker, a Republican who does not yet have any opponents for the Supreme Court seat, is the first statewide candidate to report any fundraising for next year?s elections. ...

Parker's top donors include Birmingham lawyer David Marsh and the law firm Hare, Wynn Newell and Newton; each gave $10,000 to Parker's campaign. All of Parker's donors to date are lawyers or law firms, and most state on their websites that they've argued cases before the Alabama Supreme Court. Attempts to reach spokespeople willing to comment on the donations at all of the firms were unsuccessful Tuesday. -- State Supreme Court justice begins raising money for 2016 election - The Anniston Star: News

August 6, 2015

"Panic Over Campaign Cash for Legal Defense"

The Alabama Political Reporter says: Word around the State House is Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) is in a panic to find sponsors for a bill that would exempt campaign contributions used for legal fees as being considered a "thing of value."

Even before Hubbard was indicted on 23 felony counts of pubic corruption, he was using campaign contributions to pay attorneys. ...

However, during the 2015 Regular Session, the Republican Supermajority codified that opinion into law and expanded it allowing public office holders to use campaign contributions for, "Legal fees and costs associated with any civil action, criminal prosecution, or investigation related to conduct reasonably related to performing the duties of the office held."

What has not been addressed is whether this new law conflicts with the ethics laws passed in 2010.

State ethics law -- Section 36-25-6 passed by the Republican Supermajority in 2010 states: "Contributions to an office holder, a candidate, or to a public official's inaugural or transitional fund shall not be converted to personal use." -- Panic Over Campaign Cash for Legal Defense

July 20, 2015

"Alabama lawmakers again try to tighten campaign finance law" reports: The Alabama Legislature has again tried to tighten up the state's campaign finance law, following up on earlier efforts that haven't worked as planned.

The Fair Campaign Practices Act, on the books since 1988, has been criticized for lacking teeth and a designated authority for enforcement.

With a bill that passed during the regular session, lawmakers gave the state Ethics Commission authority to investigate violations of the act, among other changes.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said the bill, based mostly on recommendations from a study committee, "will bring a lot more transparency and accountability to our electoral system." -- Alabama lawmakers again try to tighten campaign finance law |

May 17, 2015

Former chief justice says money is now king of Alabama judicial races

AP reports: The phones rang. The donations flowed.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb in 2006 won one of the most expensive judicial races in American history. Cobb, however, is no fan of the pricey system that got her to be the state's top jurist.

The high-dollar races that have judicial candidates dialing for dollars are tawdry, she said, and the donations that judicial candidates must solicit from law firms and businesses that appear in their courtroom are something akin to "legalized extortion."

"To fully achieve the goal of having fair courts, there must be reform in how judges are selected," Cobb said in an interview with The Associated Press. -- Sue Bell Cobb: Money now king of Alabama judicial races |

May 6, 2015

Bill introduced to ban political contributions from gambling interests reports: Shortly after Alabama House of Representatives Republican Caucus released its budget plan that includes a deal with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, other lawmakers today announced a bill to make it illegal for gambling interests to make contributions to a political candidate's campaign.

"I am not for legalizing gambling in Alabama," bill sponsor, Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, said. "However, with the recent discussions about possible legislation to expand gambling in the state, I believe it is important to prevent gambling lobbyists from influencing legislators through political contributions,"

Garrett's bill would make it illegal for a gambling interest, or a person or agent acting on behalf of a gambling interest, to make contributions to a politician's campaign or to a Political Action Committee.

Those contributions are currently allowed under current Alabama law, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are known to provide large contributions to political campaigns. Recent contributions weren't immediately available. -- Bill introduced to ban casinos from making contributions to Alabama politicians |

March 25, 2015

Riley's PAC made independent expenditures, but asks candidates to report in-kind contributions

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Former Governor's Political Action Committee asked candidates to declare "in-kind" contributions they never requested or received.

According to the letters exchanged between then Senate candidate Clyde Chambliss and Jeremiah Mosley, Treasurer of former Gov. Bob Riley's Alabama 2014 PAC, the PAC gave Chambliss over $40,000 in in-kind contributions, which the candidate says he never authorized.

Not only did Chambliss say the expenditures were not authorized, but the content of the mailers sent on his behalf violated his campaign promises.

In his letter dated July 30, 2014, Chambliss wrote, "These mail pieces were attacks on my opponent which arrived in the mail addressed to voters in my district at the same time that I was running campaign advertising and making public statements and speeches in which I pledged to run a clean and positive campaign. As a result of the mail pieces sent out by Alabama 2014 PAC, many voters in my district believe that I lied to them. I have had many of these voters contact me and advise me that they planned to vote for me but did not vote because of the negative mailers."

According to a letter dated July 11, 2014, Riley's PAC said it had provided Chambliss with $8,500.00 for survey and $35,916.76 for mailers. "These amounts need to be reported to the Secretary of State in your next financial report," wrote Mosley. -- Candidates Deny In-Kind Contributions from Riley PAC

March 17, 2015

"Alabama Secretary of State announces partnership to investigate, prosecute voter fraud" reports: The Alabama Secretary of State's Office has partnered with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and Attorney General's Office to investigate and prosecute allegations of voter fraud or campaign finance irregularities.

Secretary of State John Merrill said authorities will accept complaints about elections or Fair Campaign Practice Act irregularities starting from the June 2014 primary election, July 2014 runoff and the November 2014 general election. Campaign financing the year prior to those elections will also be investigated.

Merrill announced the launch of the Alabama Election Fairness Project today at a press conference held at the Attorney General's Office.

A hotline and an email address have been set up to accept complaints.

The Secretary of State's office can be notified at or Complaints can be made at or 1-800-274-VOTE (8683). -- Alabama Secretary of State announces partnership to investigate, prosecute voter fraud |

February 11, 2015

"Is Hubbard Breaking The Law With Criminal Defense Payments?"

Alabama Political Reporter has this analysis: Over the last year, Hubbard has used around $300,000 in campaign contributions from his personal account to pay his criminal defense team. Hubbard has never publicly addressed this issue, however, several news outlets around the State have noted that he was using the funds in accordance with former Attorney General Bill Pryor's opinion issued in 2000.

In the opinion, Pryor drew the conclusion that, "Excess campaign funds may be used by an incumbent office holder to pay legal fees incurred pursuant to the defense of a criminal indictment if the indictment is related to the performance of the duties of the office held."

There are two parts to this statement by the former Attorney General. First, the funds must be "excess campaign funds." The second, is that the indictment must be "related to the performance of the duties of the office held."

Hubbard is the Representative of District 79, he is also the Speaker of the House; which of the 23 felonies charges against him are related to the performance of the duties of the office? -- Is Hubbard Breaking The Law With Criminal Defense Payments?

February 3, 2015

Hubbard spending campaign funds on criminal defense

AP reports: Indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has used campaign funds to pay nearly $300,000 in legal fees over the last year as he fights felony ethics charges of using his public offices for personal gain.

Campaign records filed in January show that the Auburn Republican spent about $291,000 in legal fees since December 2013. Most of it, $221,475 was spent on the firm of his lead attorney, Birmingham lawyer Mark White. Hubbard also spent $65,135 with the Pell City law firm of Trussell, Funderburg, Rea and Bell.

White said the payments are in compliance with Alabama law and advisory opinions from the attorney general's office.

A 2000 opinion by the attorney general's office advised that elected officials can pay criminal defense costs out of excess campaign finance funds if the accusations are related to how the person performed in office. Most of the charges against Hubbard relate to his position in the House of Representatives. However, others relate to his time as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. -- Indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard spent $300,000 in campaign funds on legal fees |

January 16, 2015

"Why Obama Should Pardon Don Siegelman"

Jeffrey Toobin writes in the New Yorker: Since the midterm elections, President Barack Obama has been acting as if he feels liberated from parochial political concerns. After taking action on immigration, Cuba, and climate change, he should take on another risky, if less well-known, challenge by commuting the prison sentence of Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama. ...

Through six years in office, President Obama has been especially stingy in granting pardons and commutations. But the power to grant clemency is an important one; it should be wielded with care, but it should be used. Our prisons are nearly full. Not everyone who is there belongs there. Don Seigelman is one person who should not be incarcerated anymore, and the President can and should make sure that he is freed. -- Why Obama Should Pardon Don Siegelman - The New Yorker

January 4, 2015

2014 Election is over, but fundraising goes on

The Decatur Daily reports: Alabama's 2014 elections are in the books, but fundraising is not over for some elected officials and those who had hoped to be elected.

State law gives candidates 120 days after elections to collect money from individuals and political action committees to cover debts, including repayment of loans to their campaigns. ...

Candidates can loan themselves money regardless of their account balances. Stewart said a confident candidate could use a loan — knowing they're going to get the money back — to get a jumpstart on fundraising in four years.

"Once one election is over, candidates are immediately thinking about the next one," Stewart said. "(Having additional money) would be the most desirable situation from the candidate's point of view." -- Fundraising for ?14 politicians ongoing - Decatur Daily: News

November 20, 2014

Taking contributions may be legal under the campaign-finance law, but illegal under the Ethics Act

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: State Sen. Clyde Chambliss is facing a complaint filed with the State of Alabama Ethics Commission alleging a conflict of interest in actions he took as a Prattville city councilman.

The Prattville Republican resigned from his post on the city council on Nov. 5, the same day he was sworn in to the Legislature. Prattville resident Jon Lee Finnegan filed the complaint.

Her complaint stems from Chambliss' Senate campaign receiving contributions from AUTO PAC, a political action committee of automobile dealers in the state. According to campaign finance disclosure forms filed with the Secretary of State's office, Chambliss receive a total of $13,500 in contributions from the PAC.

While on the council, Chambliss voted for an incentives package used to keep Long Lewis Ford of the River Region's dealership in Autauga County. Long Lewis Ford of Muscle Shoals contributed $2,500 to AUTO PAC on Feb. 2, finance disclosure forms show. In August, Long Lewis Ford of Muscle Shoals purchased the former Gilmore Ford in Prattville, and the business was renamed Long Lewis Ford of the River Region. -- Chambliss faces ethics complaint

October 29, 2014

A campaign-finance tidbit from the 3rd day of Barry Moore's perjury trial reports: Prosecutors sought to introduce evidence that Hubbard was helping to pay for Moore's legal defense through campaign contributions.

They said campaign finance reports would show that.

The defense lawyers objected to introducing information about Hubbard's campaign funds paying Moore's legal fees. They said it would be prejudicial to the jury, which was not in the courtroom during the discussion.

Prosecutors dropped their request to introduce the information about legal fees. -- Rep. Barry Moore takes the stand in perjury trial, says Speaker Mike Hubbard never threatened to withhold project funds |

October 26, 2014

"3 local campaigns received funds from Speaker Hubbard, paid thousands to companies he owns"

The Decatur Daily reports: The campaigns of several area legislative candidates received thousands of dollars in campaign funds from entities controlled by recently indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard and paid thousands to companies he owned.

State Reps. Dan Williams, R-Athens; Terri Collins, R-Decatur; and Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, all entered office in 2010, and all received support from Hubbard. During the same election cycle, each of their campaigns paid money to Hubbard's printing and media companies. Hubbard, R-Auburn, was then chairman of the state Republican Party and House Minority Leader. After the November 2010 election, he became House Speaker.

The lawmakers said they did not know at the time that Hubbard had an ownership in the companies.

"At a minimum, it creates an appearance that this is all just money being laundered through a candidate and back to enrich the originator of the funds," said Meredith McGehee, policy director of The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign-finance organization based in Washington, D.C. "These transactions sound so incestuous. The candidates should have been aware of the appearance this would create, even if there was not an understanding that, ‘I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.' " -- Financial ties that bind - Decatur Daily: News

October 19, 2014

"Lawmakers: Campaign money laws need tuning"

The Decatur Daily reports: Some north Alabama lawmakers are considering ways to better enforce state campaign finance reporting laws, with one option being to create a group similar to the ethics commission.

Rules are in place on how politicians, and those who hope to be politicians, gather and spend political contributions. And there are repercussions, including fines, for not following the rules. But no state agency is charged with ensuring compliance. ...

Late in this year's legislative session, Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Orr, that would have let the secretary of state issue fines.

It passed the Senate but didn't have the needed unanimous support, required late in the session, to be sent to the House for a vote.

Now, Orr and others are looking at legislation for 2015. -- Lawmakers: Campaign money laws need tuning - Decatur Daily: News

October 15, 2014

"Moore Spending Campaign Cash for Legal Defense"

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Indicted lawmaker Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, is not only spending his campaign donations on his legal defense, he is also hiring "private-eyes" with other people's money.

Moores latest FCPA filing show that he raised $16,000, for the week ending October 10. All totaled, Moore had a beginning balance of $35,351.64. Of that amount he spent $27,157.31 on his legal defense. Moore is charged with two felony counts of making false statements and two felony counts of perjury, in relation to the Special Grand Jury probe into Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. If convicted, Moore could face a maximum of 60 years in State prison.

But, not only did donors pony-up for lawyers at Baxley, Dillard, Mcknight & James and Motley, Motley & Yarbrough, they paid for the services of Dothan-based M & M Investigation. -- Moore Spending Campaign Cash for Legal Defense

A-Vote and Progress PAC contribute to legislative candidates reports: The Alabama Education Association's political action committee has spent more than $200,000 on Democratic candidates in legislative races so far this month.

Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education, AVOTE, also gave $300,000 this month to Democrat Parker Griffith, who is running against Republican incumbent Robert Bentley for governor. That was the second $300,000 contribution from AVOTE to Griffith. ...

Meanwhile, the Business Council of Alabama's PAC, Progress PAC, has spent roughly the same amount, about $200,000, on Republican legislative candidates this month. -- AEA PAC spends more than $200,000 on Democratic candidates for Legislature |

Disclosure: I provide legal assistance to A-Vote.

Parker Griffih raised more than Gov. Bentley so far this month reports: Gov. Robert Bentley continues to easily outpace his Democratic challenger, Parker Griffith, in campaign fundraising.

Both candidates filed reports today that covered money raised and spent from Oct. 1-10.

Bentley raised $225,070 from a long list of donors, bringing his total amount raised to $6.4 million since the fundraising period began in June 2013.

Griffith raised only $1,370 during the first two weeks during the period, not counting a $300,000 contribution from the Alabama Education Association. -- Gov. Robert Bentley adds to huge lead over Parker Griffith in campaign cash |

October 4, 2014

"Alabama political ad spending hits $26.8 million"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Political campaigns in Alabama have spent at least $26.8 million on advertising this year, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State's Office.

The figures jumped significantly last month, as campaigns began emptying their wallets for the fall push toward the general election. According to campaign finance reports, political ad spending reached $4.7 million in September. That was nearly four times the spending reported in August, but still well below May's peak, when candidates spent over $11 million to secure victory in hotly-contested Republican primaries.

The total spending on ads this year is larger than all but nine state agencies received in the General Fund budget in fiscal year 2014, which ended on Tuesday. The sum is also very close to the total General Fund allocations that the state's district attorneys ($27.5 million) and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles ($27.2 million) received from the budget.

To date, the largest spender has been the Alabama Education Association, which has spent over $3.8 million on advertising this year. Gov. Robert Bentley's campaign has spent $2.8 million to date this year. Bentley's campaign reported spending $1.6 million on ads last month; AEA reported spending just $30,000 on advertising, though it spent $1.1 million overall in September. -- Alabama political ad spending hits $26.8 million

September 7, 2014

Editorial: "Campaign funds should fund campaigns, not lawyers"

The Dothan Eagle editorializes: Alabamians should be troubled by the news this week that Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard has spent about $230,000 in campaign funds on legal fees since December 2013.

An attorney general's opinion issued in 2000 states that an incumbent can use excess campaign funds to defend criminal charges brought in relation to the public office they hold, and that opinion was taken at face value by some lawmakers tried in the federal government's futile case against a clutch of lawmakers and lobbyists in an alleged vote-buying scheme over electronic bingo in recent years. ...

Campaign funds are meant to fund campaigns, not to pay lawyers for undetermined legal work.

This matter deserves more than an opinion from the attorney general. It should be weighed by the state Supreme Court, where rulings carry a measure of legal weight. -- Our view: Campaign funds should fund campaigns, not lawyers - Dothan Eagle: Editorials

"Campaign finances can make for daunting record-keeping"

The Jacksonville News reports: Candidates for Jacksonville's school board election Aug. 26 didn't have access to six-figure checks from wealthy political action committees, yet they were subject to the same campaign finance laws as higher-office candidates who do enjoy such access.

Local party officials say candidates for local offices didn't use to worry much about filing campaign finance reports. But that has changed over the years, and in 2011 state law was amended to make it easier to track where campaign funding comes from and how it is spent.

Party executives and officials with the Alabama Secretary of State's office have worked to teach candidates the rules, but as the five school board candidates recently learned, it can still be tough to track down details about the new requirements. They wound up filing their campaign finance reports in a variety of ways. -- Campaign finances can make for daunting record-keeping - The Jacksonville News

September 5, 2014

Campaign cash is buying influence in Alabama courtrooms

Cameron Smith opines on Imagine for a minute that a corporation with an effective monopoly in the State of Alabama became the target of litigation initiated by a state prosecutor. Not only does the corporation use their cash to fight the litigation in court and by lobbying legislators, but they also go after the prosecutor politically in the middle of the legal proceedings.

In an attempt to find a more favorable prosecutor, the corporation funnels $1 million to the prosecutor's political opponent through a series of vaguely named political action committees (PACS) managed by a former felon.

Why not make it even more interesting? What if the transfers and the amount of money were legal under state law and the manager received a pardon a few months after his conviction?

While the hypothetical might seem like the latest legal fiction thriller, it happens to be reality in Alabama politics. The state prosecutor is none other than Attorney General Luther Strange, the business is the Poarch Band of Creek Indians that operates casinos in Alabama, and the A, T, and Speed PACs the tribe funds are managed by former state senator John Teague. -- It doesn't take much to imagine that campaign cash is buying influence in the courtroom: opinion |

August 26, 2014

"Did Alabama state candidates violate law by taking money from Congressman Bonner's campaign?" reports: The Democratic candidate for Alabama attorney general on Monday accused his Republican opponent of breaking state law by accepting a campaign donation from the campaign account of former U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile.

Attorney General Luther Strange disputes the interpretation offered by challenger Joe Hubbard, and has the backing of the Alabama Secretary of State's Office on the matter.

If Hubbard is correct, then nine other state and local candidates in Alabama made the same mistake.

Hubbard, a state representative from Montgomery, said the law clearly counts campaign committees as political action committees. The Legislature in 2010 banned PACs from transferring funds to other PACs as part of a series of ethics reforms that Republicans enacted when they wrested control of the House and Senate from Democrats that year. The intent was to stop what had been a common practice of donors hiding the source of political money by routing it through a series of PACS so that it would be difficult or impossible to trace. -- Did Alabama state candidates violate law by taking money from Congressman Bonner's campaign? |

State drops prosecution of Barron and Johnson reports: The prosecution of former state Sen. Lowell Barron is over.

The Alabama Attorney General's office, which brought a six-count indictment against Barron in 2013, filed a motion Monday in DeKalb County Circuit Court to dismiss the charges.

Trial judge Randall Cole hasn't ruled on the motion filed late Monday afternoon yet but his approval is considered a formality.

Dropping the charges was not unexpected after the Alabama Supreme Court on Friday denied an appeal by the AG's office, upholding ruling by two lower courts on evidence that could be admitted at trial. Based on court documents filed by prosecutors, that decision left the state without a case against Barron. -- Alabama Attorney General's office drops criminal charges against Lowell Barron |

August 5, 2014

Follow-up on the RSLC story has the following stories:

What you need to know about Politico's RSLC, Mike Hubbard bombshell

Inside the GOP: Gasping at the thought Mike Hubbard might have to go (Opinion)

Don't believe it's old news. Document rips Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard legally, ethically and strategically

GOP group warned Alabama campaign donations could be 'political disaster,' leaked memo shows

August 4, 2014

Powerhouse GOP group snared in Alabama money scheme

POLITICO reports: Since the Republican State Leadership Committee burst into national politics, it's become one of the most influential outside players on the right: It spent tens of millions of dollars to flip state legislative chambers and redraw the congressional map in Republicans' favor -- and is poised to pump millions more this fall into locking down state capitals for the GOP.

But the group's swift ascent has not come without controversy -- or lingering legal hazard. At the height of its political emergence, the RSLC was implicated in a risky campaign finance scheme that an internal report warned could trigger "possible criminal penalties" and "ultimately threaten the organization's continued existence," according to a confidential document POLITICO obtained from a source.

The September 2011 report, prepared by the prominent Washington law firm BakerHostetler, was presented to an RSLC board then helmed by former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie — RSLC’s chief financial rainmaker starting in 2010 and now a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Never disclosed until now, the document detailed an investigation into alleged misconduct by multiple RSLC officials during the crucial 2010 election cycle: It charged that national RSLC leaders conspired improperly with the leader of the Alabama Republican Party to use the RSLC as a pass-through for controversial Indian tribe donations, essentially laundering “toxic” money from the gaming industry by routing it out of state and then back into Alabama. -- Exclusive: Powerhouse GOP group snared in money scheme - Alexander Burns -

August 1, 2014

"PAC Fined Record Breaking $5.2 Million Sets Up Shop in Alabama"

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Several people involved in the dubious financing of nationwide school-choice campaigns have teamed up with the ALGOP's top political leadership in an effort that supported the reelection attempts of over a dozen incumbent Republicans in the June primaries to the tune of $170,000 -- all from out of state funding sources.

With former ALGOP deputy political director and Hubbard loyal Ryan Cantrell as chairman, and Lisa Lisker, a publicly disgraced Nevada politico as treasurer, a PAC called Alabama Federation for Children has set up shop in the state, aiding campaigns by funneling West Coast education money into in-kind contributions to incumbent Republican state legislators. ...

Now Lisker is providing in-kind treasury services for the Alabama Federation for Children PAC, a group that is merely a state branch of the American Federation of Children. That umbrella organization was founded and is funded by the DeVoses, a family of Michigan millionaires that have financed "school choice" campaigns since the 1990s. Their PAC ventures included the group All Children Matter, also staffed by Lisa Lisker, an entity which was assessed the largest campaign finance fine in Ohio history -- $5.2 million dollars -- in 2008 for illegal funneling money from PAC to PAC. ...

Though they lost an appeal of the fine, All Children Matter has yet to pay a penny of the penalty, arguing that they no longer have funds available with which to pay; the PAC was fined an additional $100 for another violation just this month, but it says it does not have the cash to pay that, either, a claim the Ohio Secretary of State says he is looking into. -- PAC Fined Record Breaking $5.2 Million Sets Up Shop in Alabama

July 20, 2014

Campaign finance reports not due from local party committee candidates reports: George Barry, a member of the executive committee for the state GOP, this week reported Huntsville GOP members of Republican Refresh to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. ...

Barry lost the recent GOP primary for the state senate held by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison.

He contends that negative campaigning by Republican Refresh contributed to that senate result, but Republican Refresh did not file as a political action committee nor file any disclosures on where their money came from and how they spent it. ...

[Brent] Beal [of Republican Refresh] said he contacted the Secretary of State. "They said you can't file even if you want to."

Emily Marsal, deputy secretary of state, confirmed late Friday that "executive committee candidates would not have to file FCPA (Fair Campaign Practices Act) forms unless they are running for something else." She said the Attorney General's office had Barry's complaint. The Attorney General's office did not comment. -- Former candidate George Barry reports fellow Republicans to Attorney General

July 18, 2014

Non-profit StudentsFirst funds Alabama candidates, but does not report

The Decatur Daily reports: A California-based education reform group has given more than $100,000 to political candidates in Alabama this election cycle.

But because of state statute on nonprofits and campaign finance reporting, finding out where StudentsFirst gets its money isn't possible. State law said corporations, including nonprofits, don't have to file campaign finance disclosure forms, according to the secretary of state's office. ...

The organization is playing by the rules, said Adam Thompson, deputy chief of staff for the secretary of state.

“(Nonprofits) are not considered a PAC if they are making direct donations,” Thompson said. “They’re basically treated like an individual, and individuals don’t have to report who they give to or where they get the money.” -- Nonprofits can remain quiet about supporters - Decatur Daily: Elections

June 2, 2014

Foundation for Limited Government argues for strict reading of campaign-finance law

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A group that has helped fund challengers to Republican incumbents in Tuesday's GOP primary told the Alabama attorney general's office in April that its advertisements were for educational, not electioneering purposes.

In correspondence obtained by the Advertiser, J. Brandon Rice, an Opelika attorney representing the Alabama Foundation for Limited Government, said television spots that featured both Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn -- and which sparked a formal complaint from Marsh -- were not meant to influence an election, but to encourage voters and politicians to sign a pledge circulated by the organization.

Rice wrote that the Foundation did not have to follow laws requiring disclosure of its finances because it was not trying to influence the election.

"Since the Foundation is not engaged in electioneering communications, it is not required to file reports of its contributions and expenditures," Rice wrote. -- Ads don't violate campaign finance law, Foundation says

May 31, 2014

Sen. Sanford gets top billing when his opponent (unnamed until the second paragraph) accuses him of campaign-finance violations reports: State Sen. Paul Sanford's Republican primary opponent is accusing Sanford of multiple campaign finance law violations and taking money from a PAC with Democratic Party ties.

David Blair held a Friday morning news conference in downtown Huntsville to outline his claims that Sanford wrongly used campaign donations to buy business suits and pay for lodging while in Montgomery. Blair also produced campaign finance records that he says prove Sanford raised money outside the allowable time frame and profited nearly $300 from a campaign loan.

The alleged Fair Campaign Practices Act violations occurred during the 2010 election cycle. ...

In a Friday morning interview, Sanford acknowledged using about $2,400 in campaign funds to pay for lodging in Montgomery during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions. He said he generally stays in a FEMA trailer at an RV park. Records also show that Sanford used $735.10 from his campaign to buy suits, dress shirts and ties at JOS Bank on Jan. 3, 2012. --
GOP rival accuses Alabama Sen. Paul Sanford of campaign finance law violations |

May 23, 2014

Joe Hubbard asks AG Luther Strange for opinion on contribution received by candidate Luther Strange reports: Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's Democratic challenger, state Rep. Joe Hubbard, has requested an attorney general's opinion about a campaign donation the attorney general's campaign accepted, but later returned. ...

On Wednesday, Hubbard requested an opinion to clarify whether the campaign donation transfer violated campaign finance reforms the Alabama Legislature passed in 2010, commonly called the "PAC-to-PAC ban."

Those reforms were meant to end transfers between PACs that political donors and candidates had used for decades to obscure the source campaign cash.

If the letter Strange's campaign wrote to the RAGA Alabama PAC is correct, and no violation of the law occurred, it could mean that there is a loophole in the law. -- Did a donation to Luther Strange break the law? AG's opponent asks for AG's opinion |

May 20, 2014

Attorney General returns a questionable contribution reports: At one end of the money pipe is a national 527 organization with the Alabama attorney general on its executive committee and his former campaign manager as its executive director.

At the other end is the attorney general's reelection campaign.

But it's in the middle of the pipe where things get murky.

Last month Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's reelection campaign accepted a $50,000 donation from a newly registered Alabama political action committee. That PAC, in turn, received the same amount of money from a 527.

After the Alabama Media Group inquired about the transfer last week, the Strange campaign returned the donation to the PAC, while maintaining that it did not believe the contribution violated Alabama's campaign finance law that bans transfers between PACs and 527s. -- Return to sender: Strange campaign gives back $50,000 after questions about PAC transfer |

May 15, 2014

AG says circuit court evidence ruling is fatal to case against former-Senator Lowell Barron

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The attorney general's office said Wednesday that a trial judge's rulings are fatal to its criminal case against former state Sen. Lowell Barron if they are not reversed.

Attorney General Luther Strange's office filed papers with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals encouraging it to consider rulings by Circuit Judge Randall Cole. The judge ruled last month that the prosecution couldn't present evidence about whether Barron and a former aide had a romantic relationship. The judge also rejected the attorney general's attempt to keep Barron from presenting evidence about what are ordinary campaign expenditures by candidates.

In the court papers Wednesday, the attorney general's office said, "These rulings, if not reversed, are fatal to the State's case." -- Alabama AG seeks appeals court help in Barron case

May 13, 2014

DA investigates campaign contributions and spending of Republican candidate

The Anniston Star reports: A prosecutor says he is investigating a Republican candidate for the District 13 seat in the state Senate for potential violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

Fifth Judicial Circuit District Attorney Paul Jones, whose office serves Randolph and Chambers counties, parts of which are within the Senate District 13, said he'd received several complaints about Heflin candidate Tim Sprayberry's use of campaign funds. ...

Jones said by email that during the review of public records including Sprayberry's filings with the Alabama Secretary of State, he'd found what appeared to be donations that have not been reported, as well as questionable or unexplained use of the campaign funds. -- Anniston Star - Randolph Chambers prosecutor investigating Heflin candidate on campaign funds

May 2, 2014

Criminal Appeals Court may dismiss State's pretrial appeal of evidence rulings in Lowell Barron case reports: The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals today signaled an intention to reject an appeal by prosecutors in its criminal case against former state Sen. Lowell Barron.

The appeals court, in its order issued today, said the appeal "is due to be dismissed because the Appellant is attempting to appeal from a nonappealable order." The court gave prosecutors from the state Attorney General's office 14 days to "show cause why this appeal should not be dismissed." ...

Prosecutors cited three points in its appeal:

  • [DeKalb County Circuit Judge Randall] Cole said comments Johnson regarding a romantic relationship with Barron to a reporter of a Montgomery-based blog could not be introduced at trial, which is an element of motive.

  • Cole said prosecutors cannot introduce evidence of a romantic relationship between Barron and Johnson, which the state said would be a demonstration of motive and intent.

  • Cole said Barron can provide testimony and evidence from other politicians to discuss how campaign funds are spent, ruling against a motion filed by the state. -- Lowell Barron gains apparent victory as appeals court indicates prosecution's appeal may be dismissed |

  • April 30, 2014

    "Stop Common Core PAC amasses $700,000; targets GOP leaders in Alabama" reports: Opponents of Alabama's GOP establishment have pumped $700,000 into the brand new Stop Common Core PAC -- a group that Republican leaders say masks support from "cowardly liberals."

    All of that money arrived over the last five weeks from a single source, the Foundation for Limited Government. That's a seven-month-old group run by former state lawmaker John Rice of Opelika.

    Rice, who is also chair of the Stop Common Core PAC, has not disclosed the foundation backers.

    "The foundation members are anonymous," said Rice today. "That's the reason the Legislature set it up that way." -- Stop Common Core PAC amasses $700,000; targets GOP leaders in Alabama |

    April 18, 2014

    "6 charts explain fundraising in District 6 GOP primary" reports: What campaign has the most individual contributors? What percentage of those contributors are from Alabama? Who has the largest average donation, and the smallest average donation?

    This week, the Republican candidates in the race for Alabama's 6th Congressional district filed their April quarterly fundraising reports with the Federal Elections Commission. These six graphs will show you what they raised, and who and where it came from.

    [Follow the link to see the 6 charts.] -- 6 charts explain fundraising in District 6 GOP primary: Who raised the most, where did it come from? |

    April 17, 2014

    "No campaign finance reporting changes this year, lawmakers look to 2015"

    The Decatur Daily reports: The 2014 legislative session ended this month with no changes to state campaign finance reporting rules or better enforcement of existing rules.

    Several north Alabama lawmakers worked on a campaign finance reform committee and suggested changes, including giving the secretary of state more authority to fine candidates who violate the Fair Campaign Practices Act. Now those lawmakers say they will regroup and work on legislation for 2015.

    “The main thing is, after we go through the primary cycle (in June), we’ll have a better feel for what we need to change, what we need to tighten up,” said Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, a committee member. He said making changes this year wasn’t likely anyway — rewriting the rules in the middle of an election year would be problematic.

    In the past three years, the Legislature banned PAC-to-PAC transfers and created penalties for candidates or groups that don’t file their campaign reports on time. Lawmakers also have made reports easier to view and search online. -- No campaign finance reporting changes this year, lawmakers look to 2015 - Decatur Daily: Local News

    "AEA's PAC spends nearly $2 million in March"

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Alabama voters aren't going to the polls for the next few months, but the Alabama Education Association is already opening its wallet -- wide.

    The group's Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education (A VOTE) political action committee reported spending $1.98 million in March, according to filings earlier this month with the Alabama Secretary of State's Office. The spending represented 45 percent of the $4.3 million the AEA had on hand at the beginning of the month. ...

    Big spending by the Alabama Education Association isn't unusual. But it may be notable what the PAC spent the money on.

    The largest share of it -- $1 million -- went for a loan made directly to the Alabama Education Association. Another $710,000 went to an organization called National Research Services LLC, based out of a mailbox in Brentwood, Tenn. -- AEA's PAC spends nearly $2 million in March

    April 9, 2014

    ADC files second motion for preliminary injunction

    The Alabama Democratic Conference (represented by John Tanner and me, plus two others) recently filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in its suit against Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. ADC is suing the Alabama Attorney General to be overturn the ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers if the transfer is going to be used for independent expenditures. This is the ADC's second motion for preliminary injunction.

    Alabama Democratic Conf v Strange, Mot for prelim Injunction motion

    July 17, 2013

    "Big donors" to be handled centrally by GOP legislative leaders

    The Alabama Political Reporter reports: The Alabama Political Reporter has obtained an email from Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) sent to fellow republican senate members, telling them to "get started earlier as opposed to later" on their campaign fundraising; but only from local donors.

    This letter, and similar communications, has senators privately grumbling over financial road-blocks, claiming that they are being set-up by Marsh and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

    The rank-in-file members say they are being told to "stay out of Montgomery" when it comes to raising money for their campaigns. Marsh and Hubbard have made it clear that they will be handling the "Big Donors," legislators complain. ...

    By keeping legislators off the Montgomery money train, Hubbard, Marsh and Riley guarantee they remain the masters of the political universe in Alabama. -- Read the whole story -->Editorial: Message to Republican Legislators: Big Donors Off-Limits

    July 6, 2013

    Alabama's new online campaign-finance reports working well reports: The Alabama Secretary of States office reported no glitches with its new online, searchable system for candidates and political action committees to file campaign finance reports.

    The system was used for the first time for June campaign finance reports, the first reports of the 2014 election cycle. The reports were due on Tuesday.

    Adam Thompson, deputy chief of staff for the secretary of state, said some candidates and PACs experienced problems using third-party software to access the new system, but the help line set up by the state's vendor, Quest Information Systems, Inc., was able to help them. The state paid the company $300,000 to develop the new filing system, which was mandated under a bill passed by the state Legislature in 2011. It replaces an old system of filing paper reports that were scanned and posted on the secretary of state website. ...

    Thompson said 76 candidates and 168 political action committees had used the new system. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Secretary of State's office reports no glitches with new online filing system |

    May 23, 2013

    Searchable campaign-finance records reports: Following the money could soon become much easier in Alabama.

    Secretary of State Beth Chapman this morning demonstrated the state's new computerized campaign finance filing system designed to bring Alabama out of the disclosure dark ages.

    The electronic system will replace the paper forms that for decades have been hand filed and then scanned at the secretary of state?s office. Candidates, beginning in the 2014 election cycle, will file reports electronically and the public will be able to run searches on the data.

    "This gives us 24-7 transparency in campaign finance filings in Alabama. We are real excited about this. It's something the people have called for for a long time," Chapman said. -- Read the whole story --> State debuts new electronic, searchable campaign finance filing system |

    May 21, 2013

    Legislature adopts changes to campaign finance law reports: Alabama's law governing campaign finance would change in numerous ways under a bill approved by the Legislature tonight.

    The Senate and House of Representatives voted tonight to pass a compromise version of SB445 by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville.

    The bill goes to Gov. Robert Bentley, who could sign it into law.

    It would repeal the $500 cap on campaign donations by corporations. Proponents of that change have said the cap is meaningless because corporations can legally skirt it. -- Read the whole story --> Legislature approves bill to change campaign finance law, repeal cap on corporate contributions |

    May 10, 2013

    Revision of Fair Campaign Practices Act amended in House, heads back to Senate reports: The Alabama House of Representatives passed a Senate bill tonight that would make numerous changes to state campaign finance laws, including removing the state's $500 cap on campaign contributions by corporations.

    The bill returns to the Senate, which could agree to changes or send the bill to a conference committee.

    Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, chairman of the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee, said it was time to do away with the ?pretend? cap because corporations have been allowed to legally skirt the limits for decades by routing money through large numbers of political action committees.

    Ball?s committee added the repeal of the corporate cap in a substitute to SB445 by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville. -- Read the whole article --> Campaign finance law revisions pass House; headed back to Senate |

    May 9, 2013

    House to consider elimination of cap on corporate contributions reports:
    A bill before the Alabama House of Representatives today seeks to repeal the state?s $500 limit on corporate campaign contributions to candidates.

    The chairman of the House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee said Wednesday that it was time to do away with the "pretend" cap since corporations have been allowed to legally skirt the limits for decades by routing money through large numbers of political action committees.

    "It?s stupid. It's just stupid. The $500 corporate contribution cap is a pretend cap," Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, said.

    Senate Bill 445, which makes many changes to campaign finance law, is expected to come before the House today. The House Ethics and Campaign Finance Committee approved a substitute bill that included a repeal of the cap.-- Read the whole story --> Bill before House today repeal state limit on corporate campaign contributions; Lawmaker says it's a 'pretend' cap |

    May 6, 2013

    New campaign finance database going online

    The Anniston Star reports: Following the money in Alabama politics might soon get a whole lot easier.

    Officials of the Alabama Secretary of State's office say they'll launch a searchable online database of campaign donations by the end of May -- replacing the office's old system of paper filings and scanned-in documents.

    State officials say the changes should make it easier for average voters to figure out who's accepting money from whom. -- Read the whole story --> Anniston Star - Alabama campaign finance reports soon to go online

    May 3, 2013

    Where did Mike Hubbard get the funds to print his sorta-campaign mailer?

    Alabama Political Reporter reports: Lee County voters this week were treated to a campaign-style push-card paid for by the Friends of Mike Hubbard. The mail drop is an unusual direct response to a stinging--and humorous--flyer branding the Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard as "The Graftmaster." ...

    Now, Hubbard is striking back with a glossy, high-production quality direct mail piece that insists he is a "conservative leader" who "works for us." The irony should be lost on no one that Craftmaster Printers appears to have printing the flyer, and the Craftmaster postal permit was used to pay postal costs. The printed address for the Friends of Mike Hubbard campaign committee uses is, naturally, the headquarters of his other lucrative business, Auburn Network Inc.

    It seems in keeping with Hubbard's usual business practices that he would use his personal business interests to support campaign activities. Hubbard delivers to constituents a high-quality--and likely high-priced political mailer, paid for with donations to his campaign committee. And then he pays his own companies to print and deliver the propaganda. It's Diamond Mike at his best.

    But exactly how Friends of Mike Hubbard paid for the mailer and postage costs is unclear. State campaign finance laws require political communications state clearly who pays the costs. The mailer states that is was paid for Paid for by Friends of Mike Hubbard. Yet, Secretary of State records show that Friends of Mike Hubbard as only having $607 dollars in its account as of January 31, 2013. Keep in mind that it is illegal for him to raise or transfer money until June, after the legislative session ends. -- Read the whole story --> The Graftmaster Cometh: Hubbard Strikes Back at Critics

    April 24, 2013

    Former Sen. Lowell Barron arrested for campaign-finance violations reports: Former state senator Lowell Ray Barron, for years a legislative powerhouse in Montgomery, has been indicted on charges of violating the state's ethics and campaign finance laws, the attorney general's office announced. ...

    Former campaign staffer, Rhonda Jill Johnson, was also arrested.

    Attorney General Luther Strange's Special Prosecutions Division presented evidence to a DeKalb County grand jury, resulting in the indictment of Barron and Johnson on April 19.

    Barron and Johnson face six total counts of Ethics Law violations and violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. -- Read the whole story --> Former state senator Lowell Barron indicted on campaign finance, ethics charges |

    A press release from the AG's office describes the charges:

    Count 1 charges Lowell Barron and Jill Johnson with violating State Ethics law by converting a $2,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account to Jill Johnson, to personal use;

    Count 2 charges Barron and Johnson with violating State Ethics law by converting a $50,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account to Jill Johnson, to personal use;

    Count 3 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $2,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes;

    Count 4 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $50,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes;

    Count 5 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improperly transferring campaign property, a 2007 Toyota Camry, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes; and

    Count 6 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $6,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes.

    April 19, 2013

    Bill to amend Fair Campaign Practices Act clears Senate committee

    AL,com reports: A bill that would lower the fundraising and spending threshold that brings political candidates under the requirements of the Fair Campaign Practices Act won approval this morning in a state Senate committee.

    The bill, by Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, would say that any person who had raised or spent more than $1,000 toward election to any state or local office would be considered a candidate under the Fair Campaign Practices Act.

    That Fair Campaign Practices Act requires candidates to file reports listing their campaign donors and expenditures.

    Current law has a tiered set of thresholds: $25,000 for statewide office; $10,000 for the state Senate; $5,000 for the state House of Representatives; $5,000 for a state office covering one circuit or district; and $1,000 for a local office. -- Read the whole story --> Bill to lower campaign reporting threshold clears Alabama Senate committee |

    The bill is viewable below:

    Alabama Senate Bill 445 with committee amendments

    April 13, 2013

    Another early attack on a GOP leader

    The Alabama Political Reporter reports: It seems campaign season came a little early in Senate District 12. Last week, an unflattering "push-card" concerning Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) was circulated in the Anniston area. There had been reports of such a card showing up at the State House Thursday, but efforts to obtain the card proved fruitless. The mailer we received was said to have been received in the Senate 12 District as well.

    With over a year to go before the 2014 election heats up, someone is firing a big gun across Marsh's bow. Cited in the mailer are stories concerning Marsh's solicitation of $350,000 from the Poarch Creek Indians, as well as how the money flowed back in to Senate campaigns.

    When reports of Marsh?s solicitation broke months ago, it was rumored that Marsh has begged the tribe to say he didn?t ask for the money. Not only did Marsh make the trips to Atmore to ask for the tribe's money, he wanted the PCI to cover it up. Marsh must have believed that such a campaign would be forthcoming.

    When the Alabama Political Reporter published the story, Marsh was given ample time to respond. However, the only response we received were in the form of threats from Phillip Bryan, Marsh?s Chief of Staff. -- Read the whole story --> Push Card Hits Marsh with Hard Facts

    Campaigning about campaign-finance violations

    Alabama Political Reporter reports: On Tuesday voters in Lee County received a campaign push-card that looks like an advertisement for a B-Movie or a Quentin Tarantino noir parody.

    The mailer features Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard as "The Graftmaster." Hubbard is currently under a grand jury investigation for campaign-finance-related issues, some dealing with his printing company Craftmasters. Obviously "Graftmaster" is an ironic play-of-words on one of Mr. Hubbard most prized businesses.

    A study of campaign finance records for the 2010 election cycle shows that Hubbard?s business interests were paid over $1,000,000 in campaign expenditures from at least 18 GOP candidates and at least 4 political action committees (PAC). This does not include the almost $800,000 spent with Majority Strategies for GOP printing that was sub-contracted to Hubbard's Craftmasters as reported by Craftmaster is just one of Hubbard?s businesses that grew out of his relationship with Auburn University.-- Read the whole story --> New Campaign Targets Hubbard as "Graftmaster"

    February 14, 2013

    SuperPAC will oppose Bachus in 2014 reports: A super PAC that pumped in dollars in a failed effort in 2012 to defeat long-time Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, will try it again in 2014.

    The Campaign for Primary Accountability announced today it will target Bachus, along with New York Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel, for defeat in their party primaries in 2014 should the two veteran lawmakers seek re-election.

    In making the announcement, the organization said it was putting Bachus and Rangel on what it is calling "Hot Seat" status. -- Read the whole story --> Super PAC will target Rep. Spencer Bachus for defeat, again |

    January 17, 2013

    Speaker Hubbard forms "leadership pac" reports: Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who led the 2010 effort that won Republicans control of the Alabama Legislature, has formed a new political action committee designed to keep the GOP in power.

    Hubbard, an Auburn Republican, filed paperwork creating Storm PAC on Oct. 12, according to records in the Alabama Secretary of State's office.

    The PAC, based in Auburn, lists Hubbard as chairman and Charles Hines as treasurer. Its stated purpose is "to support conservative, pro-business candidates for public office."

    The PAC currently lists no contributions or expenses, but that may change in a hurry: It will get a high-profile kickoff later this month at the Auburn home of Tim Hudson, a star pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. -- Read the whole story --> House Speaker Mike Hubbard set to launch new fundraising PAC |

    December 17, 2012

    GOP audit released -- shows Hubbard's firm got $800,000 in printing business reports: The Alabama Attorney General's office has subpoenaed records from the Alabama Republican Party, including an audit and supporting financial documentation for 2010, when the party successfully won control of the Alabama Legislature.

    That audit shows that a printing company co-owned by Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard received more than $800,000 of business either directly from the party or as a subcontractor under Florida-based Majority Strategies. ...

    The audit, conducted by Warren Averett L.L.C., is a mere seven pages long and consists mostly of reconciliations the party's cash balance.

    However, in an addendum, the audit notes two "related-party" transactions.

    "The Organization incurred direct printing expenses from Craftmasters Printing, a related party, in the amount of $83,524 in 2010," the audit said. "Total indirect printing, postage, mail service and shipping costs paid to Majority Strategies (non-related party) and remitted to Craftmasters Printing was $725,262 in 2010." -- Read the whole article --> Alabama Attorney General subpoenas state GOP records |

    December 16, 2012

    Alabama AG subpoenas GOP financial records for 2010 election reports: The Alabama Republican Party's steering committee - a group of 21 party leaders from across the state - gathered in good spirits in Montgomery on Wednesday afternoon.

    After a regular, quarterly meeting to discuss party business, they were set to socialize at a Christmas reception hosted in their honor by Gov. Robert Bentley at the Alabama Governor's Mansion.

    The committee convened in a conference room at the Alabama Cattlemen's Association building near the state Capitol, and the meeting kicked off with an unexpected bang. Bill Armistead, the party's chairman, told the group that he'd received a subpoena from the Alabama Attorney General's office seeking GOP financial records.

    Reading from the document, Armistead said the order was part of a grand jury investigation into campaign finance activities in the 2010 election cycle, according to three committee members who participated in the meeting. A fourth committee member recounted similar remarks but said he did not recall a specific reference to a subpoena. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama GOP finances under investigation, chairman tells party leaders |

    November 1, 2012

    Excluded candidate files suit to stop election

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: Arthur Crawford, who won the Democratic runoff election for Hale County probate judge in spring only to be declared ineligible this past summer, is still hoping to claim the seat.

    Crawford filed a civil suit in Hale County Circuit Court last week asking Judge Tommy Jones to stop the election "until the proper candidates can be placed on the ballot."

    The general election is Tuesday, and Crawford's name is not on the ballot.

    In the April Democratic runoff, however, Crawford beat incumbent Leland Avery by 80 votes.

    Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price later ruled that Crawford was ineligible and ordered the Alabama Democratic Party Chairman to revoke his certificate of nomination "due to his admitted failure to" timely file campaign finance reports. Crawford did not comply with new campaign finance disclosure laws that require weekly reports to be filed during a runoff. -- Read the whole story --> Lawsuit seeks to halt Hale County election |

    October 14, 2012

    Mixing political money and personal uses nets conviction for former county commissioner reports: Former Marshall County Commissioner Timothy Frank Bollinger pleaded guilty Wednesday to using a campaign contribution for personal purposes, Attorney General Luther Strange said Thursday.

    In a press release from the AG's office, Strange wrote Bollinger, 54, was sentenced in Marshall County Circuit Court to a suspended term of five years in the felony ethics conviction. He was ordered to serve four years' probation and perform 100 hours of community service.

    During his court appearance, Bollinger admitted he intentionally cashed a check for $500 for personal use although it was contributed to his campaign in April of 2010, the statement said. He was indicted by a Marshall County grand jury Aug. 18, 2011. -- Read the whole story --> Ex-Marshall County commissioner Tim Bollinger guilty of felony ethics violation |

    October 6, 2012

    Alabama GOP fails to report inkind contribution of car for 6 months reports: The Alabama Republican Party failed for about 6 months to report the donation of an automobile that the party chairman drives, a lapse Chairman Bill Armistead said was caused by miscommunication.

    Armistead said a Jasper car dealer donated use of the car, a Toyota Avalon, to the party in February as in-kind contribution. The party did not report the donation until its Aug. 20 report to the Federal Election Commission.

    "It's one of those situations where things just fell through the cracks or there was a misunderstanding or miscommunication. It was an innocent mistake," said Armistead, who has been driving the vehicle on party business.

    The Aug. 20 report to the FEC lists an in-kind contribution of $489 received from car dealer Scott Crump of Jasper. -- Read the whole story --> State GOP failed to report car donation for several months |

    October 4, 2012

    Madison GOP candidate files challegne against winner of runoff

    The Huntsville Times ( reports: Amanda Gentle, who was defeated in the GOP runoff for the Madison County Probate judge nomination in April, said she filed a complaint today with the Alabama Republican Party seeking to have the nominee, Patty Demos, disqualified. ...

    Gentle received the most votes in the Republican primary in March, with 36 percent of the vote to Demos' 34 percent. But Demos, an attorney, won the runoff by a wide margin, winning more than 63 percent of the votes cast.

    Gentle said the complaint alleges that Demos filed her 2011 annual financial disclosure form Monday, but it was due by Jan. 31. The complaint also cites a March filing that is marked as both a monthly and weekly report and never amended. -- Read the whole story --> Defeated GOP Madison County judge candidate Amanda Gentle wants nominee Patty Demos disqualified, state party says 'no' |

    August 20, 2012

    "$216,000 raised by Rep. Spencer Bachus for his legal defense"

    The Birmingham News ( reports: The biggest names in Birmingham business donated more than $216,000 to help Rep. Spencer Bachus pay his lawyers for work during a five-month ethics investigation, new documents show.

    Seventy individuals, companies, associations and political action committees -- most of them from Alabama -- gave up to $5,000 each to Bachus' legal defense fund between April and July, according to the disclosure forms Bachus filed with the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Bachus in late April was cleared by the Office of Congressional Ethics of allegations that he used his official position to inform his personal investment decisions. The investigation, which began late last year, forced Bachus to hire attorneys and compile financial documents for the office to review.

    Most of the money raised by the legal defense fund -- $207,000 of it -- went to two law firms in June and July; Bachus already had reported to the Federal Election Commission that he paid $422,000 in legal fees between December and April from his campaign account. -- Read the whole story --> $216,000 raised by Rep. Spencer Bachus for his legal defense |

    August 17, 2012

    "Madison GOP activist on the hunt for campaign finance law violations"

    The Huntsville Times ( reports: A Republican Party activist from Madison has taken it upon himself to scrutinize the campaign finance reports of every member of the Alabama Legislature, Huntsville City Council, Madison City Council and Madison County Commission.

    Thomas Scovill says his research has uncovered multiple instances of sloppy reporting, mathematical errors, forms filed after deadline and other problems that may violate the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act.

    Scovill generally e-mails his findings to a politician and gives the person a chance to explain things by filing amended campaign finance reports.

    "Those amended reports are a good thing to do," he said Wednesday. "It says, 'I can't undo being wrong, but I can set the record straight.'" -- Read the whole report --> Watchdog report: Madison GOP activist on the hunt for campaign finance law violations |

    August 8, 2012

    Petition to disqualify Lyons for failure to file campaign reports

    AP reports today that Sherry Broyles has filed petitions with both major parties to disqualify candidates (including Harry Lyons, Democratic candidate for Chief Justice) for failure to file campaign-finance reports. -- Read the whole story --> Ala. GOP won't remove candidates, Demos eye Lyons |

    Section 17-5-8 of the Fair Campaign Practices Act begins with the following:

    (a) Each principal campaign committee or political action committee shall file with the Secretary of State or judge of probate, as designated in Section 17-5-9, reports of contributions and expenditures at the following times once a principal campaign committee files its statement under Section 17-5-4 or a political action committee files its statement of organization under Section 17-5-5 ....

    July 27, 2012

    Judge Thompson explains why he instructed the jury in the U.S. v. McGregor case

    The Mobile Pres-Register ( reports: The federal judge who presided over the State House vote-buying case said the U.S. Supreme Court needs to address the line between a campaign contribution and an illegal bribe.

    U.S. District Myron Thompson issued an opinion this week noting that there had been "considerable confusion" over exactly what the law requires. Thompson also included his jury instructions during the trial, which showed how he interpreted the issue.

    "The court hopes that its jury instructions and this opinion have helped clarify the case law. Ultimately, the Supreme Court needs to address this issue and provide guidance to lower courts, prosecutors, politicians, donors, and the general public," Thompson wrote

    The difference between donations and bribes has been at the center of two of the state's high-profile public corruption cases. -- Read the whole story --> Federal judge says Supreme Court should clarify bribe/donation line |

    July 11, 2012

    Republicans contitnue to fight over judicial candidate in Madison County

    The Huntsville Times ( reports: Four Huntsville attorneys have filed an expanded complaint to the Alabama Republican Party seeking to have Linda Coats disqualified as the party nominee for a Madison County District Court judgeship.

    Attorneys Amy Creech, Bill Hall, Dinah Rhodes and Amy Slayden submitted the petition last week asking for Coats' disqualification or reconsideration of Coats' candidacy.

    Coats, who won the GOP primary in March with just under 50 percent the vote, was selected out of a field of seven candidates by the Alabama Republican Party candidate committee last month. She was chosen after Chris Messervy, who defeated her in the GOP runoff, was disqualified in May for a late campaign finance disclosure filing. ...

    The new complaint said Coats is in violation of the canons if her filing was submitted Oct. 31, 2011, as the clerk reported. The canons require the filing to occur within 10 days of qualifying as a judicial candidate. The complaint said qualifying didn't open until Nov. 14 and the petitioners say they don't have any information Coats submitted a filing within 10 days of her actual qualifying date. -- Read the whole story --> Group of lawyers wants GOP to disqualify Linda Coats as Madison County judge nominee |

    July 6, 2012

    PAC-to-PAC transfers still practiced by Republicans, in DC

    The Birmingham News ( reports: Sen. Richard Shelby and Rep. Spencer Bachus are among the most generous members of Congress when it comes to handing out campaign cash to their colleagues and other contenders, according to an analysis of political action committees.

    So far in this 2012 election cycle, Bachus' political action committee has donated $271,500 to other candidates, the 11th-highest amount among the leadership PACs. Shelby's has dished out $205,000, the 19th-highest amount, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. And the election is still four months away.

    Topping the list is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., at more than $1.3 million, and second is House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, at just more than $1 million.

    The center lists 373 leadership PACs active in this cycle that are run mostly by current and former veteran members of Congress. They are separate from their own re-election accounts, but they tend to raise money from many of the same sources. The difference is in how they spend it. Instead of helping their own elections, members use money in their leadership PACs to donate to other members of Congress or challengers in other congressional races. -- Read the whole story --> Richard Shelby, Spencer Bachus among most generous in Congress in sharing campaign cash |

    July 4, 2012

    Trial lawyers backing Moore

    The Birmingham News ( reports: Roy Moore has the Alabama GOP's backing as its chief justice nominee, but campaign disclosures show the unconventional candidate is getting substantial funding from a major foe of mainstream Republican jurists: plaintiff trial lawyers.

    Moore's campaign received more than $46,000 in June from individual plaintiff trial lawyers or their firms, 45 percent of its total collections for the month, according to his latest campaign finance report.

    Plaintiff lawyers have donated roughly $55,000 of the $310,000 in total that Moore has raised in a bid to regain the seat stripped from him in 2003 when he refused to follow a federal judge's order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a state court building. ...

    Since the 1990s, special interests have battled for control of the state high court. Businesses have financially backed Republican candidates, while the plaintiff trial lawyers who sue those businesses have spent big money for Democratic court hopefuls. -- Read the whole story --> Trial lawyers putting their campaign cash behind Roy Moore for Alabama chief justice |

    June 20, 2012

    State Dems appoint committee to hear Hale County appeal

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: Almost two months after the party's runoff election, the Democratic nominee remains unknown after an election challenge.

    Arthur Crawford of Sawyerville defeated three-term incumbent Leland Avery by 80 votes in the April 24 Democratic runoff. After the vote was certified, a citizen filed a challenge, claiming Crawford failed to comply with the new Alabama campaign financial disclosure laws.

    A subcommittee appointed by the Hale County Democratic Party met on May 25 and upheld the challenge, voting 3-2 to disqualify Crawford as the party's nominee. Crawford then appealed the decision to the state party.

    Bradley Davidson, the state party's executive director, said the state Democratic executive committee has appointed a five-member subcommittee to hear the appeal. -- Read the whole story --> Dems will meet to settle Hale probate judge issue |

    June 9, 2012

    Corporate Political Activities Deskbook

    After several decades of publishing a coursebook for an annual multi-day CLE program on corporate political activities, Practising Law Institute has produced a deskbook on the same subject. Let’s face it, a course handbook is going to have some redundant discussion about new (and old) cases and regulations. The Corporate Political Activities Deskbook has avoided that problem by having four authors from the same firm write the whole book. The authors, Kenneth A. Gross, Ki P. Hong, Lawrence M. Noble, and Patricia M. Zweibel, are members of the Political Law Group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

    Fittingly for a book on corporate political activities, the book begins with a discussion of Citizens United. The balanced and restrained tone of the book is set in this first section when the authors set out six things the Citizens United decision did not change.

    This is not a treatise describing the doctrinal development of a particular rule. No, it is a how-to manual – much of it “how to stay out of trouble.” It is well-organized with short sections that get right to the point. In fact, I don’t remember seeing a section longer than three pages, and most are less than a page.

    You will better understand the scope of the book by looking at the straightforward table of contents:
    Chapter 1: Campaign Finance Under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA)
    Chapter 2: Political Action Committees
    Chapter 3: Executive Fundraising
    Chapter 4: State Laws, Rules and Policies Impacting Corporate Government Relations
    Chapter 5: Pay-to-Play Rules
    Chapter 6: Federal Lobbying and Gift Laws
    Chapter 7: The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)
    Chapter 8: The Federal Election Commission: Processes and Enforcement

    All chapters (except Chapter 7) have appendices with regulations, forms, and – best of all – sample documents for creating and running a corporate PAC.

    I think you will be pleased with the Deskbook if you have corporate clients engaged in political activities. It will be especially useful if you don’t keep up with the field of campaign finance and need a quick answer for a client.

    The Deskbook is priced at $275 for the one-volume, loose-leaf hardcover. The order page also links to a Kindle version for a little less.

    Thanks to PLI for sending a copy of this valuable resource for a review.

    June 3, 2012

    Supreme Court could announce its decision to hear Siegelman case Monday

    The Birmingham News reports: The U.S. Supreme Court might decide as early as Monday whether to accept or reject former Gov. Don Siegelman's request that the justices hear his appeal.

    If they accept, Siegelman and his at­torneys could be standing before the justices later this year arguing that prosecutors incorrectly twisted a regu­lar political contribution into a bribery scheme, posing a criminal threat to all elected officials and their donors.

    If they deny, Siegelman is likely headed back to court in Alabama, where his re-sentencing has been de­layed while his appeal has been pend­ing.

    Siegelman's request, along with one by HealthSouth found Richard Scru­shy, was reviewed by the justices Thursday, according to the court's re­cord, which means Monday is the ear­liest possible day for them to an­nounce whether they want to hear the case. Either way, the outcome could have a far-reaching impact on how public corruption is investigated and prosecuted across the country. -- Read the whole article --> US Supreme Court might accept or reject ex-Gov. Don Siegelman's appeal as early as Monday |

    May 26, 2012

    Democratic candidate in Hale County ousted for campaign finance violations

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: The candidate who earned the most votes in the Hale County probate judge Democratic primary is out of the running for the seat.

    Arthur Crawford of Sawyerville defeated three-term incumbent Leland Avery by 80 votes in the April primary. A subcommittee of the Hale County Democratic Party voted 3-2 on Friday to disqualify Crawford for failing to file campaign financial disclosure reports as required by law, said party chairwoman LaTonda Collins. ...

    Either the local committee or the state committee will select a candidate to take his place, Collins said. But Montgomery election attorney James Anderson, who led the contest and represents Avery, said that the Friday morning decision effectively names Avery as the Democratic nominee. -- Read the whole story --> Panel ousts primary winner |

    May 21, 2012

    Alabama GOP picks a judicial candidate to replace a disqualified candidate

    The Huntsville Times reports: The Alabama Republican Party will pick Madison County's next district court judge in Montgomery on June 29, through a committee with only one Madison County resident. The party committee will deliberate and vote behind closed doors.

    There is no Democrat running for the seat, and Chris Messervy, who got 61 percent of the vote in the April 24 runoff, was disqualified two weeks ago. ...

    Messervy was removed as the party's nominee after it was found he filed a campaign financial disclosure form late and on the day of the primary. The matter was raised to the GOP's candidate committee by two supporters of Huntsville attorney Linda Coats, who Messervy defeated in the runoff. ...

    The party gave the judge applicants until June 15 to submit answers to a questionnaire, a résumé and letters of recommendation. The candidates also must pay a $2,378 fee to be considered. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama GOP selection of Madison County judge will occur in Montgomery, behind closed doors |

    May 19, 2012

    "Mobile Mayor Sam Jones' campaign finance documents riddled with inconsistencies"

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: A review of Mayor Sam Jones' 2011 campaign finance documents shows unreported spending, mislabeled expenses and some checks bearing signatures that appear to be forged.

    Jones listed expenses of $32,800 on his annual campaign finance 2011 report, two years out from the city's next mayoral election. ...

    The documents that the campaign provided to the Press-Register are riddled with inconsistencies. For example, all the checks are signed Donna Mitchell, but at least three of them are written in a hand that bears no resemblance to the others, which suggests that two people wrote checks using the same name. ...

    Nine of the checks, totaling about $1,600 worth of spending, appear to lack corresponding entries in the finance report.

    Other checks appear to correspond to expenses in the report — the amounts are the same down to the penny — but the entries listed on the financial disclosure form bear incorrect vendor names. -- Read the whole story (with links to the bank account records and the finance report) --> Mobile Mayor Sam Jones' campaign finance documents riddled with inconsistencies |

    March 15, 2012

    Jefferson County contractor wants to bust the aggregate contribution limits in federal elections

    iWatch News reports: As unlimited contributions flow into super PACs this year, one man is at the center of a new effort to allow people to donate more money, to more candidates, at the national stage.

    "I don't believe government is there to limit us," Shaun McCutcheon told iWatch News.

    McCutcheon is a 44-year-old general contractor in Alabama. He's the owner, founder and president of Coalmont Electrical Development. He's a member of the Republican Party who admits he may have a bit of a libertarian streak. And he's also the treasurer of a super PAC called the "Conservative Action Fund."

    That's a group that spent more than $43,000 opposing House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) in Tuesday's GOP primary in Alabama, although it has mostly targeted Democrats with its attacks. -- Read the whole story --> GOP super PAC men seek to overturn donation limits | iWatch News by The Center for Public Integrity

    McCutcheon's request for an advisory opinion is available here

    * If I had called him "local man," you would have thought it was an Onion story.

    March 11, 2012

    "Alabama public corruption trials focus on bribes vs. donations"

    The Birmingham News reports: Campaign contributions are the lifeblood of politics. But when exactly does a campaign contribution be­come a bribe? That's been a central question in the state's last two major public corruption trials as prosecutors ac­cused public officials of swapping donations for offi­cial actions. Defense law­yers say the line is fuzzy be­tween what is legal and what is not and say they hope the U.S. Supreme Court will review the bribery conviction of former Gov. Don Siegelman and offer up some clarity.

    But others say that, if the line is drawn too tightly, then it would be nearly im­possible to prosecute poli­ticians for trading official actions for donations. ...

    The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in upholding Sie­gelman's conviction on the bribery charge, found that, while there has to be an ex­plicit agreement to swap money and action, it doesn't have to be verbalized. Jurors are free to interpret the ac­tions of defendants in deter­mining whether there was a corrupt deal, the court ruled.

    Siegelman's lawyers have argued that loose standards and lack of clarity from the courts are dangerous and could lead to overzealous prosecutions. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama public corruption trials focus on bribes vs. donations |

    March 5, 2012

    "Candidate says Alabama Supreme Court rulings favor corporate interests"

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: The Alabama Supreme Court race between Tommy Bryan and Debra Jones is bringing new attention to a oft-heard political theme: the potentially corrupting influence of special interest donations in judicial campaigns. But this time there's a twist.

    Jones is offering an example as she decries the influence of large campaign spending by political action committees.

    The circuit judge from Anniston pointed to a state Supreme Court decision last year overturning an $8.5 million verdict that favored a passenger injured in a traffic accident in 2003. The court ordered a new trial after finding that Etowah County Judge William Rhea improperly asked prospective jurors whether they would be willing to serve on a trial expected to last several weeks. ...

    Said Jones: "Common sense will tell you if you take a $25,000 PAC donation, you're going to be influenced -- period." -- Read the whole story --> Candidate says Alabama Supreme Court rulings favor corporate interests |

    February 25, 2012

    Did ACEPAC miss a filing deadline?

    Lagniappe reports: A political action committee run by Mobile City Attorney Larry Wettermark that is funded primarily by money shifted over from Mayor Sam Jones' primary campaign fund in 2010 appears to have missed the state deadline on PAC reporting this past year, according to the legal parameters described by the Alabama Secretary of State's office. ...

    Alabama Citizens for the Environment, known as ACEPAC, filed its first financial report in a year at the end of January, which would have been acceptable under the old state law. But the new law that went into effect in 2011 requires monthly reporting for PACs actively spending and receiving money for use in influencing the 2012 elections, according to officials with the Alabama Secretary of State's Office.

    Wettermark, for his part, says he believes there are different takes on the law and that ACEPAC is reporting properly.

    "My interpretation is that we are to file an annual report. We haven?t had any activity that required reporting until the annual report," he said. ...

    "They are required to file an active report if they crossed the $1,000 threshold. If they are having activity," [elections director Janice] McDonald said, speaking generally about PACs. -- Read the whole story -->Lagniappe: Something Extra For Mobile

    February 20, 2012

    Bill seeks employer's name for campaign donors

    WHNT reports: State lawmakers in Montgomery are studying a bill that would require many campaign donors to list their employer and line of work.

    State Rep. Mike Ball (R) of Madison is sponsoring HB 259, which mandates that donors who contribute $100 or more to any state election publicly disclose who they work for.

    Rep. Ball told WHNT News 19 that his bill is part of an ongoing effort to bring transparency to state elections. Ball claims it will allow voters to make more informed decisions because they would be able to see the political leanings certain companies or special interest groups have. Those giving less than $100 to a candidate or cause would be exempt from the requirement. Individuals who contribute more than $100 are already required to disclose their name and home address. -- Read the whole story (and see the video) -->Proposed Bill Seeks To ID Employers, Workplaces Of Campaign Donors - WHNT

    Bill seeks employer's name for campaign donors

    WHNT reports: State lawmakers in Montgomery are studying a bill that would require many campaign donors to list their employer and line of work.

    State Rep. Mike Ball (R) of Madison is sponsoring HB 259, which mandates that donors who contribute $100 or more to any state election publicly disclose who they work for.

    Rep. Ball told WHNT News 19 that his bill is part of an ongoing effort to bring transparency to state elections. Ball claims it will allow voters to make more informed decisions because they would be able to see the political leanings certain companies or special interest groups have. Those giving less than $100 to a candidate or cause would be exempt from the requirement. Individuals who contribute more than $100 are already required to disclose their name and home address. -- Read the whole story (and see the video) -->Proposed Bill Seeks To ID Employers, Workplaces Of Campaign Donors - WHNT

    February 15, 2012

    First sighting of a SuperPAC in Alabama

    The Birmingham News reports:
    A Texas-based political action committee with $1.6 million cash on hand will be spending some of that money to help defeat U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, a 10-term veteran who PAC organizers have targeted because of his longevity and ethics investigation.

    "Incumbents like Mr. Bachus ... are longtime passengers on the inside-the-beltway gravy train," said Curtis Ellis, a spokesman for the Campaign for Primary Accountability.

    The entrance of a Super PAC -- which can spend unlimited amounts of money in a race as long as it doesn't coordinate with one of the candidates -- into the 6th Congressional District could be significant. None of Bachus' challengers have reported raising enough money yet to afford running campaign commercials on television.

    The PAC is supporting state Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, the most well-known of Bachus' challengers, and Ellis said it expects to start spending money on his behalf soon. -- Read the whole story --> Texas-based Super PAC Campaign for Primary Accountability targets US Rep. Spencer Bachus, backs challenger Scott Beason |

    February 13, 2012

    "Is it bribery or just politics?"

    George Will writes in the Washington Post: All elected officials, and those who help finance elections in the expectation that certain promises will be kept -- and everyone who cares about the rule of law -- should hope the Supreme Court agrees to hear Don Siegelman's appeal of his conviction. Until the court clarifies what constitutes quid pro quo political corruption, Americans engage in politics at their peril because prosecutors have dangerous discretion to criminalize politics. ...

    But if bribery can be discerned in a somehow implicit connection between a contribution and an official action, prosecutorial discretion will be vast. And there will be the political temptation to ascribe unspoken but criminal mental states to elected officials. The Supreme Court can circumscribe this dangerous discretion by affirming the principle that the quid pro quo standard for bribery requires proof, not a mere inference, of an actual communication. In the law’s current, contradictory condition, the line is blurry between the exercise of constitutional rights and the commission of a crime.

    Politics in a democracy is transactional. Candidates routinely solicit the support of interest groups, from unions to business organizations to environmental and other advocacy factions. (“If you vote for me, I will do X for you.”) And many such groups solicit the solicitousness of candidates. (“If we support you, will you do Y for us?”)

    It is not uncommon for wealthy individuals to support presidential candidates lavishly, if not for the purpose of becoming ambassadors, then with the hope that the president-elect will show gratitude for their generosity. The Washington Post of Jan. 19, 2011, reported (“Embassy openings for open wallets”) that President Obama’s political appointees, as opposed to career diplomats, had received 30.05 percent of ambassadorial posts, just below the 30.47 average of the previous five presidents. -- Read the whole column--> Is it bribery or just politics? - The Washington Post

    February 3, 2012

    Elected officials can raise campaign money to pay off debts

    The Birmingham News reports: Newly elected public officials can hit up donors for thousands of dollars in campaign funds during their first weeks in office, under a decade-old interpretation of Alabama campaign finance law.

    State law allows candidates to raise money for 120 days after an election to retire any campaign debt they might have. However, candidates are not limited to raising just enough to cover their net campaign debt, and in some cases they raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra funds.

    Candidates and campaign workers say that allows them to pay off late-arriving bills. But others say the system is ripe for abuse and is a way to stretch the fundraising window. ...

    The practice is common in Montgomery. A 1999 attorney general's opinion stated that candidates can raise money to cover whatever debt is listed on their campaign finance form during that 120-day window, and it doesn't matter whether they already had enough cash in their coffers to pay off the debt. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama's newly elected officials can raise money after taking office |

    There are two AG opinions from 1998-99 that allow this post-election fundraising to pay off debt:



    February 2, 2012

    Siegelman files petition in US Supreme Court (with court docs)

    The Birmingham News reports: Former Gov. Don Siegelman today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review his 2006 conviction in a government corruption case arguing that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of bribery.

    The petition was filed with the high court today, according to Siegelman lawyer Sam Heldman.

    "By granting review, this court would have the opportunity to right an injustice, to exonerate a man who has committed no crime, and to clarify the law in a manner that will be important to all candidates, elected officials, and politically engaged citizens," Siegelman's lawyers wrote in the petition.

    A federal jury in 2006 convicted Siegelman and HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy of federal funds bribery on accusations that Siegelman sold a seat on a hospital regulatory board to Scrushy for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's 1999 lottery campaign.

    A key question before the court, Siegelman's lawyers wrote is what is the legal line between campaign contribution and bribe. -- Read the whole story -->Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman asks Supreme Court to review conviction |

    Update - The petition was docketed Feb 3 as No. 11-955.

    A copy of the certiorari petition is available below:
    Siegelman v. USA Cert Pet

    January 25, 2012

    Georgia: "New ethics bills could make lawmakers' extramarital affairs with lobbyists even more difficult"

    Fresh Loaf (Atlanta) reports with the tantalizing headline above: A diverse coalition of ethics advocates are doing cartwheels over new legislation expected to be soon introduced by state Rep. Tommy Smith, R-Alma, that would clamp down on lobbyist gifts, tighten up disclosure requirements, and increase the amount of time a former public official must wait before registering as a lobbyist. According to the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform, which includes Common Cause of Georgia, the Georgia Tea Party, Georgia Watch, and the League of Women Voters, the bill would:

    * Create a $100 cap on lobbyist expenditures for legislators (there is currently no limit), with an exception of a $500 limit for travel and related expenses associated with speaking engagements and conferences, and an exception allowed for expenses associated with events for which all members of the General Assembly are invited. ...

    * Create PAC contribution and expense disclosure requirements, limit contributions to PACs to $1,000, and limit PAC-to-PAC and campaign to campaign transfers to $10,000 per election cycle. There are currently no limits on contributions to PACs, no aggregate limits on PAC to PAC and campaign to campaign transfers and no disclosure requirements for PACs. -- Read the whole story and get a link to the bill -->New ethics bills could make lawmakers' extramarital affairs with lobbyists even more difficult | Atlanta News & Opinion Blog | Fresh Loaf | Creative Loafing Atlanta

    December 23, 2011

    Spencer Bachus over-donates to two GOP candidates

    The Birmingham News reports: Two candidates in a special state legislative election returned a total of $1,500 to U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus' re-election account because the donations exceeded new state limits.

    Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, reported the Nov. 23 refunds to the Federal Election Commission in a Dec. 5 letter.

    The Alabama Legislature last year changed Alabama's campaign finance law to include a limit of $1,000 that federal campaign committees can donate to state and local candidates. The law went into effect one year ago this week. ...

    On Dec. 7, the Alabama Democratic Party called on Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, a Republican, to investigate. The Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act says it is a Class C felony to receive or spend money in violation of the $1,000 limit. Bradley Davidson, executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party, said Thursday that Strange's office has not responded to the party's request. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus' donations to campaigns refunded |

    December 14, 2011

    Federal court strikes down one portion of Alabama's PAC-to-PAC transfer ban

    A judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama has held that Alabama’s ban to transfers between PACs is unconstitutional in one narrow circumstance. (Under the Alabama law, the definition of PAC includes political parties and candidates’ principal campaign committees.)

    On December 14, the court ruled for the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC) and several of its leaders, holding the law is invalid if the ADC is gathering funds that will be used for independent expenditures – that is, contributions that will not go to candidates’ committees. The court ruled,

    Given that preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption cannot be a valid interest if contributions are being made for purposes of independent expenditures, it is clear that the State’s interest in stopping corruption, or the appearance thereof, cannot support a ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers if the money does not ultimately get funneled to a candidate. Because the State cannot establish that it has a sufficient interest in infringing upon the ADC’s First Amendment rights, this court must find that, as a matter of law, the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban is unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiffs. (Opinion, at 21.)

    The court’s final judgment ruled that ADC may receive funds from other PACs if it keeps its funds in two separate bank accounts – one for the independent-expenditure contributions; the other for money it will give to candidates.

    The ADC was represented by Edward Still (Birmingham), John K. Tanner (Washington DC), and Osaygefo Grubbs (Montgomery).

    The opinion and final judgment are below:

    24 Order Granting Pl Mot for SJ

    24 Order Granting Pl Mot for SJ

    December 4, 2011

    Alabama GOP PAC accepts two PAC-to-PAC transfers in violation of law

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A political action committee run by House Speaker Mike Hubbard appears to have accepted $35,000 in donations from PACs following passage of the PAC-to-PAC ban, but his office said it was an error that has been rectified.

    Records filed by Net PAC last week show the PAC receiving a $5,000 check from BI PAC, a political action committee run by Montgomery lobbying firm Fine Geddie in January, and $30,000 from DST PAC, a PAC funded mainly by beer brewers that mainly funded Democrats in 2010.

    Both transfers took place after the state's ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers took effect in December. However, Hubbard spokesman Todd Stacy last week provided a copy of the $5,000 BI PAC check, which was written Nov. 22, 2010, about a month before the ban went into effect.

    He said the office did not know why the check was cashed Jan. 12 of this year, but said the laws passed by the Legislature allowed the transaction to be seen. -- Read the whole story --> montgomeryadvertiser

    October 30, 2011

    "Alabama remains a big spender in court elections"

    The Birmingham News reports: Despite an off-year in spending, the most recent election for Alabama Supreme Court ranked among the nation's costliest judicial races in 2009 and 2010, a study released last week shows.

    Candidates in three races for the Alabama Supreme Court in 2010 spent nearly $3.2 million combined, according to the study, The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2009-2010.

    By contrast, candidates spent twice that amount in 2004, the last time those court seats were contested. ...

    Outside groups spent another $374,000 on TV ads in Alabama to influence the 2010 election, bringing total spending to more than $3.5 million, the report said. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama remains a big spender in court elections |

    October 20, 2011

    Alabama Dems and GOP trade charges of campaign finance non-reporting

    The Birmingham News reports: Republicans and Democrats are accusing each other of violating campaign finance law in the race to fill the House of Representatives seat vacated by the death of Rep. Owen Drake.

    Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead accused the House Democratic Caucus of failing to file a campaign finance report to disclose a contribution to Democrat Paige Parnell. Meanwhile, state Democrats had a press conference this morning asking that Republican Dickie Drake be disqualified as a candidate for failing to report $5,500 in PAC contributions. -- Read the whole story --> Campaign financing accusations fly in Dickie Drake-Paige Parnell race |

    October 18, 2011

    Making a virtue of necessity

    The Birmingham News reports: The casino-operating Poarch Band of Creek Indians gave heavily to a national Republican group that in turn contributed to Alabama campaigns in 2010.

    Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, who was then chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, said he was assured that none of the gambling money came into Alabama races. But the current GOP chairman said he will shun the group's money in the future because of its ties to gambling.

    The Poarch Creeks, based near Atmore, gave the Alexandria, Va.-based Republican State Leadership Committee $350,000 before the November 2010 election and another $200,000 in January of this year. ...

    The state's recent PAC-to-PAC transfer ban will largely prohibit such donations, anyway, Armistead said, but he also doesn't want the state GOP to be used in a competition between rival gambling interests. -- Read the whole article --> Casino-operating Poarch Creek Indians gave money to Republican group |

    October 14, 2011

    PAC-to-PAC transfers are OK -- outside of Alabama

    The Birmingham News reports: U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby's leadership political action committee, which normally doles out money to help elect other Republicans to the U.S. Senate or in Alabama, gave $25,000 to this summer's political battle for control of the Wisconsin State Legislature.

    Records show Defend America PAC, a political pot of money Shelby operates separate from his own re-election account, gave $25,000 in July to the Wisconsin Club for Growth Political Fund, one of the organizations helping Republicans in the recall fight. Nine recall elections were prompted by anger over Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to limit collective bargaining for public employees, which caused Democratic legislators to leave the state for weeks in protest. -- Read the whole story --> Sen. Richard Shelby's PAC gave $25,000 to help Republicans in Wisconsin recalls |

    October 7, 2011

    Ala Dems file complaints against GOP

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The lead Democrat in Alabama said he has filed complaints with the Internal Revenue Service and the Montgomery County district attorney against top current and former Republican officials for allegedly skirting state and federal law.

    Mark Kennedy, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, said that Republicans are violating the campaign finance laws they recently passed by transferring money between political action committees, a practice the Republican-led Legislature voted to ban in a December special session.

    House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, bristled at the accusations from Kennedy and pointed to several entities associated with the Alabama Democratic Party that did not file campaign finance reports for years. He mentioned the Alabama Democratic Conference, the New South Coalition and the House Democratic Caucus. ...

    Kennedy said prominent Republicans are circumventing the law by operating an LLC or limited liability company, and a nonprofit as PACs. He said that an entity operating as a PAC must follow the new state ethics and transparency laws. -- Read the whole story --> Democrats file complaints against GOP | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    October 6, 2011

    Ala Dems accuse GOP of using PACs in sheep's clothing

    The Birmingham News reports: he chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party today accused high-ranking Republicans of breaking campaign finance law including the GOP-pushed ban on transfers between political action committees. ...

    Kennedy accused Republicans of breaking the PAC transfer ban and also of trying to skirt campaign finance law with two organizations -- House Republican Caucus LLC and the nonprofit Alabama House Republican Caucus Foundation.

    However, the leader of the House Republican Caucus said the contributions were legal and accused Kennedy of "whining."

    The House Republican Caucus LLC made six contributions since 2009 totaling over $20,000 to the Alabama Republican Party and one contribution to a candidate, according to campaign finance reports. The group formed as a corporation and does not report the sources of its money. Political action committees are required to report where they get their money.

    Kennedy accused Republicans of using shell groups as a "scam" to get around campaign finance law. He said if the group is acting like a PAC, it should report like a PAC.

    "They are a PAC in sheep's clothing," Kennedy said. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Democrats accuse GOP of skirting campaign finance laws |

    October 3, 2011

    2 GOP groups violated PAC-to-PAC transfer ban in February

    The Birmingham News reports: The Senate Republican Caucus political action committee and another GOP group broke a new law prohibiting transfers among PACs just two months after lawmakers approved the ban, according to campaign finance records.

    But the state senators in charge of the PAC said it was a simple mistake and they returned the money after they caught the error.

    The Republican State Leadership Committee Political Action Committee, based in Washington, D.C., gave the Senate Republican Caucus PAC $100,000 on Feb. 25, according to records filed Friday with the Alabama Secretary of State. The donation came roughly two months after lawmakers with much fanfare passed a ban on political action committees transfers.

    The Senate Republicans returned the $100,000 on Sept. 16. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama GOP PAC violated new ban on transfers |

    September 4, 2011

    "American Bar seeking rules on when judges must step aside from cases"

    The Birmingham News reports: The American Bar Association, in a newly adopted policy, is urging states to set rules for judges to step down from cases involving campaign contributors, a sign of growing national anxiety over the influence of political money in the judicial system.

    "It does raise it to the national level and starts the debates in the state legislatures, but more importantly it's on the radar of the chief justices of every state," said Tommy Wells, a Birmingham lawyer and former president of the ABA.

    Alabama was at the forefront 16 years ago, when legislators passed a law calling for local judges to recuse themselves if a party or their lawyer contributed $2,000 to the judge's election; $4,000 for state appellate judges. But in a quirky stalemate between the Alabama Attorney General's Office and the Alabama Supreme Court, the law has never been enforced.

    The issue has only gotten more serious since the Alabama law was passed. Spending on judicial elections has skyrocketed; questions about whether judges should be picked in partisan elections have increased; and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that campaign donations can create a risk of bias by the judge, and, separately, that corporations or labor unions can independently spend unlimited amounts to influence elections. Read the whole story --> American Bar seeking rules on when judges must step aside from cases |

    Sen. Ross' "Friends" raising $1.25M to pay his legal fees

    Ross expects more than $1.2M in legal fees | The Montgomery Advertiser |
    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Although Quinton Ross was found not guilty of the 16 charges against him, the state senator ex­pects to owe more than $1.25 mil­lion in attorney fees and other ex­penses from the federal corruption trial that ended Aug. 11.

    "There's no price that you can put on freedom," said Ross, the Montgomery Democrat. "We thank God for being with us."

    The Friends of Quinton T. Ross Jr., Legal Defense Fund and Trust recently sent a letter, one of which was obtained by the Montgomery Advertiser, outlining the "unwar­ranted prosecution" and the cost to Ross and his family.

    The trustees for the fund re­quested "your contribution of $15,000 or not less than $7,500."
    -- Read the whole story -->

    August 6, 2011

    "Five Republican Party officials got $38,000 bonuses after $100,000 PAC donation from Cooper"

    The Huntsville Times reports: Two days after Monica Cooper personally donated $100,000 to a Republican political action committee, five party officials received bonuses from the PAC of $38,000 each.

    A second Republican PAC reimbursed Cooper, prompting state Democratic Party Chair Mark Kennedy to complain last week that the transaction and several other smaller ones violated the state's new law banning PAC-to-PAC transfers.

    Before Cooper's contribution, there wasn't enough money in the 136 Years PAC to make those payments, according to campaign finance reports filed by the PAC.

    The 136 Years PAC received the contribution from Cooper, then a GOP Senate employee, on Dec. 20, 2010, according to records in the Alabama Secretary of State's Office.

    Two days later, the $38,000 checks were issued to John Ross, the party's executive director and the chair of the 136 Years PAC; Philip Bryan, party communications director; Kate Anderson and Sidney Rue, finance co-directors for the party; and Michael Joffrion, the party's political director. -- Read the whole story --> Five Republican Party officials got $38,000 bonuses after $100,000 PAC donation from Cooper |

    August 1, 2011

    Alabama Dems have found more last-minute PAC-to-PAC transfers

    The Prattville Progress reports: The former chair of a Republican-leaning PAC said Thursday that a PAC controlled by House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, made a transfer to his PAC days after the Legislature passed a ban on the practice and hours before Gov. Bob Riley signed the ban into law.

    The news came after the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party accused Republican legislative leaders of breaking the law against PAC-to-PAC transfers, which a spokesman for Hubbard vigorously rejected.

    "Not only did the PAC the Speaker was affiliated with abide by the law, but it disclosed every penny," said Todd Stacy, a spokesman for Hubbard. "It was all out there, disclosed for the people to see."

    NETPAC sent $5,000 to 136 Years PAC on December 20, 2010, according to John Ross, a former Alabama Republican Party executive director who chaired the commitee. Ross said the transfer -- made days after the Hubbard-led House approved the PAC-to-PAC ban -- paid bills as the PAC was being terminated.

    "We accepted that transaction the morning of the 20th," Ross said in an interview. "It was perfectly legal." -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Democrats say GOP leadership violated PAC-to-PAC ban | The Prattville Progress |

    "Alabama bingo trial: Focus put on vote vs. bribe"

    The Birmingham News reports: The vote-buying trial that could be nearing an end in federal court here has cast a spotlight on the line between supporting state lawmakers with campaign contributions and bribing them, say lawmakers outside the trial and others.

    They said the trial has raised the question of whether some lawmakers crossed the line into bribery by promising to vote for a gambling bill in return for contributions, and whether others crossed the line by offering contributions in return for a vote for the bill.

    Two state senators, two former state senators, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, two lobbyists and two other people have been on trial since June, accused of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with gambling legislation debated in the Legislature last year.

    Prosecutors and defense attorneys rested their cases last week. Closing arguments are expected Wednesday.

    Observers say the trial has provided yet more proof that politicians actively seek campaign contributions to buy the TV ads and other tools that build name recognition and improve election chances. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama bingo trial: Focus put on vote vs. bribe |

    Accusation: GOP groups funnelled PAC-to-PAC money through individual

    The State Column reported on Thursday: Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, Judge Mark Kennedy, today presented evidence of another illegal Republican PAC-to-PAC transfer, this time implicating Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner and House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

    Campaign finance records presented by Kennedy reveal that 136 Years PAC?organized by the Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) under then chairman Rep. Mike Hubbard?received a $100,000 contribution on December 20, 2010, from Monica Cooper of 1300 County Road 77, Clanton, Alabama. Cooper?s contribution was labeled as an individual contribution by 136 Years PAC.

    Just two days later, on December 22, 2010, a $100,000 expenditure was recorded as a ?reimbursement? to Monica Cooper by the New Alabama Leadership PAC. According to Secretary of State records, Cooper is the treasurer and Senate Majority Leader Waggoner is the chairperson of New Alabama Leadership PAC. New Alabama Leadership PAC serves as the fundraising vehicle for the Senate Republican Caucus. -- Read the whole story --> Republican Party Uses Individual Contribution to Violate PAC-to-PAC Ban | The State Column

    July 26, 2011

    Strange recuses himself from PAC-to-PAC case

    WSFA Channel 12 reports: Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is recusing himself from a possible investigation of a political action committee (PAC) formed by former Governor Bob Riley, following a request by the Alabama Democratic Party.

    On Monday the Alabama Democratic Party asked Strange to recuse himself from the investigation. Strange said he was recusing himself for unspecified, "various reasons".

    Strange requested [Montgomery DA Ellen] Brooks' deal with the issue, as it was filed in her jurisdiction. -- Read the whole story --> AG Strange recuses self from Riley PAC probe - WSFA 12 News Montgomery, AL |

    Dems want Strange off the PAC-to-PAC investigation of Riley

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The Alabama Democratic Party asked Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to recuse himself from any future investigation of a PAC-to-PAC transfer involving a political action committee chaired by former Gov. Bob Riley and the Republican State Leadership Committee.

    In a statement Monday, Mark Kennedy, the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, said the appointment of Strange's former campaign manager, Jessica Madeiros Garrison, as head of the Republican Attorneys General Association created a conflict of interest in the investigation the party is seeking.

    "Given that Attorney General Luther Strange's former campaign manager has been hired to direct an association that is part of Republican State Leadership Committee, there is a plain conflict of interest with Attorney General Strange's investigating this illegal PAC-to-PAC transfer," Kennedy said in a statement. "I am asking that Attorney General Strange recuse himself from this investigation." -- Read the whole story --> Democrats want Strange to step away from PAC investigation | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    July 25, 2011

    Alabama's judicial campaign-contribution law in a stalemate

    The Birmingham News reports: Alabama is no closer to resolving a 16-year impasse over regulating campaign contributions to state judges after a lawsuit that might have settled the matter was tossed out by three federal judges.

    But the political landscape has changed in the days since the case was dismissed, and lawyers are attempting to restart the legal debate over how Alabama's dormant law banning judges from hearing cases involving big-dollar campaign donors might ever get enforced.

    Now, the law is caught in a stalemate between the Alabama Attorney General's Office and the Alabama Supreme Court. The Supreme Court says it can't write the rule implementing it until the law is approved by the Justice Department as being non-discriminatory; the AG says the law doesn't need Justice Department review but can't be enforced until the Supreme Court writes the rule.

    Three federal judges mocked this standoff in a recent opinion.

    "To loosely paraphrase Robert Frost, two roads diverged from the statute, and neither was taken. Indeed, no step has yet trodden either," the judges wrote. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama standoff over judicial contributions draws fire |

    July 23, 2011

    Alabama Dems accuse Riley of PAC-to-PAC violation

    The Huntsville Times reports: The chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party Friday accused former Gov. Bob Riley of violating a new campaign finance law that bans PAC-to-PAC transfers. But a Republican leader said the transfer was a mistake that was corrected.

    Democratic Chairman Mark Kennedy said the violation occurred when $50,000 was transferred from the Republican State Leadership Committee Political Action Committee to the Alabama 2014 PAC on March 15.

    Kennedy said that transfer violated one of several new ethics reform laws that Riley signed into law on Dec. 20, 2010, during a special legislative session on ethics.

    An amended pre-election report filed with the Alabama Secretary of State's office by the Alabama 2014 PAC revealed the violation, said Kennedy. -- Read the whole story --> Riley-led PAC admits to violation of new ethics law ex-governor signed into law in December |

    Note: I was unable to find the campaign-finance reports of the Alabama 2014 PAC online Friday.

    July 14, 2011

    Alabama Democrats join in FEC complaint against Romney and his PACs

    The Birmingham News reports: Alabama Democrats today will join their counterparts in New Hampshire to file a complaint against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, alleging he used state political action committees to circumvent stricter federal campaign finance laws. ...

    Romney's national Free and Strong America PAC -- in place before Romney was officially a candidate for president -- was limited to accepting donations from individuals of no more than $5,000. But Alabama's campaign finance laws do not limit individual contributions to PACs. The Birmingham News reported July 4 that the Alabama-based version of Romney's Free and Strong America PAC last year raised about $457,000, none of it from anyone in Alabama and much of it in large checks of more than $5,000 each. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Democratic Party joins complaint about Mitt Romney's state PAC fundraising |

    The DNC sent out a press release this morning which made this statement:

    The amended complaint, which has also been sent to state authorities and seeks a full inquiry into the violations of both Federal and state laws, raises two major areas of concern:

    · Romney's campaign may have violated federal and state laws in Alabama, New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Michigan by raising "soft money" contributions into State PACs and using the money to support his presidential candidacy.

    · If the State PACs raised or spent soft money after Mr. Romney became a declared candidate, Mr. Romney committed an additional violation of federal law. Federal law prohibits entities "established" by federal candidates from raising or spending any "soft money." Romney clearly established these PACs and, thus, they are subject to this law. To sever ties with the PACs and escape liability for their raising and spending of "soft money," the candidate must have no material contact or involvement with the PAC for fully two years. Of course, Romney can not satisfy this two year standard. Nor has he even suggested that he could.

    You can read the amended complaint filed here.

    If you would like to view the campaign reports of the Romney PAC, go the Alabama Secretary of State, type "free and strong" into the Name box, and click on the Search button.

    July 12, 2011

    GOP attacks ADC's suit against PAC-to-PAC ban

    The Birmingham News reports: Republican leaders today denounced a federal lawsuit filed by the Alabama Democratic Conference challenging last year's ban on transferring campaign money between political action committees.

    Alabama House of Representatives Speaker Mike Hubbard and Alabama Senate President Del Marsh issued the joint statement stating that the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban was a critical component of a series of anti-corruption reforms passed in special session and signed into law by then-Gov. Bob Riley in December.

    The statement notes that the bill passed without opposition in both houses of the Legislature. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama GOP leaders denounce lawsuit filed by ADC over PAC-to-PAC transfer ban |

    July 6, 2011

    Suit filed against Alabama campaign finance law

    My co-counsel and I filed a new suit against the provision of Alabama's campaign finance law forbidding PAC-to-PAC transfers. The law basically prohibits any transfer between political actors except personal contributions to any group, PAC contributions to principal campaign committees, and limited payments from principal campaign committees to political parties.

    Our organizational client uses its funds to run GOTV drives.

    The complaint is linked below.

    1 Complaint and Appx A

    July 4, 2011

    Alabama's wide-open PAC laws allow national candidates to park money here

    The Birmingham News reports: Getting ready to run for president and feeling boxed in by strict federal campaign finance laws that cap donations to your political action committee? Welcome to Alabama, home of the end-run on such pesky limits.

    As in years past, presidential hopefuls again can find friendly territory in Montgomery to open chapters of their national political action committees. They then are free to route donations through the state to pay the bills of the political operation leading up to the official campaign kickoff.

    The only remaining contender for the Republican presidential nomination who has taken full advantage of Alabama's permissive campaign finance laws is Mitt Romney. He started the practice before his failed run in 2008 and, records show, never really stopped.

    According to filings with the Alabama Secretary of State's Office, the Alabama version of Romney's PAC last year raised nearly half-a-million dollars, none of it from anyone in Alabama. -- Read the whole story --> National candidates can take advantage of Alabama's campaign finance laws |

    June 27, 2011

    "Gambling trial shines spotlight on fees paid to legislators"

    AP reports on payments by lobbyists to legislators for "referral fees." (AP does not want to be quoted. I hope they don't object to the link.) -- Read the whole story --> Gambling trial shines spotlight on fees paid to legislators | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    A longer story on the same subject is here.

    June 21, 2011

    Former Montgomery judge indicted on 74 charges

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Just days after Patricia Warner suddenly stepped down as a family court judge, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary issued a 74-charge complaint that accused her of taking thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from gambling interests and then deciding questionably in a child custody case involving VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor's daughter.

    The complaint also mentioned that 27 of 29 of her cases that were appealed were reversed.

    Much of the complaint involved the case of McGregor's daughter in which Warner refused to recuse herself even after the Judicial Inquiry Commission advised her that she should do so for cases in which someone involved in the case has filed a complaint against a judge, and even after she recused herself in other cases where someone filed a complaint against her.

    During Warner's re-election campaign last year, the judge accepted $20,750 in campaign contributions from political action committees that were controlled by John Crawford, who is a lobbyist for McGregor and the father of Warner's staff attorney, according to the complaint. These contributions amounted to more than half of Warner's total campaign contributions last year. -- Read the whole article --> Warner accused in 74-charge complaint | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    "Alabama legislator testifies in bingo trial that Milton McGregor tried to buy his vote"

    The Birmingham News reports: Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, testified today that VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor tried to buy his vote for a gambling bill when he promised Mask "significant help" if he voted for the bill.

    But Mask conceded on cross-examination that he was the one who first mentioned his upcoming fundraiser during a conversation with McGregor. He also said the Poarch Creek Indian casino in his district likely benefited from the failure of the gambling bill. ...

    Mask also conceded on cross-examination by McGregor lawyer Joe Espy that he first mentioned fundraising in the conversation with McGregor. Mask testified that before McGregor called he had told a bill supporter that his chief concern was that the gambling bill being considered didn't ban gaming interests from making political contributions. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama legislator testifies in bingo trial that Milton McGregor tried to buy his vote |

    June 14, 2011

    First day of testimony in bingo corruption trial

    The Birmingham News reports: VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor told a state senator last year that he would never regret it if he voted for a gambling bill because McGregor had a habit of supporting friends.

    The comment was caught on a recording that Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, made as casino owners courted his vote for a gambling bill and that was played Monday to jurors in the State House vote-buying case.

    Beason testified Monday that he believed casino interests were offering to buy his vote. He also said Sen. Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb, assured him in an earlier conversation that gambling interests would give him $500,000 for a statewide race.

    "You need some new friends ... and we've got a bad habit of supporting our friends," McGregor tells Beason in one of the recordings played in court.

    McGregor and eight others are on trial on charges of buying and selling votes on a gambling bill in 2010. They are accused of offering legislators campaign contributions, a job and re-election assistance in exchange for yes votes on the legislation. -- Read the whole story --> McGregor on tape in the Alabama bingo trial: 'We don't forget our friends' |

    June 11, 2011

    Bribes or campaign contributions: federal jury to decide in Montgomery

    The Birmingham News reports: VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor is a wealthy man, but he got greedy and bribed state legislators in the hopes of making hundreds of millions more dollars for himself, a federal prosecutor told jurors Friday.

    Justin V. Shur told jurors in opening statements of the highly anticipated corruption trial that McGregor and the other defendants bought and sold State House votes in exchange for campaign contributions and business opportunities. ...

    Prosecutors and defense lawyers in their opening statements painted contrasting pictures of the defendants and campaign contributions at the heart of the case.

    The defendants alternately were described as greedy criminals and honest, upstanding business people. What prosecutors told jurors were bribes and conspiracy, defense lawyers described as legal campaign contributions and legitimate political maneuvering. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama bingo trial revolves around greed, US says |

    May 11, 2011

    Alabama: 2 counts against Siegelman and Schrushy

    The Birmingham News reports: A lawyer for former Gov. Don Siegelman said the governor will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if needed following the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision today upholding most of his conviction in a government corruption case.

    The 11th Circuit after reviewing the case for a second time upheld five of the counts against Siegelman and four against former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. ...

    Among other problems, defense lawyers argued prosecutors could not show the two men had a conversation or other direct communication in which they agreed to swap the appointment for the money.

    Without requiring such direct proof, prosecutors are free to infer a bribery situation anytime a donor receives some favorable action, Heldman said,

    "I continue to think they are wrong about where the line is drawn between campaign contributions and crimes. I believe they've set a standard that, if applied to everyone, would mean our jails would be overflowing," Heldman said.

    The judges said they found no reversible error on that point. -- Read the whole story --> Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman may ask Supreme Court to review case, attorney says |

    May 6, 2011

    Alabama: district judge hopes for speedy Siegelman decision

    AP reports that Judge Myron Thompson wants a decision in the Siegelman case, so he can rule on the gambling-bribery trial issues. -- Read the whole story --> Judge: Issue in gambling probe same as Siegelman |

    Alabama: is it a bribe or a campaign contribution

    The Birmingham News reports: Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the bingo vote buying case today tangled over where the line is between a legal campaign contribution and an illegal bribe.

    Defense lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson to dismiss federal funds bribery charges against the defendants in the case. Prosecutors have alleged that casino owners used campaign contributions and other things of value to bribe legislators for yes votes on a gambling bill before them last year.

    Sam Heldman, a lawyer representing Victoryland owner Milton McGregor, told Thompson that, for a campaign contribution to be a bribe, prosecutors should have to prove there was an explicit agreement between the donor and the politician that the politician agreed to take some official action in exchange for the money.

    Otherwise, Heldman said, courts run the risk of criminalizing the normal political activity of accepting campaign donations.
    -- Read the whole story --> Defense lawyers in bingo case ask judge to dismiss charges |

    April 29, 2011

    Alabama may change its primary schedule in presidential years

    The Alabama House has passed and sent to the Senate a bill to move both the presidential primary (now in early February) and the non-presidential primary (now in June) to the second Tuesday in March. A copy of the bill is at the end of this entry.

    Intended consequence #1: This change was adopted to bring Alabama into line with the schedule worked out by the DNC and RNC. According to the Washington Post,

    Iowa and New Hampshire would retain their status as the nation's first contests, held in February, joined by South Carolina and Nevada.

    Other contests would generally be held in April or later, although states would have the option of holding votes in March, provided convention delegates chosen at those elections were awarded to candidates in proportion to the percentage of the vote they received, rather than in a winner-take-all system.

    Intended consequence #2: This schedule change will avoid the early February schedule's interference with Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile and Baldwin Counties.


    April 14, 2011

    Alabama: electronic, and more frequent, campaign-finance reports may be in the offing

    The Birmingham News editorialized today in favor of more transparency in campaign finance:

    • Candidates would be required to file campaign-finance reports electronically starting in 2014.

    • While instantaneous disclosures of contributions would not be required, candidates would at least be forced to report more frequently on their fundraising and spending. Reports of financial activity would be required monthly during the year leading up to an election -- and weekly and daily as an election date approaches.

    • The secretary of state's office would have to keep those reports in a searchable database.

    • So-called 527 tax-exempt groups, which have played a behind-the-scenes role in recent political elections, would be forced to disclose their campaign fundraising and spending, too.
    -- Read the whole editorial --> OUR VIEW: State lawmakers need to act on a bill to require electronic reporting of campaign finance reports |

    The bill appears below:

    SB136 Electronic, Frequent Filing

    March 18, 2011

    Alabama: federal judge grants injunction against law which would stop AEA from dues collection through payroll deduction

    The Huntsville Times reports: A federal judge issued a temporary injunction this afternoon halting a new state law that could potentially cripple a statewide teachers' organization.

    U.S. District Judge Lynwood Smith issued the injunction against a law passed by the Alabama Legislature in December that bans school employees from having their Alabama Education Association membership dues directly deducted from their paychecks. The law was to go into effect on Sunday.

    Dr. Paul Hubbert, executive secretary of AEA, said the organization had been hoping for a ruling on the injunction before the law goes into effect.

    "Once the law goes into effect, we will lose January dues, which are collected in February," Hubbert said shortly before the ruling was filed. "We may also lose February dues, collected in March. A couple of months' worth of loss makes it hard to operate." Hubbert could not be reached immediately after the filing. -- Read the whole story --> Federal judge halts ban on payroll deduction to Alabama Education Association |

    Disclosure: I am one of the attorneys representing the AEA. A copy of the opinion is shown below:

    AEA v. Bentley, Memo Opinion on Prelim Injuction

    February 28, 2011

    Alabama: AEA sues over payroll deduction of dues

    Courthouse News Service reports: Alabama's lame-duck governor called a special session at which he rammed through an unconstitutional law, under the guise of "ethics reform," which prohibits teachers from allowing automatic payroll deductions for union dues, and makes union members criminally liable if such dues or PAC contributions are used for "phone calling for any political purpose," or "distributing political literature of any type," the Alabama Education Association claims in Huntsville Federal Court.
    The AEA and its political action committee, A-Vote, sued Alabama's new governor, Robert Bentley, who also serves as president of the State Board of Education. Individual teachers joined as plaintiffs and named top state officials as co-defendants, including the state superintendent of education, the comptroller, the state finance director, two county district attorneys and three local school boards. Read the whole story --> Courthouse News Service

    February 7, 2011

    Alabama: gambling-related PACs closing up

    The Birmingham News reports: A network of political action committees has been partially dismantled, months after helping to funnel nearly $6.3 million from gambling interests into 2010 political campaigns, financial disclosure forms show.

    Since the Nov. 2 election, 50 PACs that handled money from state casino and racetrack owners have been shut down, state records show.

    All were set up September 2009 through September 2010, funded mainly by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and by Birmingham and Shorter track owner Milton McGregor, records show.

    Those committees were among the 144 PACs that handled political contributions originating from the Poarch Band, McGregor, Eutaw's Greenetrack and the Country Crossing resort near Dothan that briefly included a casino, a Birmingham News analysis of disclosures shows. ...

    With the recent ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers, the trend of starting temporary PACs to exclusively handle special-interest money is expected to expand. -- Read the whole article --> Alabama gambling money network dissolves |

    October 30, 2010

    Alabama: suit to remove Bentley from ballot dismissed

    The Birmingham News reports: A lawsuit aimed at tossing Republican Robert Bentley off next week's general election ballot was itself tossed Friday by a Jefferson County judge.

    Circuit Judge Nicole "Nikki" Still ruled that Alabama law does not give her jurisdiction to remove Bentley from the ballot or jurisdiction to halt next Tuesday's election while a replacement for Bentley is found.

    The lawsuit was brought by former Birmingham City Council member Dr. Jimmy Blake.

    Blake had contended that Bentley had knowingly violated the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act by failing to disclose on financial reports filed July 8 that the Alabama Education Association had contributed almost $22,000 to his campaign by picking up the cost of a series of automatic telephone messages. Bentley placed the messages to a half-million would-be voters days before the July 13 GOP runoff election between himself and Bradley Byrne. -- Read the whole story --> Lawsuit to boot Alabama gubernatorial candidate Robert Bentley off ballot dismissed |

    October 28, 2010

    Alabama: Bentley returning contributions, faces suit to disqualify

    AP reports that Dr. Robert Bentley has returned excess contributions to 8 corporations after a complaint from Dr. Jimmy Blake, former Birmingham city council member.

    Blake has also filed suit in Jefferson County Circuit Court seeking to disqualify Bentley on the basis of his failure to report an in-kind contribution from the Alabama Education Association. The AEA made robo-calls for Bentley when he was in the Republican runoff.

    Alabama: unreported funds moving from PAC to PAC

    The Press Register reports: The single largest campaign contribution that state Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker got this year was a $100,000 check he accepted from a political action committee set up by his campaign spokesman.

    But the original source of that money remains shrouded in a provision of state campaign finance law that critics contend is far too lax.

    Records with the state Secretary of State's Office showed that Phillip Kinney, a Montgomery political consultant with deep ties to the Democratic Party, set up Premium PAC on May 21 with the stated purpose to "promote good government."

    On May 25, that PAC made its $100,000 contribution to Patriot PAC. Two days later, Patriot PAC gave Parker, a Republican, $100,000, or 40 percent of all the money he raised before the June 1 GOP primary. -- Read the whole convoluted story --> Source of $100,000 contribution to Justice Tom Parker shrouded in secrecy |

    October 26, 2010

    Alabama: Justice Tom Parker returning some of gambling-tainted contributions

    The Mobile Press Register reports: Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker said today that he would return campaign contributions that came from a political action committee that raised its funds from gambling interests.

    Parker, a Republican seeking a second term on the high court against Democratic Circuit Judge Mac Parsons, cited a Press-Register story published Sunday that traced contributions totaling $8,000 from the Step PAC to a PAC run by Parker's campaign spokesman. That PAC, Patriot PAC, passed the money along to Parker. ...

    While Parker is returning the Step PAC’s funds, the Patriot PAC has taken thousands of dollars from other PACs with ties to gambling.

    On the same day that the Patriot PAC received the $8,000 contribution from Step PAC, for instance, it also received an identical donation from Your PAC. Both are run by Montgomery lobbyist John Teague, who lobbies on behalf of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. -- Read the whole story --> Justice Tom Parker to return donation from PAC funded by gambling interests |

    October 25, 2010

    Alabama: most of Justice Bolin's money from 4 PACs

    The Mobile Press Register reports: From mid-April until mid-September, Alabama Supreme Court Justice Mike Bolin raised $582,380 for his re-election campaign, with donations flowing from 80 different sources, according to his last two campaign finance reports.

    He leaned heavily, however, on a small number of political action committees for that total. Four PACs gave $501,000, accounting for 86 percent of his haul. ...

    Bolin’s last two campaign finance reports show three donations from the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee totaling $250,000. The group draws largely from a donor list made up PACs representing insurance companies, builders and other businesses. Progress PAC, which is affiliated with the Business Council of Alabama, chipped in $200,000. -- Read the whole story --> Justice Mike Bolin gets most funds from a handful of PACs |

    October 24, 2010

    Alabama: Justice Tom Parker pulling in Democratic money

    The Mobile Press Register reports: No member of the Republican-dominated Alabama Supreme Court touts his conservative credentials more than Tom Parker.

    But in paying for his campaign, the darling of social conservatives and protégé of former Chief Justice Roy Moore has turned to political action committees with close ties to Democrats and gambling interests, a review of his finance reports shows. ...

    Parker, who faces Democratic Circuit Judge Mac Parsons in the Nov. 2 election, has raised nearly half of his $321,125 this year from the Patriot PAC, which Chancey set up four years ago under the name Republicans for Conservative Judges. ...

    Patriot PAC has raised its money from three large law firms and a collection of other PACS that get much of their funding from sources generally associated with Democrats. Its largest contributor has been Premium PAC, which was set up this year by Phillip Kinney, who had been with a prominent political consulting firm in Montgomery called the Matrix Group. The Matrix Group has worked for numerous Democratic candidates. Premium PAC contributed $100,000 to Patriot PAC. -- Read the whole article --> Alabama Supreme Court: Tom Parker takes unorthodox fund-raising approach |

    October 23, 2010

    Alabama: Sparks wants special session on ethics

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: Democrat Ron Sparks said earlier in the week that he will call a special session on ethics. He said it will come after he calls a special session to expand, tax and regulate gambling. Sparks wants the first session to start the day after the inauguration in January. Read the whole story --> Candidates for governor propose ethics sessions |

    Alabama: Bentley proposes special session on ethics

    The Birmingham News reports: Republican Robert Bentley said today that, if elected governor, he would call a special session of the Legislature to push for stronger state ethics laws. ...

    In the special session, Bentley said he would propose new laws that would:

    --Ban PAC-to-PAC transfers. The practice of transferring campaign contribution from one political action committee to another makes it difficult to determine the source of a candidate's money. As a member of the House of Representative the past seven years, Bentley has voted in favor of a proposal to do that.

    --Seek to eliminate the ability of lobbyists to entertain legislators, or limiting it by capping what they are allowed to spend entertaining lawmakers, or requiring legislators to report every penny spent on them.

    --Requiring candidates to report weekly all contributions given to them, preferably online for the public to see. -- Read the whole article --> Robert Bentley would push for special session on ethics law |

    October 22, 2010

    Alabama: Blake calls for removal of Bentley from ballot

    The Birmingham News reports: Jimmy Blake, a former Birmingham City Council member, called a press conference this afternoon to say he was filing a formal complaint with Alabama Attorney General Troy King seeking Bentley's removal from the Nov. 2 ballot.

    Blake alleges that Bentley knowingly failed to comply with the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act when his campaign accepted an "in-kind" contribution from the AEA.

    That contribution came in the form of a series of phone call blitzes that were produced by the AEA for Bentley. The "robocalls" went to more than 500,000 homes across the state during the closing days of the GOP runoff between Bradley Byrne and Bentley, an election easily won by Bentley.

    Bentley also has acknowledged this week that AEA -- long associated with the Democratic Party -- contributed $150,000 into a political action committee set up to help fund his campaign. However, Bentley said he never used the money. -- Read the whole story --> Former Birmingham councilman Blake files complaint seeking to remove Robert Bentley from ballot |

    Alabama: Senator "forgot" to file final report on PAC for 4 years

    The Huntsville Times reports: Democratic State Senate candidate Jeff Enfinger has dissolved a political action committee that is at the center of a campaign finance controversy.

    Enfinger sent paperwork terminating his 2006 PAC to the secretary of state's office by overnight mail Tuesday. The information was posted on the agency's website at lunchtime Wednesday.

    While Enfinger says the PAC has been inactive since mid-2006, he was supposed to file a report detailing its final contributions and expenditures long before now. Conservative blogger Brian LeCompte discovered the error and filed a complaint with the Attorney General's Office alleging violations of Alabama's Fair Campaign Practices Act.

    Enfinger said he forgot to fill out a termination report for the PAC after deciding not to seek re-election in 2006. -- Read the whole story (with links to the PAC reports) --> Senate candidate Jeff Enfinger dissolves PAC in campaign finance controversy |

    October 11, 2010

    Alabama: Senators can use campaign funds for criminal defense

    The Gadsden Times reports: The four senators who were indicted in the bingo bribery case can use their campaign money to pay their lawyers.

    An attorney general’s advisory opinion from 2000 said that excess campaign funds may be used by an incumbent office holder to pay legal fees incurred pursuant to the defense of a criminal indictment if the indictment is related to the office holder’s duties.

    Federal prosecutors last week alleged that 11 people, including four senators, solicited or offered bribes in exchange for votes or action on bingo legislation in the 2010 session. ...

    The question is if Means or Smith lose their reelection bids on Nov. 2, can they still use their campaign funds? Same for Preuitt, who is retiring from politics and no longer will be a legislator as of 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 3.

    Attorney general spokesman Chris Bence said the office hasn’t been asked if they can use their money if they no longer are state senators. Read the whole story --> Indicted senators can use campaign money for legal bills |

    August 1, 2010

    Alabama's judicial campaign finance law unenforced for 15 years

    The Birmingham News reports: A 15-year-old state law meant to discourage big­-dollar donations to judicial cam­paigns has never been enforced, and each of the three branches of government in Montgomery blames another for the failure.

    The attorney general says the state court system is supposed to come up with rules for enforce­ment; the state court system says the law first needs the blessing of the U.S. Justice Department, which the AG's office has not sought; and a legislative sponsor of the law says he'd be happy to rewrite it if someone would tell him what's wrong with it.

    "Only the combined forces of the three branches of government could create such a confusing situ­ation," said Mark White, a Bir­mingham lawyer who led the 1996 review of the law and found sev­eral problems that make it hard to enforce.

    A federal lawsuit filed last week asks that the law be formally blocked until the Justice Depart­ment can review it, contending that, as the situation stands now, the law could be haphazardly en­forced. Read the whole story --> Alabama judicial campaigns law unenforced for 15 years |

    July 22, 2010

    Alabama: suit filed to block enforcement of law on campaign contributions

    The Birmingham News reports: A 15-year-old Alabama law that says judges should not hear cases in which one of the parties donated at least $2,000 to their campaigns has never been enforced, locked in a stalemate over whether it first needs to be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice for evidence that it would not disenfranchise minorities.

    A lawsuit filed this week in Washington by an Anniston City Council member tries to settle the question, but it also raises more questions about how an act of the Alabama Legislature can essentially be ignored for so long.

    The 1995 law says that a circuit judge who received at least $2,000 from one of the people involved in the case -- or $4,000 for an appellate judge -- must recuse himself in order to avoid the "appearance of impropriety."

    Soon after it was passed, the Alabama attorney general's office submitted the law to the Department of Justice, which normally reviews all changes to Alabama's election laws under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. But before the Justice Department could make a decision, the attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions, withdrew the request for review and notified Washington that the state would enforce the new law and that it didn't need preclearance from the DOJ. -- Read the whole story --> Lawsuit seeks Justice Department review of unenforced 15-year-old state law |

    A copy of the complaint is shown below:

    Little v. King Complaint

    July 14, 2010

    Alabama: winning candidate withdraws because of campaign-finance violation

    The Cullman Times reports: With the shadow of an election violation hanging over his campaign, Jerry Parker captured the most votes in the Republican runoff Tuesday. But in a dramatic turn moments after the totals were announced, he declined to accept the party's nomination.

    Parker said he had learned from the state attorney general's office that his failure to file a portion of his campaign financing papers on time could not be overlooked or amended. ...

    I told you in the beginning I was no politician. I will stand on my principles; I take full responsibility for my actions. This is my fault and my fault alone. Unlike others, I will not cost the county I love so dearly one cent by fighting a lawsuit I can’t win.

    “I want to see the Republican Party get on with the business of running my party, the party of Reagan. Therefore, I cannot and will not accept the Republican Party’s nomination for associate commissioner. God bless America and God bless Cullman County,” Parker finished. -- Read the whole story --> Commission shocker » Top News », Cullman, Alabama

    June 14, 2010

    Alabama: Republican primary challenge based on campaign disclosures

    The Atmore Advance reports: A state Republican committee will meet Wednesday to review a primary election challenge from Jeff Peacock, who lost the state Senate District 22 primary to Danny Joyner.

    And according to state elections officials, there is little precedent on the issue involved in the challenge beyond what is in the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act.

    Peacock, an Atmore businessman and chairman of the Escambia County Republican Party, alleges that Joyner did not file proper financial disclosure forms with the secretary of state's office. Joyner has denied the allegations. ...

    According to the Fair Campaign Practices Act, the Alabama Secretary of State's office requires all candidates running for state senate to file paperwork should contributions including in-kind donations and expenditures of $10,000 or more. Peacock believes Joyner's spending exceeded that threshold, which prompted him to contest his June 1 primary loss this week, which has him losing to the Brewton businessman 4,979 to 4,761. Read the whole story --> The Atmore Advance » Peacock challenge leads to hearing

    May 28, 2010

    Alabama: GOP asks candidate for updated list of contributions

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: The Republican Party steering committee has asked Supreme Court GOP primary candidate Tracy Cary to disclose where his campaign got the money to buy a reported $650,000 in political advertising.

    Cary, challenging incumbent Justice Bill Bolin, filed a campaign finance waiver with the secretary of state?s office on Monday. The waiver states that Cary had not met the minimum threshold of contributions requiring him to itemize contributions.

    Bolin?s campaign said Cary bought $650,000 worth of television advertising that started airing this week.

    GOP chairman Mike Hubbard said Thursday he asked Cary to disclose his funding with an amended pre-primary report. Read the whole article --> GOP wants candidate to reveal contributions? source |

    April 29, 2010

    Texas: DeLay's trial delayed no longer

    TPMMuckraker reports: Five years after he was charged with conspiracy and money laundering in an alleged scheme to funnel corporate money into the 2002 Texas elections, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay may soon stand trial after a ruling by a state appeals court cleared perhaps the final remaining obstacles in the case. ...

    DeLay and the two other men allegedly raised $190,000 in corporate money in Texas through a fundraising committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and sent it the Republican National Committee, which in turn distributed the money to candidates in Texas, where corporate donations are banned.

    Overturning a lower court Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in a case brought by DeLay's two co-defendants, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, clearing the way for the case to move forward. Read the whole story --> DeLay Money Laundering Case May Finally Be Headed To Trial | TPMMuckraker

    April 28, 2010

    Alabama: Candidate, indicted for failure to file campaign report, claims others did it too

    The Talladega Daily Home reports: A city schools board member was recently indicted on charges of campaign form violations.

    But several other officials, including candidates for Alabama governor and state school board members, may have made one of the same violations.

    Troy "Skip" Smithwick was charged January 29 with failure to file annual campaign contribution reports and improper reporting of contributions. Both charges are Class B misdemeanors under state law.

    Smithwick's attorney, Rod Giddens, has filed motions on his behalf to dismiss the claims based on "selective prosecution." Read the whole story including names of late filers --> The Daily Home - Smithwick defends allegations

    March 21, 2010

    A better money-politics tool

    From the website:, the award-winning nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization dedicated to illuminating the connection between money and politics, has launched a new web site which shines the light of transparency and accountability in powerful ways as never before.

    The new site is being launched during Sunshine Week, a nonpartisan, national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. users will find on the new site robust tools to

    * illuminate how money aligns with votes
    * reveal data on individual legislators and how much money they have received from industry and organizations
    * expose specific contributions to persons, by parties, by committee, and within date ranges

    and important and vital features including

    * a new U.S. Congress research blog
    * a powerful search engine
    -- New Web Site Reveals Money and Politics Links in New Ways | - Money and Politics

    March 20, 2010

    Money & politics -- a new resource

    GovTrack Insider reports: A long-stand­ing con­sti­tu­tion­al de­bate, dat­ing to at least the 1960s in its cur­rent form, resur­faced Tues­day af­ter­noon in the House Ju­di­cia­ry Com­mit­tee’s Sub­com­mit­tee on the Con­sti­tu­tion, Civil Rights and Civil Lib­er­ties. Do states’ rights su­per­sede the im­per­a­tive for sub­stan­tive equal pro­tec­tion under the law? Fol­low­ing the Civil Rights move­ment, it has been gen­er­al­ly ac­cept­ed that civil rights are more im­por­tant in all but con­ser­va­tive ac­tivist cir­cles. But when ap­plied to laws deny­ing the vote to ex-of­fend­ers, the issue has not been so sim­ple.

    The back­drop for this de­bate was a new bill in­tro­duced by Ju­di­cia­ry Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rep. John Cony­ers, H.R. 3335: Democ­ra­cy Restora­tion Act of 2009 (“to se­cure the Fed­er­al vot­ing rights of per­sons who have been re­leased from in­car­cer­a­tion”). Since Congress is un­der­stood to have gen­er­al ju­ris­dic­tion to be able to set the guide­lines for the elec­tion of fed­er­al can­di­dates, it nat­u­ral­ly can pre­vent states from plac­ing ob­sta­cles to vot­ing de­signed to dis­en­fran­chise a par­tic­u­lar racial, eth­nic, or eco­nom­ic group.

    The ef­fect of state laws deny­ing vot­ing rights to ex-felons is dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly harm­ful to African-Amer­i­cans, said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA3). Scott, a co-spon­sor of the bill, chaired the sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing (in the place of long­time New York City Rep. Jer­rold Nadler (D-NY8), who did not at­tend for rea­sons not open­ly ev­i­dent). Scott added that such ef­fects are so detri­men­tal as to ef­fec­tive­ly dis­en­fran­chise en­tire African-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties. In­deed, ac­cord­ing to Scott, the amount of African-Amer­i­cans with­out the right to vote is seven times the av­er­age for Cau­casians. -- Read the whole article --> H.R. 3335 addresses one person one ... - GovTrack Insider

    February 23, 2010

    5 national party committees sued for return of Allen Stanford contributions

    Peter Overby reports on All Things Considered: A court-appointed officer in Dallas has sued national party committees, both Democratic and Republican, to recover campaign contributions from indicted financier R. Allen Stanford. The money at stake totals $1.6 million.

    The officer, known as a receiver, says the money belongs to investors who were allegedly defrauded by Stanford. The disgraced financier is accused of using their money in a Ponzi scheme instead of investing it. ...

    The SEC froze Stanford's assets a year ago, well before the Justice Department indicted him. The SEC also asked the federal district court in Dallas to appoint the receiver, who's responsible for recovering other money that Stanford had thrown around in his high-flying lifestyle. -- Read or listen to the whole story --> Courts Seek To Recover Stanford's Political Pledges : NPR

    February 2, 2010

    Alabama: grand jury indicts candidate for late campaign disclosure and false statement on form

    The Daily Home reports: City Schools Board Member Troy ?Skip? Smithwick was indicted on two counts relating to campaign contributions by a Talladega County Grand Jury.

    A spokesperson for the Talladega County Sheriff?s Department said Smithwick was charged on Friday and released on a $5,000 bond. The two charges were failure to file annual reports and improper reporting of contributions.

    Both charges are Class B misdemeanors under state law.

    The indictment stems from an investigation into contribution forms submitted by Smithwick during a 2008 campaign. That year, he ran in the Republican primary for the District 3 State School Board seat.

    Under state law, all candidates are required to submit their annual contribution reports no later than Jan. 31 of the following year. Smithwick?s final report was dated as received Oct. 6, 2009, by the Secretary of State. -- Read the whole story --> The Daily Home - Grand jury indicts BOE member Misdemeanor charges stem from failure to file campaign forms

    January 21, 2010

    Citizens United v. FEC

    The Supreme Court has overturned the prohibition on corporate money in campaigns, holding that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as people do. They did not strike down the requirement of reporting those contributions.

    The opinions in the case run 176 pages. It will take a while to digest it all. In the meanwhile, the opinion is here:, in case you want to read it yourself.

    January 14, 2010

    Alabama: Parker Griffith will not return pre-election campaign donations

    The Huntsville Times reports: U.S. Rep Parker Griffith neglected to mention the fine print attached to his seemingly broad offer to refund campaign contributions.

    Griffith, who switched from the Democratic to the Republican party Dec. 22, initially said he'd return the campaign cash of disappointed supporters. The next day he excluded money spent on his behalf by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

    But this week many supporters who asked for their money back were surprised to be turned away with a form e-mail, which says that the money given in 2008 has long since been spent. There could be no refund. - Read the whole story at --> Griffith won't return some donations -

    January 13, 2010

    Alabama House committee reviews 4 election bills today

    Four bills are up for hearing today in the Alabama House Committee on Constitution and Elections:

    HB 30 -- Elections, overseas absentee voting, Electronic Overseas Voting Advisory Committee, established to advise whether secure electronic means of voting available, duties of absentee election manager, overseas voter certificate required, Secretary of State to implement rules

    HB 85 -- Campaign contributions, PAC to PAC transfers, prohibited, Sec. 17-5-15 am'd.

    HB 129 -- Electioneering communications and paid political advertising, disclosure of source of funding required, exceptions, contributions by political committees further provided for, Secs. 17-5-2, 17-5-8, 17-5-12 am'd.; Act 2009-751, 2009 Reg. Sess. am'd.

    HB 145 -- Elections, write-in candidates, registration with judge of probate or Secretary of State prior to election required, compliance with Fair Campaign Practices Act and State Ethics Law required, Sec. 17-6-28 am'd

    Note -- to view the Alison system, you must be using Internet Explorer or the IE Tab add-on to Firefox.

    December 25, 2009

    Alabama; 2 GOP reps to introduce bills to reform campaign finance

    The Huntsville Times reports: Campaign reporting by public officials included in package

    Two area Republican legislators said Wednesday they will sponsor a package of bills in the 2010 session aimed at raising the bar of transparency in state government and elections, and among public officials. ...

    The bills included in the package would: ...

    Ban transfers among political action committees and also among principal campaign committees.

    Require campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state to include the occupation and employer of donors giving $100 or more to a campaign.

    Require last-minute campaign contributions be electronically filed with the secretary of state's office for public disclosure immediately before an election. The legislation would also require all campaign and PAC reports to be included in a searchable database available to the public via the Internet. ...

    Ban candidates who fail to file campaign finance reports from seeking office again. -- Read the whole article --> Orr, Ball to sponsor reform bills -

    December 23, 2009

    California: somehow pols are evading the campaign finance laws. Who'd a thunk it?

    From a press release of the Center for Governmental Studies: Loopholes, Tricks and End Runs: Evasions of Campaign Finance Laws, and a Model Law to Block Them, a new report issued today by the Center for Governmental Studies (CGS), concludes that while many campaign finance reforms have taken some of the negative influences of money out of electoral and governmental processes, they have been undermined by “loopholes” in existing laws that have allowed candidates and elected officials to raise money far in excess of existing contribution limits.

    Loopholes, Tricks and End Runs describes “legal defense funds,” “charitable fundraising,” “political party fundraising,” “reimbursed travel,” “candidate-controlled ballot measure committees” and other devices that politicians use to collect large, and often undisclosed, payments from moneyed donors. The report recommends a comprehensive a model law to plug these loopholes and control the flow of money into politics.

    Current campaign finance laws assume that these types of payments to candidates and elected officials are substantively different from the money politicians receive through regulated campaign committees, that they don’t unduly influence their recipients, and that they can be made in addition to the limits placed on normal campaign contributions.

    November 19, 2009

    California: ACRU defending Edwards-backer in campaign-finance prosecution

    TPM Muckraker reports: A heavy-hitting group of conservative lawyers led by Ken Starr and Ed Meese is jumping to the defense of a Democratic trial lawyer and major John Edwards backer. ...

    To explain: The American Civil Rights Union -- a conservative legal organization whose policy board counts Starr and Meese, and several other prominent right-wing lawyers as members -- has filed an amicus brief in a key campaign-finance case.

    Pierce O'Donnell, a high-profile Los Angeles trial lawyer, is charged with reimbursing employees of his law firm for contributions to Edwards's 2004 presidential bid, in violation of campaign-finance law. A judge ruled in O'Donnell's favor this summer, finding that the law under which O'Donnell had been charged did not explicitly prohibit reimbursing donors, but the case is now on appeal.

    The ACRU says its concern is simply one of proper legal procedure. In its brief, the group argues that the government tried O'Donnell under the wrong statute -- one which doesn't cover his actions -- and therefore that convicting him "would transgress the fundamental rights and liberties of American citizens, as in a rogue, authoritarian state, rather than an enlightened liberal society." -- Read the whole story --> Strange Bedfellows: To Weaken Campaign-Finance Law, Starr's Group Defends Edwards Backer | TPMMuckraker

    October 13, 2009

    State Board of Education: losing candidate files final report 9 months late

    The Talladega Daily Home reports: [Sylacauga] City School Board member Skip Smithwick filed his final report on campaign contributions Oct. 6, after questions arose from a member of the state Board of Education.

    Smithwick, a member of the City Schools BOE for nine years, ran in the Republican primary for the District 3 state school board seat in 2008. He was defeated by incumbent Stephanie Bell.

    Betty Peters, the board?s District 2 representative, asked state Attorney General Troy King in August to investigate Smithwick?s campaign finance reports, according to The Dothan Eagle.

    Donations totaling around $52,000 had not been reported. The previous report Smithwick had filed in May 2008 showed donations totaling approximately $253,000. -- Read the whole story --> The Daily Home

    September 24, 2009

    Alabama: lawsuit over 2008 Cedar Bluff election

    The Gadsden Times reports: A new lawsuit relating to the 2008 Cedar Bluff municipal elections was filed Wednesday in the Circuit Court of Cherokee County.

    The suit, filed by Evan Smith, is a complaint for declaratory, injunctive and other relief in regard to the fact that three of the candidates in the August 2008 election have not yet filed their financial reports (contributions and expenses) for 2008.

    The Fair Campaign Practices Act (Title 17-5 of the Alabama Code) requires a candidate to file an annual report listing donors who contribute more than $100 to the candidate’s campaign, the names of persons to whom expenditures more than $100 have been made, the grand total of receipts for the campaign during the year, the grand total of expenses during the year, the amount and nature of debts and obligations owed and how they were extinguished. -- Read the full article at --> Lawsuit related to 2008 Cedar Bluff elections filed

    September 6, 2009

    Alabama: "Large chunks of Birmingham city council campaign cash untraceable"

    The Birmingham News reports: Large chunks of campaign cash contributed to Birmingham City Council candidates are untraceable because the contributing political action committees haven't filed either campaign disclosure forms or organizational papers, an apparent violation of Alabama's Fair Campaign Practices Act.

    In other cases, the source of the money that fueled city races can't be determined because the cash was transferred among PACs before being given to candidates, a Birmingham News review of financial disclosure forms shows.

    The biggest PAC contributor to council candidates was former Mayor Richard Arrington's JENNRO PAC, the review found. Other major contributors included bingo interests and the people and groups associated with Business Alliance for Responsible Development.

    Among the PACs that contributed to council races but that did not file paperwork allowing the source of the money to be tracked was New Generation PAC.

    The group is listed as having contributed $15,000 to Sheila Tyson's campaign and $6,000 to Ernestine G. Williams' campaign. That's more than half of the total Tyson raised and more than 90 percent of Williams' campaign total. -- Read the whole story --> Large chunks of Birmingham city council campaign cash untraceable - Stories from The Birmingham News -

    September 1, 2009

    Alabama: Winning candidate calls on AG to investigate loser

    The Dothan Eagle reports: Betty Peters believes that if you’re going to get something done, you’ve got to take it to the top.

    The district 2 state school board member did just that last night, calling on Alabama Attorney General Troy King to investigate what she labeled as wrongdoing by a candidate for the district 3 state school board seat in last year’s election.

    Peters said that Skip Smithwick, who ran for Stephanie Bell’s seat, has not properly filled out campaign finance reports detailing from where he received all of his campaign contributions.

    According to Smithwick’s latest filing, filed in June 2008, Smithwick reported donations totalling about $235,000.

    Not reported on Smithwick’s filing are donations from some political action commitees, including a $31,000 contribution from The Environmental Campaign Fund, a $15,000 contribution from the Arbor Committee , a $5,000 contribution from the Fund for Alabama’s Children and Education and a $100,000 contribution from the Real Democrat PAC. The PACs listed their donations to Smithwick as required in their filings with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. -- Read the whole story --> State school board member calls on AG to investigate campaign finance

    May 16, 2009

    Alabama: PAC-to-PAC transfer bill dies after effort to tack on anti-Artur Davis provision

    The Birmingham News reports: Legislation aimed at helping soldiers overseas vote electronically in elections died Friday after the Senate added an unrelated provision to prohibit a federal campaign from giving to a state race.

    Secretary of State Beth Chapman said "political games" killed the bill. ...

    The House passed the military voting bill, but the Senate on April 30 added language that would prohibit a federal candidate or officeholder from transferring funds to a state campaign for office. Doing so would be a violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act, senators wrote.

    Chapman and legislators said Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, made the change to the bill. Several legislators said they thought the change was aimed at stopping U.S. Rep Artur Davis from transferring his federal campaign money to his state race for governor. -- Military voting bill dies on final night of session; Chapman says politics killed it -

    May 15, 2009

    Alabama: prosecutors did not charge Sen. McClain with misuse of campaign funds, but want to enhance his corruption sentence any way

    The Birmingham News reports: Federal prosecutors today will ask a judge to sentence former state Sen. E.B. McClain to 17½ years in prison.

    A lengthy prison sentence is warranted, prosecutors say, because McClain has a penchant for breaking the law for personal gain, a claim they plan to back up by introducing evidence of illegal conduct for which McClain has not been charged. The sentence is also needed to send a stern message that public corruption won't be tolerated, they say. ...

    From 2001 to 2007, McClain routinely broke state law by taking campaign funds for personal use, according to the sentencing memo. According to prosecutors, McClain:

    Either transferred or deposited directly at least $85,000 in campaign funds into his personal account, then used those funds to pay personal expenses.

    Made at least 26 ATM cash withdrawals from a campaign fund totaling $8,500 and used the money at dog tracks and casinos in Alabama and Mississippi.

    Used more than $14,000 in campaign funds to buy furniture and appliances and to make mortgage payments. He also made $4,400 in ATM cash withdrawals on another occasion. It's unclear what that money was used for. -- Federal prosecutors seek to sentence former state Sen. E.B. McClain to 17½ years and the Rev. Samuel Pettagrue to 14 years - Page 2 -

    April 25, 2009

    Alabama: Sparks accuses Davis of violating state campaign law by using congressional fundraising for gubernatorial campaign

    The TimesDaily reports: Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks said Friday that U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, of Birmingham, broke campaign finance laws for using money from congressional fundraisers for his gubernatorial bid before June 1.

    June 1 is the first day candidates can legally begin raising campaign money.

    Davis and Sparks have both said they running for governor in 2010.

    "He has broken the law; he violated the law," Sparks said in an interview. "How can you run around having congressional fundraisers, not filing with the secretary of state and handing the money over to your campaign, and he's the guy coming out talking about ethics?"

    Davis campaign spokeswoman Anna Ruth Williams said Davis stopped congressional fundraising and filed his campaign papers with the secretary of state last week as soon as he realized his campaign had passed the $25,000 spending threshold that mandates filing. -- Sparks says Davis broke finance rules | | The Times Daily | Florence, AL

    April 12, 2009

    Scotland: SNP considering fundraising at funerals

    The Sunday Herald reports: THE SNP has been accused of "grave robbing" after the party put forward a "macabre" plan for fundraising at funerals. Nationalist bosses are asking grieving relatives if they can place envelopes on seats at memorial services for the purpose of raising cash for the party. Opposition parties have condemned the proposal. ...

    This builds on the party's existing fundraising policy of encouraging members to leave cash to the SNP in their wills by calling on activists to leave "In memory" gifts.

    One of the fundraising methods allows friends and family to celebrate "the life of a loved one" by donating money to the SNP.

    However, the strategy goes further by identifying mourners at funerals as potential contributors to the Nationalist cause. The blurb states: "If you are arranging a funeral or memorial service for a loved one, you may wish to ask friends and relatives to donate to charity instead of buying flowers.

    "If you wish to collect for the SNP in this way we can provide you with envelopes that can be handed out or left on seats at the service. Most funeral directors will be happy to assist with this and we can send information directly to them." -- Snp Under Fire Over Macabre Plan For Fundraising Funerals (from Sunday Herald)

    April 11, 2009

    "Visualizing Contributions to the 110th Congress"

    Usually, I quote a little portion of the article, but these are primarily visual, so I will just give you the links.

    Visualizing Contributions to the 110th Congress — The House Edition

    Visualizing Contributions to the 110th Congress—House Edition (Take 2)

    Visualizing the Campaign Contributions to Senators in the 110th Congress — The TARP EDITION

    April 10, 2009

    Texas: Rep. Barton's campaign fund lost $703k in stock market

    CQ Politics reports: Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton ’s campaign reported losing $703,500 in the financial markets last year.

    A large chunk of those stock market losses — $196,900 — were in shares of four companies that have a stake in the bills handled by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where Barton is the top Republican.

    Barton is one of a handful of House members whose campaign accounts are heavily invested in stock and bond markets, and, like many other investors, his campaign savings took a pounding when the stock market crashed. ...

    It is legal for lawmakers to invest campaign money, and House conflict-of-interest rules do not apply to campaign holdings.

    But the confluence of Barton’s legislative jurisdiction and campaign assets raises questions about the propriety of the arrangement. -- Campaign of Energy Leader Lost $700,000 in Markets

    April 9, 2009

    Free public access to coming soon

    The Center for Responsive Politics announces: If you're a dataphile who hasn't been able to get enough of, make sure your champagne glasses are full as you read on. For the first time in CRP's 26-year history as Washington's premier money-in-politics watchdog, we're making our most popular data archives fully available to the public for download -- for FREE. Starting next week, we'll be putting our vast data on campaign finance, lobbying and the personal finances of lawmakers in more hands, with the expectation that more people counting cash will lead to more people making change. We expect all sorts of mashups, maps and other cool projects to result from this new capability, which has been graciously underwritten by the Sunlight Foundation. Stay tuned for details about how to use this data, and be prepared to dive in!

    February 25, 2009

    House to take up proposal for study of earmarks and contributions

    Peter Overby reports on Morning Edition: On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to take up a spending package that covers most of the government and is loaded with earmarks, special provisions targeting money for particular projects, places or companies in members' districts. At the same time, lawmakers also will consider a resolution on investigating the links between earmarks and campaign contributions.

    The ethics resolution comes from Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, who has become one of the chamber's most ardent critics of earmarks. "This is not a partisan resolution because this is not a partisan issue. I would implore my colleagues not to treat it as such," he said. -- House Lawmakers Ponder Pork And Campaign Cash : NPR

    February 13, 2009

    Alabama: House again passes bill banning PAC-to-PAC transfers

    The Birmingham News reports: The Alabama House of Representatives, for the eighth consecutive year, approved legislation Thursday to ban political action committees from shuffling money to obscure the source of campaign contributions.

    The House voted 98-0 for the bill banning PAC-to-PAC transfers. The bill now moves to the Alabama Senate, where many years it has died without coming up for a vote. The Senate passed a version of the ban last year, but the bills died in a conference committee. ...

    McLaughlin's two-page bill would make it illegal for a political action committee to give money to another political action committee. PACs could give only to principal campaign committees. -- Alabama House again approves PAC transfer ban -

    Note: The bill, HB 154, may be downloaded here.

    February 11, 2009

    Kentucky: Senate committee approves campaign finance bill

    The Fort Mills Times reports: A Kentucky Senate panel has approved a plan that would require candidates for statewide office to report campaign contributions more frequently around an election.

    The proposal by Republican State Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown would require statewide candidates to file a campaign finance report with the state 60 days before general and primary elections. The proposal also would require candidates for statewide office to file electronic financial reports to the state.

    Currently, candidates only have to report their financial contributions 32 and 15 days before an election. -- Fort Mill Times | - Senate panel approves campaign finance requirement - Fort Mill, SC

    February 10, 2009

    Maryland: Steele defends payment to dissolved company

    The Washington Post reports: Michael S. Steele, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, said yesterday that there was nothing improper in a payment of more than $37,000 to his sister's company for work on his 2006 Senate campaign and that he would work with the FBI "to clear up my good name." ...

    Campaign records indicate that $37,262 paid to Brown Sugar Unlimited covered catering and Web services. But it came 11 months after Turner, a pediatrician who lives in Potomac, had legally dissolved the company.

    In the ABC interview, Steele said that not paying his sister for her work would have been a violation of campaign finance law. He criticized The Post for publishing a story where "there is no story" and said he provided receipts to prove the expenses were legitimate. On Friday, a spokesman for Steele provided a receipt for catering costs totaling almost $15,000 for two events, about half the total. The spokesman said they were searching for receipts to document the rest.

    When asked about the timing of the payment, after Turner had dissolved the company, Steele told host George Stephanopoulos:

    "That, I don't know about. What I do know about is the fact that, as she understood it, the company was still in existence. Her lawyers were telling her they were in the process of dissolving the company, so at the time when the checks were written back to her to reimburse her, she just said, 'Go ahead and write the checks to the company,' because the company had, you know, done the services that were provided." -- Steele Defends Payment to Sister -

    Senate nears passage of electronic filing of campaign reports

    The Hill reports: After years of delay, the Senate moved closer to considering a measure that would require senators to file their campaign finance reports electronically, an action transparency advocates hail as bringing the upper chamber into the 21st century.

    Thanks to an expanded Democratic majority and signals from several Republicans that they are willing to back the legislation, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act will likely get a swift hearing and pass the chamber with more than the 60 votes required to cut off debate. -- - Senate bill would mandate electronic filing of reports

    January 31, 2009

    Alabama: most expensive judicial race in the country

    The Birmingham News reports: A spending surge the week before the Nov. 4 election helped paste a $5.3 million final price tag on the Alabama Supreme Court race, making it the nation's most expensive in 2008, according to new campaign disclosures and watchdog groups.

    Republican Greg Shaw, Democrat Deborah Bell Paseur and a third-party group spent nearly $850,000 during the last week of the campaign to buy airtime for ads, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

    Total candidate spending was nearly $4.3 million - $2.5 million by Paseur and $1.8 million by Shaw, according to state campaign disclosures, including final accountings filed this week. Third-party groups spent at least $1 million more. ...

    Shaw, Paseur and the Virginia-based Center for Individual Freedom spent about $4 million on TV ads, according to disclosure forms and the Brennan Center, which tracks the influence of politics on the judiciary. That paid for nearly 11,000 ad spots, the Brennan Center said. -- Alabama high court race again garners most expensive pricetag in U.S. -

    January 30, 2009

    Illinois: can Blago use campaign bucks for legal defense?

    The National Law Journal reports: Federal criminal corruption charges lodged against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich have highlighted a gray area in the state's laws: whether the state's top executive can use campaign contributions for his legal defense fees.

    Illinois State Board of Elections officials say there's no state law that bars spending the funds on legal fees because it's not in a list of prohibited personal uses. Still, the board has never taken a stance on the issue and could come down on either side if a complaint were filed, said Steven Sandvoss, general counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections.

    "You would have to determine whether or not this is personal or related to his serving as a public official," Sandvoss said.

    The issue has cropped up in Illinois in the past and emerged as an issue in other states that have grappled with criminal wrongdoing by elected officials. New York and New Jersey have bills pending in their legislatures that would stop public officials charged with crimes from using campaign contributions for legal defense. -- - Can Blagojevich Use Campaign Contributions for His Legal Defense?

    January 15, 2009

    Alabama: 2 teachers claim NEA forced them to contribute to Obama

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: Two Daphne Middle School educators allege in a complaint filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission that their teachers union illegally funneled funds to a political action committee, and ultimately forced them to contribute to President-elect Barack Obama's campaign, according to the document.

    The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a nonprofit based in Springfield, Va., that joined and filed the complaint on behalf of the educators, asked the FEC in Washington to investigate a "union scheme" that seeks to divert members' money to the National Education Association's political action committee, according to the complaint. The Right to Work Foundation provides free legal aid to employees who feel that a union violated their human or civil rights, according to the agency's Web site.

    Robert Chanin, general counsel for the National Education Association in Washington, said he hasn't seen the complaint yet, but his office will represent the local and state affiliates. Generally, officials receive instruction in federal law compliance, he said. Chanin said he believes a review of the facts will prove the association followed the law, as has been the case in previous challenges. ...

    Daphne Middle School Assistant Principal Jeanne Fox and eighth-grade science teacher Claire Waites allege in their complaint that after they were elected to serve as local delegates to the July National Education Association convention in Washington, they were forced to make a donation to the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education. -- Two Daphne educators say teachers union made them to contribute to Obama campaign -

    December 11, 2008

    New York: judge-elect accused of false campaign-finance reporting (court doc linked)

    New York Law Journal reports: Nora S. Anderson, 56, who is scheduled to become Manhattan surrogate on Jan. 1, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that she falsely reported $250,000 pumped into her campaign as her own money when in fact the funds came from Seth Rubenstein, the lawyer in whose office she has worked for the last nine years. (See the indictment.)

    Rubenstein, 81, a well known trust and estates lawyer based in Brooklyn, likewise pleaded not guilty to the same charges of making contributions above campaign spending limits and concealing the source of the contributions. ...

    Both Anderson and Rubenstein were charged in a 10-count indictment and face a maximum prison term of 1 1/3 to four years if convicted of any of the top six counts, all Class E felonies.

    Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau said the "crux of the case" is that the two sought to evade campaign spending limits that apply to Rubenstein as a contributor but not to Anderson as the candidate by making it appear that his contributions had in fact come from her. -- - Not Guilty Pleas Entered Over Judge-Elect's Campaign Contributions

    October 21, 2008

    Large donors have been giving to joint-fundraising committees

    The New York Times reports: Much of the attention on the record amounts of money coursing through the presidential race this year, including in Senator Barack Obama’s announcement on Sunday of his $150 million fund-raising haul in September, has focused on the explosion of small donors.

    But there has been another proliferation on the national fund-raising landscape that was not fully apparent until the latest campaign finance reports were filed last week: people who have given tens of thousands of dollars at a time to help the candidates.

    Enabled by the fine print in campaign finance laws, they have written checks that far exceed normal individual contribution limits to candidates, to joint fund-raising committees that benefit the candidates as well as their respective parties.

    Many of these large donors come from industries with interests in Washington. A New York Times analysis of donors who wrote checks of $25,000 or more to the candidates’ main joint fund-raising committees found, for example, the biggest portion of money for both candidates came from the securities and investments industry, including executives at various firms embroiled in the recent financial crisis like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG. -- In Fine Print, a Proliferation of Large Donors

    October 9, 2008

    Money makes the world go around -- or at least national politics

    Ellen Miller writes on the Sunlight Foundation blog: Wonder just how Wall Street has become so influential on Capitol Hill that it can command the attention of the federal government from the President on down? The answer isn’t only in how gyrations in the stock market may affect the real economy. The answer is revealed by the fact that the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) industries that collectively are at the center of the current crisis are the single largest sector–by far–of all the major economic and interest groupings that give campaign contributions to federal politicians.

    Our friends at the Center for Responsive Politics have been keeping track since 1990, and their data tells a compelling story. What you see is a new way of actually picturing the role of FIRE in relation to all these other sectors, and also in terms of how money from FIRE has tilted to one political party and then the other. You can click on the chart, which was built using Google’s Motion Chart tool, layered on top of a simple spreadsheet, and mouse over the colored circle to drill down on the data. First, we recommend you watch this explanatory screencast by our very own Larry Makinson.

    -- Finance Industry Giving Visualized

    After you watch the blurry video, follow the link above to play with the chart yourself.

    Hat tip to Concurring Opinions for the link (and some pretty interesting commentary).

    October 7, 2008

    Ticket-scalping for a political event is even more illegal

    The Caucus blog of the New York Times reports: Looking for spare tickets to that joint concert on Oct. 16 by Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel for Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign? Beware. ...

    So is it legal to resell tickets to a political fund-raiser? It depends. If the tickets on the resale sites are from individuals — as are many of the tickets on Ticketnetwork, said its chief executive, Don Vaccaro — then in most cases it should be O.K.

    But Kenneth A. Gross, a campaign finance lawyer with Skadden, Arps, said it would be a problem if a corporation, like a ticket brokerage, bought the ticket, or if one of its employees bought the ticket and was reimbursed by the company or someone else. This would be an illegal corporate donation, or a donation made in the name of someone else, which is also prohibited. -- Paying Extra to See a Show

    October 6, 2008

    GOP to file FEC complaint over donations

    The New York Times reports: The Republican National Committee plans to file a complaint on Monday against Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign raising questions about the legitimacy of its small contributions and donations from overseas.

    Republican officials are demanding the Federal Election Commission conduct a full audit of the Obama campaign’s donations, although it appears that no action would be taken, even if the commission found merit in the complaint, until after the November election.

    The Obama campaign has been powered in large part by small-dollar contributions, with donations of $200 or less accounting for more than $220 million of the record-breaking $450 million it has collected so far.

    But such donations do not have to be itemized in reporting to the election commission unless the donor’s total contributions exceed $200. The lack of information on such donors has been highlighted by watchdog groups as potentially troublesome. The groups have also praised the campaign of Senator John McCain for offering on its Web site a tool that allows a search of all of its donors, including those who gave less than $200. -- G.O.P. to File Complaint Over Donations

    September 30, 2008

    Alabama: GOP candidate seeks pledges to contribute, before state law allows fundraising

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James has mailed out a letter encouraging "pledges" of financial support to his campaign, eight months before state law says fundraising can begin.

    In a letter dated Aug. 20, the campaign says it is trying "to lay the groundwork early" for its 2010 campaign.

    "We are obtaining numerous pledges of support, including financial support to build the war chest that will be needed for the 2010 election cycles," the letter says. "However, no financial 'pledge' can or will be collected or paid prior to one year from the date of the 2010 general election." -- Tim James seeks 'pledges' before start of fundraising -

    August 15, 2008

    Texas: Justice Hecht defends against campaign-finance charge

    AP reports: Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht, appearing before the Texas Ethics Commission, defended himself Thursday against allegations he broke campaign finance laws by accepting discounted legal fees to fight an abuse of office complaint. ...

    Hecht was sanctioned in 2006 by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, which alleged that he had abused his office by promoting Harriet Miers for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Legal canons bar Texas judges from endorsing candidates for public office, but Hecht was able to get the sanction reversed on appeal by arguing that Miers was not running for elective office.

    In the process, Hecht racked up about $440,000 in legal fees. Hecht later told supporters that he had gotten a substantial discount on the fees from attorney Chip Babcock and his firm, Jackson Walker. But a liberal watchdog group, Texas Watch, said Hecht never properly reported a discount totaling about $100,000.

    The group filed a sworn complaint, saying the failure to report the cut-rate fees as a campaign gift constitutes a violation of state campaign finance laws. Texas Watch now wants the commission to fine the Republican judge up to $300,000. -- Supreme Court justice defends self at hearing | AP Texas News | - Houston Chronicle

    AFL-CIO files FEC complaint against Wal-Mart

    A New York Times report begins: The A.F.L.-C.I.O and three other pro-labor groups will urge the Federal Election Commission on Thursday to rule that Wal-Mart acted illegally by warning many store managers and department heads that a Democratic victory in November would hurt the company by helping workers unionize.

    The pro-labor groups plan to file a complaint with the commission on Thursday asserting that Wal-Mart warned so vigorously that the Democrats would enact pro-union legislation that the company had engaged in illegal express advocacy.

    The pro-labor organizations — including the Change to Win Federation, American Rights at Work and — argue that federal regulations make it legal for companies to engage in such political advocacy with high-level managers, but not with low-level managers like Wal-Mart’s department heads, who are often hourly employees. ...

    In their complaint, the four groups cite an article in The Wall Street Journal, which said that Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, was mobilizing its store managers and department heads around the country to warn that if the Democrats win, they are likely to enact a law that makes it easier for workers to unionize Wal-Mart and other companies. -- Groups to File Complaint Against Wal-Mart

    Jurist Paper Chase links to a copy of the complaint.

    August 8, 2008

    Two groups to call for probe of Hess Oil-related donations

    TPM Election Central reports: This is interesting: A good government group is set to ask the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into the two big McCain stories of recent days -- the bundled contributions from Hess executives, and the bundling by Harry Sargeant, the guy who raised cash for McCain from a host of unlikely donors.

    The request, which will be made on Monday by Campaign Money Watch, which first flagged the Hess story to us, raises at least the possibility that such a probe could be initiated during the campaign. Barring that, it could keep the stories going in the press a bit.

    David Donnelly of Campaign Money Watch confirms to me that they'll make the formal request on Monday, and MoveOn also is demanding a Federal probe in an email that just went out to supporters. Donnelly says that his group's request is being triggered by McCain's letter to the donors whose contributions had been bundled by Sargeant.

    Donnelly said that the letter, which advised the donors of the legal ins-and-outs of such contributions, didn't go far enough in trying to determine what had happened. -- TPM Election Central | Talking Points Memo | Group To Ask Justice Department To Probe McCain's Bundlers

    McCain returning contributions from bundler

    The Washington Post reports: Sen. John McCain's campaign is returning about $50,000 raised by a Florida oil executive because some of the funds were collected by a foreign national and came from donors who may not support the candidate, aides said yesterday. ...

    The decision to return the money follows a report in The Washington Post that found that Harry Sargeant III submitted a bundle of checks for $2,300 and $4,600 on a single day in March, all of them from donors in Southern California who had never given before this year's campaign and did not appear to be likely candidates to contribute as much as $18,400 per household.

    Although the contributions were credited to Sargeant, whose company has Defense Department contracts worth as much as $1.4 billion, the checks came from Americans of seemingly modest means.

    Donors included the manager of Riverside-area Taco Bell restaurants, a couple who at one time ran a liquor store in Colton and a Whittier auto mechanic. Sargeant, who runs the International Oil Trading Co., in Boca Raton, Fla., said he asked several friends and colleagues to gather the funds for McCain. He had done the same for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and for former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) during the primaries. -- McCain Campaign Returning $50,000 From Fla. Bundler -

    August 7, 2008

    Florida: a bundle(r) of questionable donations

    A New York Times article begins: The Jordanian business partner of a prominent Florida businessman, who has raised more than $500,000 for Senator John McCain, appears to be at the center of a cluster of questionable donations to his presidential campaign.

    Campaign finance records show Mr. McCain collected a little more than $50,000 in March from members of a single extended family, the Abdullahs, in California and several of their friends.

    Amid a sea of contributions to the McCain campaign, the Abdullahs stand out. The checks come not from the usual exclusive coastal addresses, but from relatively hardscrabble inland towns like Downey and Colton. The donations are also startling because of their size: several donors initially wrote checks of $9,200, exceeding the $2,300 limit for an individual gift.

    Making matters murkier, some couples in the family who contributed more than $9,000 to Mr. McCain also gave the maximum in December to either Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton or Rudolph W. Giuliani, or both, totaling in the case of at least one family more than $18,000. -- Family’s Donations to McCain Raise Questions

    August 5, 2008

    Montana: 9th Circuit argument on whether church must report under campaign finance law

    Religion Clause reports: The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday heard oral arguments in Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church v. Unsworth, a challenge to Montana's election campaign reporting laws. The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices had ruled that the church should have reported its support of activities in 2004 to get voters to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage. -- 9th Circuit Hears Church's Challenge To Montana Election Finance Reporting Law (The post has links to background information and the oral argument audio.)

    August 4, 2008

    "Should People's Political Donations Be Public?"

    Dan Solove writes on Concurring Opinions: Pursuant to the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), people's campaign contributions must be accessible to the public. I've long found this to be problematic when applied to the campaign contributions of individuals. Certainly, information must be reported to the government to ensure that campaign contribution limits aren't exceeded. But I don't know why it is the public's business to know what candidates I've given money to and how much. Go to Moneyline CQ or Fundrace2008 or and you can search for the campaign contributions of anyone. You can learn a person's address, occupation, and the amounts he/she contributed and to whom.

    I find this problematic for at least two reasons.

    1. I believe that the disclosure of people's campaign contributions violates the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects one's right to privacy in one's associations, and campaign contributions often reveal one's political party affiliation. ...

    2.Another problem with making the data so publicly accessible is that it facilitates abuse by employers or others who might discriminate against people because of their political views. -- Concurring Opinions

    West Virginia: Reform Institute files amicus brief on campaign contributions received by state-court justice from major campaign contributor

    From a press release of the Reform Institute: The skyrocketing sums being injected into elections for judgeships are undermining the judiciary. This disturbing trend is exemplified by the case of Caperton et al v. Massey Energy, which the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to review.

    In keeping with its commitment to fundamental governance and election reform, the Reform Institute has joined with the Brennan Center for Justice and the Campaign Legal Center today in filing an amicus brief in support of petitioners. As the brief states, “Amici share a concern that the injection of massive sums of money into judicial campaigns by litigants and lawyers, can, in certain circumstances, threaten the integrity, impartiality, and independence of the courts, and thereby deprive litigants appearing before those courts of due process of law.”

    The petitioners, led by former Solicitor General Ted Olson, argue that their Due Process rights were abridged because a West Virginia Supreme Court Justice refused to recuse himself from hearing the appeal of a $50 million jury verdict, even though the CEO of the company appealing the verdict contributed over $3 million to his campaign for the bench. The Justice, Brent Benjamin, ultimately was the deciding vote in overturning the verdict. As Mr. Olson remarked, “A line needs to be drawn somewhere to prevent a judge from hearing cases involving a person who has made massive campaign contributions to benefit the judge.”

    “This case perfectly illustrates how large contributions in judicial races can distort the judicial process, providing at the very least, the appearance of corruption,” according to Cecilia Martinez, Executive Director of the Reform Institute. “When litigants feel that they are at a disadvantage in court proceedings due to contributions to the presiding judge from the opposing party, respect for the rule of law suffers.” -- Massive Money in Judicial Elections a Threat to Due Process

    August 3, 2008

    Alabama: Cheney's receipts and expenses for the campaign trip to Birmingham

    Left in Alabama asks about the reported take from VP Cheney's campaign trip to Birmingham:
    Does that math work for you? 100 guests times $500 each equals $50,000. They only say that "several" paid $2000 per couple for the photo op. Several is a loose term, but I don t think it stretches to the 37 to 50 couples needed to make up the difference between that $50 000 and the "$125 000 to $150 000 raised." I have another question about the amount raised. Assuming Cheney really did bring in $125,000, is that gross or net ? Because there were some expenses, you know. Did Shoal Creek Country Club donate the space and the lunch? Surely the Republican Party had to pay for that out of the receipts. What about the Alabama state trooper escorting the motorcade or the Birmingham police and Jefferson County sheriff s deputies who blocked adjoining roads What about the cost of feeding Blue Moon barbeque to the 75 people who remained on Cheney s plane while he was at the Country Club? In fact, what about the cost of flying Cheney and that huge entourage down here for a fundraiser? -- Left In Alabama:: Cheney Visit - Does This Math Work For You?

    August 1, 2008

    "Overseas money flowing to presidential candidates"

    The Hill reports: Record amounts of overseas money are flowing into the presidential campaigns, and finance experts say there is no sure way to rule out that foreigners are making illegal donations.

    Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who spoke to an adoring crowd of 200,000 in Berlin last week, has already received twice as much money from abroad as President Bush and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) did together during the entire 2004 campaign.

    While only American citizens by law may donate to the campaigns, finance experts say it would not be that difficult to circumvent the safeguards that have been put into place to prevent foreigners from giving to U.S. presidential campaigns — if they are willing to make false statements and risk legal trouble in the U.S.

    “An individual can easily donate online and otherwise, and if they’re dishonest or overenthusiastic, they can lie about who they are and what their status is to make an unlawful contribution,” said Jan Baran, an elections and ethics lawyer with the firm Wiley Rein. -- - Overseas money flowing to presidential candidates

    At Wal-Mart, Halloween comes early -- the bad, scary Democrats

    The Wall Street Journal reports: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.

    In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized. ...

    Wal-Mart may be walking a fine legal line by holding meetings with its store department heads that link politics with a strong antiunion message. Federal election rules permit companies to advocate for specific political candidates to its executives, stockholders and salaried managers, but not to hourly employees. While store managers are on salary, department supervisors are hourly workers.

    However, employers have fairly broad leeway to disseminate information about candidates' voting records and positions on issues, according to Jan Baran, a Washington attorney and expert on election law. -- Wal-Mart Warns of Democratic Win -

    July 30, 2008

    Arizona: GOP accuses Dem candidate of reporting contributions too early

    The Arizona Republic reports: The Arizona Republican Party has accused Democrat Bob Lord of violating fundraising laws in a complaint to the Federal Election Commission.

    The complaint was filed last week and became public earlier this week.

    Lord, an attorney, is challenging seven-term Congressman John Shadegg in Congressional District 3. Lord has raised more than $1 million, far more than any previous Shadegg opponent.

    Randy Pullen, chairman of the Arizona Republicans, said in a letter to the commission that Lord apparently counted donations received after the June 30 reporting deadline as part of the funds raised by the deadline. Pullen said that violates the law. -- The rules of reporting funds at issue in Shadegg-Lord race

    July 22, 2008

    DSCC runs ads in a "gray area"

    The Hill reports: National Democrats are trying their luck with a series of candidate ads that inhabit a gray area of the law, and observers say the approach could be a game-changer in the continuing battle over campaign finance reform.

    In recent weeks the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has begun its 2008 ad campaign by funding issue ads that feature their candidates in Mississippi and Oregon and are coordinated with their campaigns.

    However, the ads don’t expressly ask viewers to vote for those candidates, and Democrats maintain that this loophole will allow them to spend lots more money on the television spots.

    Campaign finance regulations restrict the amount of money the DSCC can spend on coordinated efforts with a candidate’s campaign. But because the ads don’t ask viewers to vote for the candidates, Democrats contend that law doesn’t apply.

    Republicans argue the ads are illegal — or at the very least, unethical — and have filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The ads are also being judged in the court of public opinion, and the GOP has gained some traction with a media blitz. -- - DSCC pushes the envelope with issue ads featuring candidates

    Leadership PACs use most money for non-campaign activities

    Marketplace, the public radio program, is running a series this week on leadership PACs: Companies and unions have used political action committees to raise money for congressional candidates for years. Thirty years ago a couple of congressmen copied the idea with a view to raising money for their parties and political allies in tough election fights — and the Leadership PAC was born.

    Today, Leadership PACs are booming. Those who run them can accept bigger donations than they can to their election campaign funds. The donations typically are from lobbyists and other special interests.

    Marketplace identified almost 350 political action committees run by current and former members of congress, governors and unelected candidates. These PACs raised more than $400 million since 2000, but they gave away just $150 million to federal candidates' campaigns, according to Federal Election Commission reports. -- PAC Men

    July 21, 2008

    How to exceed the limit on campaign contributions

    Nate writes at The latest FEC filings reveal that Hillary Clinton's campaign owed more than $25 million in debt as of June 30. The problem is not quite as bad as that initial price tag would suggest, as about $13 million of the $25 million in debt is owed to Clinton herself. Under federal finance law, Clinton will not be able to recoup more than $250,000 of that money once the convention occurs and her campaign is officially terminated.

    Nevertheless, the other half of the debt -- about $12 million -- takes the form of accounts payable owed to individual vendors. A substantial amount of that ($5.3 million) is owed to Mark Penn's consulting firm, and another million-plus to other pollsters and consultants. But there are also more mundane sorts of expenses. Approximately $2.0 million is owed to event-staging companies such as caterers, equipment rental firms and lighting companies. Another $1.2 million is owed to printers, and $0.5 million to phone banking companies. Almost all of the companies in these categories are small businesses. The Clinton campaign also has about half a million dollars in unpaid phone bills owed to AT&T and Verizon, and $230,000 in uncompensated travel expenses to campaign staff.

    Clinton's obligations for paying off her debt are a little murky. In theory, all of her vendors -- yes, even Mark Penn -- are required to make a good-faith effort to collect their debts because otherwise this might constitute an illegal campaign contribution. Consider the following, for instance: Verizon allows the Clinton campaign to accumulate $300,000 in cellphone expenses, but lets the campaign know that it's not going to worry about the bills being paid. This is tantamount to Verizon donating $300,000 directly to the campaign, which is illegal under campaign finance law. -- Electoral Projections Done Right

    July 13, 2008

    Alabama: Many candidates violate Ethics Commission reporting requirement

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: About a quarter of the candidates who appeared on Mobile and Baldwin county primary election ballots in June broke rules on disclosing their financial interests, according to information from the Alabama Ethics Commission and party officials.

    Alabama law dictates that candidates who fail to submit that information on time be disqualified, and an incumbent on the Mobile County school board has been trying unsuccessfully to get his opponent booted from Tuesday's runoff ballot for filing the financial disclosure late.

    But errors with other candidates' filings went largely unnoticed and were the result of confusing and sometimes ambiguous rules governing statement of economic interests forms, said candidates, party officials and the head of the Ethics Commission. -- Election filing rules often broken-

    July 12, 2008

    The New York Times reports: The presidential campaigns of Senators Barack Obama and John McCain moved Friday to disclose more information to the public about their top fund-raisers, after it was disclosed that they had been lax in identifying many of them.

    Though not legally required, identifying elite fund-raisers who “bundle” millions of dollars in campaign contributions from acquaintances is a concern of watchdog groups devoted to promoting transparency and curbing the influence of money in politics.

    In a bit of one-upmanship, the McCain organization issued a letter Friday to a group of campaign finance watchdogs announcing that it would begin publishing on its Web site the names of all its fund-raisers who bring in $50,000 or more, instead of the $100,000 and $250,000 thresholds it had used before.

    The letter, signed by Rick Davis, the campaign’s manager, also said this list of bundlers would identify their occupations and employers, in addition to their home cities and states, which are already provided. Watchdogs say employment information is crucial to acquiring a sense of what a fund-raiser’s interests may be. -- Campaigns to Disclose More on Bundlers -

    July 11, 2008

    Slow disclosure of bundlers

    The New York Times reports: Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have long been among the most outspoken critics of the influence of money in politics.

    Yet records show that in their presidential campaigns, neither has lived up to his promise to fully disclose the identities of his top money collectors who bundle millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

    Since November, Mr. Obama had added just two new names to a list of 326 fund-raisers who have bundled contributions of $50,000 or more for him, despite the campaign’s taking in more than $180 million during that time. ...

    It is unclear how many bundlers might be missing from Mr. McCain’s list. He has enjoyed a surge in fund-raising in recent months, after struggling much of last year, and absorbed many former fund-raisers for Mitt Romney, Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Republican rivals who were not on his initial list.

    Brian Rogers, a spokesman for Mr. McCain, said on Thursday that staff members were in the process of updating their bundler list. He said he believed it was “reasonable” to expect the campaign would add to it “every couple months.” -- Candidates Are Slow to Identify ‘Bundlers’

    July 6, 2008

    Lack of Millionaire's amendment leaves some candidates scrambling for more donors

    The Washington Post reports: In summer 2003, an Illinois state senator used a new law to collect campaign contributions six times the normal limit for his insurgent U.S. Senate race against a multimillionaire securities trader.

    But last week the Supreme Court struck down that law, the Millionaire s Amendment, which helped launch the national political career of Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill. by leveling the financial playing field a bit. Writing for a 5 to 4 majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the law amounted to an unprecedented penalty on candidates such as Obama s opponent who want to exercise the First Amendment right to spend their own money in a run for office.

    House and Senate candidates who had counted on the same aid in taking on wealthy, self-financed opponents are now scrambling for help and advice. Six years after an overhaul of campaign finance law, they find themselves prohibited from accepting the same outsize donations that helped Obama, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman I-Conn. and others win their seats. ...

    In the first round of this summer's primary for Alabama's 2nd Congressional District, state Rep. Jay Love (R) donated $500,000 to his campaign. By waiting until May 20 to cross a self-financing threshold, he left his opponents less than two weeks to collect larger-than-normal donations.

    Now, because of the court's ruling, Love is free to spend unlimited amounts of his own money against state Sen. Harri Anne Smith in the July 15 GOP runoff. Smith's donors, meanwhile, must abide by campaign finance limits. -- Fundraising Ruling Prompts a Scramble -

    June 30, 2008

    Alabama: judicial candidates sues after disqualification

    The local NPR station reports that Ray Bryan has sued the Republican Party to keep the Party from decertifying his primary win. The latest story in the Anniston Star is behind a subscription firewall, but the Star reported a week ago: Local attorney Ray Bryan may not become circuit judge despite having won the June GOP primary election, according to state Republican Party officials.

    Alabama Republican Party Executive Director John Ross said the party's steering and candidates committee has moved to decertify Bryan, and plans to appoint a replacement, after he was late filing forms required by the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act. -- Bryan may lose judgeship over finance filings |

    June 13, 2008

    More bad news for the NRCC on the money front

    DailyKos quotes a report from Roll Call: The [National Republican Congressional] committee will need to hire an outside firm to conduct a standard audit of its books for 2007, and until that audit is complete, the NRCC will not be able to take out any bank loans to fund independent expenditure campaigns in late-breaking races ...

    The ability to obtain a line of credit, while standard practice for a national party committee, could be particularly important for the NRCC this fall. The committee had $6.7 million in cash on hand as of April 30 and has 30 open seats to defend and several incumbents being threatened by the cash-flush Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. -- Daily Kos: State of the Nation

    June 12, 2008

    NRCC lost $725k to treasurer's fruad

    The NY Times Caucus blog reports: A scheme by a former treasurer resulted in a loss of about $725,000 to the House Republicans’ campaign arm, according to an audit released today.

    Christopher J. Ward, long a trusted financial figure in Republican circles, funneled money belonging to the National Republican Congressional Committee and covered up his scheme by faking external audit reports between 2002 and 2006.

    Representative Michael K. Conaway of Texas, the new head of the N.R.C.C.’s audit committee discovered Mr. Ward’s actions in late January. After Mr. Ward repeatedly put off meetings with auditors, he admitted that no audits had been performed.

    An external audit has finally been performed, by Covington & Burling with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the N.R.C.C. released a summary of the findings today. -- NRCC Lost ,000 to Former Treasurer, Audit Finds - The Caucus - Politics - New York Times Blog

    June 7, 2008

    Lobbyist money welcomed at party conventions

    The New York Times reports: One of Senator Barack Obama’s first acts after claiming the Democratic nomination was declaring he would not take special-interest money for his presidential bid, even going so far as to bar lobbyists from donating to the Democratic National Committee.

    But there is one important area where special-interest money is flowing into the Democratic campaign effort — the millions of dollars being raised from corporations to finance the party’s convention in Denver.

    Elected Democratic officials have been calling on corporations — meeting with Wall Street executives and flying to San Diego, Philadelphia and Las Vegas — to raise the $40 million the party has budgeted for the convention, in August. In return, these Democratic officials are promising corporate donors “sponsor benefits packages” that include private sessions with federal officeholders and other influential party leaders.

    This search for cash comes as national party committees, like the D.N.C., are barred from soliciting or spending soft money, the unrestricted donations to political parties. But there is one major exception to these limits: the unlimited contributions from corporations and unions for the party’s convention. Even more, donations for the conventions, unlike other campaign contributions, are fully tax-deductible to corporations as a business expense. -- Candidates Forgo Soft Money; Conventions Don’t

    June 2, 2008

    Oklahoma: legislature bans lobbyist contributions during legislative session

    AP reports: The Oklahoma Legislature gave final approval on May 22 to a bill banning political contributions from lobbyists to legislators during and immediately after legislative sessions. The prohibition would apply to legislative incumbents and challengers alike.

    Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, introduced the measure, H.B. 2704, which passed the House, 90-6. The Senate later approved it, 47-0. Gov. Brad Henry is expected to sign it.

    This is a giant step forward for clean and open government, Dank said. It puts some important distance between giving money and passing legislation. We have succeeded in separating the lawmaking process from campaign cash.

    He said it would stop the practice of lobbyists handing out $5,000 checks on Monday before action on legislation in which they are interested on Tuesday. Under the measure, lawmakers could not accept campaign cash from lobbyists or the companies or organizations they work for from the beginning of the legislative session until five days after adjournment. -- news

    Michigan: Feiger acquitted on campaign-contribution charges

    The Detroit Free Press reports: Southfield lawyer Geoffrey Fieger and his law partspener Vernon (Ven) Johnson were acquitted by a federal jury in Detroit today of illegally contributing more than $100,000 to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.

    The defendants smiled after the verdicts were announced following 20 hours of deliberations over four days and a 20-day trial.

    “I’m very pleased with the American system and the jury. I thank the jury for listening. I hope this puts an end to political prosecutions in the age of Mr. Bush,” Fieger said.

    Feiger was facing a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison had he been convicted of obstruction of justice, along with certain loss of his law license. Both Feiger and Johnson would have faced a maximum of 5 years for the other charges. -- Fieger, law partner acquitted of illegal political donations

    Tax-exempt group close to McCain just happens to run ads supporting his position

    The Washington Post reports: For weeks, Republican presidential candidate John McCain had been hammered for supporting the Air Force's February decision to award a $40 billion contract for refueling tankers to Northrop Grumman and its European partner. Democrats, labor unions and others blamed the senator for a deal they say could move tens of thousands of jobs abroad.

    McCain's advisers wanted to strike back against key Democratic critics. But they did not mount an expensive advertising campaign to defend the candidate's position. They called a tax-exempt nonprofit closely aligned with the senator from Arizona, seeking information and help.

    Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) partnered with Northrop and one of its consultants to produce a vitriolic advertising campaign defending the tanker deal. ...

    The McCain campaign said that it did not coordinate with CAGW on the group's ads about the tanker deal and that Swindle played no role in initiating the attack on Northrop's opponents. "One campaign staffer called CAGW to ask for information about what CAGW had said in the past on the issue, and was told that CAGW had a policy of not talking to the campaign. That was the end of the conversation," spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said in a statement. -- McCain Campaign Calls; A Nonprofit Steps In -

    May 27, 2008

    Embezzlement a problem for campaign committees

    The New York Times reports: In Republican circles, Christopher J. Ward was the go-to guy for politicians who needed help managing their campaign finances. As a staff member at the National Republican Congressional Committee and its treasurer since 2003, Mr. Ward was so valued that more than $360 million in donations to the committee passed through his hands — with few questions asked. ...

    Eventually, he was named treasurer for 83 other Republican committees, including leadership political action committees for members of Congress and campaign committees for prominent Republicans. He regularly managed the finances of presidential dinner fund-raising committees, and was even a partner in a private company that advised politicians on complying with federal campaign finance laws. ...

    He is now the focus of a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry prompted by the disclosure of the National Republican Congressional Committee that hundreds of thousands of dollars was missing and presumed stolen by Mr. Ward, who was fired from the committee in January.

    Investigators are examining what may have been a sophisticated embezzlement scheme involving forged audits and multiple wire transfers from political groups to Mr. Ward’s personal bank accounts. -- Awash in Contributions, Campaigns Offer Tempting Targets for Thieves -

    May 26, 2008

    Obama has too many contributors for old computer programs to handle

    Politico reports: The record-shattering fundraising by Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has reshaped the financing of presidential elections and generated breathless coverage and analysis of the otherwise arcane area of campaign finance.

    Yet it’s had another consequence that has gone all but unnoticed. The campaign finance reports filed by Obama and Clinton have grown so massive that they’ve strained the capacity of the Federal Election Commission, good government groups, the media and even software applications to process and make sense of the data.

    A milestone of sorts was reached earlier this year, when Obama, the Illinois senator whose revolutionary online fundraising has overwhelmed Clinton, filed an electronic fundraising report so large it could not be processed by popular basic spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel 2003 and Lotus 1-2-3.

    Those programs can’t download data files with more than 65,536 rows or 256 columns. -- FEC, media can t handle Obama jackpot - Kenneth P. Vogel -

    Scotland: campaign finance rules will vary depending on who calls referendum on independence from UK

    The Herald reports: A referendum on independence could lead to unfair and unbalanced campaigning by political parties if it were called by Holyrood, it has emerged.

    John McCormick, the Electoral Commission s Scottish member, said yesterday that the current election law, passed in 2000, would set clear rules if Westminster calls another national referendum, including a cap on campaign finance, registration of non-party campaign organisations and a register of donors. The Electoral Commission chairman, currently Sam Younger, would be the national referendum returning officer, or he could delegate that role.

    But that does not apply to the Scottish Parliament if it calls a referendum, meaning the campaign could be skewed by large amounts of money, without its source being open, allowing one side to dominate the campaign.

    With the SNP wanting a referendum in autumn 2010 and with Labour s Holyrood leader, Wendy Alexander, saying she will back one, at least in principle, the rules to ensure a fair fight are far from clear. -- Fairness Warning On Rules For Referendum from The Herald

    May 22, 2008

    Michigan: Feiger's "I researched it" defense

    Crain's Detroit Business reports: High-profile lawyer Geoffrey Fieger described Wednesday how he spent part of a weekend in his firm s library doing research that convinced him that reimbursing employees and others for political donations was legal.

    But Fieger, who rose to prominence representing assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, said during cross-examination by assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland that there was no reason to document that opinion.

    "I've been practicing law for 30 years," Fieger said while on the stand a second day in his own defense at his federal campaign finance trial. "I don t write memos to myself ... about thoughts in my own mind." ...

    Under questioning from defense attorney Gerry Spence, Fieger said there was no attempt to conceal the reimbursements, which he said clearly were listed in the books. He also said taxes were paid on them. -- Fieger back on the stand during his federal trial in Detroit - Crain s Detroit Business

    NRCC spends money to find embezzled money

    The Washington Post reports: As if the spring hasn t been tough enough on House Republicans, there is also the issue of bills piling up from the investigations into the alleged embezzlement scheme at the National Republican Congressional Committee.

    New reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show that the NRCC spent more than $210,000 on legal and accounting bills in April. Those payouts, to the law firm Covington & Burling and the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, bring the total amount spent by the committee to $355,000 since party officials in January accused their former treasurer of cooking the NRCC s books for several years.

    The cash-strapped NRCC is paying the legal-and-accounting team to scour a decade of financial records to determine how much money was allegedly diverted by Christopher J. Ward, the NRCC s former treasurer. He is under FBI investigation for possible embezzlement and bank fraud.

    The $355,000 in legal and accounting fees is almost as much as the NRCC spent earlier this month in a Louisiana special election, where $436,000 went toward campaign ads in attacking Don Cazayoux D-La. , who won anyway. -- Good Money After Bad at the NRCC? -

    May 20, 2008

    Michigan: prosecution rests in Fieger trial

    The Detroit News reports: The government on Monday closed its criminal case against high-profile Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger and his law partner Ven Johnson.

    The United States rest, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Helland said after defense lawyers finished cross examining FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Rees, who spent four days in the witness box.

    Fieger, 57, and Johnson, 46, were indicted in 2007 on conspiracy and illegal campaign contribution charges. They are accused of making $127,000 in illegal donations to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards by reimbursing employees, employee relatives and law firm vendors. Fieger is also charged with obstruction of justice, a 10-year felony.

    Defense lawyers have acknowledged the political donations were reimbursed by Fieger and his firm and the key issue is whether Fieger and Johnson knowingly broke the law.

    In 15 days of testimony, defense attorneys have attempted to redirect the focus to the government s conduct, portraying Fieger as a man with a bullseye on his back because of his politics and pointing to the unusually large amount of government resources directed at a campaign finance prosecution. -- Feds rest case against Fieger

    Alabama: PAC-to-PAC transfers bill killed

    The Birmingham News reports: A proposed ban on the shuffling of money between political action committees died on the final night of the legislative session.

    The campaign finance reform measure died in conference committee despite having been the first bill passed by the House of Representatives this year.

    Bill sponsor Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, said he was frustrated with the Senate delays on the bill. ...

    McLaughlin has tried for several years to get legislators to approve a ban on the convoluted transfers among committees that make it difficult to tell who is funding political campaigns. Despite his frustration, he said he will once again bring the bill next session.

    McLaughlin said he had not been able to get two senators on the six-member conference committee to agree to a compromise. -- Alabama legislature kills PAC transfer ban-

    May 14, 2008

    "How Will Clinton Resolve Campaign Debt?"

    Peter Overby on NPR reports on ways to pay the debt: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was some $10 million in debt at the end of March. Then she loaned her campaign $11 million. The campaign won't say what her total debt is. How might Clinton go about paying off some of the bills? -- How Will Clinton Resolve Campaign Debt? : NPR

    May 13, 2008

    Michigan: Feiger paralegal says FBI bullied her

    The Detroit Free Press reports: A paralegal testified today that the FBI agent in charge of the criminal probe against Southfield lawyer Geoffrey Fieger tried to bully her when he questioned her about contributions she made at Fieger’s behest to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.

    Under cross-examination by Fieger defense lawyer Gerry Spence, SueEllen Sandner said she was so disgusted with the way FBI agent Jeffrey Rees treated her, she refused Monday to meet with a federal prosecutor in advance of today's testimony if Rees would be there.

    “He was fairly aggressive with me when I didn’t say the words he wanted me to say,” Sandner said of her first conversation with Rees in December 2005. He called her shortly after agents raided Fieger’s law firm looking for evidence that Fieger and law partner Vernon (Ven) Johnson recruited 64 people to contribute to Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign and reimbursed them with law firm funds.

    Defense lawyers have conceded that Fieger and Johnson reimbursed employees for contributing, but that the pair didn’t think they were breaking the law. Their lawyers have focused on federal investigative tactics. -- Paralegal: FBI agent tried to bully me in Fieger case

    May 10, 2008

    Debt Relief for Hillary

    The Trailhead blog at reports: Ever since the Clinton campaign went on life support earlier this week, there’s been speculation that Barack Obama could persuade Hillary to drop out by promising to pay off her campaign debt. The Huffington Post’s Tom Edsall wrote that “it is not uncommon for winning presidential campaigns to pick up some or all of a competitor's debts and obligations, although the size of Clinton's debt and her personal loans to her campaign are unprecedented - somewhere over and above $20 million.” Meanwhile, diarists at DailyKos started hyperventilating that their Obama donations would be given to subsidize Clinton’s ailing campaign. Is their fear justified?

    No it’s not. Obama can’t just “pay back” Clinton’s debt. FEC rules limit contributions from one candidate committee to another at $2000, according to FEC spokesman Bob Biersack. So even if Obama wanted to cut Hillary a $10 million check, he couldn’t. Nor could he route his money through the DNC, since national party committees can only give $5000 to a candidate committee.

    What Obama can do is fundraise for her. Over the past year, Obama has established a formidable online fundraising apparatus that has raked in more than $240 million since the campaign began. If he called for supporters to chip in for Clinton, or set up a joint fundraising committee, he could probably drum up some cash. How much is unclear. -- Trailhead : Debt Relief

    May 9, 2008

    Alabama: PAC-to-PAC tramsfer bill is in conference committee

    The Birmingham News reports: An effort to ban shuffling money between political action committees is coming down to the final day of the legislative session.

    A conference committee on Thursday debated a watered-down version of the ban originally proposed by Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville.

    The proposed compromise bans PAC-to-PAC transfers, but would carve out one-way street exemptions for political parties and legislative caucuses and require new filings to shed light on who s getting and giving money in Alabama politics.

    PACs could give money to political parties and legislative caucuses, but the parties and caucuses could not give money to another PAC, under the compromise. PACs, political parties, legislative caucuses and "get out the vote" groups would have to file new quarterly reports listing their contributions and donations in addition to the reports they file before elections. -- Alabama Legislature s proposed PAC compromise would require new disclosure-

    May 8, 2008

    How Hillarry can turn her carriage into a pumpkin

    Why Clinton Stands to Lose Millions - US News and World Report
    US News and World Report reports: Experts disagree on whether or not Clinton will actually stick in the fight until the Democratic National Convention in August. But the date looms large for another reason—at least, if she hopes to recoup any of the millions she has sunk into the campaign. Thanks to a little-known provision in 2002's McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform bill, a campaign must repay the loan to a candidate before Election Day. In this case, that's the nominating convention. After the election has passed, a bankrupt campaign is limited to gathering just $250,000 from contributors, which means that modest sum is all it can give back to a candidate. In short, Clinton stands to lose $11,150,000. "If she wants to be repaid, she'd have to move on that between now and the national convention," says former Federal Election Commission chairman Michael Toner. "Otherwise, it just becomes another contribution." The campaign, meanwhile, has other debts to consider as well. According to her latest FEC filing, the Hillary Clinton for President campaign committee owes millions to vendors, including more than $4.5 million to Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, the consulting firm of her former chief strategist Mark Penn.

    That adds another wrinkle to her decision to stay in the race. Time is running out to pay off friends, allies, and vendors. Plus, by all accounts, Clinton's most ardent supporters are tapped out, either unwilling or unable by law to donate any more. If she's going to continue competing, she has to ask herself how many more millions she's willing to spend in a quest many describe as increasingly quixotic. In short, how much does she care about the money? Politics guru Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia figures not much; after all, the Clintons earned $109 million since leaving the White House. "It's like Michael Bloomberg spending a billion. Would he miss it? Is she going to miss $10 million? There's only so much you can spend yourself anyway." -- Why Clinton Stands to Lose Millions

    Hat-tip to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

    Michigan: Feiger firm lawyer admits reimbursement of contributors at another firm

    The Detroit Free Press reports: An attorney from Geoffrey Fieger’s law office, called as a prosecution witness to testify in the high profile lawyer’s federal trial for alleged illegal political fund-raising, told jurors today that he’d followed the same practices throughout his 24-year career.

    “I’ve done exactly what I’ve done at the Fieger firm that’s the subject of this litigation on numerous occasions through my legal career at another firm,” Jeffrey Danzig testified on direct examination.

    Fieger and partner Vernon (Ven) Johnson are charged with breaking campaign finance laws. Money was collected from employees, friends, relatives and other for the 2004 John Edwards presidential bid and the donations were then reimbursed by law firm checks.

    The times he’d done the same thing while at the Lopatin-Miller law office were “too many to count,” Danzing said in later cross-examination. -- Attorney working for Fieger: I've followed the same practices for 24 years

    April 29, 2008

    Michigan: lawyer testifies he was reimbursed by Fieger firm, but was not pressured

    The Detroit News reports: A lawyer who works for indicted Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger testified Monday that Fieger s law firm reimbursed him for $8,000 in political donations he made on behalf of himself, his wife, and his two college-age children.

    But attorney Paul Broschay testified he was not promised he would be reimbursed for the checks he wrote to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards and would have donated to the Edwards campaign even if partners at the firm had not asked him to do so. He did not think he did anything illegal, Broschay told a jury in U.S. District Court.

    Fieger, 57, and his law partner, Ven Johnson, 46, were indicted in 2007 on conspiracy and illegal campaign contribution charges. They are accused of making $127,000 in illegal donations to the Edwards campaign by reimbursing employees, employee relatives and law firm vendors. Fieger is also charged with obstruction of justice, a 10-year felony. Both have pleaded not guilty. -- Fieger paid for political donation, lawyer testifies

    The Detroit Free Press explains how he can to testify: Paul Broschay, a former Detroit and Trenton police officer, said agents came to his home under the guise of serving a grand jury subpoena, but proceeded to play "good cop, bad cop" in hopes of getting him to say something damaging about Fieger and his law partner, Vernon (Ven) Johnson. Both men are on trial in U.S. District Court in Detroit on charges of illegally reimbursing 64 employees, friends, family members and vendors to contribute $127,000 to Edwards' ill-fated campaign.

    Broschay said he tried to cooperate at first, but asked the agents to leave after his daughter, then a Michigan State University student, called home and was hysterical because agents confronted her in her apartment.

    "It kinda pissed me off," said Broschay, who testified under a grant of immunity from federal prosecutors. -- Agents bullied me, Fieger lawyer says

    Alabama: Homewood mayor apologizes for cut rate to McCain

    The Birmingham News reports: Homewood Mayor Barry McCulley apologized Monday for granting the McCain presidential campaign a reduced rental rate at Rosewood Hall for an April 21 fundraiser.

    The campaign was charged $250 to rent two rooms, which have a posted rate of $1,200.

    I did exceed my authority by changing the rental rate of Rosewood Hall prior to the John McCain event, McCulley said in a three-page statement. At that time, I believed that I had been given that authority. ...

    McCulley reiterated that he wasn't attempting to give the McCain campaign a special deal: "My motives were simply to implement what had already been discussed, in order to create additional revenue for the city where there had been none due to rates for Monday and Tuesday nights being too high."

    McCulley said he asked the McCain campaign to pay the balance of the rent.

    "Short of that, I will find a way to pay the difference myself," he said. -- Homewood Mayor McCulley apologizes for reduced rental rate to McCain event-

    April 27, 2008

    It's so nice to have a jet in the family

    The New York Times reports: Given Senator John McCain’s signature stance on campaign finance reform, it was not surprising that he backed legislation last year requiring presidential candidates to pay the actual cost of flying on corporate jets. The law, which requires campaigns to pay charter rates when using such jets rather than cheaper first-class fares, was intended to reduce the influence of lobbyists and create a level financial playing field.

    But over a seven-month period beginning last summer, Mr. McCain’s cash-short campaign gave itself an advantage by using a corporate jet owned by a company headed by his wife, Cindy McCain, according to public records. For five of those months, the plane was used almost exclusively for campaign-related purposes, those records show.

    Mr. McCain’s campaign paid a total of $241,149 for the use of that plane from last August through February, records show. That amount is approximately the cost of chartering a similar jet for a month or two, according to industry estimates.

    The senator was able to fly so inexpensively because the law specifically exempts aircraft owned by a candidate or his family or by a privately held company they control. The Federal Election Commission adopted rules in December to close the loophole — rules that would have required substantial payments by candidates using family-owned planes — but the agency soon lost the requisite number of commissioners needed to complete the rule making.

    Because that exemption remains, Mr. McCain’s campaign was able to use his wife’s corporate plane like a charter jet while paying first-class rates, several campaign finance experts said. Several of those experts, however, added that his campaign’s actions, while keeping with the letter of law, did not reflect its spirit. -- McCain Frequently Used Wife’s Jet for Little Cost

    April 26, 2008

    Michigan: Feiger criminal trial opens

    TalkLeft reports: Flamboyant attorney and legal analyst Geoff Fieger, perhaps best known for his defense of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, is on trial in federal court in Detroit. He and his law partner, Van Johnson, are charged with having employees at their law firm and others donate to John Edwards' presidential campaign and then reimbursing them, in violation of federal campaign laws. Fieger is also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly concealing a memo and tampering with grand jury witnesses. -- Gerry Spence Opens for Fieger in MI Criminal Trial - TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime

    April 22, 2008

    Alabama: $40,000 for "exclusive" donor events

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: At least 86 individuals will enjoy access to Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, thanks to their pledges of $40,000 each to a Republican fundraising committee designed to gain control of the Legislature. The state GOP says it won t release their names until January, when campaign finance reports are due.

    Alabama Republican Party Executive Director John Ross also said the party would not specifically identify donors to the Governor s Circle on the party s report.

    Members of the Circle have pledged $10,000 a year over the next four years as part of the fundraising program called Campaign 2010. In return, the donors have been promised access to exclusive events and conference calls with Riley. ...

    State law does not require the disclosure of donors until the January reports, and neither Democrats nor Republicans are known to disclose donors before legal requirements kick in. -- Donors in Riley s Circle kept under wraps-

    April 12, 2008

    Conservative 527 group fails to live up to its expectations

    The New York Times reports: The conservative group Freedom’s Watch, headlined by two former senior White House officials, had been expected to be a deep-pocketed juggernaut in this year’s presidential election, heralded by supporters on the right as an aggressive counterweight to, George Soros and the like.

    But after a splashy debut last summer, in which it spent $15 million in a nationwide advertising blitz supporting President Bush’s troop escalation in Iraq, the group has been mostly quiet, beset by internal problems that have paralyzed it and raised questions about what kind of role, if any, it will actually play this fall. ...

    Independent groups not constrained by the limits placed on campaign contributions to candidates and parties have increasingly become major players in races for federal offices. Those known as 527s, named for the section in the tax code they fall under, raised more than $400 million in the 2004 election cycle alone, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. Such efforts could be especially beneficial for Mr. McCain, who has badly trailed his Democratic counterparts in fund-raising. ...

    Although the organization was founded by a coterie of prominent conservative donors last year, the roughly $30 million the group has spent so far has come almost entirely from the casino mogul Sheldon G. Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of the Sands Corporation, who was recently listed as the third-richest person in the country by Forbes magazine.

    Mr. Adelson has insisted on parceling out his money project by project, as opposed to setting an overall budget, limiting the group’s ability to plan and be nimble, the Republican operatives said. Mr. Adelson, who has a reputation for being combative, has rejected almost all of the staff’s proposals that have been brought to him, leaving the organization moribund for long stretches, the operatives said. -- Great Expectations for a Conservative Group Seem All but Dashed

    Is Catalist an end-run around campaign finance laws?

    The New York Times reports: [Harold Ickes] is president of Catalist, a for-profit databank that has sold its voter files to the Obama and the Clinton presidential campaigns for their get-out-the-vote efforts. With his equity stake in the firm, Mr. Ickes stands to benefit financially no matter which candidate becomes the Democratic nominee.

    In creating Catalist, Mr. Ickes, who was deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House, has formed a rare entity on the political scene, a for-profit limited-liability corporation that allows wealthy Democratic donors to help progressive organizations and candidates by investing in the company. And if Catalist, which has data on 230 million Americans, is successful as a business, these donors-turned-investors stand to reap financial returns from using their money to help elect Democrats.

    But some campaign finance watchdogs say they wonder whether Catalist was established not so much to make money but to find a creative way to allow big-money liberal donors to influence the election without disclosing the degree of their involvement or being subjected to other rules that would govern spending by an explicitly political organization.

    Catalist has raised over $11 million in venture capital, including more than $1 million from the billionaire financier George Soros, according to his aides. It also counts on such large unions as the Service Employees International Union and the A.F.L.-C.I.O., to buy its products and create revenues. And it plans to be the go-to source for voter data for a broad swath of groups often aligned with Democrats — like the Sierra Club, Emily’s List and Clean Water Action — as they embark on ambitious get-out-the vote efforts this fall. -- Clinton Aide’s Databank Venture Breaks Ground in Politicking

    April 11, 2008

    West Virginia: arguments in case strict disclosure requirements for political ads

    The Charleston Gazette reports: Anonymous advertising in West Virginia political campaigns would open the door for a repeat of the 2004 Supreme Court race, where voters did not learn until later who was spending millions of dollars on behalf of candidates, several lawyers told a federal judge Wednesday.

    But the Center for Individual Freedom argued that West Virginia s election laws - which require the group to disclose its donors if it buys political advertising - violate its free speech rights under the First Amendment.

    The Virginia-based organization asked U.S. District Judge David A. Faber to grant it an injunction allowing it to advertise in the upcoming state Supreme Court election without disclosing its spending or its donors. The state s primary election is May 13.

    Last month, the center filed a lawsuit against the state s top election official, Secretary of State Betty Ireland. Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Boggess was also NAMEd in the suit as a representative of all the state s prosecutors.

    Three of the four Democratic candidates for state Supreme Court have joined in fighting the injunction, as have the West Virginia AFL-CIO, the state Education Association, the Council of Churches and other groups. -- Lawyers argue over rules for political ads

    April 8, 2008

    Ohio: Elections commission fines PAC $5.2 million for illegal transfer

    AP reports: The Ohio Elections Commission has levied a record $5.2 million fine against a political action committee headed by former Michigan Republican Chairwoman Betsy DeVos that supports candidates who favor school choice.

    All Children Matter s political action committee in Virginia sent $870,000 to its PAC in Ohio for the 2006 election cycle. The contribution was illegal because All Children Matter s Virginia PAC wasn t registered in Ohio, said Philip Richter, the commission s executive director.

    Former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, Betsy s husband, set up All Children Matter in 2003 to promote efforts in other states to push vouchers and tax credits for businesses that create scholarships for children to attend private schools. ...

    The bipartisan Ohio Elections Commission voted 5-0 Thursday to fine each of the two PACs $2.6 million, or three times the amount of the contribution.

    It's easily the largest fine the Ohio commission has levied.

    All Children Matter attorney Bill Todd said Ohio law allows PACs affiliated with each other to make unlimited money transfers. The group will appeal the ruling in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. -- DeVos PAC fined record $5.2 million by Ohio elections board - Latest News - The Grand Rapids Press -

    April 7, 2008

    Florida: "Without Walls" church staffers may have been directed to contribute to Crist's 2006 campaign

    The St. Petersburg Times reports: Staff members of Tampa Bay s largest church were directed two years ago to make $500 contributions to the campaign of Gov. Charlie Crist, a television network has charged.

    The church denies the allegation.

    MSNBC, in a report posted on its Web site this week, said it obtained an e-mail in which a staff member of Without Walls International Church wrote to others: I need each of your checks for $500 made payable to: Charlie Crist for Governor. I need to send these our sic tonight.

    Tax-exempt churches are banned by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service from supporting candidates for public office.

    A roster of Crist contributors includes a $500 contribution on Feb. 2, 2006, from Marisol Mendoza, assistant to Pastor Randy White of Without Walls. Crist received simultaneous $500 contributions, the maximum allowed in Florida, from three Tampa Bay area residents whose terse descriptions of their occupations appeared to link them to Randy or Paula White, who was his wife and co-pastor then. -- Religion: Were Crist campaign donations coerced?

    March 27, 2008

    Puerto Rico: Governor indicted for campaign-finance violations

    AP reports: Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila indignantly denied wrongdoing Thursday and gave no sign he would abandon his re-election effort after being charged with campaign finance violations that carry a penalty of 20 years in prison.

    Acevedo, a superdelegate to this summer's Democratic convention, accused U.S. prosecutors of pursuing a politically motivated indictment alleging that the governor and a dozen other people conspired to illegally pay off his campaign debts. ...

    Acevedo served in Washington as the island's nonvoting delegate to Congress then was elected governor in 2004 after campaigning on an anti-corruption platform. ...

    In a brief address on Puerto Rican television Thursday evening, he repeated his denials and accused U.S. authorities of distracting him from trying to revive the island's struggling economy. "They want blood not your well being," he said of federal prosecutors. The governor did not take questions.

    His indictment on 19 charges, including conspiracy to violate federal campaign laws, conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and giving false testimony to the FBI, made him the latest U.S. governor to run into legal trouble. -- Feds charge P.Rico governor, 12 others - Yahoo! News

    March 23, 2008

    "Follow the Money"

    Left In Alabama reports: Now it's easier to keep your elected representatives honest -- or at least keep an eye on them. Follow the Money has a nifty new tool that lets you look at contributions to entire legislative committees. This is especially handy because the information at the Alabama Secretary of State's website is in the form of .pdfs of scanned disclosure forms and is neither sortable nor searchable. These folks have put that information into a database for us.

    Here's the Alabama page where you can get to fund raising information on office holders, parties and contributors. Here's the Legislative Committee Analysis Tool where you can select either a House or Senate committee and see the money raised by each member of that committee as well as the top contributors to that committee and the industries contributing. -- Left In Alabama:: Follow the Money, Even to Legislative Committees

    Note: this website covers nearly all the states, not just Alabama.

    March 14, 2008

    NRCC treasurer may have faked the books to steal

    The New York Times reports: The former treasurer of a Republican Congressional fund-raising committee may have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars by submitting elaborately forged audit reports for five years using the letterhead of a legitimate auditing firm, a lawyer for the committee said Thursday.

    Robert K. Kelner, a lawyer with Covington & Burling, who was brought in by the National Republican Congressional Committee to investigate accounting irregularities, said a new audit showed that the committee had $740,000 less on hand than it believed. Mr. Kelner said it was unclear whether that amount represented money siphoned off by the former treasurer, Christopher J. Ward.

    Mr. Ward, who is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had the authority to make transfers of committee money on his own, Mr. Kelner said.

    He said an investigation with the help of PricewaterhouseCoopers had “found a pattern in which Mr. Ward would transfer funds by wire out of the N.R.C.C. to outside committees.” From those outside committees, Mr. Kelner said, money was then transferred to “personal and business accounts of Mr. Ward.” -- Sham Audits May Have Hid Theft by G.O.P. Committee Treasurer, Lawyer Says - New York Times

    March 2, 2008

    New York: Pataki's PAC continued to spend after he dropped campaign

    The New York Times reports: After ending his exploration of a presidential bid early last year and all but disappearing from politics, former Gov. George E. Pataki spent more than $1 million from his political action committees for Broadway theater tickets, gatherings at the Yale Club and payments to political loyalists and advisers.

    The money came from PACs used to raise Mr. Pataki’s profile nationally and to lay the foundations for a possible presidential run. They were organized in Virginia, where candidates are given broad discretion in spending.

    In all, the committees spent about $2.1 million in 2007; about $1.4 million of that was paid out after Mr. Pataki quietly suspended his efforts to seek national office last March, according to a review of campaign finance disclosure reports and other records. Some of the spending appears to have had little connection to a political cause or candidacy. ...

    PACs organized under state laws in Virginia have long been attractive to politicians because there are no limits on contributions and, while it is illegal to use PAC money for personal use, the state has a light regulatory touch in terms of spending. -- Pataki Spent PAC Money After Opting Not to Run - New York Times

    February 27, 2008

    Alabama: PAC to PAC transfer bill passes senate

    Alabama Senate approves bill to regulate PAC donations | | Times Daily | Florence, AL
    AP reports: The Democrat-controlled Alabama Senate split largely along party lines Tuesday to approve a bill that would stop some financial transfers used to hide the source of campaign contributions while allowing others.

    Democrats said the bill would end the movement of money from one political action committee to another to disguise the original source of campaign contributions. ...

    Republicans said the bill opens up new methods for hiding campaign donations because it exempts political parties and legislative caucuses from the definition of a PAC. ...

    The Senate voted 20-14 for the rewritten PAC bill after killing similar bills the six prior years. --

    Ohio: McCain received ballot spot because of federal matching-fund certification

    The New York Times reports: Did Senator John McCain of Arizona benefit unfairly from rules that automatically placed him on the ballot in Ohio once he qualified for public campaign financing?

    The legal question, which also has political significance given Mr. McCain’s reputation for crusading against the influence of money on elections, is being raised by Democratic Party officials ahead of the Ohio Republican primary next Tuesday now that the McCain campaign has decided to pull out of public financing.

    The issue emerged Monday in a complaint that the Democratic National Committee filed with the Federal Election Commission questioning Mr. McCain’s right to withdraw from the system and bypass the spending limits that come with it. ...

    Second, the [Democratic] officials object to the way Mr. McCain used his certification for federal matching money to get on the ballot in states like Ohio and Delaware. That certification allowed him to bypass the signature collection usually required to get on the ballot, and saved the campaign money — which should bar him from withdrawing from the system, the Democrats say. -- Democrats Raise Legal Point Over McCain and Ohio as He Opts Out of Public Money - New York Times

    February 24, 2008

    Puerto Rico: feds may be investigating governor's campaign finances

    The New York Times reports: The rumors wash up against the gray walls of La Fortaleza, the governor’s palace in this city’s colonial quarter, with the regularity of the ocean’s waves. Every few weeks they seem to gather momentum, like a tidal surge, and threaten to overwhelm the place and its occupant, Gov. Aníbal S. Acevedo Vilá.

    At one moment, the word on the street is that the governor will be arrested before the weekend. At the next, he will be spared, though several of his close associates will fall.

    And so it has gone for more than two years while federal investigators have looked into accusations of campaign finance violations relating to Mr. Acevedo, a Democrat, who is up for re-election this year. ...

    The federal authorities have refused to make any statements about the case; what is known publicly about the investigation has been gleaned through leaks and the scant information provided by witnesses who have testified before the grand jury. According to those witnesses, investigators have asked about the finances of Mr. Acevedo’s 2004 race for governor and about his successful campaign in 2000 to become the resident commissioner, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting delegate to Congress. (Mr. Acevedo has said that if there were improprieties in his campaigns, he was not aware of them.) -- Puerto Rico’s Political Melodrama Plays On, With Its Governor in the Lead Role

    Alabama: supreme court dismisses suit challenging election of 4 Democratic senators

    AP reports: The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday upheld a Montgomery judge s decision to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the election of four powerful Democrats in the Alabama Senate.

    The court s 8-1 decision ends a lawsuit that became part of the battle between Democrats and Republicans for control of the new Senate elected in 2006. Democrats won that battle and organized the Senate. ...
    Former Republican judge Mark Montiel filed the suit about three weeks before the 2006 general election on behalf of an Autauga County voter. It sought to revoke the state certificates of election for the four senators from the Democratic primary election in June 2006. The suit claimed the four Democrats did not file the proper campaign finance reports for the primary even though they spent money to help other legislative candidates.

    The four senators said they didn't have primary opposition and the practice in Alabama up to that point was not to file campaign finance reports when there was no opposition. -- Alabama Supreme Court tosses lawsuit challenging senators wins | | Times Daily | Florence, AL

    February 22, 2008

    Arizona: Renzi indicted

    ABC News reports: A federal grand jury in Arizona has indicted three-term Republican Congressman Rick Renzi and two of his business associates on charges that include wire fraud, money laundering, insurance fraud and extortion.

    The 35-count indictment alleges that between December 2001 and March 2002, Renzi embezzled $400,000 in insurance premiums from a company that he owned and transferred the money to his congressional campaign.

    Renzi transferred ownership of the company, called Patriot Insurance Agency Inc., to his wife in 2004.

    The lawmaker is also accused of enriching himself by compelling a copper mining interest, referred to as "Company A" in the indictment, to buy a parcel of land from his associate James Sandlin in exchange for his sponsorship of legislation sought by Company A.

    When negotiations for the sale were stalled, Renzi allegedly told Company A "no Sandlin Property, no bill." -- ABC News: Congressman Indicted for Fraud, Extortion

    McCain runs into a FEC roadblock caused by the lack of 4 commissioners

    The New York Times reports: A bank loan that Senator John McCain took out late in 2007 to keep his presidential campaign afloat is complicating his desire to withdraw from public financing for his primary effort.

    The Federal Election Commission, in a letter it released on Thursday, said Mr. McCain could not withdraw from public financing until he had answered questions about a $4 million line of credit for borrowing that was secured, in part, in December by the promise of federal matching money.

    Mr. McCain sent a letter to the commission on Feb. 7 saying he had decided to decline the matching money for his primary campaign. His request for public money, in which the government matches campaign contributions, was made last year as the campaign was running out of cash.

    After his fortunes began to rise from his victory New Hampshire and campaign gifts increased, however, Mr. McCain decided against taking the public money. Taking it would have limited his spending between now and the Republican convention in September to $40 million. -- McCain Loan Complicates Financing of Campaign - New York Times

    Alabama: PAC to PAC transfer bill bogged down in Senate

    The Birmingham News reports: The state Senate locked down again Thursday over a proposed ban on transfers between political action committees that make it difficult to know who is funding political campaigns.

    Unlike a stricter version approved by the House of Representatives, the Senate was debating a version of the bill that would exempt political parties and legislative caucuses. Some senators said that would create a larger mechanism for hiding money. ...

    Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, proposed an amendment Thursday that would ban the governor and other state constitutional officers from raising money for other candidates.

    Some Republican senators filibustered Bedford s amendment, saying it infringed on the rights of elected office holders. -- Alabama Senate locks down on PAC transfer ban-

    February 10, 2008

    Alabama: a "glorified stenography service"

    Mooncat writes on Left in Alabama (and quotes the Montgomery Advertiser): Alabama's campaign finance laws are set up to hide the money trail. There are few limitations on contributions and those contributions are often laundered by unlimited money transfers from one PAC to another so you can't tell who is giving what to whom. I knew all that and was properly outraged, but I didn't realize SoS Beth Chapman's office is just a glorified stenography service for campaigns and PACs with no ability or responsibility to check the accracy of reports.

    An Alabama agency that oversees political action committees failed to see a $460,000 reporting error in a PAC formed for presidential candidate Mitt Romney. ...

    The Secretary of State's office only posts the information online and doesn't review them for errors, said Robert Johnston, an attorney for the agency.

    "The secretary of state does not audit these," he said. "We don't have any enforcement authority on that. We just make it available to the public."

    -- PAC Money in Alabama - Stop the Dirty Dough!

    February 2, 2008

    "Irregularities" at the RNC

    The Washington Post's The Trail blog reports: The FBI has been notified and asked to investigate allegations of financial fraud at a fund-raising arm of the House Republicans, capping a week of bad news for the beleaguered minority party.

    In a statement today, Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he contacted law enforcement after an internal audit revealed that a former employee of the committee had been involved in the "irregularities."

    "Since these irregularities may include fraud, we have notified appropriate law enforcement authorities. We are aggressively and thoroughly investigating the matter," Cole said.

    Sources confirmed that the FBI was the agency contacted to investigate the allegations. Aides at the Federal Election Commission said they were not aware of any complaint or request for an investigation by the NRCC. -- House Republicans Contact FBI Over Financial Irregularities | The Trail |

    February 1, 2008

    "Money matters, but it doesn't decide"

    AP reports: Money helped winnow the presidential field. It hasn't determined who each party's nominee will be.

    Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have proven to be mega-fundraisers, operating at near parity in their own stratosphere. Each raised $100 million last year and spent at least $80 million. On Wednesday, they each spent $1.3 million in one day for television ads in Super Tuesday states, setting the trend for the days ahead.

    Whoever loses has not yet been seriously outspent.

    Among Republicans, money has been less of a factor. John McCain was forced to live off the land for six months only to rise to the front of the pack. Low-budget Mike Huckabee is looking for a break, and Mitt Romney, the multimillionaire who spent $35 million of his own cash, is gasping for oxygen after two straight losses.

    Rudy Giuliani, who garnered the most contributions among Republican candidates, bowed out this week after his Florida-centric strategy collapsed. And dark horse Ron Paul remains in single digits in the polls despite raising more than any of his Republican rivals in the last three months of 2007.

    Money matters, but it doesn't decide. -- Analysis: Political Money Not the Be - All - New York Times

    Alabama: Speaker to push 2 campaign-finance bills early in session

    The Birmingham News reports: The leader of the state House of Representatives said Thursday that he will ask House members next week to quickly pass five bills dealing with ethics and campaign finance, to kick off what he hopes will be a productive legislative session. ...

    The first bill Hammett wants the House to pass would ban or limit any political action committee formed by a corporation, lobby or other group from contributing money to another PAC. Such PAC-to-PAC transfers can hide the true source of contributions received by a candidate for governor or other political office.

    Last year's bill, by Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, would have banned all PAC-to-PAC contributions.

    But it died in the Senate, where some senators insisted that PACs retain the right to give money to political parties, legislative party caucuses and get-out-the-vote organizations such as the Alabama Democratic Conference. ...

    The other four bills Hammett wants the House to pass early would: ...

    Require people and groups to disclose the givers of money spent on any broadcast or published message aired or distributed within 90 days of an election that contains the name or image of one or more of the candidates and is clearly intended to influence the election. -- Hammett has five bills he wants House to pass quickly-

    January 25, 2008

    Michigan: Feiger to get recusal information in his campaign finance trial

    The Detroit News reports: A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Justice Department to tell indicted Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger why U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy and two of his top officials disqualified themselves from overseeing Fieger s criminal investigation.

    It s a partial victory for Fieger -- charged with making $127,000 in illegal donations to the 2004 presidential campaign of Democrat John Edwards -- as he attempts to show he was unfairly singled out for prosecution because of his politics.

    The information is quite relevant and essential to that claim, U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman said in a 30-page order.

    Borman said he has not decided whether Fieger was unfairly singled out, but said he finds it significant that contributions related to a re-election campaign for Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman have been part of the federal investigation of Fieger since the probe began in April 2005. -- Judge s ruling favors Fieger

    January 23, 2008

    UK: Electoral Commission admits "weakness"

    The Herald reports: The Electoral Commission has admitted fundamental weaknesses in its ability to probe allegations of illegal donations to political parties.

    An official document seen by The Herald shows that detailed procedures and guidance on how investigations should be carried out remain "in development", despite the fact that high-profile probes into allegations against senior Labour figures, including Scottish leader Wendy Alexander, are currently under way.

    The 12-page paper, entitled Handling Allegations, also reveals that the commission does not have "any prescribed method for making decisions" and that it is "unclear" when discussions with the UK Ministry of Justice on increasing the range of sanctions it can hand down will be concluded.

    The commission also admits many cases will go unpunished even if they find the law has been broken. -- Watchdog Admits Probe Weakness (from The Herald )

    December 29, 2007

    Alabama: Gov. Riley may have violated campaign law with use of plane

    The Montgomery Independent reports: It appears that Gov. Bob Riley's gubernatorial campaigns in 2002 and 2006 may have violated the state's Fair Campaign Practices Act by improperly reporting the use of corporate airplanes, and improperly reporting advertising and printing donations to the campaign.

    In the 2006 campaign, Gov. Riley apparently failed to properly report the in-kind contributions of at least two corporate airplanes. In both cases, the aircraft used by Gov. Riley are listed as in-kind contributions from individuals and not from the corporations which actually own the airplanes.

    Riley's campaign finance reports for the 2006 campaign list in-kind contributions for transportation totaling $7,929.47 from John Saint of Mobile. Saint is listed on the Secretary of State Web site as president of a number of Alabama corporations. When asked about the in-kind contributions Saint said he did not recall when Riley may have used his company's plane. He said: "Our plane gets used every day. A lot of charities use our plane for Angel Flights."

    When asked if he had reimbursed his company for the Riley campaign's use of the plane, he said: "I don't recall." He said he would have to go back and look, but it would be after the first of the year. When asked who owned the plane he said JDC Support Services, Inc. and added: "I own the company." ...

    Also, under Alabama law, there is no limit on campaign contributions from individuals, but corporate contributions, whether cash or in-kind, are limited to $500 per election cycle. Riley's name was on the ballot in only two election cycles in 2006, the Republican primary and the General Election. That means any corporate contribution more than $1,000 would appear to be unlawful. --'s Printer-Friendly Page

    Hat-tip to Doc's Political Parlor.

    December 14, 2007

    FEC disallows ActBlue-rised funds for matching

    AP reports: John Edwards cannot get federal matching funds for some $4.2 million raised through a Democratic Web site.

    The Federal Election Commission decided Friday on a 4-1 vote that the money was not matchable because federal rules do not include those contributions.

    About 53,000 Edwards supporters donated through the ActBlue site. The Web site gets dollars designated to any Democratic federal candidate. It then passes the money to the authorized committees of the candidates.

    The Edwards campaign has said it always knew there could be a legal problem with the ActBlue money, so it never counted the funds toward the match it expects to get. -- Today on the Presidential Campaign Trail -

    Scotland: Labour Party leader accept 950-pound illegal contribution

    The Economist reports: FOR Gordon Brown, the party-funding scandal which has already claimed the job of the Labour Party's general secretary, Peter Watt, and threatens senior figures in the government shows no sign of going away. It has instead spread north to his native Scotland, where Wendy Alexander, Labour's leader in the devolved Parliament, is fighting to save her career.

    The sum involved in Ms Alexander's case (£950, or $1,960) is comically small next to the more than £660,000 given to the Labour Party by David Abrahams, a Newcastle businessman, through intermediaries. Yet Ms Alexander, seen but recently as the Scottish Labour Party's shining hope, boobed tremendously. To finance her leadership campaign (which, since she was the only candidate, was not a costly affair) she raised £16,000, including £950 from Paul Green. A property developer who lives in the Channel Islands, Mr Green cannot vote in British elections, so accepting his cash was against the law.

    Ms Alexander maintains that she was led to believe the money came from a Glasgow company controlled by Mr Green. But the company denies any knowledge of the donation. Mr Green insists it was a personal contribution, even brandishing a letter of thanks from Ms Alexander sent to his Jersey home. One head has already rolled: Charlie Gordon, a Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) from Glasgow, who solicited Mr Green's donation, has resigned as the party's transport spokesman. But this has failed to pacify those such as Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of Westminster's Committee on Standards in Public Life, who believe that Ms Alexander should consider her position, too. -- Political donations | Not so darling Wendy |

    Argentina: US charges $800K went from Venezuela to Argentine presidential campaign through US

    NPR reports:
    U.S. prosecutors say participants in Argentina's election broke American law. Prosecutors say the new president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, won with the help of $800,000 secretly sent from Venezuela. This comes under U.S. law because people on American soil allegedly took part in the transaction. Four people are accused. The president of the country that allegedly supplied the money, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, calls the case a "fabricated scandal." The president who allegedly received it is not so happy either. -- NPR : U.S. Criticizes Argentina's Presidential Election

    November 30, 2007

    Scotland: Labour Party leader accepted illegal contribution -- with a thank-you note

    The Scotsman reports: WENDY Alexander was facing a police investigation into her campaign finances last night after it emerged that she had written a personal thank-you letter to a businessman for an illegal donation.

    The Scottish Labour leader disclosed this week that members of her campaign team had broken the law when they accepted a cheque for £950 from Paul Green, a Channel Isles-based businessman, for her leadership campaign. He is not a registered UK voter, so is not allowed to donate to British political parties.

    Ms Alexander's aides have consistently argued that the donation was handled only by Charlie Gordon, a Labour MSP, and that she did not know the details of Mr Green's donation. Mr Gordon at first told the campaign team the money had been donated legitimately through a Glasgow company, Combined Property Services, but it later emerged that Mr Green's name had been on the cheque.

    And it was revealed yesterday that Ms Alexander had written to Mr Green personally in October this year, from her home in Glasgow, thanking him for his cheque. -- The Scotsman - Bombshell for Labour on illegal donations

    November 27, 2007

    Obama's PAC still giving out money

    The Washington Post reports: When Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) launched his presidential campaign in January, he stopped raising money for his Hopefund, the political action committee he used to raise millions for fellow Democrats in previous campaigns. But in recent months, Obama has handed out more than $180,000 from the nearly dormant PAC to local Democratic groups and candidates in the key early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, campaign reports show.

    Some of the recipients of Hopefund's largess are state and local politicians who have recently endorsed Obama's presidential bid. Obama's PAC reported giving a $1,000 contribution, for instance, to New Hampshire state Sen. Jacalyn Cilley on July 25, six days before she announced she was endorsing Obama for president. ...

    Cilley, who has traveled with Obama around New Hampshire and serves on the campaign's steering committee, said that she decided to endorse him before getting the donation but that the announcement was delayed. She said she even considered sending the check back at one point to eliminate any concerns about appearances. ...

    Scott Thomas, a Democrat and a former FEC chairman, said "there's probably no doubt" the PAC donations were aimed at increasing support for Obama's presidential race. "But in my experience, the commission has not had the stomach to reach out and characterize those kinds of contributions as impermissible," Thomas said. -- Obama PAC Is Active In Key Election States -

    GOP recruiting self-financing candidates

    The New York Times reports: Confronting an enormous fund-raising gap with Democrats, Republican Party officials are aggressively recruiting wealthy candidates who can spend large sums of their own money to finance their Congressional races, party officials say.

    At this point, strategists for the National Republican Congressional Committee have enlisted wealthy candidates to run in at least a dozen competitive Congressional districts nationwide, particularly those where Democrats are finishing their first term and are thus considered most vulnerable. They say more are on the way.

    These wealthy Republicans have each already invested $100,000 to $1 million of their own money to finance their campaigns, according to campaign finance disclosure reports and interviews with party strategists. Experts say that is a large amount for this early in the cycle. ...

    Party strategists note that a 2002 rule known as the millionaires’ amendment has tended to discourage wealthy candidates from pouring large sums into their own campaigns early on. The rule raises campaign contribution ceilings to candidates whose opponents spend large amounts of their own money. -- Short of Funds, G.O.P. Recruits the Rich to Run - New York Times

    November 12, 2007

    501(c)(3)'s jump into the campaign finance game

    The New York Times reports: The so-called Wounded Warriors Act, legislation intended to improve health care for veterans, has attracted nearly unanimous, bipartisan support in Congress. So why would the newly formed Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America begin running a television commercial urging the citizens of South Carolina to tell Congress to pass it?

    The answer lies in the commercial’s glowing images of Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican banking on a South Carolina victory to jump-start his cash-poor Republican primary campaign. The group that paid for the advertisement operates independently of Mr. McCain’s campaign, but was set up and financed by his supporters seeking to help him as much as possible up to the limits of the law.

    The initial spending on the commercial, according to the group, is modest — commercials on the Fox News Channel in South Carolina only — but it represents the first trickle in a flood of hundreds of millions of dollars that are expected to pour from all sides into groups reminiscent of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth of 2004, built to influence voting outside of campaign law limitations. The amount could swamp the record-breaking tens of millions that the top candidates are raising for their own, closely regulated campaign accounts. ...

    The group running the commercial in South Carolina is registered as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation. As such, it is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts from individuals without any disclosure, as long as it can argue that it is more concerned with the promotion of an issue — like the final passage of the Wounded Warriors bill — than the election of a candidate.

    The lack of disclosure makes it hard to tell how the group spends its money, and impossible to say where it gets its money, and whether its donors have already donated directly to candidates. -- A New Channel for Soft Money Starts Flowing - New York Times

    October 15, 2007

    Alabama: 2008 likely to be expensive for supreme court candidates

    The Birmingham News reports: Next year's race to replace retiring state Supreme Court Justice Harold See is one of five judicial elections nationwide that merit close scrutiny, the watchdog group Justice at Stake said.

    Expect the kind of no-holds-barred battle between business and plaintiff trial lawyer interests that have helped Alabama set the standard for expensive and nasty elections, said the Washington-based group that monitors judicial elections. ...

    Justice at Stake officials also expect a big battle for the seat being vacated by See, whose court race in 1996 gained national notoriety for an opponent's campaign ad that compared See to a skunk.

    "The state's partisan system of judicial elections, combined with an absence of both campaign contribution limits and disclosure rules for special interests, suggest a raucous campaign for Justice See's seat," said a Justice at Stake news release.

    In 2006, when five seats were contested, Alabama's Supreme Court elections attracted $12.4 million, more than in any other state. The $7.7 million race that year for chief justice was the second-most expensive judicial election in the nation's history. -- Watchdog group eyes Alabama-

    October 5, 2007

    Campaign finance developments in Congress

    The Congressional Research Service has a new report on campaign finance proposals: Recent events suggest continued congressional interest in campaign finance policy. This report provides an overview and analysis of 110th Congress legislation addressed in hearings or that has passed at least one chamber. The report also discusses two policy developments: Federal Election Commission (FEC) nominations and a recent Supreme Court ruling that could affect future political advertising (Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc.) As of this writing, approximately 50 bills devoted largely to campaign finance have been introduced in the 110th Congress, but none have become law. The House has passed two bills containing campaign finance provisions. H.R. 2630 would restrict campaign and leadership political action committee (PAC) payments to candidate spouses. A provision in H.R. 3093 would prohibit spending Justice Department funds on criminal enforcement of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) “electioneering communication” provision. In the Senate, an electronic disclosure bill (S. 223) was reported from the Rules and Administration Committee but has not received floor consideration. The committee also held hearings on coordinated party expenditures (S. 1091) and congressional public financing (S. 1285) legislation. Most significantly, lobbying and ethics bill S. 1, which became law in September 2007 (P.L. 110-81), contains some campaign finance provisions. This report will be updated as events warrant throughout the 110th Congress. -- Campaign Finance: Developments in the 110th Congress

    Hat tip to the invaluable

    August 26, 2007

    Michigan: Feiger indicted for reimbursing employees for contributions to Edwards

    The Detroit News reports: Geoffrey Fieger, the Southfield lawyer known for winning multimillion-dollar civil judgments and antagonizing judges, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on criminal charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, making illegal campaign contributions and causing false statements.

    A 30-page, 10-count indictment was unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit. A grand jury, which works in secret, returned it under seal on Tuesday, officials said.

    The indictment charges Fieger and a law partner, Vernon (Ven) Johnson, of conspiring to make about $127,000 in illegal contributions to Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' 2004 campaign. Johnson, 45, of Birmingham is also charged with making illegal contributions and causing false statements. ...

    The indictment alleges Fieger illegally circumvented limits on individual campaign contributions by recruiting "straw donors" -- including employees, contractors and their family members -- to purport to make the then-maximum contributions of $2,000 each to Edwards. In fact, the more than $125,000 in donations were paid for by Fieger and Johnson and the Fieger firm, the indictment alleges. -- Fieger indicted: Illegal donations to Edwards alleged

    August 22, 2007

    Alabama: Schools supt. arrested for misuse of campaign funds

    The Talladega Daily Home reports: Former St. Clair County Schools Superintendent Tom Sanders was arrested Tuesday for allegedly using campaign contributions for personal use. ...

    District Attorney Richard Minor said Sanders was indicted on two felony charges and one misdemeanor charge involving a campaign contribution.

    According to the indictment, a campaign contribution check was given to Sanders by Trussville businessman and developer Jack Harris. Minor said Tuesday Sanders was indicted on one ethics violation, involving the conversion of those contributions to personal use, a Class B felony. -- Former superintendent of St. Clair schools indicted

    July 5, 2007

    Michigan: Feiger airs TV ads attacking federal investigation of him

    The Detroit News reports: Lawyer Geoffrey Fieger recently hosted a champagne and rock music gala, celebrating a 14,000-square-foot expansion to his law offices at a time when many in his position would lie low or even retrench.

    Fieger faces a possible federal indictment over alleged campaign finance violations -- he has said he expects to be indicted -- and is in a protracted and acrimonious battle with four of the seven justices on the Michigan Supreme Court, where many of his cases end up.

    As he expands his offices with extravagances such as outdoor fountains, bronze lions from the French Embassy in Morocco and the original bar from Southfield's Golden Mushroom restaurant, Fieger is ratcheting up his offensives against both the federal government and the Michigan justices he alleges are too biased against him to fairly hear his cases.

    On the federal side, he is airing television ads critical of the investigation and alleges the FBI improperly used U.S. Patriot Act national security letters to obtain financial information about his employees. ...

    The federal grand jury investigation of Fieger -- which is active, based on interviews and the fact five sealed documents have been filed in the case since June 7 -- centers on whether he illegally circumvented caps on political giving by reimbursing employees and associates for more than $50,000 in donations made to the 2004 John Edwards presidential campaign. Most of the donations were made on the same day.

    Fieger has acknowledged paying bonuses to employees but denied doing anything illegal. -- Fieger fights back at legal woes

    June 28, 2007

    Texas: criminal appeals court affirms dismissal of conspiracy charge against DeLay

    AP reports: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's criminal case now appears to hinge on two remaining money laundering charges after Texas' highest criminal court refused Wednesday to reinstate a dropped conspiracy charge.

    The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected arguments from Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle that it had grounds to indict DeLay and two co-defendants on a charge of conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws in 2002 state legislative elections.

    A state district judge threw out that charge after defense lawyers argued that the law DeLay is accused of violating in 2002 wasn't written until 2003.

    A regional appeals court upheld the judge's decision. Prosecutors appealed to the state's highest criminal appeals court, a Republican-controlled panel that ruled 5-4 in favor of DeLay and co-defendants John Colyandro and Jim Ellis.

    Two charges — money laundering and conspiring to launder money — remain against the former Republican congressman and the two consultants. Lawyers are arguing about those charges in an appeals court, and no trial date has been set. -- State high court refuses to reinstate DeLay conspiracy charge

    June 19, 2007

    “Campaign Finance, Iron Triangles & the Decline of American Political Discourse”

    Timothy A. Canova emails: Please see my article, “Campaign Finance, Iron Triangles & the Decline of American Political Discourse,” which was recently published in the Nexus Journal, in a symposium issue on campaign finance reform. As you will see, my article places the debate about campaign finance in a wider context about the privatization of the TV airwaves (the “vast wasteland”) and the closing of our public space by a largely captured Federal Communications Commission.

    Perhaps your readers would be interested. Please consider plugging my article on your blog, and including the SSRN link:

    April 26, 2007

    Besides haircuts, what do candidates spend money on?

    Walter Shapiro writes on
    With a record-shattering $150 million already raised by the presidential candidates, the 2008 election cycle is shaping up to be a Gilded Age for the political class. Whoever wins the White House, an elite group of ad-makers, strategists, pollsters, direct-mail mavens and fundraising arrangers will share the spoils of victory and the just as lucrative swag of defeat.

    All this brings us to a dirty little secret of politics -- the murky financial arrangements between the top consultants and the campaigns they serve. The Federal Election Commission does not require detailed breakdowns of consultant expenses from the candidates. And the campaigns refuse to voluntarily release this information. The result is that political givers end up knowing far less about how wisely their money was spent than if they had donated the cash to a charity.

    Back in February, Mitt Romney was the first member of the Class of '08 to hit TV sets in the early primary and caucus states, with a 60-second biographical spot in which the former Massachusetts governor solemnly declared, "This is not a time for more talk and dithering in Washington. It's a time for action." When it came time to file its first-quarter reports with the FEC, which were due last week, the campaign dutifully chronicled more than $1.8 million in payments to National Media -- the Alexandria, Va., firm in which Romney media advisor Alex Castellanos is a partner.

    But there is no way of knowing from the FEC report what portion of this money was used to purchase TV time, how much paid for production costs or how much went directly to Castellanos as a fee. To raise that $1.8 million required a minimum of 782 donors, since the maximum individual contribution for the primaries is $2,300. But what these political givers got for their money is considered confidential information by the Romney campaign. -- Are political consultants getting rich off your money? |

    April 23, 2007

    New York: GOP leader nixes agreement on campaign finance changes

    The Times Union reports: Gov. Eliot Spitzer vowed Monday to mount a new political campaign against the state Senate's Republican majority after its leader rejected the Democratic governor's plans for overhauling New York's notoriously lax campaign finance laws as "elitist."

    "The Republican members of the state Senate were unwilling to break their addiction to the free flow of money," said Spitzer. "It is a narcotic to which they are beholden."

    With that, Spitzer announced plans to visit Senate districts represented by "members of the temporary majority of the Senate" to berate them for their position and seek their eventual ouster if they didn't back an overhaul.

    The developments came just a few hours after Spitzer drew a standing ovation from several hundred government reform activists when he said he was closing in on a possible agreement with the state Legislature to overhaul New York's campaign finance laws. -- Albany, N.Y.: - Print Story

    Thanks to Jeff Wice for the link.

    April 20, 2007

    Florida: Foley's campaign funds paying the legal bills

    AP reports: Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley is racking up huge legal bills defending himself against potential criminal charges in the Internet teen sex scandal that led to his resignation and is paying them with leftover campaign contributions.

    Foley spent $206,000 in campaign cash on lawyers from November to January, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. The FEC has ruled in other cases that such expenditures are generally lawful.

    That left about $1.7 million in the Florida Republican's campaign account on March 31, even after he returned more than $110,000 from donors. -- Foley Pays Legal Bills With Leftover Campaign Cash |

    April 12, 2007

    Preview of the FEC v. Wisconsin RTL case

    Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute has posted a summary of the arguments being made in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life; McCain v. Wisconsin Right to Life.

    April 11, 2007

    Alabama: senate committee adds loopholes to PAC-to-PAC transfer bill

    The Birmingham News reports: A Senate panel on Tuesday voted 10-0 to put several exceptions into a proposed ban on transfers of money between political action committees. ..

    McLaughlin's bill, as passed by the House of Representatives last month on a vote of 103-0, would ban any political action committee formed by a lobby group, company or other organization from contributing money to another PAC. Such PAC-to-PAC transfers can hide a candidate's true source of political contributions.

    Under the Senate committee's rewrite, PAC-to-PAC transfers would be banned except that any PAC still could give to:

    Political parties and the parties' PACs.

    Party caucuses and their PACs.

    Legislative party caucuses and their PACs.

    Organizations, which could have their own PACs, that use PAC money to get out the vote for candidates endorsed by those organizations. Mitchell mentioned the Alabama Democratic Conference as one group that would be covered by that exception.

    The PAC of any organization "whose charter or bylaws mandate that the organization support candidates of only one political party so designated by the organization." -- Senate panel rewrites PAC bill

    April 10, 2007

    Oklahoma: PAC-to-PAC transfer ban proposed reports: A proposed ethics rule would bring more openness to the political process by stopping a practice that allows money to be transferred among political action committees, supporters say.

    The rule is designed to accomplish two purposes: ensuring the public knows the source of campaign cash doled out by PACs and preventing the possibility of someone eluding the $5,000 limit on campaign donations.

    Although it is acknowledged as a significant rule that would shake up the state's campaign financing structure, legislative leaders are shying away from taking a position on the proposal. -- - The News On 6

    April 9, 2007

    Edwards campaign modifies its website to allow opt-out

    Mary Ann Akers writes on the Wash. Post blog The Sleuth: John Edwards's presidential campaign has modified its online fundraising approach to give visitors an "opt-out" option if they are just trying to send a sympathy note to Elizabeth Edwards about her cancer recurrence.

    The change reflects an apparent attempt to separate the handling of Mrs. Edwards's illness from the incessant need for money to fund her husband's campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The adjustment comes after The Sleuth reported last week that the Edwards campaign was soliciting contributions from people who sent sympathy notes to Elizabeth Edwards through the Edwards campaign Web site. -- Edwards Campaign Modifies Online Fundraising Practice - The Sleuth

    April 5, 2007

    Alabama: Judge King's lawyer dispute campaign finance charges

    The Birmingham News reports: Bessemer Circuit Judge Dan King spent $4,700 on food during the years 2003 and 2005, campaign finance records show. The question is whether those and other expenditures qualify as legitimate campaign expenses.

    King's lawyer, Ralph "Buddy" Armstrong, said Wednesday that he thinks that they do, given his understanding of the state's campaign finance laws. ...

    A review of King's campaign finance forms show that the judge - who has not faced opposition in two elections - spent thousands of dollars on items that do not appear, on their face, to be campaign-related.

    For example, records show that King spend almost $4,700 on meals in 2003 and 2005.

    The Bright Star in Bessemer and San Antonio Grille in McCalla were the most frequent entries. King spent $230 on a meal at The Bright Star, the most expensive outing, in November 2003. -- Campaign spending propriety disputed

    April 4, 2007

    Alabama: judge indicted for misuse of campaign funds

    The Birmingham News reports: Bessemer Circuit Judge Dan King was booked into the Jefferson County jail Tuesday after he was indicted on 56 counts related to misuse of campaign funds.

    The judge, who will be suspended from the bench with pay, was indicted by a Bessemer Cutoff grand jury Monday for tax, ethics and election law violations, Alabama Attorney General Troy King said in announcing the indictment. ...

    Ralph "Buddy" Armstrong, Dan King's attorney, said the judge will argue that he deposited campaign funds in his personal account only to repay loans he had made to his campaign.

    "A candidate loans himself money all the time. How does he get that money back?" Armstrong said. "He was paying himself back for money he had spent out of his personal account." -- Judge indicted on campaign fund uses

    April 1, 2007

    Alabama: A.G.'s office represented Worley while investigating her

    AP reports: State Attorney General Troy King said there was no conflict of interest when his staff represented then-Secretary of State Nancy Worley in lawsuits at the same time it was conducting an investigation that led to criminal charges against her.

    Worley, a Democrat, has repeatedly complained that the Republican attorney general did a poor job of representing her in civil matters and pursued the criminal case simultaneously to help her Republican opponent, Beth Chapman, and make himself look better.

    While Worley was secretary of state, King’s office represented her in a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department that accused her office of missing the deadline for implementing a statewide voter registration database. Worley repeatedly complained that King wasn’t following her wishes when King asked a federal judge to transfer the database responsibilities to Republican Gov. Bob Riley, who had appointed King attorney general. -- King: No conflict of interest

    March 28, 2007

    Ohio: "Liberal group challenges backers of 2004 gay marriage amendment"

    AP Wire | 03/28/2007 | Liberal group challenges backers of 2004 gay marriage amendment

    A liberal advocacy group asked the state's elections chief Wednesday to investigate whether backers of a 2004 gay marriage ban properly reported all the money they received and spent during the campaign.

    Citizens for Community Values, the Cincinnati-based group behind the Ohio Campaign to Protect Marriage, immediately dismissed the claims by as unfounded.

    The constitutional amendment the group backed, which passed overwhelmingly, was credited with turning out Christian conservative voters who tipped the state's presidential results to President Bush.

    In a letter to Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, ProgressOhio executive director Brian Rothenberg said the numbers didn't add up in a review the group conducted of campaign finance reports for various entities linked to the 2004 marriage campaign.

    "Senate Committee Approves Bill to Speed Up Campaign Finance Disclosures" reports: The Senate Rules Committee voted to expedite the Senate campaign finance disclosure process Wednesday after Republicans aired their growing frustrations with the limited opportunities for minority legislation.

    The measure (S 223), approved by voice vote, would force members of the Senate to file with the Federal Election Commission electronically, which would shorten the process of making the filings available to the public by about a month.

    Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California and other supporters of the legislation have argued that the bill’s only chance for enactment is to pass it as a stand-alone mueasure under unanimous consent. Identical bills failed to win Senate passage in the both the 108th and 109th Congresses.

    When ranking Republican member Robert F. Bennett of Utah floated an amendment to eliminate the caps on party coordinated spending — a proposal that has some Democratic opposition — the bill’s large group of supporters accused him of trying to sink the measure. -- - From CQ Today: Senate Committee Approves Bill to Speed Up Campaign Finance Disclosures

    March 26, 2007

    Office manager indicted for embezzlement from the Women's Campaign Fund

    The Washington Times reports: The office manager for a D.C.-based political committee has been indicted on charges of embezzling more than $80,000 and covering up the theft by destroying financial records.

    Monica J. Cash, when office manager of the Women's Campaign Fund, wrote 58 checks to herself, then forged signatures before funneling the money into her bank account or cashing the checks, according to a recent indictment in federal court in the District. Miss Cash was arrested Wednesday and has been released on bond. ...

    The group was not accused of wrongdoing. However, the purported theft resulted in the group apparently misstating expenditures in mandatory disclosure statements on file with the FEC, according to the indictment. -- Fund's ex-staffer indicted in fraud - Metropolitan - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

    March 23, 2007

    Alabama: House passes campaign disclosure bill, despite charges of Bible-trampling

    AP reports: The Alabama House continued its efforts Thursday to reform the way election campaigns are financed.

    The House voted 105-0 for a bill that requires disclosure of those paying for advertisements about a candidate, including material sent by mail and calls from a phone bank. The sponsor, Rep. Randy Hinshaw, D-Meridianville, said the bill is aimed at anonymous ads, phone calls and flyers that say disparaging things about a candidate, but include no disclosure of who paid for the material.

    Current Alabama law requires financial disclosure only for ads that specifically ask people to vote for a certain candidate, Hinshaw said. ...

    Hinshaw received a warmer reception than he has in past years for similar legislation that would have forced nonprofit organizations to disclose the source of funding to influence votes on issues such as creating a lottery or tax increases. That bill elicited a negative response from some lawmakers, who said the bill was aimed at forcing the Alabama Christian Coalition to disclose the sources of its money.

    Several lawmakers questioned Hinshaw at length Thursday about whether this bill would force churches to disclose the names of contributors.

    "I want to make sure we are not restricting any religious freedom," said Rep. DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley. "I just want to make sure the Bible is not being trampled on by this bill or any other bill." -- House passes bill requiring disclosure of money for campaign ads

    Alabama: Senate leaders send PAC bill to new committee

    AP reports: A House-passed bill to ban PAC-to-PAC transfers of campaign funds got assigned to a fresh committee in the state Senate Tuesday by two leaders pushing for its passage.

    Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., the Senate's presiding officer, and Senate President Pro Tem Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove, teamed up to assign the bill to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, where they said it will have the best chance of winning approval.

    In recent years, the House has passed the bill and watched it die in the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee or get approved so late in the legislative session that it never came up for a vote in the Senate. -- AP Wire | 03/20/2007 | Senate leaders send PAC transfer bill to friendlier committee

    March 20, 2007

    Alabama: judge dismisses suit over senators' campaign reports

    AP reports: A Montgomery judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the election of four powerful Democrats in the Alabama Senate.

    Circuit Judge Charles Price ruled he lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit filed against election officials by former Republican appeals court judge Mark Montiel.

    Montiel's suit asked the judge to revoke the state certificates of election for the four senators on grounds they did not file the proper campaign finance reports with the Secretary of State for the Democratic primary last June.

    In an order received by the attorneys during the weekend, Price sided with arguments raised by attorneys for the Democratic party and attorney general's staff that the four senators are already in office and only the state Senate has jurisdiction over their service. -- Judge dismisses election suit over four Alabama senators | | Times Daily | Florence, AL

    March 19, 2007

    More money to PACs last year

    The Politico reports: PACs are back.

    Political action committees shifted their giving slightly last year but remained among the most generous and fastest-growing sources of campaign cash, a byproduct of sweeping finance reforms that banned unlimited donations from unions and corporations.

    An analysis of PAC contributions provides a window into the dynamics of the Republican-controlled 109th Congress: PACs linked to hot issues such as health care and Social Security gave more money. Nearly all contributions went to incumbents. And Republicans received more than Democrats, a tilt likely to change since Democrats seized the congressional majority in November.

    Setting aside the details, the growth of PAC giving – $385 million to federal candidates in the 2006 elections, 17 percent more than in the 2004 cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics – highlights a fundamental change in campaign finance. The growth stems from an effort to more tightly regulate money in politics and, barring substantial legislative or regulatory reforms, the trend seems likely to continue. -- Last Year Saw Huge Rise in PAC Donations -

    Michigan: Feiger claims he was political target of DOJ

    The Detroit News reports: Attorney Geoffrey Fieger fired fresh accusations Thursday at embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, accusing Gonzales of personally approving a 2005 raid on his law office that Fieger says was part of a political witch hunt.

    Gonzales faces congressional calls for his resignation over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys since December. Critics say the firings were political and reasons included aggressive prosecution of Republicans -- charges Gonzales and the White House deny.

    Fieger said legislators need to focus on prosecutors who were not fired but rewarded, such as U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy in Detroit, nominated by President Bush for the federal appeals court. Murphy is awaiting confirmation.

    "The Detroit federal prosecutor's office has agreed to take the lead for the Bush White House by engaging in numerous political prosecutions of Democrats," Fieger said. -- Fieger says Gonzales targeted him

    March 18, 2007

    Alabama: PAC-to-PAC transfers could be replaced by candidate-to-candidate transfers

    The Mobile Press-Registers says in an editorial: STATE GOVERNMENT reformers should hold the applause for the House-passed ban on hiding the source of campaign donations by routing them through a thicket of political action committees.

    The 103-0 vote on banning PAC-to-PAC transfers is a step toward more open and honest politics in Alabama, but lawmakers need to leap out of the unsavory past with legislation that makes campaign cash totally transparent. The bill approved by the House is fine as far as it goes; it just doesn't go far enough to ensure that big-dog political contributors can't cover their tracks. ...

    If the House bill becomes law, you can bet that reformers will soon be casting a critical eye on "candidate-to-candidate transfers."

    As part of his agenda for ethics reform, Gov. Riley proposed banning both PAC-to-PAC transfers and the practice of transferring donations from one candidate to another. In candidate-to-candidate transfers, a donor may give to Candidate A's campaign committee with the expectation that he or she will pass it on to Candidate B. The net effect is the same as a PAC-to-PAC transfer: It conceals the real source of campaign donations. -- Campaign reform bill has major loophole

    Kentucky: former aide files campaign-finance complaint against Henry

    AP reports: A former campaign aide to gubernatorial candidate Steve Henry filed an election finance complaint Friday alleging Henry improperly raised money for his state race through a federal campaign committee.

    Leslie Holland, who served as Henry's campaign manager and spokeswoman last fall, made the allegations in a complaint filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, according to Oliver Barber Jr., an attorney representing Holland.

    Henry is one of seven Democrats seeking the nomination in the May 22 primary. ...

    Holland's complaint said the lists contain donors who gave to Henry before he filed to run for governor in January and selected Renee True, the Fayette County Property Valuation Administrator, as his running mate.

    Kentucky law has no provision for exploratory committees for gubernatorial candidates - they must file to run in order to raise campaign funds. -- The Cincinnati Post - Henry's former manager files finance complaint

    March 15, 2007

    Alabama: House passes PAC-to-PAC transfer ban

    AP reports: The Alabama House voted 103-0 Tuesday to ban the practice of transferring campaign donations from one political action committee to another.

    It's the sixth year in a row the House has passed by near unanimous votes bills to ban the practice known as "PAC to PAC transfers." The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville, said the transfers create a "shell game" that makes it impossible for voters to figure out the source of a candidate's money.

    McLaughlin has watched for the past five years as his bill passed the House and then died in the Senate without coming up for a vote. House Speaker Seth Hammett said he has been assured by Senate leaders the bill would be considered in the upper chamber this session. -- 103-0 vote in House to ban PAC transfers

    Alabama: ex-SOS Worley indicted on campaign charges

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Former Secretary of State Nancy Worley blamed her indictment Wednesday on a Republican conspiracy, a theory dismissed by a fellow Democrat whose complaint is believed to have sparked it.

    Worley, indicted on five felony counts and five misdemeanor counts accusing her of soliciting campaign funds from employees in the secretary of state's office, said she has no plans to resign her vice chairmanship with the state Democratic Party because of a "mean-spirited" legal attack based on a campaign letter that didn't ask for contributions.

    "It's another Republican political witch hunt," Worley said.

    Ed Packard, her former employee who ran against her in the Democratic primary, filed the complaint believed to be the basis of the indictment. He doesn't see how Republican Attorney General Troy King could get a Montgomery County grand jury to join a vendetta. -- :: Worley alleges GOP 'witch hunt'

    March 13, 2007

    Louisiana: still paying to play

    The New Orleans Times-Picayne reports: It's no secret that many of the same contractors who appear on agenda after agenda before the Jefferson Parish Council also appear in campaign finance reports filed by the politicians who routinely give public business to the firms.

    Familiar names also cropped up when Parish President Aaron Broussard had emergency powers to issue contracts without following public bidding laws immediately after Hurricane Katrina.

    Now a campaign finance reform that was designed to stamp out the appearance of partiality to contractors who give generously to campaigns is expected to have limited reach among Jefferson's eight top politicians, all of whom face election this fall.

    State lawmakers passed Act 849 last year to send a message to Washington, D.C., that the "Louisiana way" of contractor favoritism had gone out of favor, leaving no tolerance for even the appearance of rewarding firms whose dollars helped win elections.

    It prohibits politicians from accepting donations for three years from anyone who received no-bid emergency work after the hurricane, including contractors and their first-tier subcontractors. Violations cost both the banned firms and the elected officials a penalty twice the amount of the donation. -- Despite new law, campaign cash flows

    North Carolina: Rep. Wright resigns committee positions during ethics investigation

    The Charlotte Observer reports: Rep. Thomas Wright, a top ally of former House Speaker Jim Black, resigned his chairmanships of two House committees Monday amid a criminal investigation by the State Board of Elections.

    "In order not to cast disfavor upon the Democratic Party, and more importantly, this House of Representatives, I hereby wish to step aside," Wright, a Wilmington Democrat, wrote to House Speaker Joe Hackney and fellow House members in an e-mail Monday. ...

    Wright, 51, is under investigation by the elections board over whether he properly disclosed campaign contributions and whether $8,000 in contributions from nurse anesthetists were tied to his blocking a bill they opposed in 2005. The board can judge and pass sentence in a criminal case or forward to the District Attorney.

    In an interview with reporters Monday evening, Wright denied trading legislative favors. -- Charlotte Observer | 03/13/2007 | Wright resigns 2 House positions

    March 9, 2007

    Dems start creating Leadership PACs

    The Politico reports: Born Fighting. Brave. Giving Willingly, Empowering Nationally. Follow the North Star.

    Sound like qualifications for righteousness?

    Actually, they’re just a few of the names of fundraising slush funds Democratic members of Congress have established since Election Day to raise big contributions from lobbyists, corporations and interest groups seeking to capitalize on the party’s newfound majority.

    At least eight Democratic members – including three freshmen – for the first time registered so-called leadership PACs after their party won the House and Senate Nov. 7, according to non-partisan research group Political Money Line. The Politico also confirmed one PAC created by a Republican in that same span, though many PACs’ ambiguously lofty names and occasionally cloudy stewardship make it tough to tell who’s actually running them.

    Still, the apparent imbalance in the creation of new leadership PACs reflects the rise of Democrats on Capitol Hill. It may take them some time to catch up with Republicans, who opened a string of them in the past ten years when they were in power. -- Emboldened by Control, Junior Democrats Launch Leadership PACs -

    March 8, 2007

    Ohio: Kidwell cert petition filed in U.S. Supreme Court

    A cert petition was filed yesterday in Kidwell v. City of Union, Ohio. The question presented is: "Whether the Sixth Circuit erred by holding that the government speech doctrine allows the government to spend public funds directly to influence the outcome of an election." Here are the opening paragraphs of the Statement of the Case:

    This case arises from a series of disputed ballot initiatives relating to the creation and funding of a fire department by respondent City of Union, Ohio. Before 1997, Union’s fire and emergency services were provided by neighboring Randolph Township. In that year, in response to a potential merger between Randolph Township and the nearby Village of Clayton, the Union City Council passed an emergency resolution establishing its own city fire department. App. 2a Petitioners Ronald Kidwell, Julie Johnson, and Charles Arnett, Union taxpayers, challenged the resolution via a ballot initiative. App. 2-3a.

    The election was preceded by a lively campaign in which the Union City Council used public funds to oppose the initiative. App. 3a. It is undisputed that the Union City Council used city workers and city equipment to hang a “Vote No” campaign banner across Main Street, mailed campaign leaflets to residents, advertised in local newspapers, and used the town newsletter to exhort city residents to vote against the initiative. Id. The city manager also worked closely with members of a local Political Action Committee (PAC) that opposed the initiative to coordinate the campaign expenditures of the city and the PAC. 6th Cir. App. 188-89, 216.

    Thanks to Christopher Landau, one of the counsel for the petitioners for sending the Petition to me. You may download it here.

    Alabama: PAC to PAC transfer bill approved in House committee

    Associated Press reports: Ethics and election campaign reform were a priority Wednesday as Alabama House committees began work on proposed legislation for the 2007 regular session.

    A bill endorsed by Republicans, Democrats and Gov. Bob Riley to ban the practice of transferring campaign contributions from one political action committee to another was approved unanimously by the House Constitution and Elections Committee.

    The panel also approved another election reform measure that requires disclosure of those paying for advertisements about a candidate, including mailouts and calls from a phone bank. -- NewsFlash - House committees approve PAC to PAC ban, other ethics bills

    March 5, 2007

    Alabama: legislators expect PAC-to-PAC transfers ban to pass

    AP reports: Speaker Seth Hammett says he expects legislation to ban the transfer of campaign contributions from one political action committee to another to be among the first bills considered by the House after the regular session begins Tuesday.

    A ban became a hot issue in the 2006 elections, drawing support from Gov. Bob Riley and both the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the Legislature.

    In an Associated Press survey of legislators, 82 percent of House members responding and 78 percent of senators said they favor banning the transfer of campaign contributions between PACs. Ban proponents say the PAC transfers make it difficult for voters to figure out who is giving money to a candidate. ...

    The sponsor of the measure since he was first elected to the Legislature seven years ago has been Rep. Jeff McLaughlin, D-Guntersville. McLaughlin is an outspoken advocate for election and constitutional revisions and has refused to take contributions in his election campaigns. -- :: Lawmakers back ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers

    February 27, 2007

    Sen. Clinton amends her disclosure forms for 5 years

    The Washington Post reports: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former president Bill Clinton have operated a family charity since 2001, but she failed to list it on annual Senate financial disclosure reports on five occasions.

    The Ethics in Government Act requires members of Congress to disclose positions they hold with any outside entity, including nonprofit foundations. Hillary Clinton has served her family foundation as treasurer and secretary since it was established in December 2001, but none of her ethics reports since then have disclosed that fact.

    The foundation has enabled the Clintons to write off more than $5 million from their taxable personal income since 2001, while dispensing $1.25 million in charitable contributions over that period.

    Clinton's spokesman said her failure to report the existence of the family foundation and the senator's position as an officer was an oversight. Her office immediately amended her Senate ethics reports to add that information late yesterday after receiving inquiries from The Washington Post. -- Clintons' Charity Not Listed On Senate Disclosure Forms -

    February 24, 2007

    New York: living high on the hog from campaign funds

    The New York Times reports: When Michael J. Bragman, a onetime Assembly majority leader, retired from the New York State Legislature in 2001, his campaign committee had about $1 million in the bank. Six years later, Mr. Bragman is still retired, and $400,000 of that money is gone.

    Mr. Bragman did not run for office again. But he did pay his wife $24,000 a year to work for a campaign committee that did no campaigning. And he spent thousands more on bottles of wine, meals at a yacht club, Christmas gifts and office rental payments to a company that he appears to control.

    Mr. Bragman, a Democrat who represented a district in the Syracuse area for 21 years, offers an unusually vivid example of how New York’s campaign finance laws allow former candidates to keep spending contributions long after their campaigns end. And he is not alone.

    A review of campaign expenditures at the State Board of Elections found other former officeholders whose unused campaign cash has been put to uses that their contributors probably never envisioned — and with little or no scrutiny from state regulators. While the officeholders are required to report all expenditures from their committees to the board, purchases can be listed only by general category and, when described, often without much detail. -- Retired Politicians Spend Unused Campaign Funds - New York Times

    February 22, 2007

    North Carolina: Morgan drops suit on campaign contributions

    The Pilot reports: Former state Rep. Richard Morgan has dropped his suit against the State Board of Elections.

    The suit had alleged that some of Morgan's political enemies violated state campaign finance laws.

    Morgan's attorney, Mi-chael L. Weisel of Ra-leigh, filed the voluntary dismissal Jan. 31 in Wake County Superior Court.

    The notice cites a pending decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of the Federal Election Commission vs. Wisconsin Right to Life that addresses issues similar to those raised in Morgan's suit.

    Morgan, a former speaker of the state House of Represent-atives, first petitioned the State Board of Elections in April with a complaint against the Republican Legislative Majority (RLM), several political committees, Variety Wholesale Inc. and Variety Stores Inc., alleging that they illegally used corporate contributions in a campaign to defeat him and some of his political allies. -- : Morgan Drops Suit With State

    February 16, 2007

    North Carolina: Speaker Black resigns, pleads guilty

    The Fayette Observer reports: Former state House Speaker Jim Black admitted in federal court Thursday that he took cash payments in secret meetings with chiropractors, contradicting months of denials that he had committed wrongdoing.

    Black, 71, pleaded guilty to a single felony count of receiving personal payments while working as an official for a state that receives federal funds. He was released from court pending sentencing in about 90 days. He faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

    U.S. District Judge James Dever III read much of the government’s charge, including details about cash payments from chiropractors and favorable legislation that helped the chiropractic industry. ...

    The charge says that between 2000 and 2002, Black told two chiropractors that “cash payments would be more helpful than campaign contributions made by check.” Those two recruited a third chiropractor who also made cash payments. -- - Current Article Page

    February 5, 2007

    Romney raised money he can't spend

    Remember the story about the money Mitt Romney raised in unregulated state PACs? The Politico now reports: As Republicans and Democrats rush to raise cash in the crowded presidential field, GOP former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney could forfeit $1.9 million in campaign donations.

    Romney has vaulted into the top tier of GOP presidential candidates, in part by using an innovative fundraising strategy designed to offset some advantages enjoyed by competitors who are members of Congress.

    Part of that strategy involved establishing campaign committees in states that are key to the nomination and allowed him to accept contributions in excess of federal limits. Such state money cannot be spent directly on presidential campaigning, but it can be used to lay the groundwork by hiring staff, renting offices and building goodwill by contributing to state and local politicians.

    Other candidates have used the strategy but none as effectively as Romney, who raised nearly $7.1 million through committees set up in seven states before Jan. 3. That's when he declared his presidential intentions with the Federal Election Commission and established a presidential fundraising committee. Those filings brought him under federal campaign finance laws and essentially put off limits the $1.9 million left over in his state committees. -- The Politico

    February 2, 2007

    Alabama: state's no-limits campaign-finance law drew Romney to set up PAC

    AP reports: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney used Alabama’s campaign finance laws, which place no limits on individual contributions, to raise $514,535 in the state before announcing his candidacy for president.

    All the contributions collected by Romney’s Commonwealth Political Action Committee came from outside Alabama, according to campaign finance reports the PAC filed with the secretary of state.

    Federal law limits individuals contributions to $2,300 per election. But Romney didn’t come under that restriction until he became a candidate.

    Before then, his political team set up PACs in three states that have no limits on individual contributions: Michigan, Iowa and Alabama. The PACs were first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. -- GOP presidential candidate's state PAC pulls in $514,535

    February 1, 2007

    Alabama: most expensive judicial races in the nation

    AP reports: Candidates in the race for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court raised $7.3 million in direct contributions, making it the most expensive court race in America in 2006.

    It also was the most expensive court race ever in Alabama, a state famous for big-budget judicial campaigns fueled by business interests, which generally back Republican candidates, and plaintiff lawyers, who tend to support Democrats.

    The final campaign finance reports brought renewed calls for an end to partisan elections of judges in Alabama, one of seven states that use that method to pick members on their highest court. -- Daily Report

    January 25, 2007

    Alabama: political consultant arrested for false ad

    Wheeler at Alablawg writes about a story I read but forgot to post: Basically, Troy King’s office is prosecuting a political consultant named Rick Spina because, prior to the last election, Spina allegedly took out an ad in the B’Ham news that included false and damaging information about Jim Carns, a candidate for the JeffCo commission. -- Troy King Thinks Roy Moore Is Political Poison « The Alablawg

    Funny stuff.

    Texas: annonymous gifts to presidential libraries questioned

    The Dallas Morning News reports: The big names on campus – all thanks to big dollars – are emblazoned across SMU: the Meadows Museum, Cox School of Business, Moody Coliseum, Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Bob Hope Theater.

    There's even the Laura Bush Promenade – a walkway financed by a $250,000 gift eight years ago from George W. Bush to his wife's alma mater.

    Colleges routinely offer naming rights to encourage donors. But public recognition is voluntary. Private schools don't have to identify financial supporters, and neither do presidential libraries, such as the one Mr. Bush may place at Southern Methodist University.

    Watchdog groups have warned of potential abuse when presidents building endowments for their libraries are allowed to accept unlimited, anonymous gifts from corporations, federal contractors, even foreign governments. Seeking more openness, the Senate last week voted to require disclosure of donations of $200 or more to presidential libraries or inaugural committees – but only from registered lobbyists. -- Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | News: Local News

    Montana and South Dakota: Baucus forms joint committee for himself and Johnson

    The Billings Gazette reports: Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., recently opened a special joint fundraising account to raise cash for himself and for the possible 2008 re-election bid of hospitalized Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.

    The paperwork has been filed and organizers plan to hold a "big, signature event" in February, said Jim Messina, Baucus' chief of staff. All money will be evenly split between the two senators. ...

    Baucus, who also is up for re-election in 2008, had $1.4 million cash on hand as of Sept. 30, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission reports. Johnson, who only narrowly won his last re-election battle, had $651,000.

    Messina said organizers have been "pleasantly surprised" by how many people have already expressed interest in contributing. -- :: Baucus to assist ailing senator

    Michigan: Feiger sues AG

    The Detroit News reports: Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger filed a federal lawsuit today against U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Federal Election Commission, alleging a grand jury investigation of Fieger and his law firm is unlawful.

    A federal grand jury has been investigating more than $50,000 in political donations made to Democrat John Edwards by Fieger and Fieger associates when Edwards was a candidate for his party's 2004 presidential nomination. ...

    In his lawsuit, Fieger alleges such a matter can only be referred to the attorney general after an investigation and referral by the FEC. Fieger alleges such a referral never happened. He asks the court for a declaration that the grand jury investigation is unlawful. -- Fieger sues U.S. Attorney General

    January 24, 2007

    Texas: court of criminal appeals hears arguments in DeLay conspiracy case

    The Austin American-Statesman reports: Travis County prosecutors Wednesday urged the state's highest criminal appellate court to re-instate criminal conspiracy charges against former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

    Lawyers for DeLay and two associates countered that lower courts were correct in dismissing the indictment because conspiracy did not apply to the 2002 election laws that DeLay is accused of violating.

    They also raised the specter that if the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rules against their clients it could raise the question whether the defendants had "fair notice" that they were committing a crime. ...

    The issue before criminal appeals court Wednesday was whether DeLay and his associates, who had hands-on responsibility for the committee, can be charged with conspiring to violate that ban against corporate donations.

    At the heart of the issue is whether criminal conspiracy applies to felonies listed in laws outside the penal code. -- Travis County seeks to reinstate conspiracy charge for DeLay

    January 23, 2007

    Alabama: Judge splits cases attacking election of state senators

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A Montgomery judge split two lawsuits challenging the election of five Democratic state senators, ruling Monday the cases involving campaign finance reports are too different.

    Circuit Judge Charles Price sent the suit challenging the election of state Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla, to Circuit Judge Gene Reese to hear. Price still will handle the suit challenging the election of Democratic Sens. Lowell Barron of Fyffe, Zeb Little of Cullman, Roger Bedford of Russellville and Hank Sanders of Selma.

    The suit against Means was filed by his write-in opponent in the Nov. 7 election, Jack Lowe Jr. of Gadsden. -- :: Judge splits suits challenging election

    January 21, 2007

    Senate tables amendment to treat Indian tribes as corporations in campaign finance law

    Indian County Today reports: In a Jan. 10 vote, the Senate dealt a setback to an amendment that sought to define tribes as corporations under the Federal Election Campaign Act. By tabling the amendment on a 56 - 40 vote, the chamber killed the amendment's chances of being attached to lobbying and ethics reform legislation.

    But 40 senators voted in favor of keeping the amendment alive. For an amendment that did not make it out of the Rules Committee in the 2006 Senate session, according to Capitol Hill senior staff who spoke on background but not for attribution, 40 votes is a surprisingly strong showing. Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate abides by no ''germaneness'' rules on amendments, meaning the amendment of Sen. David Vitter, R-La., can be offered to any bill, regardless of whether it is germane to its subject matter.

    The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 actually leaves tribes out of account, like a bevy of laws from that era. In implementing and enforcing the law, the Federal Election Commission has made rulings on tribes in light of the 1971 enactment. Several leading results of the commission's rulings are that 1) tribes are defined for election purposes as ''persons'' but not as ''individuals,'' and so are not subject to any aggregate limit on their political contributions; 2) tribes are not political action committees ''because their major purpose is not to influence the election or defeat of candidates''; and 3) ''Because Indian tribes do not typically incorporate, are not labor organizations, and are not national banks, the prohibitions ... on these entities making contributions do not extend to Indian tribes.'' -- Vitter amendment killed in Senate vote : ICT [2007/01/19]

    Alabama: sponsor predicts passage of PAC-to-PAC transfer ban this year

    AP reports: State Rep. Jeff McLaughlin says he has felt like "Linus in the pumpkin patch" the last six years, watching time and again as his proposed ban on PAC-to-PAC transfers cleared the House with great fanfare only to quietly die in the Senate. ...

    Here's how it works: A candidate's campaign finance report filed with the secretary of state's office shows he or she received a large donation from a PAC, usually with a name filled with initials that mean nothing to most voters. A check of the PAC's finance report finds a large donation from another PAC.

    McLaughlin said it often takes at least several steps of going from report to report to find the actual source of the contribution. Even then, he said it can be impossible to know for sure because some PACS receive money from various sources. ...

    Some legislators believe the recent change in Senate leadership - which lifted Sen. Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove, a friend of McLaughlin, to senate president pro tem - could mean easier sailing for the proposal. Also, it was endorsed during last year's campaign by Democrats, Republicans and Gov. Bob Riley. -- AP Wire | 01/20/2007 | Legislators predict 2007 may be year to pass PAC-to-PAC ban

    January 18, 2007

    "Exploratory" committees ... explained

    The Washington Post reports: It's this season's must-have political entity: the presidential exploratory committee. The legal equivalent of sticking one toe in the campaign waters, an exploratory committee allows prospective candidates to begin raising money for a campaign while they are still deciding whether to take the plunge.

    Obama hand-delivered his committee paperwork to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday morning, explaining that he would announce a formal decision Feb. 10. The five-page file reveals little beyond who's keeping the books and which bank the campaign is using (Citibank). But it puts his campaign on firm legal ground. Most candidates would prefer not to announce a candidacy this early, but given the massive sums they must raise to compete these days, they need all the time they can get. ...

    The word "exploratory" is not in any FEC regulations. Instead, the phase is referred to as "testing the waters," and an exploratory committee is legally just a campaign committee with "exploratory" in its name. When a formal campaign is announced, the candidate usually changes the name of the committee -- for instance, from "Obama Exploratory Committee," as the senator named his new entity, to something like "Obama for President."

    "If you want to just test the waters, assess your viability, you don't necessarily have to register a committee with us," said FEC spokesman Robert W. Biersack. "But in exchange, you cannot do certain things: create a war chest, actively campaign, generate material that says 'Vote for me.' " -- Before Running, Candidates Must Explore -

    January 16, 2007

    Money flows to Congress: what else is new?

    The Washington Post has a large graphic: Sure, the Democrats have taken control of the Capitol. But corporate donors tend to be colorblind when it comes to giving away campaign cash. With big businesses backing both sides of the aisle, is the 110th really all that different from the 109th? -- Cash Flow: Congress Changes Hands -- or Does It? -

    Thanks to jgilbert2000 for the link.

    January 13, 2007

    Alabama: suit over campaign disclosures to include 1/4 of legislature

    AP reports: A lawsuit challenging the election of several Democratic state senators could grow to include one-fourth of the Legislature and may not be resolved by the time the new Legislature starts considering proposed laws. ...

    Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price held a hearing Friday on two lawsuits filed over the 2006 elections. ...

    Price directed [attorney Mark] Montiel to file court papers bringing into the suit all legislators who are similarly situated to the four senators.

    Montiel said he considers the four unique because they spent large sums to try to defeat three other senators in the Democratic primary, and state law requires candidates to file campaign finance reports when they spend money to influence an election.

    Democratic Party attorney Joe Espy said traditionally in Alabama, candidates for public office have not had to file reports during the primary campaign if they had no opposition in the primary election, and the four senators had no primary opposition. -- NewsFlash - Lawsuit challenging state senators to include more lawmakers

    January 10, 2007

    23 Senators introduce bill calling for electronic campaign reports in Senate races

    Update: Here is the text of the bill. Thanks to John Morris for sending it.

    Here's the heading of a bill just introduced: By Mr. FEINGOLD (for himself, Mr. COCHRAN, Mr. MCCAIN, Mr. DURBIN, Mr. ALLARD, Mr. LUGAR, Ms. LANDRIEU, Mr. LIEBERMAN, Mr. GRASSLEY, Mrs. HUTCHISON, Mr. LEVIN, Ms. MURKOWSKI, Mr. CORNYN, Mr. GRAHAM, Mr. KERRY, Mr. SALAZAR, Mr. OBAMA, Mr. DORGAN, Mr. WYDEN, Mr. ROCKEFELLER, Mrs. BOXER, Mr. REED, and Mrs. FEINSTEIN):

    S. 223. A bill to require Senate candidates to file designations, statements, and reports in electronic form; to the Committee on Rules and Administration.

    (When I get the text of the bill, I will upload it.)

    Thanks to Brett Kappel for the tip.

    January 7, 2007

    Washington State: Davenport's suit to be heard by SCOTUS this week

    AP reports: Former high school teacher Gary Davenport didn't have any particular problem with unions and even had a union job in college, but the man whose name is on an anti-union lawsuit to be heard next week by the U.S. Supreme Court says politics kept him from joining up when he got his teaching job in 1998.

    "I decided I didn't want to become a member because of some of the political stances they take," said Davenport, 32, who was already on his way out of teaching when Davenport v. Washington Education Association was filed in state courts in 2000. ...

    When the Evergreen Freedom Foundation contacted him and other nonmember teachers, who are still required to pay hundreds of dollars to the union each year to pay for contract negotiations, Davenport said their questions caught his attention.

    He agreed to let the conservative think tank and longtime union adversary put his name on the lawsuit but now can't remember the details of the conversation. Davenport v. Washington Education Association has been combined by the Supreme Court with a similar lawsuit filed by the state of Washington against the union. Both cases involve the fees paid to the union by teachers who declined to join.

    Under a series of Supreme Court rulings reaching back nearly 30 years, those workers can be charged a fee to pay for labor negotiations that affect them but can't be forced to pay for the union's political activism.

    At issue this next week is whether the union needs teachers to say "yes" before the fees can be used for political causes or whether teachers must specifically object to having a portion of the fees spent for that purpose. -- The Daily News Online

    January 4, 2007

    SG supports fast consideration of WRTL case

    SCOTUSblog reports: U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, representing the Federal Election Commission, on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to hear and decide during its current Term a significant new test case on a federal ban on election-season campaign ads. In a response to a motion to expedite filed last Friday, the SG suggested that the Court move swiftly to consider the Commission's appeal (and, presumably, a coming separate appeal by members of Congress who support the ad ban) so that the case is resolved well in advance of the 2008 election season. -- FEC supports fast review on campaign ads

    December 27, 2006

    Pennsylvania: Philadelphia appeals ruling on campaign finance law

    The Philadelphia Daily News reports: Mayor Street has decided to fight in court to uphold contribution limits on candidates for mayor and City Council, meaning the restrictions that had been imposed will remain in effect for now. ...

    Common Pleas Court Judge Allan Tereshko earlier this month tossed out the city's campaign-finance law, saying that only the state had the authority to regulate campaign contributions.

    The city's filing of a notice of appeal yesterday imposes an automatic stay on Tereshko's order, which means the limits will remain in effect until the issue is resolved by appellate courts.

    State law imposes no limit on campaign contributions, and past mayoral elections have seen contributions of $50,000 and higher. -- Philadelphia Daily News | 12/27/2006 | Campaign $ limits in effect as city appeals ruling

    Maine: ethics commission votes that Heritage Policy Center is not a PAC

    The State House News Service reports: A divided ethics commission decided last week not to subpoena records from the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center to determine if the organization’s efforts on behalf of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights qualified it as a political action committee – a designation that would allow people to get a better look at its finances.

    Instead, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices voted to require the think tank to file a less-restrictive campaign finance report used by some other nonprofits that got involved in political campaigns during election season. ...

    Under law, political action committees, or PACs, are defined as groups whose “major purpose” is advocating the passage or defeat of a ballot question. They have to raise money on behalf of a cause and spend in excess of $1,500 to promote it. PACs have to file regular campaign finance reports listing who contributed money and how they spent it. ...

    The vote, however, was tied, with the two Democratic representatives on the commission voting for further investigation and one Republican and the independent member voting against. The fifth member, Jean Ginn Marvin, a Republican, removed herself from the discussion because she’s on the board of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. -- - Government News - Current Publishing, LLC

    December 26, 2006

    Pennsylvania: a back door to Murtha?

    The Washington Post reports: For a quarter of a century, Carmen Scialabba labored for Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), helping parcel out the billions of dollars that came through the House Appropriations Committee, so when the disabled aide needed a favor, Murtha was there.

    In 2001, Murtha announced the creation of Scialabba's nonprofit agency for the disabled in Johnstown, Pa. The next year, with Scialabba still on his staff, Murtha secured a half-million dollars for the group, the Pennsylvania Association for Individuals With Disabilities (PAID), and put another $150,000 in the pipeline for 2003, according to appropriations committee records and former committee aides. Since then, the group has helped hundreds of disabled people find work.

    But the group serves another function as well. PAID has become a gathering point for defense contractors and lobbyists with business before Murtha's defense appropriations subcommittee, and for Pennsylvania businesses and universities that have thrived on federal money obtained by Murtha.

    Lobbyists and corporate officials serve as directors on the nonprofit group's board, where they help raise money and find jobs for Johnstown's disabled workers. Some of those lobbyists have served as intermediaries between the defense contractors and businessmen on the board, and Murtha and his aides. -- Nonprofit Connects Murtha, Lobbyists -

    December 22, 2006

    California: state supreme court rules campaign finance laws cover Indian tribes

    The San Francisco reports: California's Indian tribes, which have poured millions of dollars into political battles, lost an effort to be protected from campaign disclosure laws Thursday when the state Supreme Court ruled they can be sued for violations despite their status as sovereign nations.

    The 4-3 ruling allows a state agency to pursue a lawsuit against a Southern California tribe for failing to promptly report $8.5 million in contributions to political committees and candidates from 1998 to 2002. The tribe could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has consistently curbed states' attempts to take tribes to court.

    The ruling "fails to follow established federal law,'' said Richard Milanovich, chairman of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuila Indians. The tribe owns two casinos in Palm Springs.

    Courts have granted tribes immunity from most types of lawsuits in state court, in recognition of their sovereignty and need for self-government. But the California justices said the tribes' status was outweighed in this case by the state's constitutional authority to maintain a "republican form of government'' free from corruption. -- Ruling on campaign disclosure Tribes can be sued for late gift reports

    December 20, 2006

    Several major companies adopt "political transparency and accountability policies"

    CQ reports: The Center for Political Accountability announced today that three leading public companies – Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ - news), Monsanto (NYSE: MON - news), and General Dynamics (NYSE: GD - news) – have agreed to disclose some or all of their political spending made with corporate funds. Monsanto and General Dynamics also agreed to establish board oversight of their political spending. Verizon reports that their board already receives reports on these contributions annually, and will continue to do so.

    Verizon, Monsanto, and General Dynamics join 12 other major companies that adopted political transparency and accountability policies during the 2005 and 2006 shareholder resolution seasons.

    Under the policies, each company will post a complete list of corporate political contributions on its website and disclose the guidelines for their political giving. In addition, Monsanto and General Dynamics will join Verizon in establishing annual oversight of the corporate political contributions process at the Board level. -- Verizon, Monsanto, General Dynamics Adopt New Policies for Political Spending - Yahoo! News

    December 13, 2006

    Arkansas: Gov. Huckabee forms Virginia PAC

    AP reports: Gov. Mike Huckabee can take in unlimited donations at a fundraiser set for Saturday in Little Rock because his political action committee is registered in Virginia, where there is no cap on donations. Arkansas limits donations to a PAC to $5,000 per year.

    Huckabee's PAC, Hope For America, has provided money to political candidates in Iowa and Arkansas. Huckabee is considering a run for president in 2008 but he won't be able to use funds from the Hope For America PAC for his race if he announces for that office, Federal Election Commission spokesman Kelly Huff.

    Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, said a prospective presidential candidate who forms an exploratory committee would be able to accept per-person contributions of $2,100 per election cycle.

    Huckabee, who leaves office Jan. 9, is charging $500 per person for his Christmas gala. Huckabee's band, Capitol Offense, is to play after the event in a concert that costs $50 per ticket. -- Pine Bluff Commercial Online Edition

    Kentucky: ethics commission finds probable cause Sen. Mongiardo violated campaign finance law

    The Frankfort Herald-Leader reports: The state's Legislative Ethics Commission yesterday found enough "probable cause" to hold a hearing to determine whether Democratic state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo violated the law by associating himself with an independent fund-raising committee.

    The ethics panel decision came after more than an hour of closed-door testimony by Mongiardo -- who is expected to announce next week that he'll be running for lieutenant governor next year -- and Spencer Noe, general counsel for the Kentucky Republican Party.

    The party filed the initial complaint against Mongiardo last summer for his association with DANPAC, which stands for Democratic Activist Network Political Action Committee.

    State legislative ethics laws forbid lawmakers from forming "a permanent committee" other than their own election campaign funds. Should the ethics commission find that Mongiardo knowingly violated that law, it could refer the case to the attorney general's office for possible prosecution. -- Lexington Herald-Leader | 12/13/2006 | Panel backs hearing on Mongiardo

    DC: investigation of post-election contributions t