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January 28, 2009

FEC lists Palin as "candidate for president 2012" -- but not so fast

McClatchy Newspapers reports: Ever since Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin opened up a political action committee yesterday, there's been a lot of speculation about why her name suddenly is popping up in the Federal Election Commission database as a candidate for president in 2012. (To see for yourself, click here, search for "Palin," and you'll get a list of committees with her name on them, including this one, which describes her as a candidate for president in 2012.) It's especially eyebrow-raising since a spokeswoman for Palin's new political action committee said yesterday that the new PAC is emphatically not a presidential exploratory committee for the former vice presidential candidate.

Here's how it happened: On Nov. 20, David L. Kelly of Colorado Springs, Colo., filed a statement of organization for a federal election committee: the 2012 Draft Sarah Committee. When Kelly did so, in the section that describes the type of committee it is, he checked off a box saying "this committee supports/opposes only one candidate, and is NOT an authorized committee." He wrote in "Sarah Palin" as the name of the candidate his committee either supports or opposes.

Basically, when the "2012 Draft Sarah Committee" wrote in Palin's name on its form, she got automatically entered into the FEC database as a candidate for president in 2012. Anyone whose name was entered in the form would have been designated as a candidate. -- More on Palin and the presidency - Yahoo! News

June 8, 2008

McCain may soon get an FEC to vote to give him public funds

The Washington Independent reports: Throughout this presidential primary season, the Federal Election Commission, which polices spending on campaigns for Congress and the presidency, has been dormant. This has created a dilemma for Sen. John McCain R-Ariz. , the presumed Republican nominee for president.

David Mason, the chairman of the FEC and a Republican, had questioned whether McCain could opt out of public funding for the presidential primary after using the promise of public money to get a loan. Mason, though, is but one of two current commissioners for a federal government panel that s supposed to have six members-- three Democrats and three Republicans-- and requires the approval of four commissioners to issue rulings or allot money to candidates. Without a commission ruling, McCain has proceeded to spend $80 million -- about $30 million more than allowed for candidates on public money.

McCain has a second FEC issue. While he opted out of federal financing for the primary season, he is expecting to take advantage of public funding for the general election. So he needs a working commission to sign off on providing his general election money.

A flurry of FEC-related activity in the past two weeks now suggests that McCain's dilemma is about to be solved. President George W. Bush has nominated enough commissioners to get create a working six-member FEC. But Mason is not one of them. -- Return of the FEC - The Washington Independent - U.S. news and politics - washingtonindependent.com

May 17, 2008

Von Spakovsky withdraws, Reid claims victory

The Washington Post reports: A controversial Bush administration nominee to the Federal Election Commission withdrew from consideration yesterday, providing a likely breakthrough to an impasse that has sidelined the political watchdog agency at the height of the primary season.

Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department lawyer whose nomination became entangled in allegations that political considerations influenced decisions by the agency s Civil Rights Division, sent President Bush a letter withdrawing his NAME.

Senate Democrats had refused for a year to confirm von Spakovsky, torpedoing the nominations of three other nominees and denying the FEC a quorum. Since Jan. 1, only two of the agency s six commissioner slots have been filled. Bush, supported by GOP Senate leaders, had refused to withdraw von Spakovsky s NAME.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid D-Nev. claimed victory yesterday and predicted that Bush would soon select a replacement who could quickly win confirmation along with four other pending nominees and put the FEC back on its feet. -- Contested Nominee To FEC Drops Out - washingtonpost.com

May 16, 2008

Von Spakovsky witndraws from FEC nomination

TPM Muckraker reports: After a five-month standoff, Hans von Spakovsky has withdrawn his NAME as a nominee to the FEC. The move likely clears the way for the deadlock over the FEC to be resolved.

You can read his resignation here.

It is with regret that I write to request that you withdraw my nomination, Spakovsky wrote in a letter to the President today. In his letter, Spakovsky explains that Democrats opposition to his nomination has caused a battle that has been extremely hard on my family and quite frankly, we do not have the financial resources to continue to wait until this matter is resolved.

Democrats have opposed Spakovsky s nomination ever since last year, but it was the opposition of Sens. Barack Obama D-IL and Russ Feingold D-WI , who refused to allow any vote on the nominees together, that ultimately led to his withdrawal. Republicans, on the other hand, refused to allow Spakovsky to be voted on separately. -- TPMMuckraker | Talking Points Memo | Breaking: Spakovsky Withdraws as FEC Nominee

May 9, 2008

Bush aids McCain by nominating new commissioners to FEC

The New York Times reports: For months, the White House and Senate Republicans have been content to let a political impasse over vacancies at the Federal Election Commission persist, sidelining the regulatory agency in the throes of a heated presidential campaign.

But on Tuesday, President Bush suddenly announced three new nominees to the commission. He also backed away from Republicans’ insistence that the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official who faces vigorous opposition from Democrats, be voted upon with other nominees to the commission.

The reason for the about-face?

Several Democratic officials familiar with the negotiations and watchdog groups said they believed that Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, had been pressing the White House and Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, to resolve the issue.

Although Mr. McCain has been a longtime champion of campaign finance reform, he also has an urgent pecuniary interest in the matter.

The agency, which monitors compliance of federal election laws, has had only two commissioners out of a normal complement of six for months, leaving it without a quorum and powerless to act. Without a functioning commission, campaign finance experts said, Mr. McCain’s ability to collect $85 million in federal money for the general election through the country’s public financing system would be severely complicated. -- In F.E.C. Moves, Some See Effort to Aid McCain - New York Times

April 15, 2008

FEC nominee Lenhard withdraws

The Washington Post reports: A Democratic nominee to the Federal Election Commission yesterday withdrew his name for consideration, choosing private-sector work rather than waiting out a confirmation impasse between Senate Democrats and President Bush that has hobbled the agency.

Robert Lenhard, whose two-year recess appointment to the commission expired in December, accepted a position with the law firm Covington & Burling. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said it would take "at least several months" to offer up a replacement nominee, meaning the electoral watchdog commission will remain at gridlock most of the campaign season. -- FEC Nominee Withdraws Name After Long Impasse - washingtonpost.com

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 - Examiner.com

October 15, 2007

Sen. Obama opposes von Spakovsky nomination

Sen. Barack Obama writes in the Louisiana Weekly: More than 40 years ago, John Lewis and Hosea Williams, along with hundreds of everyday Americans, left their homes and churches to brave the blows of Billy clubs and join a march for freedom across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Thousands of anonymous foot soldiers - Blacks and Whites, the young and the elderly - summoned the courage to march for justice and demand freedom. A few months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. ...

This is what's at stake in the United States Senate today. President Bush has recently nominated Hans von Spakovsky to serve on the Federal Election Commission (FEC). It's the job of the FEC to regulate elections and disclose campaign finance contributions. So it goes without saying that the FEC needs strong, impartial leadership that will promote integrity in our election system.

Hans von Spakovsky is not the right person for this job, and I strongly oppose his nomination. From 2001 to 2005, von Spakovsky served as an official at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division where he amassed a record of undermining voting rights, creating restrictions that would make it harder for poor and minority communities to vote, and putting partisan politics above upholding our civil rights. -- Louisiana Weekly - Your Community. Your Newspaper.

September 28, 2007

CLC Executive Director Urges Sen. Reid to Hold Separate Vote on von Spakovsky Nomination

The Campaign Legal Center sent a letter to Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) today urging him to hold a separate vote in the Senate on the highly controversial nomination of Hans von Spakovsky to the Federal Election Commission.

According to the letter, “Mr. von Spakovsky's lengthy record of minority vote suppression has been well documented and leaves him singularly unqualified to serve in a position interpreting and enforcing our nation's election laws.” It continues, “Voters nationwide deserve to know if their Senator votes in favor of this nominee who is wholly unqualified, having devoted much of his professional career to undermining minority voting rights.”


September 26, 2007

"Do Not Vote for This Guy"

Dahlia Lithwick writes on Slate.com: Another one for you to file under "fox guards the henhouse": The Senate rules committee votes tomorrow (Wednesday) on whether to give Hans A. von Spakovsky a full six-year term on the Federal Elections Commission. For Senate Democrats to even consider allowing someone with von Spakovsky's background to sit on the independent agency tasked with protecting the integrity of federal elections is beyond incredible. If von Spakovsky is confirmed, it will be yet more evidence that Democrats have no more regard for the rule of law, or the integrity of the Justice Department, than Karl Rove does. -- Hans von Spakovsky cannot be confirmed to the FEC. - By Dahlia Lithwick - Slate Magazine

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: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=993502

June 14, 2007

von Spakovsky defends his record

The Washington Times reports: Hans von Spakovsky, an embattled Republican nominee to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), yesterday told a Senate panel that his support of laws requiring voters to show photo identification and other election safeguards are being misconstrued as plots to disenfranchise black Democratic voters.

"I think voter ID is a good idea," he said at a Rules and Administration Committee hearing on his and three other nominations to the FEC. "I also believe very strongly that every eligible voter needs to be able to access the ballot box."

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, a member of the rules panel, praised Mr. von Spakovsky's sentiment but said it was "inconsistent" with his actions as counsel at the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division from 2003 through 2005.

Mr. von Spakovsky, 48, who has been serving on the FEC board for 18 months as a recess appointment by President Bush, said he did not make final decisions on civil rights issues, such as the much-maligned decision supporting a Georgia photo-ID law that was criticized as disenfranchising black voters. -- FEC nominee defends support for voter IDs

von Spakovsky opposed by former DOJ attorneys

The Dallas Morning News reports: A nominee to the Federal Election Commission hit a wall over Texas redistricting during his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Democrats accused Hans von Spakovsky of injecting politics into the Justice Department's analysis of a 2003 Texas congressional redistricting map when he was a top lawyer at the department.

Eight career lawyers and election law experts who served under Mr. Spakovsky in the civil rights division signed a letter urging senators to reject his nomination. They said he and other Bush political appointees had no good reason to overturn a unanimous staff recommendation to reject the Texas redistricting plan, which they said clearly violated minority voting rights in some districts – including the Dallas-based 24th District long held by Democrat Martin Frost.

Mr. Frost was among the half-dozen Texas Democrats who lost House seats after the remap orchestrated in the Legislature by Tom DeLay, who was U.S. House majority leader at the time. --

June 13, 2007

von Spakovsky hearing preview

NPR's Peter Overby reports: President Bush put Hans von Spakovsky on the Federal Election Commission via a recess appointment — no Senate hearings required — in January 2006. Now, von Spakovsky faces a confirmation hearing.

Senators likely will be interested less in his election-law rulings than in his previous job, where he hunted for voter fraud and promoted state voter-ID laws as a political appointee in the Justice Department's civil rights section. -- Voter-Fraud Activist on Election Panel Faces Hearing

June 8, 2007

FEC nominee von Spakovsky's hearing begins next week

The Washington Post reports: As his critics see it, Hans A. von Spakovsky used every opportunity he had over four years in the Justice Department to make it difficult for voters -- poor, minority and Democratic -- to go to the polls. During his tenure, more than half of the career lawyers in the voting section left in protest.

Von Spakovsky now serves as a temporary commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, the bipartisan body that enforces campaign finance regulations. And a Senate Rules Committee hearing set for Wednesday on whether to confirm him for a six-year term could become a critical moment in the debate over political influence in the Justice Department.

Voting rights activists and campaign finance watchdogs are urging lawmakers to take a stand against von Spakovsky's nomination. "He failed to understand his role was not to be a representative of the Republican Party," said Joseph Rich, a former voting section chief who worked under von Spakovsky, who was then counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Von Spakovsky was appointed to the FEC in January 2006 during a congressional recess along with two Democrats. A fourth commissioner, a Republican, was renominated. All four will come before the Senate panel next week, but von Spakovsky is the most controversial. They all declined to comment before the hearing. -- Hearing on FEC Pick Could Add Fuel to Debate Over Justice Dept.

March 1, 2007

11th Circuit affirms decision for FEC and against Reform Party

The 11th Circuit issued its opinion today in FEC v. Reform Party of the USA. The first two paragraphs of the opinion say: The Reform Party of the United States (“the RPUSA”) appeals the district
court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Federal Election Commission (“the Commission”), and its entry of an injunction limiting the manner in which the RPUSA may spend its money pending satisfaction of its repayment obligation. The Commission filed suit against the RPUSA, and its treasurers William D. Chapman, Sr. (“Chapman”) and Lee Dilworth (“Dilworth”), and the Reform Party 2000 Convention Committee (“Convention Committee”) and its treasurer, Gerald M. Moan (“Moan”), pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 9010(b). In its suit, the Commission sought the recovery of $333,558.00 in public funds previously determined by the Secretary of the Treasury to be owed by the RPUSA pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 9007, as well as injunctive and declaratory relief. The RPUSA and the other named Defendants presented several defenses, filed a counterclaim against the Commission, and filed cross-claims against Defendant Chapman and the Convention Committee.

The RPUSA argues that summary judgment was improperly granted because (1) the district court erroneously found it did not have jurisdiction to hear the RPUSA’s defenses and claims against the Commission; (2) the RPUSA was denied discovery; and (3) the injunction violates the RPUSA’s first amendment right to free speech. We conclude that the court correctly determined it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the defenses and counterclaim, and that the RPUSA was not improperly denied discovery. We do not reach the merits of the first amendment challenge to the injunctive portion of the order. Accordingly, we AFFIRM.

The entire opinion may be downloaded here.

December 27, 2004

CREW claims FEC wrongfully withholds Westar's report

The Business Journal of Kansas City reports: A motion filed in a federal lawsuit accuses the Federal Election Commission of wrongly shielding a Westar Energy Inc. report on political donations from the Freedom of Information Act and asks the judge to require the agency to produce the report.

The report resulted from the May 2003 revelation of company e-mails allegedly describing former Chairman David Wittig's efforts to "get a seat at the table" in Congress with political donations.

Although Westar has said it surrendered the report to the FEC earlier this year, neither the company nor the agency has released it to the public.

The motion for summary judgment filed in U.S. District Court in Washington alleges that the FEC failed to properly search for the Westar document despite the suit and previous requests from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. -- Motion: Election agency wrongly withheld Westar report - 2004-12-27 - The Business Journal of Kansas City

September 28, 2004

FEC will appeal voiding of its regulations

AP reports: The Federal Election Commission said Tuesday it will appeal a federal judge's decision to strike down more than a dozen of the government's current rules on political fund raising.

In a statement, however, the commission said it had not decided whether to ask the U.S. Court of Appeals to review all or some of the rules sent back to the agency by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

Last week, Kollar-Kotelly ordered the FEC to write new rules to govern key aspects of fund raising, including when candidates and outside parties can coordinate activities.

Kollar-Kotelly ruled that some of the regulations the FEC devised after passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002 would "create an immense loophole" and allow for abuses that lawmakers who wrote the law never intended.

FEC commissioner Michael Toner, a Republican, said the appeal was necessary. "The commission's regulations clearly and effectively implemented the law," Toner said. -- FEC to appeal campaign finance ruling (AP via Boston.com)

September 18, 2004

Bush files same suit that lost earlier in the week

Update:
Trevor Potter emails: Actually, it is NOT the same suit as the A-8 complaint filed earlier, and rejected by the District Court this week. Rather, it is an "arbitrary and capricious" APA complaint based on the FEC's refusal to issue 527 regs (not based on any particular enforcement matter and the 120 day standard). It is thus in fact very similiar to the suit filed by Shays and Meehan last week.

Thanks, Trevor, and my apologies for the confusion.

====

AP reports: President Bush's campaign on Friday filed its second lawsuit in a month against the Federal Election Commission in federal court in Washington, this time accusing the commission of failing to enforce the nation's campaign finance laws.

The Bush-Cheney lawsuit asked the court to order the FEC to adopt regulations restricting the groups, arguing the campaign laws require the commission to do so.

Its earlier case asked the court to order the FEC to act within 30 days on complaints the campaign filed in March against anti-Bush groups spending millions of dollars in unlimited donations in the presidential race, despite a law broadly banning the use of such "soft money" in federal races. U.S. District Judge James Robertson rejected that request Wednesday. -- Bush Campaign Files Lawsuit Against FEC (AP via TheState.com)

Why did Bush file essentially the same suit as the one that was dismissed earlier in the week? Maybe this is his way of intervening in the Shays and Meehan case.

July 14, 2004

Trent Lott and Trevor Potter agree (almost) on FEC

AP reports: A key senator expressed support Wednesday for efforts to overhaul the Federal Election Commission, saying he may propose legislation aimed at ending deadlocks on the panel.

Sen. Trent Lott, chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, said he is considering introducing a bill that would reduce the six-member commission to five members.

"That will guarantee a result in every case," Lott, R-Miss., said at a committee hearing on the FEC. -- Trent Lott May Propose Trimming FEC (AP via Newsday.com)

The Campaign Legal Center quotes Trevor Potter's testimony: "First, the agency could move to a system like the one used by the International Trade Commission, where tie votes result in a matter going forward, rather than being dropped. Second, we could move to a system with an odd number of Commissioners, or one with a tie-breaking chair. Third, we could have a system in which ties at the Commission would be subject to immediate, de novo review by federal courts.

"Any of these proposals would be an improvement over the current system." -- Legal Center: Senate Hearing "An Important Step Toward FEC Reform" (Campaign Legal Center)

(By the way, on this one, I invite essays about why some or all of these are stupid ideas. Please click on the "comments" link below.)

June 5, 2004

Shaprton's latest FEC problem

Former presidential candidate Al Sharpton, a newly-minted television commentator, apparently isn't talking much to the Federal Election Commission.

The FEC said late Friday that Sharpton's campaign, which has already been ordered to return federal matching funds, has not filed its required monthly report.

A report detailing April campaign spending was due by May 20. -- FEC Cites Sharpton Campaign for No Report (AP via newsday.com)

May 19, 2004

Pingree looks on the bright side

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) yesterday released an audit of Chellie Pingree, president of Common Cause, which is a potential source of embarrassment for the prominent government and ethics watchdog that prides itself on adhering to campaign finance regulations and ethical mores.

The audit found that Pingree failed to properly disclose conduit contributions from a range of special interest groups, as well as a $18,000 transfer from a joint fundraising committee during her 2002 campaign for Senate. Pingree ran as a Democrat against Sen. Susan Collins (R) in Maine.

The FEC left open the possibility of future penalties, stating in its report that "the Commission may initiate enforcement action, at a later time, with respect to any of the matters discussed in this report."

Pingree said the report vindicated her by failing to find evidence of illegal fundraising. -- Ethics watchdog faulted on campaign lapses (TheHill.com)

May 15, 2004

FEC says Sharpton must return $100,000

Al Sharpton's unsuccessful presidential campaign said Friday it will keep fighting a Federal Election Commission determination that it must pay back $100,000 in matching funds.

The FEC found Sharpton improperly spent more than $110,000 of his own money on the campaign, more than double the amount allowed for someone who receives matching money.

The commission voted 6-0 Thursday that Sharpton's campaign must repay the $100,000 in taxpayer money.

"We have been expecting this for a while, and we plan on fighting this all the way," said Sharpton campaign manager Charles Halloran. -- FEC: Sharpton must return $100K in matching funds (AP via Newsday.com)

March 9, 2004

Sharpton may get FEC matching funds and an investigation

Election officials are recommending that Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton receive $100,000 in federal matching funds -- and be the subject of an investigation into whether he deserves the money.

The mixed recommendation by lawyers for the Federal Election Commission will be presented to the six commissioners Thursday for a likely vote, after an internal back-and-forth over whether the outspoken reverend may have violated campaign finance rules. ...

At issue are loans and out-of-pocket payments made by Sharpton, the activist preacher, to Sharpton, the candidate. The New Yorker's campaign is low on cash and is carrying heavy debts, but FEC rules prohibit federal matching funds to any candidate who loans his own campaign more than $50,000.

In reviewing Sharpton's FEC filings, auditors found Sharpton is owed $47,821.13 in loans or debts outstanding for more than 60 days. At the end of the 2003 filing period, Sharpton claimed he was owed an additional $53,981.25, but the auditors said they could not determine if any of that debt was outstanding for more than 60 days.

"A question exists as to whether Rev. Sharpton has exceeded his personal expenditure limitation," the audit staff wrote. "The evidence is not sufficient to recommend an initial determination that matching fund eligibility be denied; however, it appears that a further review of this matter is warranted." -- FEC urges funds, probe of Al Sharpton (AP)

The FEC report is here.

February 5, 2004

Profile of Bradley Smith

Tom Edsall at the Washington Post has a profile of FEC Chairman Bradley Smith and the discussion today of 527 organizations.

February 4, 2004

Group files FEC camplaint against Bush-Cheney

The title of this newsrelease tells it all: U.S. Newswire - CREW Files FEC Compliant Against Grover Norquist, Ken Mehlman; Alleges Violation of Federal Campaign Laws Over 'Master Contact List'

Thanks to Alfredo Garcia for the tip.

February 3, 2004

Monitor: 527's bad for democracy

The Christian Science Monitor says today in its editorial, New Conduit for Money Politics, "If the FEC can find a legal way to close the 527 loophole, it will help reduce the ability of a few to influence the outcome of elections."

January 30, 2004

FEC sues Rep. Evans' campaign committee

Quad Cities Online reports on a suit filed in federal court in Illinois:

The Federal Election Commission has filed a complaint alleging U.S. Rep. Lane Evans' campaign committee funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to an ``alter ego'' organization set up to avoid federal donation limits.

The complaint, filed Friday in federal court in Rock Island, covers fundraising efforts during the 1998 and 2000 campaigns.

The complaint names the Friends of Lane Evans and Samuel Gilman, its treasurer; the 17th District Victory Fund and Linda K. Anderson, its treasurer; and the Rock Island Democratic Central Committee, and John Gianulis, its treasurer.

Rep. Evans, D-Rock Island, defeated Republican Mark Baker in both campaigns. He defeated Mr. Baker by 10 percentage points in 2000, after squeaking out a five-point victory in 1998.

The FEC claims the 17th District Victory Fund is an ``alter ego'' of the congressman's campaign committee that took donations and made expenditures to directly benefit the campaign. It alleges the election committee and the Victory Fund failed to adequately account for the expenditures.

October 16, 2003

Public Citizen wants FEC investigation of Freddie Mac lobbyist

Public Citizen has this on its website:

Public Citizen today filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) urging the agency to conduct an immediate investigation into apparent violations of contribution limits, a ban on corporate campaign contributions and reporting requirements by Freddie Mac’s chief lobbyist, Mitch Delk, and the fundraising firm Epiphany Productions Inc.

The article that prompted this complaint was mentioned in an earlier post by me.

Thanks to Alfredo Garcia for the link.

September 14, 2003

Court will not rehear case on release of FEC documents

AP reported Friday,

An appeals court has refused to reconsider its ruling barring the release of documents from a federal investigation into campaign coordination between the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party.

The Federal Election Commission had asked the full federal appeals court in Washington to reconsider a June decision by a three-judge panel of the court prohibiting the record release.

The full court unanimously denied the request, without comment. The court made its decision Sept. 5, but some of those involved in the case, including the commission, didn't receive word of the ruling from the court until Friday.

Siding with the AFL-CIO and the Democratic National Committee, the three-judge panel upheld a lower court decision and ruled in June that letting the FEC release the records to the public would infringe on the free-speech rights of the union and the party.

It said the commission could change its disclosure policy to continue releasing some documents from its investigations without infringing on First Amendment rights.

The commission now must decide whether to pursue an appeal to the Supreme Court, or to write new rules on the disclosure of documents, Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub said Friday.

August 1, 2003

This week at the FEC

I have been so busy this week, I have not looked at the FEC site till tonight. Here's a quick roundup.

Political Ads and Solicitations, July 2003 version, has been released.

On yesterday's agenda was this draft Advisory Opinion to the Michigan Democratic Party. It allows the party to treat fringe benefits like wages for purposes of allocation.

The AO's to James Treffinger and former Sen. Bob Smith have been released.

Representative Silvestre Reyes and the Hispanic College Fund, Inc. have requested an AO about a scholarship honoring Reyes with money raised by the Fund.

Lehman Brothers Inc. has requested an AO confirming that its PAC and that of a company 30% owned by it are not "connected."

July 31, 2003

Corporate Facilitation of Contributions

Forbes.com has an article, Federal Election Commission Eyes Corporate Donors, dealing with "corporate facilitation." That's the use of corporate facilities to gather contributions to a political campaign.

Specifically, Aube made a pitch at a bank employee dinner for $50 donations to a political action committee operated by the Oregon Bankers Association during the 2000 election. Aube then made a follow-up solicitation to dinner attendees via e-mail. A total of $1,570 was raised for the PAC. That's exactly the type of stuff prohibited under FEC rules. The bank agreed to pay a civil penalty of $16,500--more than ten times the amount it helped raise for the PAC in the first place.

But much less-blatant behavior can get you in trouble too, particularly when it comes to those rules limiting use of corporate resources. "It's much easier to violate [rule] 114.2(f)," says Brett Kappel, a partner with Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy in Washington, D.C. "All the executive has to do is send out an e-mail asking employees to send their checks to his secretary."

My post on Kappel's advisory to his clients on the same subject is here.

July 23, 2003

Florida Senate Race Already Drawing Complaints

AP reports:

U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch filed a complaint Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Democratic rival Alex Penelas illegally coerced donations from a South Florida health care company in their U.S. Senate race.

The complaint by Deutsch, D-Pembroke Pines, accuses the Miami-Dade County mayor of receiving at least $49,000 in illegal contributions from 41 employees and their spouses of CarePlus Medical Centers Inc. Both are competing for the seat of Sen. Bob Graham, who is running for president.

The Miami Herald has more details:

Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, whose campaign pledged to reject contributions for his U.S. Senate campaign resulting from a controversial e-mail appeal sent to employees of a South Florida healthcare firm, took tens of thousands of dollars from people associated with the company.

A Herald analysis of campaign finance records shows that employees, relatives and business associates of Michael Fernandez, owner and chief executive officer of CarePlus Medical Centers Inc., donated at least $68,000 to Penelas' campaign -- all connected to the same day in May that Fernandez hosted a fundraiser at his home.

July 16, 2003

FEC statistics on Fed Elections 2002

The FEC has published FEDERAL ELECTIONS 2002: Election Results for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Its tables are available in both HTML and Excel files.

July 14, 2003

Reform of the FEC

Jules Witcover has an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun supporting the proposal of McCain and Feingold to restructure the FEC.

July 2, 2003

FEC submits NVRA report

The FEC has submitted its bi-annual report to Congress on the NVRA. The News Release has a one-page summary of the report and a link to the full report.

July 1, 2003

"Better Presidential Campaigns for Only $2 More"

FEC Commissioner Scott Thomas has an op-ed, Better Presidential Campaigns for Only $2 More, in the New York Times today. He is pushing the plan he and Commissioner Michael Toner have to revitalize the public financing system for presidential elections.

FEC cracking down on corporate-aided contributions

Brett Kappel of Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy LLP has issued a Client Alert,
FEC Strictly Enforcing Ban on Company Facilitation of Political Contributions . "Facilitation" is the use of corporate premises and resources for campaigning, including the company soliciting contributions for candidates. An interesting read.

June 28, 2003

3rd Parties File FEC Complaint over Presidential Debates

Several third party presidential candidates have filed an FEC complaint alleging that the Commission on Presidential Debates should not be allowed to take corporate contributions for its 2004 debates and should return millions in contributions it has made to the major parties in 2000 (in the form of the debate events).

The complaint was filed by the 2000 candidates of the Greens, the Natural Law Party, the Constitution Party, and the Reform Party. The National Voting Rights Institute and a Boston firm are representing the complainants, according to a press release from NVRI.

The complaint and some of the exhibits are also on the NVRI site.

June 22, 2003

FEC must adopt new regulation on file disclosure

The DC Circuit has held in AFL-CIO v FEC,

At the close of such investigations [of alleged violations of the FECA], a Commission regulation has long required public release of all investigatory file materials not exempted by the Freedom of Information Act. In this case, the subjects of a now-closed investigation challenge the regulation as inconsistent with both the Federal Election Campaign Act and the First Amendment. We hold that the regulation, though not contrary to the plain language of the statute, is nevertheless impermissible because it fails to account for the substantial First Amendment interests impli- cated in releasing political groups' strategic documents and other internal materials.

May 29, 2003

California Recall Effort Gets Serious

Bubbling softly in the background has been a recall petition against Gov. Gray Davis of California. The drive picked up some steam (to mix my metaphors) recently when Cong. Darrell Issa started raising money (including making a $445,000 contribution) to Rescue California, the group running the recall campaign, according to the Modesto Bee. The same story tells of a group forming to oppose the recall effort.

The Los Angeles Times had a story today that an ally of Davis is complaining to the FEC that Issa broke the Federal Election Campaign Act by collecting contributions for Rescue California.

Rick Hasen (who first called the LA Times story to our attention) asked on his blog whether this was really a violation of the FECA. I think that it is. Take a look at the post I had a month ago about the comments to the request by Cong. Jeff Flake regarding his involvement with a state initiate campaign.

Remember that the BCRA (2 USC § 441i(e))prohibits a federal candidate or office holder or an organization financed by the same to solicit funds in excess of the FECA limits or from people prohibited by FECA from contributing.

May 28, 2003

GOP to attack Dem's 527's

The Hill's e-News letter has the following item today under "Omens and Portents":

PAC complaints: Expect Republicans to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against two new Democratic political action committees: the Democratic Senate Majority Fund and the New House PAC. Democratic lawmakers have raised restricted hard-money funds for these PACs to give them legitimacy in the eyes of big Democratic donors. The PACs plan on using this seal of approval, so to speak, to convince donors to give them unrestricted soft-money donations. Republican strategists believe this is a violation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. They also believe that government watchdog groups are failing to pursue a legitimate complaint against the groups because of their liberal sympathies.

I can't like directly to this, but you can subscribe here.

May 18, 2003

DSCC complains to FEC about

DSCC complains to FEC about Club for Growth ads

The Rapid City Journal reported earlier this week,

Television ads that take Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., to task for opposing President Bush's tax-cut package break the new federal campaign-finance laws, Democratic leaders believe.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed a formal complaint against ad sponsor Club for Growth with the Federal Election Commission this week. The DSCC contends that Club for Growth uses unrestricted soft money to campaign against an individual candidate, something a new federal law says can be done only with limited hard money.

April 30, 2003

FEC may investigate head of

FEC may investigate head of Common Cause

The Hill carries an article today on a possible investigation by the FEC. Here are excerpts:

Campaign fundraising reports for Chellie Pingree, a former Democratic Senate candidate form Maine who now heads Common Cause, contain numerous infractions that may prompt an audit by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), The Hill has learned.

...

Last year, the FEC sent Pingree’s campaign 11 requests for additional information relating to a range of problems on six reports: three quarterly reports, two pre-election reports, and a 2001 year-end report.

April 29, 2003

FEC's ruling on alleged party-controlled

FEC's ruling on alleged party-controlled groups

The New York Times and Washington Post have articles today about the decision of the FEC to drop complaints against The Leadership Forum and the Democratic State Parties Organization.

April 22, 2003

FEC requests public comment on

FEC requests public comment on enforcement procedures

The FEC is considering a request for public comment on its enforcement procedures and how they might be improved. The draft notice is at http://fecweb1.fec.gov/agenda/mtgdoc03-28.pdf.

April 21, 2003

2 FEC Commissioners propose changes

2 FEC Commissioners propose changes in presidential matching fund

FEC Commissioners Scott Thomas and Michael Toner have proposed that Congress change the amount candidates could spend (from $40 million to $75 million), increase the checkoff on the tax return to $5, and allow matching of the first $500 of each contribution (up from $250), according to the Washington Post.

April 17, 2003

Sen. Spector settles with the

Sen. Spector settles with the FEC

According to AP, "A long-running federal lawsuit that accused Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, of illegally accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of private plane rides during his failed 1996 presidential bid has been settled for $25,000, court records show. The settlement closes a bitter dispute between Senator Specter and the Federal Election Commission that began after he ended a yearlong run for the White House in 1995. The commission and the "Arlen Specter '96" campaign committee agreed on the settlement "without any concession as to liability," papers filed on Feb. 27 in federal District Court in Philadelphia show."

April 16, 2003

FEC clears Gore campaign on

FEC clears Gore campaign on buying a URL

The FEC cleared the Gore-Lieberman campaign on an excessive contributions complaint. The campaign had bought the URL gorelieberman.com for $100 from a college student. The student had offered to give it to the campaign, but the campaign insisted on paying for it, according to the AP story.

FEC closes Forrester investigation The

FEC closes Forrester investigation

The FEC has announced that it has closed the investigation into the Senatorial campaign of Douglas K. Forrester (R- NJ). Here is the AP story on the case.

Democrats had charged that Forrester had used corporate funds (in the form of a dividend distribution) to finance his campaign. According to AP,

The commission reasoned that Forrester, as a majority shareholder in a company operating under Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code, regularly pays taxes on his share of earnings. The money is therefore his, even though he chooses to leave it in the company as working capital.

April 10, 2003

FEC legislative agenda

The Washington Post reports today that FEC Wants Electronic Senate Race Data. This was one of the recommendations in the legislative agenda the Commission considered yesterday. No word on the other parts of the agenda.

April 8, 2003

Federal Election Commission meeting on 9 April

The FEC will consider a set of legislative recommendations at tomorrow's meeting of the Commission. The staff proposes that the Commission recommend:

-- making permanent the administrative fines program
-- allowing the FEC to restrict political activity of its employees
-- increasing and inflation-indexing all registration and reporting thresholds
-- making the FEC the sole point of entry for disclosure documents
-- "harmonize the biennial aggregate contribution limits and inflation indexing"
-- put more money into the presidential matching fund
-- raise the qualifying threshold for matching funds
-- eliminate the state-by-state limits on matching funds

April 2, 2003

FEC and public funding (3)

The Hill reports FEC may dim lights on party conventions. This is an article explaining some of the background to the proposal being considered by the FEC on the use of public financing.

March 24, 2003

FEC v Beaumont

The Supreme Court hears arguments tomorrow in FEC v Beaumont. Here is the question presented (as framed by government):

The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, 2 U.S.C. 441b, prohibits corporations and labor unions from making direct campaign contributions and independent expenditures in connection with federal elections. The question presented is whether Section 441b's prohibition on contributions violates the First Amendment to the Constitution if it is applied to a nonprofit corporation whose primary purpose is to engage in political advocacy.

The briefs in the case can be found on FindLaw .

Sam Heldman has made his prediction here. Rick Hasen has given a much more professorial opinion.

Like Hasen, I think this is not a slam dunk case. I would give the edge -- but only slightly -- to Beaumont. I think the Court will be inclined to continue to carve out a special exception for ideological groups that form corporations just to limit liability.

March 4, 2003

Federal Election Commission agenda for 6 March

The FEC's
agenda for the 6 March meeting is now online. The Commission will consider two alternative draft opinions about whether a non-connected PAC must pay for an annual "mission" to Washington to meet with members of Congress from its federal or non-federal account. I must be missing something because I don't see this as the "very close legal" question described by the Commission staff.

The other item of interest is the final rules and justification for the administrative fines rule.

December 13, 2002

FEC audit of 2002 presidential campaigns

On Thursday, the FEC considered the audits of many 2000 presidential campaigns. The FEC approved the Buchanan's campaign giving bonuses to several staff members based on a pre-election memo from Buchanan rather than a formal contract with the employees. See FEC Approves Buchanan's Campaign Bonuses (washingtonpost.com)

The Commission also modified and approved the audits of the Bush and Gore campaigns. The nitpicking details are here.

December 11, 2002

FEC audits of the 2000 presidential campaign

The FEC will consider tomorrow the final audit reports of several presidential campaigns. To see the audit reports, click here. Several minor party campaigns and losing major party candidates are also on the same agenda. The AP story summarizing the major recommendations is
here. The big news is that the Bush campaign is being asked to repay about twice as much as the Gore campaign.

December 6, 2002

New FEC commissioner and regulations

The Washington Post reports on Sen. McCain's frustration with the White House's delays in appointing Ellen Weintraub to the FEC. See the story atDelay on FEC Pick Irks McCain (washingtonpost.com). the story also includes some comments on the FEC's new coordination regulations. I will try to write on this soon.

October 31, 2002

Pelosi folds up Team Majority

Roll Call reports that Rep. Nancy Pelosi has closed down her second "Leadership PAC" and asked the recipients to return the contributions the TM made. See my earlier notes on this, here and here.

October 26, 2002

Pelosi PACs may violated affialition rule (2)

Following the disclosure that Rep.Pelosi had started a second leadership PAC, the Washington Post now reports she has changed her mind. See Rep. Pelosi to Stop Using PAC (washingtonpost.com).

October 24, 2002

Pelosi PACs may violated affialition rule

Roll Call has an article about Rep. Nancy Pelosi opening a second leadership PAC. Under the affiliation rules of the FEC, two PACs that are considered affiliated have to share in the limitations on their receipts and contributions. Pelosi's treasurer claims that he received oral advice from an FEC staffer (but does not remember the name) that having dual PACs was OK.

October 23, 2002

Soft Money

The Hill reports today, "Both parties race to set up new soft-money mechanisms." Here is the text of the regulation being used by these organizations:

11 CFR 300.2(c)(3) Safe harbor. On or after November 6, 2002, an entity shall not be deemed to be directly or indirectly established, maintained, or controlled by another entity unless, based on the entities’ actions and activities solely after November 6, 2002, they satisfy the requirements of this section. If an entity receives funds from another entity prior to November 6, 2002, and the recipient entity disposes of the funds prior to November 6, 2002, the receipt of such funds prior to November 6, 2002 shall have no bearing on determining whether the recipient entity is financed by the sponsoring entity within the meaning of this section.

October 11, 2002

The FEC was scheduled to

The FEC was scheduled to consider the draft Consolidated Reporting regulations at yesterday's meeting. The regulations will cover reporting for independent expenditures, electioneering communications, national party committees and building funds, and candidate committees. The draft is here along with corrections.

The Four Horsemen of Campaign Finance Reform are not pleased with the FEC’s soft money regulations. See the Washington Post article. Reps. Shays and Meehan have filed suit seeking their invalidation, while Sens. McCain and Feingold have filed a motion under the Congressional Review Act.

Election Reform. The House passed HR 3295, the Help America Vote Act yesterday. See the articles in Washington Post and the New York Times.