CA City Considers How to Update Rules after Citizens United

The Daily Journal: “Increasing the maximum amount of campaign contributions and whether businesses should be allowed to donate money to candidates are among the considerations the Belmont City Council will explore as it evaluates whether its current policies are both legal and timely.

“The council discussed updating its ordinance Tuesday night along with getting rid of a third campaign contribution report, whether donors must disclose their identity and who should be allowed to contribute to those running for any city office.”

“Seeking consistency with constitutional law

“Currently, those running for a Belmont office are barred from accepting contributions from businesses or organizations and conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.”

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TX City Argues Against Own Campaign Finance Rule

Houston Chronicle: “Houston’s blackout period, passed in 1992, prohibits city candidates from raising money for 10 months before the February of an election year. The blackout, meant to limit corruption, effectively froze campaigning until Feb. 1, when a frenzy of renewed fund-raising ensued.

“But this fall, two lawsuits challenged Houston’s rules. Bell’s suit charged that the city is allowing mayoral candidate Rep. Sylvester Turner to transfer too much money from his legislative account. In the other lawsuit, a City Council candidate alleged the blackout infringed on his free speech rights.

“Now the cases are converging.

“On Friday. U.S. District Judge Sim Lake enjoined the city from enforcing the blackout. The city is not asking for a stay of the decision and on Monday confirmed it will not defend the law.

“Also on Monday, Bell and Feldman’s team quarreled in front of Judge Elizabeth Ray, who is presiding in the Bell case. Bell is challenging Turner’s strategy of raising money for his unopposed state legislative campaign during the blackout period and then transferring that money to a future mayoral account.”

“City officials said Friday’s decision made Bell’s lawsuit moot. If no blackout period is in effect, then Turner’s fundraising during that period is proper, the city argued, and there is no need to transfer any money.”

NJ City Repeals Rule Limiting Contracts Campaign Contributors

Press of Atlantic City (1/4): “In a unanimous vote, Wildwood City Commission on Wednesday scrapped its 2-year-old campaign financing ordinance.”

“”The vote repeals an ordinance approved in October 2012, which prevented those contributing to political campaigns of those seeking city or county office for accepting municipal contracts.

“No one from the public commented on the ordinance at the morning meeting. Commission members didn’t discuss it.
Often referred to as pay-to-play rules, the Wildwood ordinance and others approved in Cape May County prevented those holding professional services contracts from contributing to the elections of those who would decide those contracts.”

UT City Council, Mayor Signed Resolution Against Citizens United

St. Louis Tribune: “Mayor Ralph Becker and the City Council signed a joint resolution Tuesday recognizing opposition to the 2010 “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision that opened funding floodgates in political campaigns.

The action, acknowledged that 89 percent of Salt Lake City voters who responded to the city’s 2013 opinion question opposed the “Citizens United” ruling, which found that corporations were people and money was speech and government could not legally restrict independent political contributions.

According to a statement from the Utah Chapter of the national grassroots organization called Move to Amend, Salt Lake City will join over 600 U.S. cities opposed to the Supreme Court ruling.”

CA City Council to Vote on Expanding Ethics Commission’s Power

East Bay Express: “The second prong of a plan by city Councilmember Dan Kalb to increase transparency and accountability in City Hall calls for the council to approve the Oakland Government Ethics Act. The act would give the ethics commission the power to enforce a new, sweeping set of ethics rules in the city. The council is scheduled to hold a final vote on the act on December 9.

“As strange as it sounds, the Oakland Public Ethics Commission (PEC), created by city voters in 1996, has never had the authority to actually enforce ethics rules, in part because Oakland didn’t have a comprehensive set of regulations like other cities do. Instead, the PEC has focused mostly on political campaign reporting violations, local open-meeting violations, and other issues. However, the PEC lacked the staff and authority to actually do anything about those violations when it found evidence of them.

“Measure CC, a city charter amendment, changed that aspect of the PEC. It mandated that the city council, beginning on July 1 of next year, increase the PEC’s budget from about $300,000 a year to about $750,000 a year so that the commission can hire four additional full-time staffers. Currently, the PEC only has a budget for two full-time staffers — not enough to effectively investigate campaign finance and open-meeting laws.”

“But not included in Measure CC was a comprehensive set of ethics rules. And that’s where the Oakland Government Ethics Act comes in. Drafted by Kalb and a working group of good-government advocates and co-sponsored by City Attorney Barbara Parker, the act would give the PEC the power to enforce new rules that ban so-called revolving-door and pay-to-play politics and limit the value of gifts that politicians can receive from lobbyists and other special interests.”