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.”

WA Op-Ed Calls for Increased Disclosure at State, Local Level

Spokesman-Review: “Sen. Andy Billig’s bid to illuminate secret political contributions died in the last Legislature. But subsequent campaign shenanigans that threatened the Republicans’ hold on the Senate have drawn more bipartisan support for the idea.”

“In the meantime, the Legislature can do its part by passing SB 5153, which would force disclosure when campaign-related spending exceeds $25,000 in statewide races or $5,000 in local contests. This would expose groups trying to influence elections from the shadows, without discouraging the activity of small nonprofits formed as legitimate social welfare organizations.

“The Public Records Act and the Public Disclosure Commission are products of a 1972 ballot measure. Voters have made it very clear they support transparency and accountability.”

MN Prof, Bush Advisor Joins Conservative Reform Group

Minnesota Post: “A University of Minnesota law professor and a political consultant who’s worked on five Republican presidential campaigns – both alumni of the George W. Bush administration – launched a campaign finance reform group Wednesday tilted toward the conservative point of view.

“Richard Painter and Mark McKinnon lead the board of Take Back Our Republic, a fledgling group that does not so much decry the evil of big money as the evil of foreign money in campaigns.”

“A crackdown on accepting foreign money is the stick in the equation, but Take Back also offers a carrot. To encourage small donors, it suggests making contributions to federal campaigns up to $500 exempt from disclosure. Currently, any contribution over $200 must be disclosed.

“The group also supports a tax credit for small political donors, giving contributors a credit for donations up to $200 and a deduction for donations up to $600. Minnesota allows a tax refund — up to $100 — for contributions to state campaigns.”

RI to Consider Preventing Non-Filers of Disclosure Forms from Running

Providence Journal: “Its board is expected to vote — to approve, amend or reject — the staff recommendations for the legislative proposals at a 3 p.m. meeting today.

“Perhaps one of the most significant proposals would put an end to skyrocketing fines racked up by candidates who have failed to file campaign finance reports. But it would also attempt to compel them to pay up by not allowing them to run for office until they’ve settled their bills.

“The proposed change would, “cap total fines at $1,000 and prohibit non-filers and candidates and committees with outstanding fines from declaring for office or accepting contributions or making expenditures until the non-compliance is remedied.'”

Good Overview on Disclosure, Way Forward

Mint Press News: “But it’s not just disclosure exemptions and cleverly promoted television ads that have prompted public concern. Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, the unlimited contribution and outside spending amounts have prompted various advocacy groups and legislators to push for remodeling campaign finance and disclosure policies in their states.

“‘Most do not have great disclosure laws or conflict of interest laws,’ Mansur Gidfar, communications director for anti-corruption group Represent.Us, told MintPress. ‘In a lot of cases, every situation around the laws that govern how money interacts with the political process is actually a lot worse at the state level than it is at the federal level.'”

“‘Under current law, regardless of how biased the endless amounts of political ads are in support of or are against a specific candidate, the source of funding for an ad does not have to be disclosed if the ad does not explicitly use the phrases ‘vote for’ or ‘vote against.’

“‘You can spend an unlimited amount of money sending out mail in a legislator’s district saying that Legislator X … has done a terrible job for you,’ [Minnesota state Rep Ryan] Winkler told MintPress.

“But despite any insinuations, the nonprofit organizations can claim their ads are educating voters on an issue, not politicking, as long as they don’t employ those ‘magic’ words.”

VT SoS Launches Electronic Disclosure Systems for Campaigns, Lobbying, Pushes Tighter Laws

Montpelier Bridge; “Secretary of State Jim “Condos explained ‘the new system not only makes lobbyist registration and disclosure simple and intuitive to use for anyone – from lobbying firms to local small businesses and nonprofits – that needs to register their activities with our office, it also provides the public with immediate access to more consistent and accurate information through a variety of search options.”

The Lobbyist Disclosure System is the second system in the new Elections Platform to go live. It follows the new Campaign Finance Information System (CFIS) that went live in August and becomes mandatory for all campaign finance reporting this month. CFIS allows candidates, PACs, and political parties to enter financial transactions (contributions and expenditures) and file reports on the relevant filing deadlines. The system also tracks Mass Media expenditures. Information contained in any reports filed by candidates, PACs, and political parties is immediately searchable using the database search functions.”

Condos in an interview with Burlington Free Press: “My office implemented an on-line Campaign Finance Information System in July 2014. As of January 2015, all candidates, political action committees and parties are required to utilize this new on-line system which will provide real time access to accurate and consistent campaign finance reports.”

“Here are some of the relatively easy steps we could take to make our lobbying more transparent that I will propose to the Legislature: more frequent disclosure — monthly during the legislative session; mass media intended to influence legislation should be reported within 24 hours; and the value and summary of any contracts those entities have with legislators”