Summary of New Campaign Finance, Ethics & Lobbying Laws Nationwide

National Law Review: “The New Year brings with it new laws governing campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics. Below we highlight some of the major state and federal laws that took effect on or around January 1. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but highlights some of the most significant changes that are new for 2015. In addition to the new laws outlined below, many state legislative sessions are starting up. Some states prohibit campaign finance activity during the session, so proceed with caution.”

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.”

FEC Chair Pushes Effort to Limit FEC’s Enforcement Abilities

Election Law Blog (12/8): “Federal Election Commission Chairman Lee Goodman apparently is endorsing a controversial proposed FEC enforcement manual, which would sharply circumscribe the authority of staffers in the agency’s Office of General Counsel to investigate alleged campaign finance violations and share information with other government agencies, including the Department of Justice.”

FEC Has Received only 300 Comments on Campaign Disclosure Rules

News Observer: “The six-member Federal Election Commission is asking the public to comment about rules governing whether voters can know which interests are spending how much to win over their votes.

“The Federal Election Commission long has been one of the more dysfunctional agencies in Washington. It splits 3-3 on virtually all issues of any significance related to campaign disclosure. But in a moment of clarity in October, the commission agreed to ask the public to weigh in on the most pressing issue before it: campaign finance disclosure.

“The deadline for filing comments is Jan. 15. A hearing on is set for Feb. 11 in Washington. This being the Federal Election Commission, nothing is particularly easy. Finding the location on the website where you can file comments is no small feat.

“Commissioners Steven T. Walther, Ellen L. Weintraub and Ann Ravel are going out of their way to encourage public comment, including traveling the country trying to generate interest.”

Good Piece on How We Got Here, Attempts to Fix

QC Online: “All told, 34 proposals have surfaced to amend the Constitution in response to the Citizens United ruling, and none have gotten close to ratification. Each would need a two-thirds super-majority in both houses of Congress, and the approval of three-fourths of state legislatures before becoming law.

“Ms. Rosenberg, of the transparency and accountability advocacy group, the Sunlight Foundation, said drumming up support for constitutional amendments will be even more difficult in the coming year.”

“Democrats in Illinois and Iowa have embraced a push to increase transparency with the Disclosure of Information on Spending on Campaigns Leads to Open and Secure Elections Act — or DISCLOSE Act.

“The bill would amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to increase disclosure requirements for campaign-related spending by corporations, unions and tax-exempt organizations.”

Senators to Push for Requiring Electronic Disclosure

Politico: “”Unlike House candidates, presidential hopefuls and political action committees, Senate candidates are not required to electronically file their campaign finance reports. The result: Reporters, campaign finance experts and everyone else must manually scroll through Sen. Mary Landrieu’s latest pre-runoff fundraising report, which clocks in at nearly 1,300 pages and is not searchable.”

IL Becomes Third State to Call for Constitutional Convention on Money in Politics

Rockriver Times: “On Wednesday, Illinois became the third state in the U.S. to pass a bill calling for a constitutional convention to overhaul campaign finance laws, specifically, those established with the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

“The Illinois House of Representatives voted 74-40 (with six not reporting) in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 42 (SJR 42) Dec. 3.”

“With SJR 42’s passage, Illinois joins California and Vermont as states calling for a constitutional convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution for the purpose of amending the Constitution. Similar measures are also pending in Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Texas.”