In the News
Maine Sun Journal: As King takes aim at campaign ‘dark money,’ Virginia group prods Maine to lift donor contribution limits
By Scott ThistleCenter for Competitive Politics President David Keating said Maine law limiting the amount individuals can donate to a candidate or campaign are in direct conflict with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue, McCutcheon vs. FEC.In a letter to lawmakers, LePage and Attorney General Janet Mills, Keating urged Maine officials “to take quick action to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision … to ensure Maine does not continue to violate its citizens’ First Amendment rights.”Tim Feeley, a spokesman for Mills, said the state would review the letter and provide advice to the Maine Commission on Ethics and Election Practices, which oversees the state’s campaign finance laws. Feeley did not say what that advice would be.
By Steve MistlerIn a letter to Republican Gov. Paul LePage, Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat, and legislative leaders, CCP urged state officials to either change or not enforce a state law preventing individual donors from spending more than $25,000 on candidate committees during an election cycle. The current law does not apply to individual limits to campaigns, which vary depending on the office sought. But it does prevent wealthy individual donors from spending more than $25,000 during an election by giving to a several campaigns.The U.S. Supreme Court in early April struck down the $123,200 aggregate limit in federal campaigns in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. The decision has raised questions about the legality of state aggregate limits. After the McCutcheon decision several states announced that they would either remove their laws on aggregate caps or stop enforcement.David Keating, president of CCP, is urging Maine officials to do the same or face potential legal action in a lawsuit that the group says it will argue pro bono.
“This is absurd,” said CCP president David Keating. “Groups have a right to know how the General Counsel’s office thinks PAC status should be determined so they can comply with the law. We are disappointed that the FEC continues to ignore its own policies and regulations that require this document to be disclosed.“The privilege claim is also defies belief,” Keating said, noting that three FEC commissioners publicly stated that the document was “clearly prepared with an expectation that it would be reviewed by Commissioners and the general public, per Commission policy and practice.”CCP’s appeal also says that “the Commission originally redacted the Report in its entirety. Even if the Commission believes that certain portions of the Report are exempt, even the release of a partially unredacted document would further the public interest.”Not a single word was published on the redacted document.
By Allen DickersonAccording to Mr. Kahn’s message, the initial request was denied under FOIA Exemptions 5 and 7(E). Copies of CCP’s FOIA request and Mr. Kahn’s determination are attached for your convenience. Specifically, Mr. Kahn wrote that “[t[he document you requested is subject to the privileges protected by Exemption 5, including the deliberative process privilege, attorney work-product privilege, and/or attorney-client privilege.” Further, “[t]he document you requested includes information concerning guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions that if disclosed could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law, and thus the information is covered by Exemption 7(E).”
Alexandria, Va. — A First Amendment advocacy group today urged the governor, attorney general and other Connecticut officials to repeal a state campaign contribution limit law and halt its enforcement because the law is unconstitutional after the Supreme Court’s ruling this month in the case McCutcheon v. FEC.A letter sent by David Keating, President of the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), urges the officials “to take quick action to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision in order to ensure Connecticut does not continue to violate its citizens’ First Amendment rights.” The letter says Connecticut has a law that is “essentially identical” to the federal law that was declared unconstitutional. “To ensure compliance with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, Connecticut should repeal [its law] as soon as possible. Until the law is repealed or otherwise amended in order to comply with the Court’s ruling, we urge the Attorney General and other state officials who have responsibility to enforce the state’s campaign finance laws to immediately announce that this law will no longer be enforced.”
In McCutcheon, the Court ruled that citizens could not be limited in how much they spend overall on contributions to political candidates, parties and PACs in each election cycle. The Court did not strike down limits on donations to any single candidate, but rather the aggregate limit on donations to all candidates. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the Court, “The Government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.”The letter warns that “If Maine fails to either amend or repeal this statute to conform to the Court’s ruling, it risks a lawsuit. CCP has provided pro bono representation in similar situations, and would strongly consider doing so here as well. Such legal action would cost the state money defending the case, and would distract the Attorney General’s office from other important legal work. Additionally, if the state chooses to defend the law in court, it is probable that the state will have to pay substantial legal fees to successful plaintiffs.”
By Stephen OhlemacherIn an email, Taylor clarified that Lerner’s lawyers would address the House, if given the chance — not Lerner herself.Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said, “Ms. Lerner can avoid being held in contempt at any time by testifying fully and honestly, but she has chosen not to.”House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., responded on Twitter: “The House welcomes the opportunity for Lois Lerner to address our members. She can do so at any time before the House Oversight Committee.”
By John D. McKinnonMs. Lerner’s lawyer, William Taylor III, said on Monday in a letter to GOP leaders that holding Ms. Lerner in contempt of Congress “would not only be unfair and, indeed, un-American, it would be flatly inconsistent with the Fifth Amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court.”
By Robert A. LevyContributions, independent expenditures, super PACs, electioneering communications — the terminology and regulations governing campaign finance are incomprehensible to the average voter. Moreover, the Supreme Court’s last two major decisions on the issue — Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and more recently McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission — have been widely misinterpreted. Let’s dispel some of the confusion.First, a few basics: Currently, federal limits apply to contributions of money, goods or services by individuals or groups to candidates, political parties and political actions committees (PACs). For example, individuals cannot give more than $5,200 to a single candidate — $2,600 for the primary plus $2,600 for the general election. Corporations and labor unions are forbidden from making direct contributions.
By Derek WillisSome House Republicans may feel they have good reason to oust John Boehner as Speaker next year, but there is at least one good reason not to: fund-raising. Mr. Boehner has been an increasingly important source of money for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party wing that helps the G.O.P. maintain (and increase) its House majority.
“Their claim of selectivity is a red herring,” he said. “You can’t avoid disclosure because you might get your feelings hurt or face public backlash. That’s part of the rough and tumble of a vibrant democracy and a spirited debate.”He called McConnell’s support for other types of disclosures “a total double standard.”“Why is it in the public interest to require disclosure of a $200 contribution to a candidates’ political campaign and not in the public interest to disclose a $200 million expenditure to elect or defeat that candidate?” he asked. “It’s time for Sen. McConnell to stop saying the DISCLOSE Act is some kind of leftie conspiracy.”
By Kate AckleyIf you’re curious about how business is for the ex-Obama administration officials who decamped for a shadow version of K Street, you won’t find a clue in the Lobbying Disclosure Act records.Because these staffers do the kind of advocacy work that isn’t covered by the federal lobbying laws, such as grass-roots or public messaging, or because they spend less than 20 percent of their time on lobbying activities, they are free of the burdens of disclosure that compel their traditional K Street kin to reveal clients and fees.