A Securities and Exchange Commission rule designed to limit conflicts of interest in state contracting is becoming less effective amid the rise of super PACs and should be broadened, groups that track campaign finance say. The SEC’s so-called pay-to-play rule, which applies to state officials including governors, could become a prominent factor in the 2016 presidential election given that four or more Republican governors who would be in office during the campaign have said they may run or are thought to be considering a candidacy. The rule effectively prohibits certain employees of financial-services companies that do—or might do—business with state agencies from contributing to the officials who oversee those agencies. The rule, adopted in 2010, was intended to prevent political contributions from influencing state contracting decisions.
Critics say the SEC rule’s effectiveness could be blunted in 2016 by the rise of super PACs, which can raise money without contribution caps but can’t coordinate with or give to candidates’ campaigns, as well as politically active nonprofit groups. In particular, they point to the increasing number of super PACs that form to support only a single candidate. Critics argue that a contribution to a group that spends money on behalf of a single candidate is akin to giving to the candidate.
Others say the SEC rule should be eliminated, not expanded, with some noting that it creates an advantage for members of Congress, who aren’t subject to the rule, over governors in campaign fundraising. Some states have rules that are even more restrictive than the SEC’s.
Earlier this year, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by the state Republican parties of New York and Tennessee challenging the SEC rule on the grounds that it violated free-speech protections.
Full Article: Discord Brews Over SEC Campaign-Finance Rule – WSJ.