Voting Blogs: The FEC, the Big Issues, and Getting Right a Few Basics-Like Disclosure | More Soft Money Hard Law

Public Citizen has concluded that the Federal Election Commission is failing. Its shortcomings are “dramatic and uncharacteristic”, because they range across the entire field of their responsibilities in conducting audits; enforcing the law through investigations, settlements and lawsuits; and issuing regulations and advisory opinions. The Public Citizen analysis is statistical and focuses on vote deadlocks. The FEC is indeed disagreeing a great deal—about that, there is no doubt. But is the agency failing or is the old regulatory model collapsing under the pressure of changing law and political practice? Public Citizen cannot answer this question because it is looking at agency performance in the aggregate. It is unable, for example, to explain what might be happening in particular cases, or why deadlocks are occurring across various agency functions. There are certainly instances where the vote for enforcement is as suspect as a vote against it. The result is still deadlock but the reasons for it are not quite what Public Citizen implies. Nonetheless, it being assumed that matters could not have gotten this bad without dereliction of duty somewhere, the FEC takes the blame. It is expected to take up the big issues, such as those involving “coordination” or “dark money”, which are precisely the issues over which disagreement is certain to arise. And so around and around it goes.

National: Five years after Citizens United, new report finds wealthy have unprecedented influence | Scripps

It’s been five years since the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on how much money corporations and unions could spend putting their favorite candidates in office. The result, according to eight of the nation’s largest government watchdog groups, is that regular Americans are losing their voice in democracy while a “tiny number” of wealthy individuals have gained record influence. In the 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case, the Court ruled that corporations and unions were entitled to same first amendment rights to free speech as private citizens as long as they are working independent of the campaigns. The Washington D.C.-based watchdog Public Citizen suggests in a new report, however, that the very groups claiming to be independent in the wake of the Court’s decision are often closely aligned with a single candidate.

National: Campaign Activists Blast FEC Decision on Crossroads | Wall Street Journal

Campaign-finance activists vowed to take the Federal Election Commission to court Thursday after it disregarded a finding by its staff that Crossroads GPS, conservative nonprofit backed by Karl Rove, likely broke campaign laws during the 2010 elections. On Friday, the FEC quietly released a legal opinion by its staff lawyers that found that the “major purpose” of Crossroads GPS was to elect federal candidates, despite being registered as a “social-welfare” nonprofit group. The FEC’s general counsel recommended holding a formal investigation into the group. However, the FEC decided not to take any action after a deadlocked 3-3 vote by its commissioners along party lines. On Thursday, that decision drew sharp criticism from campaign-finance activists.

Voting Blogs: Fundraising and Corruption in the Arguments about McCutcheon | More Soft Money Hard Law

Public Citizen attempts to make the case that the Supreme Court’s pending decision inMcCutcheon could, if wrongly decided, unleash a flood of money with the probable effect of corrupting the political process. The argument is the one heard before in briefs and in oral argument about joint fundraising committees. A donor who gives to a joint fundraising committee can write a check for millions, to be apportioned within the limits among all the joint fundraising participants. Public Citizen warns against “naïveté”: the more “practical” view it urges is that the officeholder who solicits for the joint fundraising committee risks corruptive indebtedness to the donor. This is a plausible policy argument, but not clearly one best directed to the Supreme Court or sufficient to carry the constitutional position Public Citizen is advocating. Public Citizen is relying on a hypothetical (which is another way of saying that no record exists to suggest that it is realistic) and on a particular understanding of corruption and fundraising that does not capture the complexities of Congress’ treatment of the issue in reform measures over the years.

National: Institutional Investors Demand Disclosure on Companies’ Political Spending | Institutional Investor

On January 21, 2010, the day the Supreme Court delivered its landmark decision on Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission that it would overturn most of a century’s worth of regulations on corporate political spending, the $140 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund corporate governance department happened to be meeting to discuss the problem of untraceable political spending by companies in its portfolio. Patrick Doherty, the fund’s director of corporate governance, was making the pitch to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli that the political spending issue should be a central focus of New York Common’s corporate governance campaign for the coming year. The overlap was coincidental; before the court’s final decision on Citizens United, the case hadn’t attracted too much attention in the comptroller’s office or among most of the general public. That changed after January 21. Despite New York Common’s pre-Citizens United efforts to improve disclosure around corporate political spending ­— which primarily consisted of a concerted support of any shareholder resolution pushing the issue — the fund’s leaders hadn’t heard constituents express their opinions on the topic. But they spoke up after the decision on Citizens United, says DiNapoli.

National: Corporations under pressure on political spending |

American companies are discovering the perils of politics as activists and public pension fund officials apply new pressure on corporations to disclose their political spending — or cease it entirely. Companies holding their annual meetings this spring will face a record number of shareholder resolutions demanding companies reveal whether corporate funds have been spent on politics. A coalition that includes Public Citizen, Common Cause and other groups that favor campaign limits has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly traded companies to disclose campaign spending on their filings to regulators. And in recent days, Wendy’s and several of the nation’s most recognizable companies have dropped their affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group linked to the spread of Stand Your Ground laws and state efforts to toughen voter identification rules. The companies’ actions came after a civil rights group, ColorOfChange, spotlighted the firms’ ties to ALEC.

Vermont: Legislature Votes to Overturn Citizens United | Truthout

Progressive activists are celebrating another victory today after the Vermont Legislature became the third in the nation late Thursday to pass resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, the controversial 2010 Supreme Court ruling that allowed corporations and other groups to spend unlimited amounts of money influencing elections and gave rise to the now-infamous Super PACs.  The resolution passed the Vermont House by a vote of 92-40 with support from five Republicans and despite a filibuster attempt by a Republican state representative. A similar resolution passed the state Senate last week by a wide margin of 26-3. The Hawaii and New Mexico Legislatures have also passed similar resolutions. “The Vermont legislature is the third state legislature to formally call for an amendment,” said Aquene Freechild, an organizer for reform group Public Citizen’s grassroots campaign to overturn Citizens United v. FEC. “I have no doubt it will be among the first to ratify.”

California: California lawmakers vote to overturn Citizens United | CBS News

California lawmakers waded into the ongoing battle over corporate money in politics Thursday with a resolution that supports overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which has led to a flood of money from deep-pocketed donors in this year’s presidential race. “People are tired of getting beat up by a few corporations that sometimes have a fringe point of view,” said Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, who introduced the resolution with Assemblymen Michael Allen, D- Santa Rosa. The Assembly passed the resolution on a 48-22 vote. It rejects the notion of corporate personhood and calls on Congress to pursue a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the 2010 decision saying corporations can spend unlimited sums to influence elections.

National: The Influence Industry: Activist groups want to undo ruling that led to ‘super PAC’ frenzy | The Washington Post

Two years ago this week, the Supreme Court set the political world on its head by ruling that corporations could spend unlimited money on elections, rolling back decades of legal restrictions. An array of liberal-leaning activist groups are marking the anniversary by launching new efforts to overturn the decision, including calls for a potential constitutional amendment. The 5 to 4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission effectively laid the groundwork for super PACs, the new independent groups that have overwhelmed the Republican presidential race with millions of dollars in negative advertising over the past few weeks.

National: Will Obama Issue an Order Exposing Big Corporate Political Spenders in Citizens United Era? | AlterNet

A executive order requiring that federal contractors disclose their electoral spending—by top officers and as corporations—is being reconsidered by the White House despite stiff opposition from the business lobby after it was first proposed last spring, according to civil rights attorneys working on the issue. “There’s a lot of movement at the White House,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “I just had a meeting at the White House counsel’s office, trying to encourage them to move forward with the executive order. They have the perfect window of opportunity to get the executive order done.”