RECENT LOBBYING, ETHICS & CAMPAIGN FINANCE UPDATES
We read the news, cut through the noise and provide you the notes.
Welcome to Compliance Notes from Nossaman’s Government Relations & Regulation Group – a periodic digest of the headlines, statutory and regulatory changes and court cases involving campaign finance, lobbying compliance, election law and government ethics issues at the federal, state and local level.
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Campaign Finance & Lobbying Compliance
The Department of Justice FARA Unit issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on whether certain aspects of the FARA regulations, such as the scope of definitions for “agency” and “political consultant,” should be clarified. Read more about our take on it here.
Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit seeking to strike down federal campaign finance regulations, which require outside groups that make independent expenditures to report their underlying donors. The group claims the rules violate their first amendment rights and that it is reluctant to spend money in two congressional races because it fears the Federal Election Commission (FEC) will attempt to force the group to disclose its donors. The group has asked the District Court to declare some of the FEC's regulations unconstitutional, as such a ruling would allow the group to spend money without disclosing its donors. (Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Colorado: The Colorado Secretary of State's office ordered the nonprofit group Unite for Colorado to reveal its donors and pay a $40,000 fine, finding that the group violated Colorado law by contributing millions of dollars to conservative causes during the 2020 election without registering as an issue committee. Unite for Colorado paid for signature gathering and digital advertisements for several ballot initiatives, but did not disclose where its funding originated, as is common with 501(c)(4)s. However, the complaint filed in August 2020 argued that the group was spending so heavily and was so intertwined in politics that it should have registered as an issue committee, which would have required more financial disclosures. (Andrew Kenney, CPR News)
California: The San Francisco County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance prohibiting city department leaders from requesting donations to third parties, also known as “behested payments,” from companies and lobbyists trying to contract with the city. The ordinance was first introduced in March in response to a citywide corruption scandal. (CBS SF/BCN)
Texas: To minimize wrongdoing by officials and staff, the Dallas City Council unanimously approved several proposals to strengthen transparency and accountability and to clarify rules to report ethics violations. A crucial part of the reform package creates an inspector general division in the city attorney's office, who is responsible for investigating all complaints and anonymous tips regarding internal fraud, waste, abuse and corruption. (Everton Bailey Jr., The Dallas Morning News)
Oregon: Following months of negotiations about how to structure a system of campaign finance limits, a coalition of groups filed three potential ballot measures with the state. The proposals, all different in their specifics, modify Oregon's permissive system of funding campaigns. Each proposal would institute new contribution limits for individuals, advocacy groups, labor organizations, corporations and political parties donating to candidates and causes. The proposals also have disclosure requirements that political advertisements display top donors and that "dark money" groups that engage in campaigning must disclose their funding sources. (Dirk VanderHart, OPB)
Utah: Secure Vote Utah filed a proposed ballot initiative to end universal mail-in voting and all early in-person voting in favor of exclusively using paper ballots. Currently, every registered voter in Utah receives a ballot in the mail, which must be postmarked the day before the election or dropped off at official drop boxes before polls close on Election Day. The proposed ballot initiative makes other broad changes to Utah's election laws, such as changing the registration deadline and reducing acceptable forms of identification. (Bryan Schott, The Salt Lake Tribune)