Georgia campaign finance commission signals intent to be active in 2018 election

by Dentons
Contact

Dentons

In recent weeks, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (Commission) has undertaken a pair of important actions that indicate the agency's desire to play a more expansive regulatory role on campaign finance and ethics matters heading into the 2018 election cycle. In light of these announcements, candidates, PACs, nonprofit organizations and other political stakeholders on both sides of the aisle must be cognizant of how a potentially activist Commission will influence the manner in which state law and regulations are enforced and shaped heading into the statewide campaign season and beyond.

The first prominent proclamation coming from the Commission in recent weeks was an announcement made at its September 21, 2017 meeting that its staff will be taking an increasingly proactive approach to investigating the use of campaign funds by Georgia candidates—particularly those running statewide in 2018. As specified by the Commission's Executive Secretary in his statements at the September 21 meeting, the Commission intends to begin auditing statewide campaigns for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and other offices in the coming months. As per the same statement, the Commission also intends to audit a handful of down-ballot candidates for state legislative and local offices so as to ensure general compliance with the demands of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act and the Commission's rules thereunder.

While the advent of this new audit initiative shows that the Commission is dedicated to reasserting its oversight authority concerning candidate committees under state law, it is unclear at present how such audits will be conducted, or how extensive or invasive they will be. In light of this uncertainty, candidates for statewide office—or indeed any public office—should continue to diligently and accurately report all campaign contributions and expenditures, carefully monitor state contribution limits and restrictions, and consult qualified counsel concerning any compliance questions that may arise.

The second important action by the Commission in recent weeks was the adoption, during a special emergency hearing held on October 5, of a proposed Advisory Opinion. The unanimously adopted Opinion—No. 2017-05—touches on a host of important campaign finance issues related to the making of express advocacy communications by independent, non-campaign groups, including the Commission's interpretation of what constitutes coordination between such groups and candidates under state law. The language of the Advisory Opinion, while characterized by the Commission during the emergency hearing as narrowly tailored, contains analysis and discussion that has the potential to be broadly applied to restrict or limit a wide range of political engagement by independent groups that has been heretofore permissible activity under Georgia law.

For example, under the language of the Advisory Opinion, the Commission indicates that a candidate may not directly or indirectly "solicit funds for a nonprofit corporation or other entity" that proposes to "bring about the nomination or election of a candidate for any office," lest such solicitation be considered an in-kind contribution to the candidate. This application of the coordination standard to fundraising or solicitation activities for independent political groups, as opposed to just the expenditures made by such organizations, represents a departure from the common understanding of the legal principle of coordination under both Georgia and federal law. The language of the Advisory Opinion also leaves room for interpretation as it relates to the Commission's view on what types of public communications constitute express advocacy under Georgia law. The impact of this line of discussion in the Opinion is yet to be seen, but it almost certainly indicates that the Commission may be willing to classify certain types of issue advocacy communications—which are not defined in either state law or regulation—as subject to additional regulation and scrutiny.

Although uncertainty as to the Advisory Opinion's breadth of application is sure to be met with trepidation by candidates, campaigns and independent political stakeholders alike, the Opinion may well be just an entrée to greater changes in Georgia campaign finance law. In conjunction with the passage of the Opinion, the Commission's Executive Secretary, Stefan Ritter, noted that when the Commission meets again in December, agency staff will be announcing a number of proposed rules on independent expenditure activity, express advocacy communications and coordination. Although the specifics of such proposed rules remain vague at this point, there are some preliminary indications that they will attempt to mirror some of the elements of the federal framework.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Dentons | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Dentons
Contact
more
less

Dentons on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.