On Sunday, Politico reported on the dire financial straits many state parties are facing as donors are increasingly giving more to Super PACs than state parties. Using data provided by Sandler, Reiff, Young & Lamb, Politico crunched state party campaign finance data from 2000 through 2013, and found a near universal decline in fundraising numbers:
On both sides of the ledger, state parties have shown signs of financial strain. For in-state elections, state parties raised an average of $5.4 million in 2000. By 2008, that number had dropped to $4.1 million. By 2012, it was $2.8 million.
On the federal side, just four state parties out of 100 — all Republican — had more than $1 million of federal funds in the bank at the end of 2013.
Politico cited an increasingly competitive fundraising environment and a number of federal rules that restrict how state parties can raise and spend money. In response, state party leaders have called on Congress to loosen such restrictions, and allow them to remain politically viable.
Jim Lamb’s successful track record in fighting false and misleading Super PACs was highlighted in an article in Campaigns andElections today. The article discussed ways to fight back against Super PAC television ads, which are afforded much fewer first amendment protections than candidate-sponsored ads. The article highlights Mr. Lamb’s success in fighting back when the facts are outright wrong or false. Backed up with research, Mr. Lamb breaks down each claim made by the Super PAC with a news-sourced rebuttal, imploring the station to protect the public from “false, misleading, and deceptive advertising.”
David Mitrani was quoted today in a story in the Huffington Post about the growth of super PACs and their strong fundraising numbers in a non-Presidential year. Mr. Mitrani pointed to super PACs’ ability to spend money in many state races, and thus streamlining fundraising operations as one reason why they have become so popular over the past few years.
He told the Huffington Post “Now that we have super PACs, federal funds are easier to raise and it’s a more centralized way for people to structure their organization.”
Neil Reiff has written a new article for Campaigns and Elections magazine this morning, offering a preview of several campaign finance issues likely to come to the forefront in 2014. With 2014 midterms right around the corner, Mr. Reiff identifies five issues likely to make news in the new year:
Super PACs expanding their influence into state and local races
States raising contribution limits
The McCutcheon v. FEC Supreme Court case and its impacts on federal and state aggregate contribution limits
A continued push for more disclosure from 501(c)(4) groups, especially as it regards to political spending by such groups
Potential for a new push from Congress to reform campaign finance laws, especially Super PAC
Joshua Rosenstein was quoted today in a story in National Journal about the rise in litigation over the executive rule-making process. The article describes ongoing litigation between the EPA and biofuel producers over renewable-fuel standards. Mr. Rosenstein told the National Journal that such litigation is becoming commonplace as lobbyists increasingly fail to make headway through a gridlocked government.
“You’re seeing a rise in either actual litigation or the threat of litigation,” said Joshua Rosenstein, a counsel with the Washington law firm Sandler Reiff Young & Lamb. “Advocacy groups are being stymied because the government hasn’t been doing much and they’ve had to get creative; and one of the things I’ve heard people talking about across the industry is seeking policy changes through the courts.”
In front of a capacity crowd, Jeff Wice spoke Monday morning at the National Conference of State Legislatures on a panel regarding voting rights. Titled “Shelby County v. Holder: The Future of the Voting Rights Act,” Mr. Wice discussed the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision and how it affects state legislators and activists going forward. Prior to the ruling, legislatures in many southern states required pre-clearance from the federal Department of Justice in order to make any changes to voting procedures. However, the Court struck down this requirement, and many of the affected states are poised to begin changing their voting laws.
Despite many state legislators and activists alike taking an interest in the subject, he told Politico after the panel that “It’s a quiet before the storm period, and it’s hard to tell when the storm is going to hit. No one expects Congress to act, and there’s also a wait–and–see approach to see how far think tanks and legal defense organizations go to bring lawsuits to expand [VRA] challenges.”
Read the full article from Politico, with a more complete write-up of the panel, here.
Joe Sandler was cited as a FARA expert in a news item in today’ Politico Influence newsletter. The newsletter sought to follow up on a story last week in which actor Steven Seagal was described as the “face of the Russian weapons industry.” Politico Influnece asked Mr. Sandler about Mr. Seagal’s relationship with Russia as it relates to the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Mr. Sandler told Politico “if and when an agreement is reached, and regardless of whether he gets paid or not, to do the work described in the [original] piece would definitely require Mr. Seagal to register under FARA. To try to help move U.S. public opinion to support marketing of weapons on behalf of the Russian government would definitely trigger the need to register.”
Read the original story on Mr. Seagal’s relationship with the Russian weapons industry here.
Founding Partner Neil Reiff was quoted today in an article in the National Law Journal about what lies ahead for the IRS as it deals with the fallout from targeting Tea Party affiliated groups. The IRS is facing a heavy backlash after reports surfaced that they selectively targeted conservative groups applying for 501(c)4 tax-exempt status. With Congressional oversight likely to ramp up in the coming weeks, questions are emerging about how the IRS will deal with political organizations that register for tax exempt status going forward. Mr. Reiff told the National Law Journal that IRS oversight of such groups’ activity might be curtailed: “I think it’s a huge deal. Has the IRS been wounded to the point they have to pull back?” And since reports indicate that conservative groups were the main focus of the IRS’ targeting, Mr. Reiff warned that with Republicans “howling fairness,” liberal groups “could be girding for backlash and added scrutiny.”
In an article published today in The Hill, Josh Rosenstein is cited as a corporate compliance expert regarding potential new Federal Reserve regulations regarding prepaid gift cards. The regulations, which are set to go into effect on Monday, require prepaid MasterCard and Visa-branded gift cards to have a PIN, much like a debit card. In the past, the PIN was an optional feature. And while the article points that while these new regulations are still considered “informal guidance” and does not hold legal weight, industries typically treat the guidance as if it does.”
According to Mr. Rosenstein, this feature is key: “Even though the guidance may not be ratified by the [Federal Reserve leadership], it can give you a pretty good idea how the regulators might likely respond to particular situations — which is critical if you’re in the regulated community. One of the fundamental purposes of informal guidance is to let the industry know how the agency intends to enforce its mandate.”
Joe Sandler was recently cited as an expert in the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) in an article by Buzzfeed Politics about foreign lobbying in the United States. The article discusses a key loophole in FARA: so long as the lobbying isn’t directly funded or supported by a foreign governmental agency, the lobbyist does not have to register under FARA, but rather under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, which has much less stringent reporting and transparency requirements. However as the article explains, there are many indirect ways foreign governments can get around FARA while still effectively lobbying in America. While both laws grew out of “anti-corruption crusades of the 1990s,” Mr. Sandler told Buzzfeed that “For better or for worse, it’s legal,” and that the two laws “evolved in completely different ways.”