Groups Continue to Look For Ways Around Campaign Finance Disclosure

Rick Hasen has an interesting column at Slate, discussing efforts to chip away at campaign finance regulations. Hasen suggests it will only get worse. "Opponents of reasonable regulation have a new target: trying to keep the flow of campaign money secret." For example, Citizens United submitted an advisory opinion request to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), asking if it qualifies for the "media exemption" under the Federal Campaign Finance Act.

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Disclosure Requirements Endure After SpeechNow.org Case Decided

In SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, a federal appeals court unanimously struck down limits on contributions to independent political groups that want to spend money in support or opposition to candidates. The court ruled as unconstitutional the $5,000 annual limit on donations from individuals to groups like SpeechNow.org.

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Study Finds Errors in Lobby Reports

Roll Call ($$) reports on a CQ MoneyLine study that found that over the past twelve years many companies, unions and other groups often made a mistake of reporting only its in-house expenses on lobbying disclosure reports. The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires that entities with in-house lobbying disclose all lobbying costs, including money spent on outside firms, even though outside firms must also separately disclose revenue they receive from the clients.

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Bill Seeks to Ban Secrecy in State Redistricting

Reps. John Tanner (D-TN) and Michael Castle (R-DE) have introduced HR 4918, the Redistricting Transparency Act of 2010. The bill would require states to put together redistricting plans for U.S. House district boundaries in a public process. This includes having an Internet site to inform the public of the planning. The site would have to provide advance notice of any meetings on the subject of redrawing the boundaries of the districts.

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Citizens United and Impacts on Nonprofits' Political Spending

Since the Citizens United ruling, attention has largely focused on concerns around how much money will be spent on elections. However, groups are already spending heavily, particularly since the Wisconsin Right to Life decision when the Supreme Court decided that the electioneering communications ban is unconstitutional when applied to genuine issue ads. Subsequently, groups have been allowed to run issue ads that may come quite close to arguably resembling a campaign message, without having to disclose donors.

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More Congressional Hearings to Address Citizens United

The Senate Judiciary committee held a hearing tilted, "We the People? Corporate Spending in American Elections after Citizens United." During the hearing opponents of the ruling argued that the case exemplified that the Roberts Court has abandoned judicial restraint.

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Advisory Council Provides Recommendations on Faith-Based and Community Organizations

The Chronicle of Philanthropy ($$) details the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships' new report offering suggestions for the government in its work with charities. The panel provided a 164-page document which included recommendations to ensure that religious charities use government money only for secular activities.

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Outspent: An influx of Money to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The LA Times reports on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's growing grassroots initiative, Friends of the U.S. Chamber, which "has begun to rival those of the major political parties, funded by record-setting amounts of money raised from corporations and wealthy individuals."

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Localities Look to Charities for New Sources of Revenue

Last week, a New York Times article discussed a trend occurring nationwide, proposals to charge nonprofits fees as state and local governments search for revenue. The prospect of having to pay new taxes could have major consequences for nonprofit budgets. Some of the various suggestions to increase revenue include subjecting charities to sales taxes, and revoking property tax exemptions.

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Reactions to Citizens United Persist

The American Constitution Society (ACS) hosted an event to discuss the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Five panelists assessed the prospects for congressional legislation. Not surprisingly, their opinions diverged on the ruling's long-term impact. There are numerous practical and constitutional issues involved in passing any of the bills introduced and it is doubtful whether or not legislators would even be able to agree on any of the proposals.

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