FEC Approves Advisory Opinions for Independent Expenditure Committees

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) recently voted 5-1 to approve advisory opinions allowing two political organizations to collect unlimited contributions for independent expenditures in federal campaigns. The groups, the conservative Club for Growth (the Club) and pro-Democratic Commonsense Ten, will disclose their donors and spending to the FEC. The opinions provide some guidance to entities that wish to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to run ads supporting or opposing candidates for federal office.

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For-Profits Use Nonprofit Structure to Avoid Earmark Ban

In response to intense criticism of congressional earmarks, House Appropriations Chair David Obey (D-WI) announced a ban on all earmarks to for-profit organizations. These companies and their congressional patrons wasted little time in funneling earmarks to nonprofit organizations in order to circumvent the ban. Using nonprofits to circumvent the ban on earmarks raises questions about the practice itself, as well as the policy of ending all earmarks to for-profit corporations.

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Nonprofits Active in Voting Rights Issues before Midterm Elections

As the midterm elections approach, nonprofit organizations are staying active in voting rights issues. Nonprofits have played key roles in the settlement of a New Mexico voting rights case, opposition to the state of Georgia's challenge to the federal Voting Rights Act, and advocacy supporting the Fair Elections Now Act. Through these and other activities, nonprofits are advocating for a process that ensures that their constituencies' interests are represented.

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Supreme Court Says States May Disclose Petition Signatories

On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that states may publicly disclose referendum petition signatures. The case, Doe v. Reed, centers on the public's right to know who signed petitions related to Referendum 71, a 2009 attempt to overturn Washington State’s expanded domestic partner law, which gives gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married couples.

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House Passes DISCLOSE Act, Senate Struggle Begins

On June 24, the House passed the DISCLOSE Act by a close, largely party-line vote of 219-206. Supporters praise the bill as a success for transparency, while critics argue that it is an attack on the First Amendment and creates unfair exemptions for groups such as the National Rifle Association. The companion bill in the Senate, S. 3295, must now overcome many obstacles.

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Wrangling over DISCLOSE Act Slows Bill Down, but Deal May Be Near in House

Some members of Congress have started to explore exempting certain nonprofits from the DISCLOSE Act, the bill developed by Democrats to respond to the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. While some nonprofits are concerned about donor disclosure requirements in the bill, other groups are concerned that exemptions or changes to the bill would render the legislation ineffective. These organizations worry that without strong disclosure requirements, the bill would allow political ads sponsored by anonymous sources to flood the airwaves at election time.

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