Legal Center Weekly Report: November 16, 2012

District Court Upholds Ban on Contributions from Governmental Contractors / Legal Center Files Brief Defending Wisconsin Disclosure Laws in 7th Circuit Court of Appeals / Legal Center President Helps Craft & Launch the American Anti-Corruption Act / Trevor Potter Appears Again on The Colbert Report / Policy Director Meredith McGehee Again Named Top Lobbyist / Trevor Potter Speaks at The Atlantic’s Washington Ideas Forum / Trevor Potter Featured Prominently in PBS Frontline Segment / Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan Addresses University of Denver Strategic Issues Panel on Campaign Finance / Legal Center President Appears at GW Law Review Symposium / Tara Malloy Addresses Thurgood Marshall Inn of Court / Trevor Potter Speaks at IFES 2012 U.S. Election Program

District Court Upholds Ban on Contributions from Government Contractors

On November 2, 2012, the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia granted summary judgment in favor of the Federal Election Commission in Wagner v. FEC, rejecting a challenge to the federal government contractor contribution ban, as applied to individuals who have personal services contracts with federal agencies.  This restriction on campaign contributions from persons and entities contracting with the federal government was enacted in 1940 to address corruption in federal contracting in the wake of a number of scandals. 

On August 23, 2012, the CLC, with D21, filed an amici brief to defend the constitutionality of the government contractor ban and in support of the FEC’s motion for summary judgment.

To read the opinion granting summary judgment, click here.

Legal Center Files Brief Defending Wisconsin Disclosure Laws in 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

On November 9, the Campaign Legal Center filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, defending several provisions of the State of Wisconsin’s campaign finance disclosure law. The Legal Center submitted the brief in Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL) v. Deininger with the assistance of Paul Smith of Jenner & Block.

“WRTL is asking the court to eviscerate virtually every type of meaningful disclosure for groups making independent expenditures in Wisconsin elections, and it is asking the court to do so by ignoring Supreme Court precedent, including the case the group brought in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission,” said Tara Malloy, Legal Center Senior Counsel.  “This case is part of a nationwide litigation effort by groups seeking to undermine and eliminate disclosure laws at the local, state and federal level.”

Wisconsin Right to Life v. Deininger challenges several definitions in state law that implement Wisconsin’s political disclosure system as well as Wisconsin’s 24-hour reporting requirement for expenditures made close to an election and its requirement that a committee file an oath attesting that its independent disbursements are independent.

To read the Campaign Legal Center’s brief, click here.

Legal Center President Helps Craft & Launch the American Anti-Corruption Act

On November 13, Legal Center President Trevor Potter, along with a broad coalition from across the political spectrum, launched an effort to drastically overhaul the laws governing campaign finance, disclosure, government ethics and lobbying.   The far-reaching American Anti-Corruption Act is supported by prominent Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street activists, government officials, former lobbyists, legal scholars, and other experts of all political stripes and championed by the Represent.Us campaign.  The Anti-Corruption Act’s site credits Potter as the architect of the legislation:

“The Act was crafted by former Federal Election Commission chairman Trevor Potter in consultation with dozens of strategists, democracy reform leaders and constitutional attorneys from across the political spectrum. Mr. Potter was one of the chief architects of the McCain-Feingold law. The Act would transform how elections are financed, how lobbyists influence politics, and how political money is disclosed. It is a bold, sweeping proposal that would reshape the rules of American politics, and restore ordinary Americans as the most important stakeholders instead of major donors. The Anti-Corruption Act’s provisions enjoy support from progressives and conservatives alike. Constitutional attorneys confirm that the provisions are constitutional.”

The site also outlines in further detail the Act nine overarching goals:

  1. Stop politicians from taking bribes
  2. Limit super PAC contributions and “coordination”
  3. Prevent job offers as bribes
  4. Call lobbyists lobbyists
  5. Limit lobbyist donations
  6. End secret money
  7. Level the playing field with a small donor tax rebate
  8. Disclose “bundling”
  9. Enforce the rules

The first goal of the group is to collect one million citizen co-sponsors of the new law through a petition drive.

To read more about the American Anti-Corruption Act or to sign the petition, click here.

To watch a video of Trevor Potter discussing the Act, click here.

Trevor Potter Appears Again on The Colbert Report

On November 12, Legal Center President Trevor Potter appeared again on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report as host Stephen Colbert pondered what to do with his leftover Super PAC money.  Potter walked the host through a convenient IRS loophole that allows the funds to be transferred from Colbert Super PAC through his 501(c)(4), Colbert Super PAC  SHH!,  to another secret 501(c)(4) without leaving any fingerprints for prying eyes.

Potter has made numerous appearances on the popular show as Colbert’s campaign finance attorney.  The Colbert Report’s ongoing coverage of the host’s Super PAC and 501(c)(4), led to show receiving a Peabody Award earlier this year for “excellence, distinguished achievement, and meritorious public service” in journalism.   

To watch Potter’s appearance as well as his earlier appearances on the Colbert Report, click here.

Policy Director Meredith McGehee Again Named Top Lobbyist

On October 30, The Hill released its annual “Top Lobbyists” list, and once again Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee was included on the prestigious list.  As she has been for a number of years, McGehee is listed along with top lobbyists from the biggest firms on K Street and the players in the corporate, union, association and nonprofit worlds.

As The Hill put it: “When she’s not unearthing dark money in elections or advocating for strong ethics regulations, McGehee manages issue advocacy campaigns at her own firm, McGehee Strategies.”

To read the full list in The Hill, click here.

Trevor Potter Speaks at The Atlantic’s Washington Ideas Forum

On November 14, Legal Center President Trevor Potter spoke at The Atlantic’s Washington Ideas Forum. Each year the Forum brings together influential figures from the worlds of politics, business, academia and the media. 

Potter discussed the role of Super PACs with Priorities USA Action President Bill Burton and The Atlantic’s Editor-in-Chief James Bennet. While Potter warned of the dangers of Super PACs, he also noted the increasing uneasiness among lawmakers and citizens alike towards these groups. Candidates involved in the 2012 election, Potter argued, may be in a position now to want to limit the role of Super PACs.  Other guests this year included Bill Gates, Steve Case, Madeleine Albright, Douglas Holtz-Eakin Nancy Pelosi and John McCain.

Trevor Potter Featured Prominently in PBS Frontline Segment

On October 30, Legal Center President Trevor Potter was featured prominently in a PBS Frontline segment entitled “Big Sky, Big Money” which investigated the impact of secret spending by dark money groups in Montana during the 2012 election cycle. The show looked into how the Citizens United decision is playing out in Montana where comparatively little money buys a lot of airtime for attack ads and uncovered the role of big money played through secretive outside groups looking to buy results in the races up and down the ticket.

To watch the segment, click here.

Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan Addresses University of Denver Strategic Issues Panel on Campaign Finance

On November 15, Legal Center Senior Counsel Paul S. Ryan addressed the University of Denver’s Strategic Issues Panel on Campaign Finance.  Each year the University’s Strategic Issues Program establishes a nonpartisan panel of distinguished Colorado citizens appointed by the University’s Chancellor to examine an important public policy issue—this year the issue is campaign finance.  Over a period of several months, panel members will examine the issue, weighing research and opinions from a variety of sources.  The panel will develop consensus findings and recommendations and publish a report on the topic.  Ryan presented his views to the non-partisan panel on what is working well in campaign finance law, what is not working well, and what campaign finance reforms should be pursued.  Also presenting to the panel this week were Larry Noble, President & CEO of Americans for Campaign Reform, Prof. David Dulio of Oakland University, Allen Dickerson, Legal Director of the Center for Competitive Politics and Steve Bouey, Campaign Finance Manager of the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

Legal Center President Appears at GW Law Review Symposium

On November 16, Legal Center President Trevor Potter was a panelist at the George Washington University Law Review Symposium, “Law and Democracy: A Symposium on the Law Governing Our Democratic Process.”

The “Future of Campaign Finance” panel focused on a variety of post-Citizens United issues including regulating and requiring disclosure for Super PACs and the future of public financing.  The moderator was Eliza Newlin Carney of Roll Call and other panelists included Richard Briffault of Columbia Law School, Michael Kang of Emory University School of Law and Brad Smith of the Center for Competitive Politics.

Tara Malloy Addresses Thurgood Marshall Inn of Court

On November 1, Legal Center Senior Counsel Tara Malloy was a featured guest of the Thurgood Marshall Inn of Court Society in a discussion of the evolution of campaign finance and advertising in the wake of the Citizens United and SpeechNow decisions.  The Inn of Court is comprised of several dozen judges, lawyers, professors, and some students and the event was held at the Catholic University Law School.

Trevor Potter Speaks at IFES 2012 U.S. Election Program

On November 5, Legal Center President Trevor Potter was a panelist at a session of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ (IFES) 2012 U.S. Election Program. Potter’s panel examined the role of money in politics in the U.S. and looked in-depth at the purpose of disclosure requirements and the advantages and limitations of a public financing system.  The conference brought together hundreds of election officials, parliamentarians and diplomats from around the world to observe and learn about the U.S. electoral system as well as discuss elections and voting from comparative international perspectives.

 
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