Entries in Federal Election Commission (10)


‘Citizens United’ Bounces Back to Supreme Court

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Will the Supreme Court take another crack at its "Citizens United" ruling?

Justices are scheduled Thursday behind closed doors to discuss Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the landmark 2010 decision holding that corporations can make unlimited independent expenditures using general treasury funds to support or oppose candidates.

Why would the justices revisit a case so soon after ruling on it? Because a lower court -- the Montana Supreme Court -- issued a ruling in 2011 that appears to contradict Citizens United.

The Montana court upheld a ban on corporate spending in Montana state elections, ruling that “unlike Citizens United, this case concerns Montana law, Montana elections and it arises from Montana history.”

The Supreme Court agreed in February to block temporarily, or “stay,” the Montana decision from going into effect until it decides whether to take up the case. Now, parties from both sides have issued written briefs in the case, and the Supreme Court must decide how to deal with it.

Critics of the Montana decision charge that the state’s Supreme Court showed “disrespect for the Constitution.” Lawyer James Bopp Jr. has filed a motion with the Supreme Court urging the justices to reverse the lower court decision with no additional briefs or arguments. That’s called a “summary reversal.”

“This case involves a failure to respect precedent,” Bopp, the Indiana Republican Party National Committeeman, writes. “A state court must not be allowed to force this Court into yet another round of briefing and oral argument on a recently decided issue by refusing to follow controlling precedent.”

But Steve Bullock, Montana’s attorney general, has filed a brief asking the court to agree to hear the Montana case with briefs and oral arguments. “Even on the broadest reading of Citizens United,” he writes in court papers, “this case presents an opportunity for the Court to clarify its applications.”

And Bullock is not the only one who hopes the court will agree to grant a full hearing and perhaps a second look at Citizens United.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer (both dissenters in Citizens United), agreed in February that the court should temporarily block the Montana decision from going into effect. The “stay” was necessary “because lower courts are bound to follow this court’s decisions,” Ginsburg said.

But she also quoted a key passage of Citizens United and wrote, “Montana’s experience, and experience elsewhere since this Court’s decision in Citizens United, make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations, ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’”

She said she hoped the court would agree to hear the case and decide whether “in light of the huge sums currently deployed to buy candidates’ allegiance, Citizens United should continue to hold sway.”

The court could issue its decision as early as Monday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney Net Worth $250 Million, Same as 2011

ABC/ Ida Mae Astute(WASHINGTON) -- Presumptive GOP candidate Mitt Romney is worth as much as $250 million, according to the candidate’s personal financial disclosure filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

While the forms indicate that the candidate could be worth anywhere between $83 and $255 million, a campaign aide offered a more specific range of $190 million to $250 million. This is the same net worth that was reported for the candidate in his 2011 filings.

A review of the documents by ABC News found that Romney earned nearly $190,000 in speaker’s fees in 2011, for four speeches including those at Emory University in Atlanta and at Barclay’s Bank in Washington, D.C. Last year, Romney reported earning $370,000 for eight speaking engagements but maintained a far less hectic schedule as he was not campaigning full time.

Romney made anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 in royalties from his book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, a decline from last year, when he reported earning between $100,000 and $1 million from the book. As he has done in the past, Romney donated all profits from No Apology to six charities, including the Joey Fund (for cystic fibrosis), Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Sabin Children’s Foundation, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund, and Homes for Our Troops.

The documents show that Romney was paid $260,000 in a director’s fee for his spot on the board at Marriott. Additionally, Romney was paid between $201 and $1,000 in royalties for a reprint of an oped in The New York Times.

He owns between $250,000 and $500,000 in gold, and the same amount in horses, which are known to be a therapy tool for his wife, Ann, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.

Assets that were sold on behalf of Romney last year include stock in the popular yoga and athletic clothing store Lululemon, software companies Microsoft, Google and Apple, as well as sportswear giant Nike.

“Governor and Mrs. Romney’s assets are managed on a blind basis,” said spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “They do not control the investment of these assets, which are under the control and overall management of a trustee. The trustee is Brad Malt, a partner at Ropes & Gray law firm.”

At least $1 million of Romney’s fortune is invested in his son Tagg’s company, Solamere Founders Fund.

In addition, the Romneys still maintain a trust for their children and grandchildren valued at roughly $100 million, the campaign said.

The documents also note that while Romney receives money from investments in Bain Capital, the private equity firm he helped to found and has since become a point of criticism by the Obama campaign.

“Since February 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way,” the documents note.

The investments and profits Romney enjoys from Bain Capital were made as part of his retirement agreement, according to the disclosure forms.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


What Will Gingrich’s Super PAC Do with $5 Million?

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich’s candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination has $5 million in the bank, thanks to casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s wife, Miriam, the latest Federal Election Commission report revealed.

So what will Winning Our Future do with all of that money? The fact is, anything they want to.

“They can buy a yacht and sail off into the sunset drinking margaritas or whatever they want,” said Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that gives legal advice and assessments of campaign finances.

Though Gingrich is still in the race, it is unlikely the $5 million in Winning Our Future’s pocket will be spent before Gingrich exits.

Rick Tyler, a senior adviser and spokesman for Winning Our Future, told ABC News that no one from the super PAC would be taking any sunset cruises anytime soon.

“All of the money will be used for Newt’s benefit,” Tyler said.

Although Tyler would not reveal any specific plans or potential ad buys, he said that Winning Our Future planned to help out Gingrich’s campaign in North Carolina.

Ryan said although candidates and election committees for president aren’t allowed to use funds for personal expenses, there are no guidelines from the FEC on how super PACs use any leftover money once a candidate has suspended their campaign -- the only thing they can’t do is pay off the candidate’s debt. Gingrich’s debt is $4.3 million.

“If someone’s not a candidate anymore, then the ban on coordinating with candidates doesn’t apply. The FEC has failed to adopt any rules given super PACs and when it comes to what happens after, the FEC has been asleep at the wheel,” Ryan said.

The FEC requires that Gingrich remain on the books as a candidate until his debt is paid.

Michael Malbin of the Campaign Finance Institute echoed Ryan’s interpretation of the FEC regulations on super PACs.

“Unlimited contributions are allowed only on the condition that the committee does not coordinate with a candidate -- and that includes a candidate’s authorized committee. If Mr. Gingrich is not a candidate, the committee may spend its money independently on whatever legal purpose it wants,” Malbin said.

The formation of a super PAC around a particular candidate was never the intention when the idea was conceived, but they later morphed into candidate-specific PACs as they are today, Ryan said.

For the first time, super PACs supporting candidates who are no longer in the race coined the term “Zombie PACs,” because they have leftover money and no cause.

It isn’t clear whether Winning Our Future will spend excess funds to place ad buys against the Obama campaign in the general election, spend the money on Adelson’s choosing or attempt to spend the entire $5 million for Gingrich before he exits the race.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ron Paul’s Campaign Raised $3.3 Million in February

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Ron Paul’s inability to win a single state through this election season is now affecting his ability to raise money.

February fundraising figures show Paul raised about $3.3 million for the month, less than the $4.5 million in January and beginning March with $1.6 million on hand.

The Texas congressman’s campaign filed the report with the Federal Election Commission Friday night, four days before the March 20 deadline.

Paul had been a prolific fundraiser. By the end of January he had raised $31 million, placing him second to Mitt Romney among his GOP rivals.

The bulk of the money came from small-dollar donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit research group dedicated to tracking money in U.S. politics.

Paul’s campaign does not have “bundlers,” people assigned to raise large amounts of money for the campaign.

Politico reported earlier this month that Endorse Liberty, one of the large Super PACs supporting Paul was reassessing its heavy financial support.

Endorse Liberty has tried to use online advertisements to broaden Paul’s appeal. But the Super PAC is also running thin on available cash. Through January, it reported less than $61,000 on hand.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Watchdog Group Says Romney Super PAC Broke Election Law

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A group that fights for campaign finance disclosures formally filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Monday, claiming that the “super PAC” supporting Mitt Romney is illegally showing an ad from the candidate’s 2008 run for president.

Last week, the PAC, Restore Our Future, began rerunning an ad from 2008 about Romney’s effort to help find a missing 14-year-old girl in New York City.  The only difference between the two ads is that in the old one, Romney says at the end, “I’m Mitt Romney, and I approved this message.”  In the new one, a woman says, “Restore Our Future is responsible for the content of this message.”

The overlap is an example of the muddied rules that are supposed to govern super PACs, nominally independent groups that can spend and raise unlimited amounts of money for candidates.  The FEC says that super PACs are forbidden from “coordinating” with campaigns over details on how to spend money for ads, but the regulation is difficult both to enforce and explain.

The Campaign Legal Center took the concrete step on Monday of claiming that the super PAC made “apparent illegal in-kind contributions” by paying for the ad to be shown again.

“Such an action would constitute a violation of the law,” the group said.

“Restore Our Future’s expenditure to republish a Romney campaign ad is considered a contribution from the Super PAC to the Romney campaign under FEC regulations, but Super PACs are prohibited from contributing to candidates,” the group’s lawyer, Paul Ryan, said in a statement.  “The airing of these ads constitutes a clear violation of federal law by the shadow campaign committee Restore Our Future.”

A purported violation of the law must be reported to the FEC by a third party because the commission has no policing branch to monitor super PACs or campaigns.

However, it’s unlikely that the FEC will act on the complaint in a significant way soon.  The FEC can’t confirm that it’s investigating a case until an investigation is complete, and it could take up to two years.  The Republican primaries for Michigan and Arizona, the states where the duplicated ad is running, are on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Restore Our Future had no response to the Campaign Legal Center’s complaint.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC Hauls in More Than $1 Million

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Stephen Colbert super PAC is run by a comedian, but the political action committee’s bank account is no joke, based on federal reports filed Tuesday.

The super PAC is “rolling seven digits deep,” as Stephen Colbert said in a statement to the Federal Election Commission Tuesday, having hauled in more than $1.02 million as of Jan. 30.

“We raised it on my show and used it to materially influence the elections -- in full accordance with the law,” Comedy Central comedian Colbert said Tuesday in a statement. “It’s the way our Founding Fathers would have wanted it, if they had founded corporations instead of just a country.”

Colbert, 47, created the super PAC, officially called Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, in June and has used it to accentuate new campaign finance laws that allow people and corporations to donate unlimitedly to such groups, which can then spend that money to support or oppose political candidates.

In the weeks leading up to the South Carolina primary, Colbert transferred power of his super PAC to fellow comedian Jon Stewart in an on-air ceremony on The Colbert Report complete with a sci-fi-style money-power transfer and celebratory balloon drop.

During Colbert’s two-week flirtation with a presidential run, the super PAC, under Stewart’s direction, spent at least $71,000 to create and air four ads in South Carolina.

Colbert snatched back the super PAC reins Monday night in an epic battle that spanned Stewart’s The Daily Show and Colbert’s show.

“The way I see it, the Supreme Court said that money is speech, and Jon Stewart was hogging all my speech,” Colbert said in Tuesday’s statement. “Now I’ve taken that speech from Jon, making him like that movie The Artist: French.”

Colbert has not said what he plans to spend his remaining money on.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rick Perry Discloses Nearly $230,000 Owed for Travel

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In an amended report submitted to the Federal Election Commission Friday, Rick Perry disclosed that his campaign owes almost $230,000 in new travel-related debts as a result of failing to follow campaign finance rules when paying for chartered planes.

According to the amended FEC report, the Perry campaign owes a total of $227,676.07 to eight different companies for travel-related expenses. The largest debts are owed to companies and individuals with strong Texas ties to Perry. Javaid Anwar, the head of Midland Energy in Texas, is owed $66,362.50. Perry owes $454,365.16 to Friedkin Aviation, owned by Dan Friedkin, whom Perry appointed as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Brian Pardo, a Texas businessman and Perry donor, is owed $22,931.15.

The story was first reported by The New York Times.

Perry’s amended report was prompted by a New York Times piece last month that revealed the Perry campaign underpaid Pardo for the use of his private planes during the last fundraising quarter.  The campaign paid only for the seats used by the campaign, not the equivalent of the full cost of a chartered flight as required by campaign finance regulations.

Upon publication of the story, the campaign told the Times it would reimburse the individuals and companies for the full price of the flight.

Perry faced additional plane problems last month when the Wall Street Journal learned the Texas governor used the same plane that was used in a drug smuggling ring, though the campaign was unaware of the plane’s previous flights.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


John Edwards Campaign Owes US Government $2.3 Million

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- John Edwards’ fall from grace took a financial hit Thursday when the Federal Election Commission ruled his 2008 presidential campaign owes the federal government $2.3 million.

The FEC says an audit shows the John Edwards for President Committee needs to pay back $2.1 million in government matching funds it wasn’t entitled to receive.

The commission said the remainder of the money owed comes from so-called “stale-dated checks.”   Those are checks the campaign sent back to donors that were never cashed.  The FEC says those checks were refunds to contributors who had made donations early in the campaign that were intended strictly for general election use, not primaries.

According to FEC regulations, any money not recollected by the original donor must be forwarded to the government.

After the FEC votes to approve a final audit report, the Edwards campaign will have 90 days to pay up or 60 days to request a review.  Audits are required as part of the government’s matching funds program and, according to the Los Angeles Times, it’s not uncommon for campaigns to pay back a portion of money received in error because of accounting mistakes.

Last month, in an unrelated matter, Edwards was indicted on six felony charges for allegedly using some $900,000 in campaign contributions from two supporters to keep his then-pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, out of the public eye during his 2008 run for the White House.  A criminal trial is set to get underway in October.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FEC Approves Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC for 2012 Election

ABC/Ida Mae Astute(WASHINGTON) -- Stephen Colbert won a judgment at the Federal Election Commission Thursday morning, paving the way for the popular comedian to establish and operate his own political action committee and accept unlimited donations in the 2012 election cycle.

A panel of six FEC commissioners ruled in favor of Colbert’s advisory opinion request, which questioned the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 whether his political action committee, Colbert Super PAC, is able to solicit and accept unlimited campaign contributions for the purpose of making independent expenditures from individuals, political committees, labor organizations, and corporations.

The commission voted 5-1 to clear the way for Colbert to begin accepting donations. In an advisory opinion adopted by the commission, the panel ruled that "some of Viacom's activities would fall within the press exemption, others would not." Any advertisement that is broadcast on Colbert's program would fall within the press exemption, thus the costs incurred do not have to be reported. But the FEC also ruled that any Comedy Central/Viacom-produced advertisements cannot air on other shows or networks unless the costs are publically disclosed.

Colbert was generally muted during the proceedings, cracking no jokes and leaving the bulk of the legal discussion up to his attorney, Trevor Potter, a former chairman at the FEC currently at the powerful Washington law firm Caplin and Drysdale.

But afterwards, Colbert emerged from the FEC’s downtown headquarters to the delight of a throng of waiting fans, press and paparazzi, and declared victory with his usual touch of satire.

“Moments ago the Federal Election Commission made their ruling. Ladies and gentlemen I am sorry to say we won!” Colbert exclaimed to the cheers of the crowd. “I have a Super PAC and so can you!”

Colbert asked for the public meeting to inquire whether the 1971 law’s press exemption would cover costs incurred by the U.S. subsidiaries of Viacom, Inc., including Comedy Central, or whether the costs must be disclosed as contributions to his PAC.

At issue is a Supreme Court ruling last year that affirmed unlimited campaign contributions by corporations, labor unions and individuals. The stunt was perceived as an effort by Colbert to exploit campaign finance rules, and to draw attention to election law loopholes some say are exploited by other political heavyweights like Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin, who appear regularly on cable television despite running their own PACs.

As he finished speaking, Colbert was mobbed by the crowd and accepted hundreds of dollars of donations by swiping credit cards on a modified iPad and snagging any paper money fans lunged in his general direction.

Colbert said he is not running for president “yet.” When asked by ABC News how soon he may begin running advertisements, Colbert said it depended on how much money he is able to fundraise.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FEC Drops Complaint Against Christine O'Donnell

Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Christine O'Donnell didn't need to use any witchcraft to get the Federal Election Commission to make a complaint filed against her disappear.

An attorney for O'Donnell, the 2010 Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Delaware, said that she received word that the FEC "dismissed a complaint that was filed by the Delaware Republican Party."

It was alleged that O'Donnell, who lost her Senate bid to Democrat Chris Coons, was in cahoots with the Tea Party Express during the campaign, a possible violation of the election law.

O'Donnell tweeted Thursday that the allegation "was a frivolous, politically motivated move in the first place!"

The former candidate and one-time dabbler in witchcraft while in high school still faces another complaint filed with FEC that alleges she used campaign funds for personal expenses.  That accusation came from O'Donnell's former staff members.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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