Will Florida’s campaign finance disclosure and disclaimer requirments for PACs be heard by SCOTUS?

Two-time losers, the four petitioners in Worley v. Florida Secretary of State have filed a petition for certiorari asking the Supreme Court of the United States to hear their appeal of an unanimous decision handed down by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last summer.

Here’s hoping the high court will hear the case, and reaffirm, once again, the ability of the state of Florida to enforce its campaign finance disclosure and disclaimer statutes.

(Full Disclosure: I served as the State of Florida’s expert defending the Florida Secretary of State and Florida’s disclosure laws for Political Action Committees.)

“Citizen and lobbyist access to Members of Congress: Who gets and who gives?”

Forthcoming in Interest Groups & Advocacy, and coauthored with Josh Brodbeck, a former undergraduate student at the University of Denver (from last century), and current University of Florida Ph.D. student, Matthew Harrigan. The advance online publication is available here.

Citizen and lobbyist access to Members of Congress: Who gets and who gives?
Josh Brodbeck, Matthew T. Harrigan, and Daniel A. Smith

Executive Summary Members of Congress grant access to outsiders as a means of alleviating uncertainty over policies and elections. For those seeking access to Congress, a key factor determining their success is the appearance of usefulness, namely, the perceived ability to provide a Member of Congress with some resource that he or she desires. These resources come in a variety of forms, including votes, campaign contributions, policy expertise and public credibility. Given these assumptions, who is granted access to Congress, and which members are more likely to grant it? Previous studies have found a direct relationship between organization or Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions and access to Members of Congress, measured by the amount of contact. Some have gone a step further, finding that, while PACs play an indisputable role in access, the real driver is constituency, or at least salience to the district or state from which the Member of Congress hails. Here, we present the results of an experiment conducted in the spring and summer of 2010, in which one of the authors called the offices of each member of the Senate, first as a private citizen and then as a registered federal lobbyist, and requested a meeting with each senator to discuss a health care bill that had been languishing in committee for some time. Unsurprisingly, the registered lobbyist experienced a clear advantage over the ordinary citizen, securing 27 meetings compared to just 7 as a citizen. The lobbyist was granted more access in other measurable categories, although party affiliation or campaign contributions had little effect. While previous studies have found strong PAC contribution and constituency effects on access, one important fact stands out from our experience: only 8 of the 100 Senate offices asked whether the lobbyist had an interest in the senator’s state, and only 4 of the 27 who granted meetings did so. Perhaps the assumption that a lobbyist, whether in- or out-of-state, is a potential source of campaign funds is strong enough to override the constituency effect, but we found no compelling evidence that membership on relevant committees or a past reliance on health sector or lobbyist contributions drove access. Rather, it appears as if ‘lobbyist’ simply works as a magic word when requesting access to a Member of Congress, with power beyond the borders of a state or district. Although the results of our experiment are limited, they do suggest that several questions about citizen and lobbyist access to Congress remain and need to be addressed, especially given the normative assumption that Members of Congress should represent the people they serve.

Did Obama’s OFA data-driven ‘meetups’ originate with (George) Romney?

George Romney apparently used Big Data to contact likely Republican voters in New Hampshire in his unsuccessful bid for the 1968 GOP nomination.

This nugget is from Herb Alexander’s account of the 1968 presidential campaign:

The Romney campaign in New Hampshire received national attention in early 1968 because a special profile of New Hampshire voters was prepared in a computer headquarters in Hanover. Information was detailed about every Republican voter in the state, some 150,000 strong. This project lent itself to both strategic and operational needs. It permitted mailings to any or all elements of the list; individuals could be invited to Romney appearances in their areas, or to visit the “home headquarters” planned in every city an village in the state. Prepared by a campaign management firm, Campaign Consultants, Inc., the profile was documented in 121-page report accompanied by another volume of statistical tables two inches thick. These cost about $50,000. The same firm used the profile to direct the Romney media campaign in the primary.

Wondering what ever happened to the innovative architects of the Romney campaign, David Goldberg John Deardourff.

SCOTUS Refuses to Review NOM’s Challenge to Maine’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Law


I didn’t have a chance to blog SCOTUS’s decision not to grant cert. in the case, NOM v. McKee, which grew out of a an investigation launched by the Maine Ethics Commission in 2009 after the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) failed to disclose its donors in its effort to defeat Question 1, which overturned marriage equality in the state.

Here’s a link to a series of discussions about the case by Rick Hasen on his ElectionLaw blog.

Back in the spring of 2010, I provided some pro-bono assistance to attorneys in the Maine Attorney General, drawing on my work on campaign finance disclosure in similar lawsuits in California, Colorado, and Florida, and my Election Law Journal article with Beth Garrett, Veiled Political Actors.



Federal Judge Strikes Down Florida’s Contribution Cap for Minors

Here’s the ACLU’s press release:

CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363-2737, media@aclufl.org

TAMPA – As a result of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Florida (ACLU) on behalf of Julie Towbin, a 17-year-old resident of Boca Raton, a federal judge today enjoined enforcement of Florida’s law putting a lower cap on political contributions for minors. In her 36-page opinion, United States District Judge Kathleen M. Williams of the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, states that the law limits minors’ Constitutionally-protected right of Free Speech.

Florida law (statute 106.08(1)(b)(2)) limits donations made by minors to state and local candidates to $100 per candidate per election while adults may contribute up to $500 per candidate per election. Today’s preliminary injunction prevents the state from enforcing the unfair limit set on minors. The ACLU brought the lawsuit on behalf of Towbin in January 2012, asking the Court to declare the law unconstitutional.

“This isn’t just a victory for minors, it’s a victory for the First Amendment,” stated Towbin. “The law violated my constitutional right to engage in political speech and participate in our political process. Today’s ruling means my voice is no longer worth one-fifth of someone else’s.”

Towbin is a recent high school graduate who, in addition to earning money from a job as cashier in a restaurant, earned more than $7,000 as a Congressional House Page in 2011. She keeps her funds in a bank account in her name. She is registered to vote and plans to cast her first ballot in the November 2012 elections, by which point she will be 18.

In September 2011, Towbin wanted to attend a fundraising dinner for the Palm Beach County Democratic Executive Committee, of which she is a member. But she was told that purchasing a regular $150 ticket to the dinner may be a violation of the $100 limit on contributions by minors. She did not attend the dinner.

Because of her concerns about violating the law by making contributions to local candidates in 2012, Towbin wrote the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, the Palm Beach County State Attorney, the State Attorney General and the Florida Elections Commission which is responsible for hearing potential violations and issuing penalties such as criminal referrals for prosecution and fines. Receiving no assurances that making contributions over $100 would not result in legal penalties, Towbin has not made any such campaign contributions. Because of the injunction, she may now do so without fear of civil or criminal penalties.

“This law put an unconstitutional limit on some citizens’ ability to engage in political activities based solely on their age,” stated Randall C. Marshall, Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida. “Our laws should encourage everyone regardless of age — and especially young people — to participate in the political process. Instead, this law took away speech and political participation rights to young citizens.”

The Florida law enjoined today applies only to Florida state and local candidates. Federal election rules contain no similar restriction. Even though she is a minor, Towbin may contribute up to $2,500, the same amount allowed for adults, to candidates for federal office such as President or Congress.

“The Constitution does not allow the state to treat speech differently based on who is doing the speaking,” said James K. Green, cooperating attorney in the case. “If the state has a need to limit contributions to a set amount – in this case $500 – the amount needs to be the same for everyone without exception.”

The judge’s order granting preliminary injunction is available here: http://aclufl.org/pdfs/2012-08-07-ACLUTowbinOrderPI.pdf

The judge’s 36-page opinion is available here: http://aclufl.org/pdfs/2012-08-07-ACLUTowbinOpinion.pdf

A copy of the complaint filed by the ACLU of Florida on January 26, 2012 is available here: http://www.aclufl.org/pdfs/2012-01-26-TwobinComplaint.pdf

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