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Weekly Digest

 

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Judith Ingram

August 28, 2009

Julia Queen

  Christian Hilland

ISSUE 2009-16

Weekly Digest

Week of August 24 – 28

COMMISSION MEETINGS

On August 25-26, the Commission held an Executive Session. Sunshine Act Notices for Executive Sessions are here.

On August 25, the Commission held the second day of a public hearing on improvements to its website and Internet communications.

On August 27, the Commission held an Open Session. Agendas and related documents for Open Meetings are here. Audio recordings for selected meetings, hearings and presentations are here.

ADVISORY OPINIONS

Request Received

AOR 2009-24 (Illinois Green Party). On August 25, the Commission made public Advisory Opinion Request 2009-24. The Illinois Green Party seeks an advisory opinion that it qualifies as a state party committee.

Extension of Time Received

AOR 2009-13 (Black Rock Group). On August 24, the Commission received an Extension of Time regarding Advisory Opinion Request 2009-13 (Black Rock Group) until August 31. The Black Rock Group, a communications and public affairs firm, seeks to serve as a common vendor advising one or more single-member limited liability companies on their independent expenditures concerning federal candidates and elections. In its request, Black Rock Group asks whether its services would trigger political committee status for its clients.

Advisory Opinions Issued

AO 2009-14 (Mercedes-Benz USA LLC and Sterling Truck Corporation). On August 27, the Commission approved Advisory Opinion 2009-14 (Mercedes-Benz USA LLC and Sterling Truck Corporation). The Commission concluded that a proposed separate segregated fund (SSF) could be named Daimler PAC, that Sterling Corp. could serve as the connected organization for the proposed SSF, and that MBUSA LLC could use its personnel and resources to administer the proposed SSF. However, the Commission was unable to agree on whether MBUSA could pay the administrative costs of the proposed SSF from MBUSA LLC's External Affairs and Public Policy-Americas (EAPP) cost center.

AO 2009-19 (Club for Growth). On August 27, the Commission approved Advisory Opinion 2009-19 (Club for Growth). The Commission determined that Club for Growth and the Club for Growth PAC may use information disclosed in Sen. Arlen Specter’s (PA) campaign finance reports on a one-time basis to inform contributors that the senator has switched party affiliations and that his campaign will provide refunds upon request. The notification would not expressly advocate or mention any other candidate or solicit any contributions.

AO 2009-20 (Visclosky for Congress). On August 27, the Commission approved Advisory Opinion 2009-20 (Visclosky for Congress). The Commission concluded that the Committee may use campaign funds to pay legal fees and expenses of Rep. Pete Visclosky’s (IN-1) current and former congressional staff in relation to a Federal investigation into whether a lobbying firm, PMA Group, made improper political contributions to the congressman. The Commission concluded that the investigation and the legal fees and expenses incurred by the staff members in connection with the investigation would not exist irrespective of Visclosky’s campaign or duties as a Federal officeholder. The use of campaign funds to pay for any staff members’ legal expenses unrelated to Visclosky’s candidacy or position in Congress would be prohibited under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act).

Advisory Opinion 2009-21 (West Virginia Secretary of State). On August 27, the Commission approved Advisory Opinion 2009-21 (West Virginia Secretary of State). The Commission found that the West Virginia campaign finance statute barring candidates and political committees from using campaign funds to pay for certain public polling expenses in relation to federal candidates and their principal campaign committees is preempted by the Act and Commission regulations. The Commission’s opinion explained that the Act and Commission regulations establish that limitations and restrictions on Federal campaign expenditures is an area to be regulated solely by Federal law.

Advisory Opinions, Requests, Comments and Extensions are available here.

ENFORCEMENT

The Commission made public three closed cases this week. For more information, see the case documents in the Enforcement Query System.

MUR 6088 – Haverford Township Democratic Committee. The Commission found no reason to believe the respondents violated the Act.

 MUR 6147 – Kansas City Chiefs Football Club, Inc; John McCain 2008, Inc. and Joseph Schmuckler, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission used its prosecutorial discretion to dismiss the matter.

MUR 6154 – Coleman for Senate ’08 and Rodney Axtell, in his official capacity as treasurer; and Norm Coleman. The Commission found no reason to believe the respondents violated the Act.

LITIGATION

Akins et al v. FEC. On August 28, the Commission filed a summary judgment brief. The Akins complaint challenges as contrary to the law the Commission’s dismissal of an administrative complaint against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  The administrative complaints alleged that AIPAC failed to register as a political committee and to disclose its express advocacy communications as required by the Act.

Republican National Committee v. FEC. On August 27, oral arguments were presented before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia regarding the Commission’s motion to dismiss and the parties’ motions for summary judgment. The RNC complaint challenges the constitutionality of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s limits on the use of nonfederal funds by political party committees. The Plaintiffs state that the nonfederal fund provisions as applied to their intended activities are overly broad and unconstitutional under the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and association, and are outside of Congress’ authority to regulate elections. The Commission contends that those provisions are constitutional contribution limits that prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.

Utility Workers Union of America v. FECOn August 21, the Commission filed a reply brief in support of the Commission’s motion to dismiss the complaint. Local 369 of the AFL-CIO petitioned the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on July 31 challenging the Commission’s dismissal of the union’s administrative complaint against the Covanta Energy Corporation. The complaint alleged that Covanta solicited contributions for its federal PAC from employees outside its restricted class. The Commission found no reason to believe Covanta violated the Act.

Fieger v. FECOn August 21, the Commission filed a motion for summary judgment and supporting materials.  The Fieger complaint asks the court to order the FEC to produce agency records the plaintiff alleges should be available under the Freedom of Information Act.

AUDIT REPORTS

The Commission approved and made public one Audit Report. A summary of the findings is below. Final Audit Reports are available here.

Sali for Congress. The audit found no material non-compliance.

PRESS RELEASES

FEC Holds Second Day of Public Hearing on Improving its Website and Internet Communications (issued August 26)

FEC Takes Action on Four Advisory Opinions (issued August 27)

NEXT WEEK (AUGUST 31 – SEPTEMBER 4, 2009)

September 1: The Commission is scheduled to hold an Executive Session.

September 3: The Commission is scheduled to hold an Open Session.

UPCOMING EVENTS

September 15-16, Chicago, IL – Regional Conference for Campaigns, Party Committees and Corporate/Labor/Trade PACs. The schedule is here.

October 28-29, San Francisco, CA – Regional Conference for Campaigns, Party Committees and Corporate/Labor/Trade PACs. The schedule is forthcoming.

UPCOMING REPORTING DUE DATES

September 20 – September Monthly Report

OTHER RESOURCES

The August issue of The Record is here.  Sign up to receive email notification when a new issue of the Record is posted here

The August supplements to the FEC’s Campaign Guides are here.

Federal Elections 2008 is here.