Welcome to Compliance Notes from Nossaman’s Government Relations & Regulation Group – a periodic digest of the headlines, statutory and regulatory changes and court cases involving campaign finance, lobbying compliance, election law and government ethics issues at the federal, state and local level.
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Campaign Finance & Lobbying Compliance
A Democratic super PAC, Priorities USA, is launching a multi-million dollar campaign to fight voter suppression in seven battleground states. The PAC will spend $5 million on digital advertisements that seek to directly reach minority voters to help them navigate complicated election laws in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nevada. The ads aim to ensure voters can cast their ballot by directing them to websites and hotlines that help locate polling locations, to remind people of the materials they must have with them and to educate voters on their specific rights at the voting booth. To help protect voting rights and defend against policies that Priorities USA says unfairly target Black and brown voters, the PAC will also spend $10 million on existing litigation in Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan and New Hampshire. (Adam Edelman, NBC News)
Former President Trump‘s allies created a new super PAC called MAGA Inc., which is expected to be the primary vehicle for funneling money into crucial midterm races. If Trump decides to run for a second presidential term in 2024, it could become a part of his campaign finance infrastructure. While the Democrats are out-raising Republicans ahead of the November 8 midterm elections, Trump is one of the Republicans seeing huge small-donor fundraising success even though he is not a 2022 candidate. As this new super PAC comes weeks before the midterms, Trump is expected to spend heavily to bolster his endorsed candidates. (Sareen Habeshian, Axios)
TikTok recently announced it is banning campaign fundraising on its platform, limiting access to monetization features and requiring “mandatory verification“ for U.S. political accounts. While the app already bars political advertising, TikTok will also ban campaign fundraising by prohibiting videos soliciting donations and videos from political parties directing people to their website‘s donation page. Political accounts will be ineligible for the “Creator Fund,“ a monetary fund that users can receive for posting content to TikTok. Additionally, political accounts will not have access to gifting, tipping and e-commerce. The announcement of these new policies comes a month after researchers found that TikTok accounts have been used to spread misinformation ahead of elections in Europe, Asia and South America. (Gina Martinez, CBS News)
Colorado: There will be new contribution limits to candidates for school district director and modified reporting requirements for public officials as Colorado’s Secretary of State’s Office adopted permanent rule revisions implementing House Bills 22-1060 and 22-1156. During any regular biennial or special school election, small donor committees are limited to contributing $25,000. For persons other than small donor committees, the contribution limit is $2,500. The rules also changed the post-election reporting deadline from 30 days to 35 days and clarified that candidates seeking reelection who already have a personal disclosure statement on file with the Secretary of State do not need to re-file it. The new rules become permanently effective 20 days after publication in the Colorado Register. (News Release: State of Colorado, Department of State)
Government Ethics & Transparency
Illinois: State Senator Emil Jones III pleaded not guilty to felony counts stemming from an alleged bribery scheme involving a red light camera company that automatically issues traffic tickets. According to prosecutors, Jones accepted a $5,000 bribe from SafeSpeed LLC, which operates “automated traffic enforcement systems,“ in exchange for excluding from traffic studies the Chicago suburbs where SafeSpeed does much of its business. Jones is the latest politician charged in the long-running public corruption investigation focusing on officials‘ ties to companies that secured contracts to run red-light cameras in dozens of Chicago suburbs that generated millions of dollars in fines from motorists annually. Jones, who has served in the Senate since 2009 and is running unopposed for reelection from the 14th District, has his next court appearance scheduled for four days before the general election. (Peter Hancock, Capitol News Illinois)
South Dakota: After finding Governor Kristi Noem intervened with a state agency to influence her daughter‘s application for a real estate appraiser license, the state‘s Government Accountability Board will not publicly disclose the “appropriate action“ it took. The three judges on the board, which was created to provide a check on any misconduct by state officials, unanimously found there was evidence that Governor Noem engaged in a conflict of interest and malfeasance. However, the question of whether to discipline the governor will stay “confidential“ as the case remains closed since Governor Noem did not contest the board‘s findings. (Stephen Groves, AP News)