With elections quickly approaching, last week the FEC finally issued a statement of how it will implement a federal court ruling striking down the Commission’s current regulation of electioneering communications. In late April, the D.C. District Court decided Van Hollen v. FEC, in which it vacated the FEC’s regulation requiring disclosure of donors to electioneering communications only if the donations were “made for the purpose of furthering electioneering communications.” According to the court, the addition of donor-intent to the regulation limited disclosure in a way that Congress did not intend. The FEC’s policy, issued on July 27 and effective during appeal, is somehow retroactive to March 30.
Trade associations or other groups needn’t worry about how to segregate member funds for disclosure purposes. Van Hollen states that “dues paid in return for the benefits of membership” are not “donations.” Thus, trade associations that wish to make electioneering communications do not have disclose members’ dues.
But if organizations like associations solicit donations from members (e.g., as part of a government affairs effort), and the organization makes electioneering communications, the group will have to disclose donors who contribute an aggregate of $1,000 or more during the calendar year. To avoid having to disclose donors who did not give to the electioneering communications efforts, organizations should be able to solicit donations into an electioneering communications segregated fund.
Organizations should also be conscious of the 24-hour notice report disclosing electioneering communications during the nominating conventions. The 24-hour notice period for the Republican convention began on July 28 and runs through August 30; the notice period for the Democratic convention begins August 4 and runs through September 6.