Week of March 7, 2016

FEC deadlocks on LLC donor disclosure | As Trump approaches 1237, Republicans examining convention rules, independent bids | NY seeks to require public affairs strategists to register as lobbyists | A war over voting laws rages in North Carolina


YOU CAN’T SEE ME.  The FEC deadlocked on the question of whether an individual may make, and whether a super PAC may accept, a contribution through a limited liability company without disclosing the donor’s identity. The controversial technique is used – perhaps with increasing frequency – effectively to anonymize a donor on the super PAC’s FEC report – the PAC reports a contribution from the LLC, but doesn’t reveal who funded the LLC in the first instance. Critics complain that this is an illegal “contribution in the name of another” – a.k.a. a “straw donor.” I have argued that using an LLC to hide donors is so 2012, that the FEC that deadlocked on this issue this week may not be the same FEC that receives the same complaint a year or two from now, and that the far better use of an LLC is as an exclusive vendor to a single client, or to a very small group of clients sharing common interests.

+ The FEC just made it easier for super PAC donors to hide their identities | The Washington Post – Matea Gold


ANYONE BUT TRUMP.  The Republican Party continues to scheme up ways to nominate anyone but Trump, but as Trump marches closer and closer to the magic number of 1237 delegates, anything and everything is open for discussion, including denying him victory in the General Election. How about an independent bid by Condoleeza Rice? Maybe a deadlocked House allowing House Speaker Paul Ryan to succeed to the presidency? (The latter scenario became even less plausible when Michael Bloomberg pulled the plug on his pre-campaign.) Now, delegate selection and sore loser laws are where the action is.

+ Major GOP donors are turning their hopes toward a contested convention | BuzzFeed – Tarini Parti

+ Seeing Trump as vulnerable, GOP elites now eye a contested convention | The Washington Post – Phillip Rucker & Robert Costa

+ How Trump could be blocked at a contested Republican convention | The New York Times – Larry Buchanan & Alicia Parlapiano

+ GOP pollster: Independent candidate unlikely to win | Politico – Daniel Lipman


WHEN LOBBYING ISN’T LOBBYING.  Five public relations firms this week filed a lawsuit challenging a new New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics rule defining lobbying to include such activities as issuing press releases or other public statements on behalf of a client, pitching op-eds for publication, and other traditional forms of media and public relations, if the communication takes a position on an issue, attempts to influence a public official’s decision, or results in the introduction, passage or defeat of legislation.  The move by JCOPE opens a new front in a nationwide push that is seeking to expand lobbyist registration requirements to cover non-lobbying activities such as sales of goods and services to government agencies and political intelligence gathering.

A Solution in Search of a Problem: New York Defines PR Consultants as Lobbyists | PR Week – Michael Lasky


AT WAR OVER VOTING.  “States around the nation are embroiled in legal battles over voting requirements, district lines and the rules governing elections. But North Carolina feels like the center. It is a place where hyperpartisanship, the focus on voting rules after the disputed election of President George W. Bush in 2000 and the Supreme Court’s dismantling of a crucial section of the Voting Rights Act have created an incessant state of combat over the way elections are conducted.”

+ North Carolina exemplifies national battles over voting laws | The New York Times – Richard Fausset



About the Political Law Digest

The Political Law Digest is a weekly review of important stories and significant developments in campaign finance, election law, lobbyist regulation and government ethics – compiled by Chris Ashby and the political activity lawyers at Ashby Law.  To subscribe, or to submit a story, email Kaitlin@Ashby-Law.com.