Week of March 14, 2016

Super PACs, Not So Super Anymore | Unofficially Official Nonprofit Organizations | Anyone But Trump, Continued | No More Free Rides for “Ride Along” Lobbyists | More Anonymous Giving from LLCs

SUPER PACs, NOT SO SUPER ANYMORE.  Earlier this cycle, as pundits were celebrating the Great Super PAC flameout of 2016, I half-wrote but didn’t finish a blog post titled, “Just Wait.”  My thesis was that the real power of Super PACs would become evident in March and April, when the political playing field would expand beyond the initial run from Iowa to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, and paid advertising could begin to move the needle in large, winner-take-all states.  Now it’s clear–despite what $30M in negative Super PAC ads might have done to Marco Rubio–that Donald Trump is Super PAC kryptonite.  (At least until the General Election, when the national media will withdraw its unprecedented in-kind support from his campaign and subject him to the same rules it applies to all other candidates.)

+ Super PACs built a wall around Florida, and Trump destroyed it | The Center for Public Integrity – John Dunbar & Caty Zuvich

+ Trump, Sanders deflate Super PACs in unpredictable 2016 race | AP – Julie Bykowicz

UNOFFICIALLY OFFICIAL NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS.  Elected officials sometimes form non-profit organizations to advance their policy agendas–and by extension, their political interests–a practice that is equal parts controversial and effective.  This week, faced with claims of conflicts-of-interests and calls for investigations, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio became the latest politician to shut down his “official” non-profit–which had received over $1 million in donations to support the Mayor’s universal pre-Kindergarten and afforable housing proposals–claiming, “The work is done.”

+ Facing criticism, NYC mayor to shutter nonprofit group | AP – Jonathan Lemire

+ The mayor’s nonprofit that’s not really the mayor’s nonprofit | Voice of San Diego – Liam Dillon

ANYONE BUT TRUMP, CONTINUED.  As we noted in last week’s digest, the GOP is in the midst of an extended, national brainstorm over how to keep Donald Trump from leaving the Republican National Convention in Cleveland as the party’s nominee–or, if he does, how to block him from winning 270 electoral votes in November.

+ The Party still decides | The New York Times – Ross Douthat

+ GOP Official: The party chooses the nominee, not the voters | The Hill – Harper Neidig

+ How to steal a nomination from Donald Trump | Bloomberg Politics – Sasha Issenberg

+ RNC Rules: Insiders speak out on contested convention | NBC News – Ari Melber

+ How an obscure committee could decide the GOP nomination | Politico – Kyle Cheney

+ GOP effort to block Trump may lead to a morass | The New York Times – Al Hunt

+ Top conservatives gather to plot third-party run against Trump | Politico – Shane Goldmacher

+ The Electoral College could still stop Trump, even if he wins the popular vote | The Washington Post – Derek Muller

(Also, an interesting debate is unfolding about whether – and with what – RNC convention delegates can be bribed.  See here and here.)

I SEE YOU, UNREGISTERED LOBBYIST, AND I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING.  One of the great urban legends in lobbying regulation is the so-called “lobbyist shield” doctrine.  In-house government affairs employees often think that, as long as a registered lobbyist accompanies them to meetings with elected officials, they don’t have to register as lobbyists themselves and report their compensation, expenditures and activities.  In fact, that is rarely the case.  This week, California–one of the few states that permitted “ride along” lobbying–changed its law to prohibit it.

Ethics agency changes loophole allowing advocates to avoid registering as lobbyists | Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy

YOU STILL CAN’T SEE ME.  Updating last week’s digest, a new Washington Post investigation finds growing use of limited liability companies to make large political contributions–a practice which shields the identity of the donor or donors who capitalized the LLC.  Even still, a New York judge this week dismissed a lawsuit challenging a provision of that state’s campaign finance law that expressly permits LLCs to make political contributions, and to do so at higher individual limits (up to $150,000 per year, versus $5,000 per year for corporate contributions) and without disclosing their funding sources.

(I still think it’s only a matter of time until a state regulator tags one of these LLCs as a political committee–and penalizes it for failing to register as a PAC, failing to report, and making excessive contributions.)


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.