Posts Authored by Maria J. Armstrong

Sandusky, Ohio, deems Election Day a paid holiday for city employees

In an effort to show its dedication to diversity, the city of Sandusky, Ohio, will no longer recognize Columbus Day as a paid holiday. Instead, the city will give Election Day off to its over 200 government employees, according to The Washington Post. Eric Wobser, Sandusky’s city manager, hopes this decision will set an example for local private companies. The announcement occurs in the midst of a partisan debate over a bill that would make the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November a national holiday, an attempt to increase voter accessibility.

Campaign Finance, Election Law

FEC announces contribution limits for 2019–2020 elections

Announced February, 8, 2019, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) increased the individual contribution limit for the 2019–2020 election cycle to $2,800 per candidate. The Federal Election Campaign Act requires the FEC to adjust these limits every two years, based on inflation rates. The coordinated party expenditure limits and the lobbyist bundling threshold for 2019 have also been adjusted. All updated contribution limits are outlined in a chart prepared by the FEC.

Campaign Finance

Campaign funds can be used for cybersecurity-related expenses

Recently, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued advisory opinion 2018-15, allowing “members of Congress [to] use campaign funds for cybersecurity-related expenses for their personal electronic devices.” This newly-approved opinion permits members, and provides a funding source, to protect personal and private accounts and devices against potential hackers and cyberattacks.  

Campaign Finance

FBI initiative releases video series addressing online campaign security

Protected Voices, an FBI initiative established to prevent cyber influence targeting U.S. elections, recently released informational videos designed to educate and raise awareness among political campaigns. The videos discuss a variety of trending topics, including secure communication channels, incident response and social engineering. For more information and to watch the videos, visit the Protected Voices website.  

Campaign Finance, Election Law, General News

Fair season reminder: Reporting the value of passes

As fair season approaches, public officials must remember that accepting fair passes (for themselves or their immediate family) totaling in excess of $25 must be reported. Likewise, lobbyists must “track the value of any gifted tickets/passes” and be aware of the different levels of the passes or packages they give. While fair admissions are easy to overlook, this type of gift does count toward the $75 in gifts that a legislator or staff member may receive in a calendar year. Read more >>

Ethics

New FEC advisory opinion impacts state officeholders’ Super PACs

The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) recently issued a ruling that limits expenditures by certain Super PACs established, maintained and controlled by a state representative. South Carolina State Representative Nancy Mace asked the FEC if she could establish a Super PAC which, among other things, would pay for communications that promote or support clearly identified federal candidates. Rep. Mace proposed setting up the Super PAC by transferring the remaining funds from her federal campaign committee from a previous federal race. The Super PAC also intended to raise funds from individuals and corporations, without limitations. It was anticipated that the Super PAC would remain under Rep. Mace’s direct control. Read more >>

Campaign Finance

Facebook institutes new requirements for political ads

Last week, in the face of growing public scrutiny, Facebook adopted a series of new rules aimed at preventing abuses in political advertising. The new rules contain a requirement for disclosure of who paid for political ads found on both Facebook and Instagram.

As of May 24, 2018, Facebook and Instagram ads must display a “paid for” label at the top of each ad. The label must be linked to a page with information about the cost of the ad, as well as demographics about the individuals who viewed the ad. Advertisers wanting to run political content in the United States are now required to verify their identity and location.

A few days after the FaceBook announcement, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed lawsuits against Facebook and Google after receiving complaints that the companies have not maintained information about political advertisements placed on their web platforms as required by that state’s laws. In the state of Washington, campaign finance laws require all advertisers to collect, store and make publically available the information of those who purchase political advertising related to state and local campaigns. Required data includes the name of candidate or measure, advertising dates, name and address of the purchaser, total cost and who paid the bill.

While Ohio law does not contain a similar requirement to what is found in the state of Washington, Ohio does prohibit TV and print media outlets from running any political communication that does not contain the required disclaimer. Given increased usage of social media ad space for political purposes, an increase in state and national requirements for digital advertising is likely.

Campaign Finance

Helpful ethics tips for the public-private partnerships

The latest edition of "The Voice of Ethics," provided by the Ohio Ethics Commission, contains many good reminders for private sector companies that do business with state or local government. See pages 3-7 for a helpful outline of public-private partnership restrictions related to economic aid, gifts, donations or compensation, recruitment and board service. 

Ethics

Special election reporting deadlines

PACs, candidates and political parties that plan to make contributions to candidates running for the 12th Congressional District should be reminded of additional reporting requirements associated with this special election. A special primary election is scheduled for May 8, 2018, and a special general election is scheduled for August 7, 2018. 

Campaign finance deadlines for these special elections do not coincide precisely with the deadlines that apply to all other federal activity this year. The first filing date related to the special election is April 26, 2018, and includes special election contributions made between April 1, 2018, and April 18, 2018.

If your political committee is planning to make contributions associated with the 12th Congressional District Special Election, please keep these deadlines in mind and work closely with your analyst or reporting service to make sure your reports are timely. More information can be found on the Federal Election Commission website

Election Law, General News

What went wrong? Campaign telemarketer fined by FTC

While false statements are no longer actionable in the election arena, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can, and recently has, targeted telemarketers involved in allegedly deceptive solicitations. The FTC recently announced that Infocision, an Ohio-based telemarketing company, misled consumers by falsely saying it was not calling to solicit contributions. The company has agreed to pay a $250,000 fine to resolve the FTC complaint. According to NBC News, Infocision solicited contributions for Ben Carson’s political campaign and a number of conservative political groups, in addition to charitable organizations.

Campaign Finance, Ethics
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