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

Columbus approves new campaign finance contribution limits

On January 14, 2019, Columbus City Council voted to approve new campaign finance contribution limits. Individual contributions are now limited to a total of $12,707.79 per year, the same limit set for State of Ohio officials. The council also amended legislation to require any candidate or group raising $1,000 or more to file campaign finance reports. These city ordinances are scheduled to go into effect March 1.  

Campaign Finance

Campaign finance changes coming to Columbus

On November 28, 2018, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced new campaign finance proposals that would limit individual contributions to $12,707.79. Currently, the City of Columbus does not cap campaign contributions, and if passed, this new amount would mirror the contribution limit currently set for State of Ohio officials. Critics argue that the proposed amount is too high, as compared to limits of $5,000 and $1,000 in Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively. Columbus City Council will vote on these proposed changes at its December 10 meeting. 

Campaign Finance

Reporting tips for local ballot issue spending

Much has been written about campaign spending and disclosures – analyzing every tier of government from the federal level to city hall. Now at the close of another election season, it may be helpful to review a potentially overlooked aspect of campaign spending and disclosure: corporate spending in support or opposition of a local ballot measure.

Ohio law permits a corporation to support a ballot issue political action committee (PAC) or levy committee or to spend independently to support or oppose a local ballot measure. Either way, the law requires an itemization of the corporate expenditures.

This is where the reporting can get tricky. Expenditures are often considered direct spending (i.e., a monetary contribution, purchasing yard signs, advertising, consulting fees, etc.). However, the definition of expenditure can also include internal staff time or the use of office resources dedicated to supporting or opposing the ballot issue. Compliant reporting is accomplished when the Ohio Secretary of State’s 30-B-1Form (for contributions to support a PAC or levy committee) or 30-B-2 Form (when the corporation acts independently or there is no established PAC) is filed with the board of elections in the county where the issue is to appear on the ballot.

As always, strong record keeping and organization is the best way to avoid any reporting issues. Additionally, filers may find it easier to report the expenditures as they occur, as opposed to filing only on the prescribed deadlines.

While these considerations will likely be helpful for those supporting or opposing local ballot measures, bear in mind that some charter cities have their own campaign finance restrictions and disclosure requirements in addition to state requirements.

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

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

Source of Trump’s settlement money raises campaign finance speculation

A government watchdog group, Common Cause, recently filed two complaints related to President Trump’s alleged affair with “Stormy Daniels,” an adult film star – one with the Department of Justice and one with the Federal Elections Commission. The group claims that because an LLC set up by Trump’s lawyer paid $130,000 in settlement money to Daniels prior to the election, the money should be classified as a contribution “used for the purpose of influencing the election.” If the settlement is determined to be a contribution, it would vastly surpass existing campaign finance limits. However, wrongdoing may be difficult to prove. 

Campaign Finance, General News
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