WASHINGTON – At its open meeting today, the Federal Election Commission approved an interpretive rule on the reporting of “publicly disseminated” independent expenditures, issued one advisory opinion and discussed a second.
Interpretive Rule on When Certain Independent Expenditures Are “Publicly Disseminated” For Reporting Purposes. The Commission approved an interpretive rule that provides guidance on when certain independent expenditure communications such as yard signs, mini-billboards, handbills, t-shirts, hats, buttons and similar, smaller items are “publicly disseminated” for reporting purposes. The Commission clarified that these types of items are “publicly disseminated” on any reasonable date starting with the date the filer receives or exercises control over these items in the usual and normal course of dissemination, up to and including the date that the communications are actually disseminated to the public. Reasonable dates include, but are not limited to (1) the date that a filer receives delivery of the communication, (2) the date that a filer distributes the communication to its members or employees for later public dissemination, (3) the date that a filer distributes the communications to its affiliate member organizations for later public dissemination, (4) the date the filer authorizes its members or employees to display the communication and (5) the date of the actual public dissemination, if that date is known to the filer.
Advisory Opinion 2011-14 (Utah Bankers Association). The Commission issued an advisory opinion concluding that the Utah Bankers Association may use its separate segregated fund, Utah Bankers Association Action PAC (UBAAPAC), to set up a website and an email list for a planned project that would ask individuals to contribute directly to particular federal candidates. Specifically, the Commission concluded that (1) the costs of the solicitations via email and through the website would not be in-kind contributions to the recommended candidates because the solicitations would not be “coordinated communications,” (2) the proposed method of funding the project’s administrative and communication costs would be permissible under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act) and Commission regulations, (3) individuals working in their personal capacities as volunteers may serve on the project’s leadership councils and may forward the project’s email solicitations to their personal friends and acquaintances, without the value of their services constituting a contribution to UBAAPAC and (4) the project does not need to add any disclaimers to its email or website solicitations beyond those proposed in the request, but will need to revise the proposed disclaimer language. The Commission considered, but could not approve a response by the required four affirmative votes on (1) the consequences of Utah Bankers Association’s acceptance of payments from its affiliated state bankers associations to help pay the project’s administrative costs, (2) the circumstances under which affiliated state bankers associations may provide support to UBAAPAC by compensating their employees for serving on two groups leading the project (Councils), and (3) whether a prohibited corporate contribution would result if the project’s communications that list volunteer members of the Councils included the members’ corporate titles, even if only for identification purposes.
Advisory Opinion 2011-16 (Dimension4, Inc. PAC). The Commission discussed and voted on two draft Advisory Opinions but did not reach consensus on either draft. In its request, Dimension4 Inc. PAC asked whether a fund formed by senior officers of Dimension4, Inc. for the purpose of making charitable contributions may repay a loan, and then be reimbursed by Dimension4, Inc., the committee’s connected organization. In August 2010, Dimension4, Inc. PAC loaned $26,000 to its connected organization, Dimension4, Inc.
At the close of the meeting, Chair Cynthia L. Bauerly announced that the Commission hopes to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing the recent order and consent judgment in Carey v. FEC as well as the decisions in SpeechNow and EMILY's List later this fall. Chair Bauerly also stated that the Commission hopes to issue a statement on the Carey case soon, which will contain guidance for committees that would like to follow the decision under existing regulations and forms.