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Weekly Digest

 

For Immediate Release

Contact

Judith Ingram

July 27, 2012

Julia Queen
  Christian Hilland
   
 

ISSUE 2012-30

Weekly Digest

Week of July 23 – 27

COMMISSION MEETINGS AND HEARINGS

No Commission Executive Sessions or Open Meetings were scheduled this week.

ADVISORY OPINIONS

Drafts

AO 2012-22 (skimmerhat). On July 26, the Commission made public two drafts of Advisory Opinion 2012-22 (skimmerhat). The requestor asks whether its planned web-based contribution platform is permissible under the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, as amended (the Act), and Commission regulations. Comments on the draft are due by noon on August 1, 2012.

AO 2012-23 (Snake River Sugar Company). On July 26, the Commission made public a draft of Advisory Opinion 2012-23. Snake River Sugar Company (Snake River) is an incorporated agricultural cooperative that purchases sugar beets from growers and is the connected organization for Snake River PAC, a separate segregated fund. Snake River and seven regional growers' associations (the Associations) ask (1) whether the Associations are "trade associations" under the Act and Commission regulations; (2) whether the Associations and Snake River are affiliated for purposes of the Act and Commission regulations; and (3) whether the Associations may solicit contributions to Snake River PAC from the shareholders and executive and administrative personnel, and their families, of their incorporated members.  Comments on the draft are due by noon on August 1, 2012.

Requests Received

AOR 2012-25 (American Future Fund/American Future Fund Political Action/McIntosh).  On July 24, the Commission made public Advisory Opinion Request 2012-25, which was submitted by American Future Fund, American Future Fund Political Action, David McIntosh, and David McIntosh for Indiana. The requestors ask whether they may establish a joint fundraising committee. The Commission will accept written comments on the request during the 10-day period following publication of the request (no later than August 3, 2012) and must issue a response no later than 60 days after the receipt of the complete request, that is, by September 24, 2012.

AOR 2012-26 (m-Qube, Inc., Armour Media, Inc., and the Cooper for Congress Committee). On July 25, the Commission made public Advisory Opinion Request 2012-26 (Cooper for Congress, ArmourMedia, Inc., and m-Qube, Inc.). The requestors ask whether their proposal to use mobile phone text messaging to process and raise contributions is permissible under the Act and Commission regulations.  The Commission must issue a response no later than 20 days after receipt of the complete request, specifically by August 13, 2012, because this request was submitted by a Federal candidate within 60 days before a Federal election.

AOR 2012-27 (National Defense Committee).  On July 26, the Commission made public Advisory Opinion Request 2012-27.  The National Defense Committee (NDC) is a 501(c)(4) organization that plans to finance certain advertisements and ask for donations to fund its activities.  NDC asks whether any of its proposed communications will constitute express advocacy or solicitations, respectively.  NDC also asks whether it will be a "political committee" as a result of these activities. The Commission will accept written comments on the request during the 10-day period following publication of the request (no later than August 6, 2012) and must issue a response no later than 60 days after receipt of the complete request, specifically by September 24, 2012.

AOR 2012-28 (CTIA - The Wireless Association). On July 27, the Commission made public Advisory Opinion Request 2012-28. The requestor asks whether the proposal to process contributions to political committees by text message is permissible under the Act and Commission regulations.  CTIA - The Wireless Association requests expedited consideration of its Advisory Opinion pursuant to the Commission's Advisory Opinion Procedure.  The Commission must issue a response no later than 60 days after the receipt of the complete request, specifically by September 24, 2012. 

AOR 2012-29 (Hawaiian Airlines, Inc.). On July 27, the Commission made public Advisory Opinion Request 2012-29. Hawaiian Airlines is an incorporated airline that provides inter-island flights and service between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland, Australia, and Asia.  Hawaiian Airlines asks whether it may organize appearances by selected U.S. Senate candidates at which will be present members of Hawaiian Airlines' restricted class, as well as leaders in the Hawaii travel and tourism industry. The Commission will accept written comments on the request during the 10-day period following publication of the request (no later than August 6, 2012) and shall issue a response no later than 60 days after receipt of the complete request, specifically by September 17, 2012.

Advisory Opinions and Requests are available through the Advisory Opinions search page in the Law and Regulations section of the Commission website.

ENFORCEMENT

The Commission made public four closed cases. For more information, see the case documents in the Enforcement Query System.

MUR 6546  
RESPONDENT: Michael J. Fox; and Fox 41, LLC
COMPLAINANT: Jan Schneider
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that Fox and/or Fox 41, LLC erected a large, outdoor sign that read “Defeat Obama in 2012” and did not contain a disclaimer.
DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the matter in light of the fact that Fox and/or Fox, LLC apparently financed a single sign that is no longer on display.

MUR  6555  
RESPONDENT: Freedom’s Defense Fund and Scott B. Mackenzie, in his official capacity as treasurer
COMPLAINANT: FEC-Initiated
SUBJECT: In the normal course of carrying out its supervisory responsibilities, the Commission found that Freedom’s Defense Fund and Mackenzie, in his official capacity as treasurer, (the Committee) failed to disclose independent expenditures and to file 24- or 48-hour notices of independent expenditures.
DISPOSITION: The Commission agreed to enter into a conciliation agreement whereby the Committee agreed to pay a civil penalty of $3,700.

MUR  6579
RESPONDENT: ABC News, Inc.
COMPLAINANT: Matt Nelson
SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that ABC News made an impermissible corporate contribution by broadcasting actress Betty White’s endorsement of President Barack Obama’s re-election as part of a news program.
DISPOSITION: The Commission dismissed the matter because the activity at issue fell within the press exemption, which generally exempts from Commission regulation any news story, commentary or editorial disseminated by a press entity.

MUR  6581
RESPONDENT:  American Future Fund
COMPLAINANT: Self-Initiated
SUBJECT: The American Future Fund (AFF) disclosed information to the Commission that AFF did not file electioneering communications reports in a timely manner and did not include a complete disclaimer on the television advertisements at issue.
DISPOSITION: The Commission found reason to believe AFF failed to file electioneering communications reports in a timely manner and failed to include a complete disclaimer. The Commission entered into a conciliation agreement, whereby AFF agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,000.

ADMINISTRATIVE FINES

The Commission made public three campaign finance enforcement matters that were resolved through its Administrative Fines (AF) program.

AF 2507 – Schiff for Senate and Andrew Schiff, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $312.

AF 2508 – American Bus Association-Buspac Political Action Committee and Eric Braendel, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $145.

AF 2510 – Level 3 Communications Inc. Political Action Committee and James Pribyl, in his official capacity as treasurer. The Commission made a final determination and assessed a civil penalty of $165.

For more information, see the case documents in the Enforcement Query System.

LITIGATION

CREW v. FEC (No. 12-5004). On July 24, the Appellant filed a Reply Brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Free Speech v. FEC (No. 2:12-cv-127 (SWS)). On July 27, the plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming.

Vroom v. FEC (No. 12-cv-0143 (RMC)). On July 27, 2012, the Commission filed a Motion to Dismiss in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Van Hollen v. FEC (No. 12-5117). Oral Argument is scheduled for September 14, 2012. Van Hollen challenges as contrary to the law the Commission’s regulation concerning disclosure for electioneering communications, 11 C.F.R. 104.20(c)(9).

RULEMAKING AND AGENCY PROCEDURES

Guidance for Persons Making Disbursements for Electioneering Communications
. On July 27, the Commission issued a public statement outlining how the Commission will comply with the opinion and order of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in Van Hollen v. FEC (Civ. No. 11-0766). The court found that the Commission regulation at 11 CFR 104.20(c)(9) is invalid and vacated it. That regulation, which was adopted in 2007 and governed electioneering communications by corporations and labor organizations, required that their donors be disclosed only if their donations were “made for the purpose of furthering electioneering communications.”  The court reinstated the Commission’s prior regulation at 104.20(c). The Commission’s public statement offers guidance to persons reporting electioneering communications pending the appeal of Van Hollen v. FEC by defendant-intervenors.

ELECTIONEERING COMMUNICATION REPORTING PERIODS

The Commission learned today that its website reflected incorrect dates for the Electioneering Communication (EC) reporting periods for the national nominating conventions. The correct EC period for the Republican national nominating convention begins on July 28 and the EC period for the Democratic national nominating convention begins on August 4. See 11 CFR 100.29(b)(3)(ii)(B). The website had mistakenly identified those starting dates as July 31 and August 7, respectively. The website has been corrected.

The Commission regrets the error. The Commission will exercise its prosecutorial discretion and will not take enforcement action with respect to communications disbursements made in reasonable reliance on the erroneous information on the website in connection with EC reporting.

OUTREACH

On July 25, Vice Chair Ellen L. Weintraub discussed federal disclosure regulations and the Commission enforcement process with journalism students from the University of Maryland.

On July 26, Vice Chair Ellen L. Weintraub discussed Commission operations and recent developments in campaign finance law with government and political leaders from Africa as part of the State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program.

PRESS RELEASES

FEC Statement on Van Hollen v. FEC (issued on July 27)

UPCOMING COMMISSION MEETINGS

July 31: The Commission is scheduled to hold an Executive Session.

August 2: The Commission is scheduled to hold an Open Session.

UPCOMING EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS

August 28, Washington, DC. Roundtable Workshop on Pre-Election Communications. Additional information is available on the Educational Outreach page of the Commission website.

UPCOMING REPORTING DUE DATES

August 20: August Monthly Reports are due. For more information on monthly reporting dates, refer to the 2012 Monthly Reporting page of the Commission website.

OTHER RESOURCES

The 2012 edition of the Combined Federal State Disclosure and Election Directory is available in the Public Records section of the Commission website. This publication identifies the federal and state agencies responsible for the disclosure of campaign finances, lobbying, personal finances, public financing, candidates on the ballot, election results, spending on state initiatives and other financial filings.

The Record news page is available in the Publications section of the Commission website. Sign up to receive email notification when new articles are posted.

Printed copies of the 2012 edition of Title 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations are now available. To order, call (800)424-9530 (press 6) or send an email to info@fec.gov.

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