Monday, January 25, 2010

U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United Decision: What it means for IAAPA members

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision that substantially scales back previous campaign finance laws to allow corporations, associations, and unions to spend general treasury funds on independent expenditures. Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission overturns a previous ban on corporate spending for campaign advertisements and allows corporations to pay for ads that support or oppose federal candidates.

Simply put, IAAPA or one of its member companies in the U.S. can use corporate money to run a TV, radio, or newspaper ad or send a direct-mail piece to voters, advocating for the election or defeat of a specific candidate. Previously, corporate money could only be used for education pieces that did not specifically tell the audience to vote for or against a candidate.

Corporations that run these ads are still subject to Federal Election Commission disclosure requirements, so if you are thinking about getting involved in the 2010 midterm elections, I strongly recommend you consult an attorney who specializes in election law prior to running any ads. Corporations are also prohibited from “coordinating” with a campaign when producing the advertisements. “Coordination” may even include using the same consultants as a candidate, which is all the more reason to make sure an attorney is reviewing your plans.

The Citizens United decision also does not change the rules regarding direct contributions to candidates. These contributions still must be made in personal dollars (up to $2,300 per year, per candidate) and are still subject to Federal Election Commission reporting. Additionally, contributions to political parties still need to be made with personal money.

All this means Political Action Committees, such as IAAPA PAC, are still very important to the political process, because they allow individuals to pool their personal money together to get the most “bang for the buck.” IAAPA PAC members can give up to $5,000 per year to IAAPA PAC and IAAPA PAC can give up to $10,000 per election ($5,000 for a primary race and $5,000 for a general race) to candidates. The money given to IAAPA PAC does not count against individual limits to a candidate, so an IAAPA member can give both to the PAC and to candidates he or she supports.

IAAPA encourages all of its U.S. members to participate in IAAPA PAC and provides various opportunities for donors of all levels. For more information on these opportunities, please contact me.

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