Express Advocacy – Political Law News Summary

Today’s political law news summary focuses on the Obama administration’s lobbying reform efforts and whether the pro-regulation groups are satisfied, and the Federal Election Commission’s (“FEC”) coordinated communications rulemaking.

Lobbying Issues

The Washington Post published an article over the weekend discussing the pro-regulation community’s dismay concerning the unintended consequences of the Obama administration’s lobbying reform efforts.  According to the article, some pro-regulation groups believe that the Administration’s efforts have shifted power from lobbyists who register and report under the Lobbying Disclosure Act to another set of inside-the-beltway players who may not be subject to the federal lobbying disclosure requirements.  The consequence is a reduction in transparency.

Last month a number of liberal nonprofit groups wrote to President Obama to express their frustration with the unintended consequences of the Administration’s lobbying restrictions.  The groups argue that the Administration’s lobbying restrictions are interfering with their own lobbying activities and ask that the Administration amend the policies to exempt their organizations and ones that are similarly situated.  The letter states:

We represent non-profit organizations engaged in public policy advocacy on a broad range of vital issues, including those relating to consumers, civil rights, vulnerable children and democracy reform. As stated before, we support the intent of your Executive Order on ethics. However, one year later, it is clear that the Order as currently structured has yielded some unintended consequences that undermine your goals of open government and broad civic participation in the public interest.

The full text of the letter can be found here

FEC Coordinated Communications Rulemaking

The Hill published an article yesterday about the FEC’s decision to solicit additional comments about Citizens United’s impact on the pending coordinated communications rulemaking.  The article states that the pro-regulation groups seek to expand the application of the FEC’s coordination rules by making any communication that promotes, attacks, supports or opposes (“PASO”) a federal candidate subject to regulation and possible prohibition.  The PASO standard is not defined in the federal statutes or FEC regulations and constitutes a vague standard that will sweep more speech than is necessary within the FEC’s jurisdiction.  The FEC should resist calls to adopt vague and subjective standards that are designed to chill speech and do not provide the regulated community with clear notice about what types of speech are subject to regulation and those that are outside the agency’s jurisdiction.

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