Super Tuesday

As we are right in the middle of Super Tuesday, we thought it might be a good time to explain what it means. Super Tuesday is a designation used in a presidential primary season when the greatest number of states hold their primary elections. On this date, more convention delegates can be won than on any other single day on the primary calendar. The states holding presidential primaries are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia, with caucuses held in Alaska, American Samoa, Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wyoming. With over 20% of the delegates at stake for each party, it is easy to see why Super Tuesday is important. The sheer number of states and the fact that they represent a broad cross-section of Americans, makes it a good representation of how the electorate feels about the candidates. Many of the states in this year’s Super Tuesday allot their delegates proportional to the vote; however in Texas, if one candidate within a party receives more than 50% of the vote, then it is winner-take-all! A couple of things to keep in mind: Primaries are elections that are held by the state in which registered voters select the candidate of their choice through secret ballot. A primary can be closed, meaning that the voter may only select a candidate from the party with which they are registered. It can also be an open primary, where the voters can select from the candidates of any party. A few states also have what are called “mixed” primaries, which is when unaffiliated voters may choose to vote in either primary or can switch their registration on the primary date. Caucuses are structured quite differently. These are meetings that are set up by state party committees to select a candidate. As such, the state party dictates the time and place for these events, and they usually last several hours. All caucuses start with an introduction or election of their delegates. Then party officials do some last-minute campaigning and/or give speeches. For Republicans, they then cast a secret ballot in the same way as a regular primary and are free to leave. Democrats, however, take an initial count of caucus attendees. They then vote publicly (by raising their hand or moving to a specific part of the room) for their candidate, and the votes are counted. Any candidate that has fewer than 15% of the total attendees gets removed from the ballot. These voters then need to select a different candidate – and all the other voters try to convince them to vote for their candidate. Once the voting is complete, the results are sent to the state party. The number...

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A Case for SSF Hybrid PACs

Stop This Insanity, Inc. Employee Leadership Fund, et al. v. FEC is a case that sought to allow an SSF to have a separate account that is used for independent expenditures in the same way that non-connected committees are now allowed.  While this does not seem like a hard choice for the court to decide, given the recent court decisions, the FEC argues that it would allow for the connected organization to pay the administrative expenses of the non-contribution account, thus making unlimited and undisclosed organization contributions.  Furthermore, if allowed, it would call into question the coordination of expenditures being made on a candidate’s behalf.  The District Court denied the plaintiff’s request and granted the Commissions request to dismiss the case.  Stop This Insanity filed an appeal in January...

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Supreme Court Overturns Individual Aggregate Limits

On April 2, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an appeal by Shaun McCutcheon of  a US District Court ruling that upheld the FEC aggregate limits.  This action overturned the ruling and eliminated the biennial aggregate limits on an individual donor’s contributions.  Previously, in addition to meeting the per candidate, per election limit of $2,600 (2013-2014), an individual was also required to meet a three-pronged biennial aggregate limit.  The two-year limit was $123,200 for the 2013-2014 cycle, with the direct candidate contribution portion capped at $48,600.  While this decision does not change the per candidate, per election limit of $2,600, the overall cap has been eliminated and individuals are able to give the $2,600 maximum contribution to as many federal candidates as they wish....

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PAC Software

In my experience, new and small PACs are very hesitant to consider purchasing PAC management software.  They feel the benefit doesn’t justify the cost of a system.  While in a few circumstances this may be true, for the vast majority of PACs, it is not.  PAC management software: allows your organization to ensure receipts are aggregated to the correct individual by using a key identifier for each individual; allows easy updating of contributor data without manual data entry; allows posting of receipt data, alleviating manual entry; tracks disbursement data so that limits can be more effectively managed; allows for easier state compliance reporting; compiles Federal and most state reports; and enables PAC staff to report back to management and members on progress toward goals. In addition to the above, the use of a PAC management tool will save you time and reduce your risk of filing errors.  If you don’t feel that you need a strong tool to manage your PAC, think about the issues that can arise from errors in reports.  While the FEC File tool will work to get you registered, the next task on your list should be an evaluation of the tools on the...

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Annual Budgets

Budgeting for the PAC needs to be a priority now.  As you plan out the budget, take into account the obvious costs, like vendor services (creative, software, solicitation), but also think about soft costs, such as travel for PAC staff or training, events, conference services and web services.  And, if you have a PAC Match program, you will want to think about that as well.  Some organizations also require personnel costs, too.  Other things to think about might be banking/check printing fees, mailing costs, messengers fees.  You may want to consider a line-item for your budget specifically for all PAC costs.  If you can do it, a breakdown of what you included is a great idea and will help each year in the planning process....

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Supreme Court Considering Campaign Limits

Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on overturning the aggregate biennial individual limits of $48,600 to candidates and $74,600 to political parties and committees.  Currently, individuals may give up to $2,600 per election directly to a candidate, for a total of $5,200 per cycle.  Furthermore, they may give up to $5,000 per year to federal PACs, and up to $15,000 per year to federal party committees.  Shaun McCutcheon of Alabama, who brought the case for appealing the limits, states that the biennial limits restrict his first amendment right to free speech, noting that the current limits require him to choose between the issues and candidates that he supports.  Mr. McCutcheon, through his attorney, noted that the current system does not allow people to support as many candidates as they would like directly, thereby forcing them to support super PACs or fund independent expenditures.  While the limits to each candidate would not change, overturning current law would allow him to give to up to the $5,200 limit to more candidates without exceeding the limit. The more conservative justices don’t seem to think that appealing the limits will create a situation that would exert significant influence; however the case against overturning the limits notes that great sums of money could certainly tip the balance in close races.  Furthermore, Donald Verrilli of the Department of Justice noted that “there is a real risk that the government could be run by these 500 [of the wealthiest] people.”  With no limits, Individuals with significant means would be able to spend up to $5,200 per candidate in the 2014 election cycle, for a total of nearly $2.5 million.  They would be allowed to give up $1.2 million to the party committees.  Maintaining limits also forces candidates to seek money from a broader group of donors, thereby democratizing the process. The decision will be made at the end of the Autumn...

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