Changes to Campaign Rules

Hi Les and All,

At last Saturday's LPSF meeting Les mentioned the recent changes in campaign rules. I Googled for them and came up with "Recent Campaign Changes to the Political Reform Act," a two-page summary of the changes http://www.fppc.ca.gov/index.php?id=633

Also, I found on-line the actual campaign manual now dated 2013, with the changes highlighted, and I took a quick look: It appears that the bulk of the rules remain the same. The changes refer to establishment of an annual fee of $50 for General Purpose Committees, limits on contribution/expenditures re: central committee members, need for a new "verification report" to be submitted by committees, use of public safety logos, lobbying fees, statement of economic interest when such applies, and rules for government agencies.

As we agreed, all this does not affect LPSF for this election of November 5, but to the future elections for which we are getting ready now : )

I understand Les will be contacting the Elections Commission and/or Sacramento to get a grip on all this stuff, for which we are all grateful to him.

Marcy

Fifty dollars a year in government extortion money to have a "general purpose committee"?! Ugh. Sounds like another good reason not to maintain one on a permanent basis.

Love & Liberty,
                               ((( starchild )))

My lips are sealed, since I promised to be supportive of the general consensus.

Marcy

Yes, but then , if we don't have a and register "campaign committee" separate from the LPSF, then we are limited to $999 in campaign contributions and expenditures.

WE CANNOT HAVE BOTH
A) a high profile campaign with internet solicitations for cash and newspaper messages and
B) a failure to register as a campaign committee.

We gotta make up our minds! Either we set up and register a campaign committee and jump through the hoops (including paying a $50 annual fee) with respect to the campaign finance and disclosure laws OR we keep a very low profile and limit ourselves to receiving and spending less than $1,000 each year on campaign issues.

Aubrey just blurted out in the last monthly meeting that we have collected $1,050 in "campaign money". For an unregistered organization this is illegal. There were two guys there who we have never seen before. Either one of them could tell the Ethics Commission about that and they could open an investigation of us. I DO NOT WANT TO RISK THAT! Either we register or we give up any thought of a strategy of generating publicity for the LPSF with a high profile campaign against or for ballot measures.

If people don't want to register, that is fine with me. But then I am NOT going to be the treasurer of the LPSF because the treasurer can be held PERSONALLY liable for any fines and penalties. If SOMEONE ELSE wants to be treasurer, great. I can resign and go home and that person can carry the ball and incur the risk of getting caught. I realize that the risk of getting caught may be slim, but the more we do and the higher the profile we adopt, the more risk there is.

For the last three years I haven't heard anyone else offering to be the treasurer. If there is such a person, he or she should step forward and speak up!

Les Mangus
Libertarian Mongoose

If we want the LPSF to be a credible, *political party organization*, we need to be able to raise and spend money on a larger scale. Whether we actually do or not can be determined later, but we need to have the tools. If we run under the $1,000 limit for several years, we can always tear down the committee and go back to small ball.

I would suggest there are plenty of valid organizational structures where staying away from specific issues and going small dollar is reasonable, or even a goal (GGLR comes to mind). I don't think that makes sense for a political party, even a local one.

I don't want to have to play clever accounting tricks to stay within the law, and I want Les, Marcy and Aubrey to be able to sleep at night without fear for their financial futures.

We should set up the committee, and follow the rules unless/until the rules change. This is not where we want to put the stake in the ground. We will lose influence, at best, and jeopardize the party's officers at worst. That last part is unacceptable to me.

- Matt

Hi Les,

I am confused. I thought we all agreed that the choices are either to keep within the $999.99 limit or register. Are you suggesting that LPSF register a campaign committee in order to avoid trouble should anyone accidentally go over the limit, even though it was agreed to stay within the limit (as I did that year I accidentally went $50 over the limit)?

My 1/4 cent on this subject is that I enthusiastically voted a couple of LPSF meetings ago to go for big, learn the rules, register, and start publicizing like crazy. Since then, I fear that because we all have demanding day jobs, we just do not have the people power to carry this good plan through. I also fear that registering a committee to "protect" LPSF from trouble, might result in even more trouble given the gobs of rules that must be followed by us busy folk with day jobs.

However, I did promise to support whichever choice was made by the majority -- either establish a committee and have the legal option to spend over $999.99, or not establish a committee and stay within the $999.99 limit. I also would support your suggestion, Les, that a committee be established regardless of how much we intended to spend, only as a protective measure, assuming that is what you are suggesting in your post.

BTW, speaking of folks with day jobs with no time to focus on campaigns -- where are we on our plan to have all our ad material ready to go by 8:00 pm last night? I said both Matt's ad and Starchild's (although submitted after the 5:00 deadline) were very good. Now we need to find out how much, and when they will appear.

Marcy

Marcy:

No, I am not suggesting that we register whatever we wish to do. I was responding to Starchild's statement that having to pay $50 per year to maintain a separate campaign committee was another reason not to register. I was pointing out to him and to anyone else who doesn't like the idea of setting and registering a campaign committee separate from the LPSF that we cannot
1. have a big public presence such as Aubrey wants and
2. operate in the semi-legal (at best) manner that Starchild wants.

The Libertarian Party of California has such a campaign committee which is separate from the party itself.

Les

Thanks for the clarification, Les. Yes, LP California does have such a committee, and also, they have advised us in the past to set up one too. So, I guess best to do it.

Marcy

It seems to me that given the $50/year requirement (on top of bank account costs and the opportunity costs of periodic reporting compliance -- and a possible $150 late fee if the $50 fee is not paid within 10 days of receiving $1000 in contributions or by Jan. 15 each year*), that it would make more sense to wait and set up a campaign committee only in years where we have over $1000 in pledges, or are *certain* that we plan to raise and spend a minimum of $1500. As with paying attention to the ballot measure filings and submitting arguments in order to participate in the lottery to become the official opponent of various measures, we would just need to make sure to consider this decision in a timely fashion each cycle.

  Spending a lot of money on a particular campaign is not the only way the LPSF can have an enhanced public presence and visibility in local politics. A few other potential ways of achieving this include:

• Spending over $1000 on various causes including advertising the LPSF, education on issues, etc., while limiting spending on California elections to under $1000 in a given year
• Doing things that are newsworthy enough to get us significant "earned media"
• Getting lots of small grassroots groups organized to fight for freedom on various issues and working in coalition with them
• Getting members appointed to various boards or committees
• Doing lots of speaking engagements and outreach booths
• Writing lots of op-ed pieces, blog posts, and commentary in public forums
• Making the LPSF website enough of a destination to significantly boost our web traffic
• Filing a lawsuit or lawsuits against the government
• Individuals spending a cumulative total of over $1000 on election campaigns in a given year without doing anything such as coordinating efforts that would qualify them as a recipient committee
• Starting a Chinese-language libertarian news outlet ("Roughly three of five Chinese immigrants were limited English proficient in 2010", according to this site based on census data -- http://www.migrationinformation.org/USfocus/display.cfm?ID=876 -- see also chart attached below on languages spoken at home in SF)

Love & Liberty,
                                ((( starchild )))

"File this form within 10 days of receiving $1,000 in contributions. Include a $50 payment made payable to the Secretary of State. Thereafter, the $50 fee is due annually no later than January 15. In addition to the $50 fee, a penalty of $150 may be assessed if payment is late." ( http://www.fppc.ca.gov/forms/2012/410.pdf )

Marcy:

Perhaps in my earlier post I misunderstood your comment.

Are you saying that you don't want to set up and register a campaign committee or political action committee because you feel that we do not have the time and expertise to deal with all the campaign financing and reporting rules and that, consequently, we should restrict ourselves to maintaining a low profile and keep our contributions and expenditures (legally) under $1,000? You are withdrawing your "yes" vote at the September meeting?

I guess I will wait to hear what Aubrey has to say before I take any action.

This seems to mean that of the four principal persons at the Sep meeting
Aubrey
Les
Marcy
Starchild

There was one abstention (Starchild)
One no - Marcy (who originally voted yes)
Two yes - Aubrey and Les.

If this is the case, then maybe we ought to reconsider since a majority of the core of regular members at that meeting did not vote in favor. I can live with this, but then people have to abandon any high profile campaigns to battle against SF ballot measures. There can be no more soliciting "campaign funds" to buy ads urging a no or yes vote. Getting messages in the official ballot package is ok, if it doesn't cost anything.

I have not crossed any Rubicons yet by filing Form 410 to register a campaign committee. I have only opened a bank account which I can easily close.

Les

It is not practicable to do all the setup after we discover we want to run a significant campaign. Ballot measures aren't due until August -- roughly 90 days before the election. We want to have the money spent and the ads running by 30 days before the election, when the voter guides go out. The state has mandatory ethics training for certain officers of new committees. It's not just a matter of paperwork.

The system is setup to discourage casual formation of committees.

Our messages crossed. I guess maybe we need to take another vote.

I do value Starchild's opinion,
I understand his reluctance to set up this committee and register with the devil.
To some extent I share this feeling.

But then I don't feel comfortable operating in the manner that he wants to.

This may be rather akin to running red lights. If you only do it occasionally, you can probably get away with it. But.....the more red lights you run, the more likely you are to get caught at it.

Les

Very good points, as usual.

As I said, I have not filed Form 410 to register the committee yet and will not do so (nor go down and talk to the Ethics Commission) without further consideration.

BTW I would be terribly concerned about Aubrey's mentioning taking in $1,050 in campaign funds, if there were no one at this meeting except us Libertarian stalwarts. BUT there were two people who know nothing about. It is one thing to bend the law a little, it's quite another to brazenly mention it to people you don't know.
All it takes is for one of them to send an email to the Ethics Commission and the Gestapo could start investigating us. We don't want that.

Les

Mandatory ethics training for new officers? The more details we find out, the worse it seems to get! Do you have a link to where this requirement is described?

  We should normally be deciding how to allocate any spending we do on ballot measures within 60 days anyway (as you note, the length of time between when ballot measures are announced and when the Voter Handbook is mailed out), regardless of whether we're operating as a campaign committee or not. The question is whether we could legally form a committee within that time frame. Perhaps the ethics training can be done in advance *before* filing to create a committee, so our people could already be trained when we decide we want to file? Certainly the paperwork could be filed concurrently with our deliberations about how we are going to spend the money, so that by the time we had the legal mechanism in place to spend it, we would have a plan in place as well.

Love & Liberty,
                                 ((( starchild )))

Hi Les,

Thank you for asking. No, I have not changed my vote. As I said, I have promised to support the consensus on this, and at the meeting it seemed that the majority wanted a separate committee. So my vote is still YES. However, I am suggesting that we make sure that we have a trusted, responsible person such as yourself that commits to file the forms.

BTW, are we all in agreement that we can prepare, inquire, research etc. starting now, but wait to officially establish a committee until after November 5th? Otherwise, we would have to explain to the bozos in Sacramento that a committee established before November 5th does not apply to November 5th.

Marcy

We need to not just decide how we are allocating money. We probably need to do that by day 30. Day 45 at the latest. By day 60, we need to have the money allocated, materials designed, written and distributed, and running in front of actual eyeballs.

Bear in mind, before we can decide how we are ALLOCATING money, we need to RAISE it first. So we'd have, at best, 2-3 weeks to raise money.

With a permanent committee, we can raise money for the express purpose of campaigning *year-round*, before we even know what measures are coming. Then we can spend it when we find a measure worth fighting. Rarely does more than a year go by without a really awful ballot measure here, so we aren't saving much, if any work.

Matt,

  I'm just not sure we'll consistently have over $1500 in donations against a ballot measure each year, that people feel it's important to spend as a group instead of independently as individuals (for anything less than $1500/year, the difference between that and the $1000 we could raise and spend as a group without creating a committee hardly seems worth it).

  We can also raise money year-round via pledges without collecting the actual money.

Love & Liberty,
                                  ((( starchild )))

A small elaboration ...The system is set up as incumbent protection.

Carry on

I really don't think incumbent protection was the major reason for enacting such rules. The reason was to make it possible for the public to trace the source of money in politics.

The hassle and problems they create for small parties like us is a typical unintended consequence of (sometimes) well intentioned government action.

Les

Hi All! I am in favor of setting up a permanent ongoing year-to-year separate campaign committee to increase visibility (and thereby giving "freedom" a larger voice in San Francisco). Limiting ourselves to $999.99 per year is peanuts and will forever ensure that the LPSF is "interesting but irrelevant" in SF. All the things that you mentioned, Starchild, are excellent other things that we could and perhaps should be doing, though I do think filing lawsuits against the government and running a Chinese news outlet seem a bit of a reach for us.

I pledge to pay the annual $50 filing fee myself, since I think that's a tiny price to pay for government extortion (which it is) to have a larger voice to make that government smaller. As for the bank fees, let's see what they are, but I can't imagine they're that large and I consider that part of "doing business," which in this case means having the tools necessary to become more visible. Lastly, Les has generously offered his time and guidance to get this process set up correctly and to oversee that the necessary reports are filed on time. Zach will do the filings, Les will oversee, and I have offered myself as a back-up in case one is needed. I fill out required government forms at work (more government overreach and drain on the private sector), and my experience with these forms is they're a hassle to do the first time, but once you've done it, they're not that bad--you just follow what you did the first time.

Thanks!
Aubrey