Posts Tagged ‘DLCC’

Cities’ Health Improving

October 10, 2013

By Heather Williams and Will Higgins

This morning, the National League of Cities (NLC) released its 28th annual City Fiscal Conditions report.

The news is promising. The overall health of cities is improving. Seventy-two percent of city Chief Financial Officers surveyed reported that their cities are better able to meet financial needs in 2013 than in 2012. However, a number of factors, including the lack of progress on the federal budget and debt ceiling, continue to remain a threat. As NLC executive director Clarence Anthony said “Cities are stuck between the White House and Congress”.

The improving health of our nation’s cities is a direct result of tough decisions being made by city officials. The health of city general funds suggests that revenues are picking up and ending balances have stopped declining. In order to get there, city officials have had to take action. Decisions to increase fees and cut personnel have been and continue to be made across the country.

It is important to note that cities did not immediately feel the impact of the national recession. One of the largest major revenue sources is property taxes, which causes a natural lag between what is happening to the national economy and the time the effects of the economy impact the fiscal health of cities.

Moving forward, cities are projected to see little growth. While the overall health of the cities is improving, many challenges still exist. Property tax revenue is still declining and cities are facing health and pension benefit liabilities and infrastructure demands. These issues, among others, are continuing to strain city budgets.

Unfortunately, the health of city fiscal conditions are impacted by the action taken by–or if things continue the way they are right now, the inaction of–Congress on issues such as municipal bonds and cuts to spending.

The full City Fiscal Conditions report can be found at the following link: http://www.nlc.org/Documents/Find%20City%20Solutions/Research%20Innovation/Finance/Final_CFC2013.pdf

***

Heather Williams works at Stateside Associates to help clients manage state and local government issues. As Vice President at the company she also manages client relationships with key Groups, including her “alma mater,” the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), where she served as National Finance Director.

Will Higgins is Manager, Local Government Services at Stateside Associates. Prior to joining Stateside Associates as a Legislative Associate, Mr. Higgins worked for the Florida House of Representatives, as well as for a United States Senator. He also worked for several public affairs and communications firms supporting campaigns at the local, state and national levels.

Montana Corporate Contributions Ruling: A Boon to Democrats?

July 12, 2012

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

On June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Montana state law that banned corporate political expenditures. In a 5-4 decision, the court reaffirmed its Citizens United decision in American Tradition Partnership v. Bullock. Rather than hearing the case, though, the majority simply reversed a Montana Supreme Court ruling that had held the state law constitutional.

It was clear that the majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices did not find Montana’s case convincing at all. The entire decision overturning the law was less than one page in length. The key argument was articulated in just three sentences: “The question presented in this case is whether the holding of Citizens United applies to the Montana state law. There can be no serious doubt that it does. See U. S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2. Montana’s arguments in support of the judgment below either were already rejected in Citizens United, or fail to meaningfully distinguish that case.”

So what does this mean for state races this November?

The ruling does clarify that unions and corporations can run independent expenditure ads for or against state and local candidates. This could have some significant impacts that I will discuss below, but first I wanted to address several areas where there will not be much of a change.

The ruling is likely to make it slightly easier for the national groups to engage in races around the country. DGA, RGA, RAGA, DAGA, DLCC and the RSLC have all been active in state races for years. But in cases where those groups are running independent expenditure advertisements, there should be less internal bookkeeping issues to make sure they were tracking where they were spending personal versus union/corporate dollars.

There also will not be much change for the SuperPACs and other independent expenditure groups that have relied on individuals for financing. If George Soros, the Koch brothers and other wealthy individuals wanted to run advertising, the First Amendment had protected that right prior to last month’s ruling.

“Issue advocacy” ads have been running for years as thinly-veiled campaign ads, except that they did not directly urge viewers/listeners/readers to vote for or against a candidate. Because of that distinction, these ads were often funded by corporate or union dollars, and the groups that funded them will now be able to say “Vote for Candidate X,” or more directly criticize a candidate in a negative ad.

Finally, this ruling is unlikely to have a major impact on the spending levels in the 28 states that still allow corporate and union contributions directly to campaigns. States like California and Illinois have fairly high limits, and some (like Virginia) have no limits on individual, corporate or union contributions directly to campaigns. Most contributions will continue to flow to those campaigns or to the campaign committees listed above that have already been involved in these states.

So, where will we likely see potential impacts on the ground?

I believe the biggest changes will be in state legislative races and local government elections. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, in nine states the average amount of money spent by winning candidates in state House elections fell short of $25,000. The lower dollar races provide opportunities for union/corporate money to have a big impact. Public sector unions could flood a few targeted districts with campaign commercials just before an election to promote candidates who will support their agenda and corporations could do the same for candidates they back.

This effect could be even more pronounced at the city and county level. Many city and county races outside major cities can be very low budget affairs and a few thousand dollars of union or corporate money could dominate those campaigns. Democrats could be the long term beneficiaries of this change.

As we have seen over the last few years, Democratic activists appear to have decided that urging boycotts against corporations contributing to Republican campaigns will discourage corporations from giving. There is no similar threat that will keep public sector unions from continuing to give. A boycott threat against a local hamburger chain may be enough to keep a franchisee from using company money to oppose a candidate that wants to ban all quick serve restaurants in a city. At the same time, a local teachers union would have no compunction against running ads for that candidate if he or she wants to raise property taxes to give teachers a pay raise.

While many activists on the left have been bemoaning the Citizens United and American Tradition Partnership decisions, unless businesses are willing to begin fighting back against these boycott and shareholder threats, the private sector is likely to be the big loser.

***

Steve Arthur is Vice President at Stateside Associates directing the Retail Industry practice and co-leading the Attorneys General practice. He is a hands-on state government relations professional with expertise in strategic planning, issue management, direct lobbying and lobbyist management.

Wisconsin Recalls Threaten 527 Coffers: UPDATE

May 25, 2011

By Michael J. Behm, Senior Vice President

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin state elections agency, the Government Accountability Board, has set a date of July 12 for the recall elections against Sens. Dan Kapanke, Randy Hopper and Luther Olsen.  All three are Republicans.

There are still six other senators (three Republicans and three Democrats) with pending recall petitions and the Board is set to consider those petitions the week of May 31.

Read our original post here


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