Calls upon Congress to support Constitutional amendments related to campaign finance and redistricting.
Campaign Spending Reform
In 2016 the National Institute on Money on State Politics gave New Hampshire an "F" for campaign finance laws. However, many issue advocacy groups argue that more restrictive campaign finance laws in New Hampshire would hurt free speech during elections.
Options for campaign finance regulation
There are three ways states can regulate campaign finance: disclosure laws, contribution limits, and public financing.
- Disclosure laws require candidates, committees, and political parties to report campaign-related spending.
- Contribution limits cap the amount of money an individual or group can give to candidates.
- Public financing provides state funds to candidates and/or political parties, usually in return for a limit on campaign spending.
New Hampshire has some disclosure requirements and contribution limits but no public financing.
Campaign finance regulations must abide by several U.S. Supreme Court rulings, in particular the Citizens United v. FEC decision. In Citizens United the Court ruled that if a corporation or union independently creates advertising for or against a candidate, that advertising is free speech and cannot be limited by the government. In short, states cannot limit the amount independent groups spend on elections. However, states can require independent groups to disclose their spending. States also still have the power to limit individual candidate donations and spending.
Campaign finance disclosure requirements in NH
New Hampshire law requires candidates, political committees, and any organizations that advocate voting for or against an issue or candidate to report spending over $500 to the Secretary of State. In July 2014 Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) signed SB 120, a bill that broadens disclosure requirements to include nonprofits who spend more than $5,000 on advertisements that mention a candidate by name but do not explicitly recommend voting for (or against) that candidate. (For example, a TV advertisement might ask viewers to "thank" an elected official for his/her issue position, but never mention an upcoming election.)
Campaign finance contribution limits in NH
According to the New Hampshire Attorney General, individual contributions to campaigns in New Hampshire may not exceed $5,000. However, Citizens United prevents New Hampshire from limiting individual contributions to independent issue advocacy groups, even if those issue advocacy groups advertise in favor of a candidate.
Contribution limits are meant to limit the influence of individual donors over candidates. Now that individual donors can give as much as they want to independent organizations supporting (or opposing) a candidate, some argue that limits on campaign donations are no longer meaningful. Some even argue that campaign contribution limits should be abolished because they encourage less transparent spending through third party groups. Others counter that giving up on campaign contribution limits will only give individual donors more power over elections.
Public campaign financing in NH
Ideally public financing for candidates eliminates the influence of individual donors over candidates. However, given the vast amounts spent on campaign finance these days, it is difficult for candidates to compete with public financing.
New Hampshire has considered public financing bills, but none have passed. Many legislators are ambivalent about using limited state funds for public financing.
Prohibits state commissioners from campaigning for elective office, serving as the officer of a political party or political committee, using his or her name in support of or in opposition to a candidate, participating in or contributing to political campaigns, or acting as a lobbyist.
Requires that a political contribution by a limited liability company be allocated to members for purposes of determining whether a member has exceeded the contribution limits.
Requires business organizations and labor unions to make political contributions through segregated funds. This bill also requires political committees to identify their top five contributors in political advertising.
Establishes the Clean Elections Board to administer a clean elections fund to provide public campaign financing for eligible candidates for governor, executive councilor and state senator. The board will have primary authority, with assistance from the attorney general, to enforce the laws governing political expenditures and contributions.
Prohibits political expenditures by foreign nationals.
Adds a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for a violation of campaign finance law.
Requires that a political contribution by a limited liability company (LLC) be allocated to members, for the purpose of determining whether a member has exceeded contribution limits.
Appropriates $200,000 over the next two fiscal years to the Department of Justice to enforce election and lobbying laws.
Requires legislative hearings on the consequences of the Citizens United decision and calls upon New Hampshire's congressional delegation to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to overturn the decision.
Calls on the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to consider a constitutional amendment prohibiting campaign contributions unless the donor is eligible to vote in that federal election.
Establishes a commission to study implementing a clearinghouse model for tracking political expenditures and contributions.
Modifies the definition "political advocacy organization" for purposes of the political expenditures and contributions laws.
Clarifies the applicability of limits on the making of political contributions. In particular, this bill specifies that any individual can only donate a total of $5,000 to a candidate or his or her campaign committee in a single election cycle, regardless of when a candidate declares his or her candidacy.
Adds fines for violating the requirements for signature, identification, and authorization of political advertising.
Modifies the definition of "political advocacy organization." For example, the new definition would require the organization to release a public communication within 60 days before a primary or general election.
Requests a U.S. constitutional convention "to propose amendments to the federal Constitution for the exclusive purpose of election reform that do not abrogate or amend the First Amendment."
Establishes prohibitions on lobbying and employment for former legislators, requires identification of sources of model legislation, and revises other miscellaneous campaign finance disclosure laws.
Calls on the United States Senate and House of Representatives to consider a constitutional amendment prohibiting campaign contributions unless the donor is eligible to vote in that election.
Establishes a commission to study the feasibility of implementing a clearinghouse model for political expenditures and contributions.
Authorizes an electronic system for reporting of political receipts and expenditures by candidates and candidate committees that allows more frequent reporting and public view of reports.
Requires receipt and expenditure reports by non-candidate political committees be filed on-line within forty-eight hours after a political committee exceeds $1,000 in receipts and expenditures.
Requires political committees to file itemized statements earlier than is required under current law. The House amended the bill to also allow the Secretary of State to share voter information with other states.
Authorizes citizen complaints to the ballot law commission for violations of reporting requirements by political committees and political advocacy organizations.
Assesses a fee on all expenditures in excess of $5,000 by candidates and political committees.
Establishes a committee to study public access to political campaign information.
Requires legislative hearings assessing the consequences of the Citizens United decision evaluating related proposals to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Prohibits an individual who is not a resident of New Hampshire from making a campaign contribution to a candidate over $250, and increases reporting requirements immediately before an election for contributions received from out-of-state sources.
Requires legislative hearings to assess the consequences of the Citizens United decision and evaluate related proposals to amend the U.S. Constitution.
Establishes a committee to study public access to political campaign information.
A Resolution calling on Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to clarify whether corporations have the same rights as individuals, especially in regards to campaign finance. A Resolution like this only needs to pass the House because it is does not have any legal consequences.
Broadens disclosure requirements to include more politically-related organizations, particularly nonprofits.
Establishes a committee to review Citizens United amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Increases the threshold for campaign finance reports from $500 to $1500 for an individual donation or expenditure.
Requires recipients of state grants or appropriations to file a written disclosure of campaign contributions with the Secretary of State.
Should NH broaden campaign finance disclosure laws?
A bipartisan group of legislators are sponsoring a bill to create a public campaign finance system in NH. The system would give every NH voter $100 in vouchers they could grant to participating campaigns of their choice. Campaigns that take part in the program would have to accept limits on other donations. The details of the bill have not yet been released.
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