Venable partner Ron Jacobs was quoted in the August 10, 2012 issue of CEO Update on Federal Election Commission (FEC) reporting rules that may cause some nonprofits to change the wording of their ads leading up to the November elections to avoid naming their donors. In response to a court ruling last month, the FEC announced that groups who run “issue ads” airing in the weeks before a primary or general election must now report the names of people who donate $1,000 or more to the organization for any purpose. The ruling does not affect independent expenditures expressly advocating for the election or defeat of a candidate in any medium unless donors gave money for that specific purpose.
“Associations can pretty much do whatever they want because of Citizens United. The question is what has to be disclosed,” said Jacobs commenting on the broad scope of associations compared to nonprofits. Jacobs added that communications sent to an association’s members advocating for or against a candidate must be reported if the cost exceeds $2,000 per election. That’s a “fairly high threshold,” he said. “A blast email to the membership has virtually no cost.”