A Philanthropist’s Guide to Political Activity

05.24.2012

Citizens United kicked off a rapid and continuing evolution of campaign finance standards in federal elections, and the ripple effect at the state and local level is well under way.  But perhaps even more meaningful than specific rules is the majority decision’s core premise that independent political activity is a positive democratic force:
“Speech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people….  The right of citizens to inquire, to hear, to speak, and to use information to reach consensus is a precondition to enlightened self-government and a necessary means to protect it.”
This is a ringing declaration of the value to America of every citizen’s independent voice, the value of e pluribus unum. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably understand that effective political activity requires planning and a legal strategy for compliance.  Compliance is essential, not simply to do good but to do well.  Nothing undermines respect for an advocate faster than a perception that he or she is cheating -- not playing by the rules, to say nothing of the potential for civil liability or even criminal prosecution.  Before you write that first check, do you have a strategy for compliance?  This Guide reviews recent developments and the fundamentals you need to know to plan for compliance.

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