News You Can Use Digest – August 4, 2017

campaign finance, ethics, legislative issues, lobbying, News You Can Use, political contributions
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National:

Need a Job? Bob Brady and the Art of the Political Buyout
Philadelphia Inquirer – Andrew Seidman and Jeremy Roebuck | Published: 7/30/2017

Prosecutors’ allegations that U.S. Rep. Robert Brady’s 2012 campaign paid a challenger $90,000 to drop out of the race may seem like a particularly brazen power play. Such transactions may look like backroom dealing, but campaign finance experts agree the line between the simply unseemly and the outright illegal can be difficult to determine. “Rarely are these situations an explicit quid pro quo: ‘I’ll give you money so you’ll drop out,'” said Kenneth Gross, who heads the political law practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. “But there are many shades of gray. There are often agreements to help a candidate retire [campaign] debt.”

Federal:

Democrats Introduce Bill to Strengthen Foreign Agents Law
Bloomberg BNA – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 7/31/2017

A new Senate bill would increase the U.S. Justice Department’s authority to impose civil fines people who do not comply with the Foreign Agent Lobbying Transparency Enforcement Act, which requires individuals working on behalf of a foreign government or official to register with the Justice Department within 10 days of signing a contract. In addition to fines, the legislation from Senate Democrats would create even more requirements for foreign agents. The registration laws on foreign lobbying are routinely flouted, according to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Jared Kushner Stepped Down from 266 ‘Corporate Positions.’ What Does That Mean?
Washington Post – Jena McGregor | Published: 8/1/2017

In Donald Trump’s White House, Jared Kushner has many jobs. The president’s son-in-law is a senior adviser to Trump, has been charged with leading the administration’s revamping of the federal bureaucracy, and has a foreign policy portfolio that includes Mexico and the Middle East. But counting up the titles he stepped down from leading up to Trump’s inauguration, and the number looked to some, at first glance, as even more eye-popping. In a recent story following the release of his financial disclosures, it was reported Kushner had “resigned from 266 corporate positions.” Some on social media were scratching their heads. How does one person hold more than 250 positions?

No Going Back: Anthony Scaramucci’s White House job could cost him $7.5 million
USA Today – Gregory Korte | Published: 8/3/2017

Anthony Scaramucci took no salary during his short tenure as White House communication director, yet his 10-day career detour could end up costing him more than $7.5 million. That is because the hedge fund founder left the White House before he could obtain a “certificate of divestiture” giving him the special tax treatment available to federal employees who give up assets in order to avoid conflicts-of-interest. Without that certificate, the sale of Scaramucci’s Skybridge Capital to a Chinese holding company will be taxed at the capital gains rate of 15 percent. According to Scaramucci’s financial disclosure report, his share of the sale is worth at least $50 million; other estimates put that number even higher.

Trump Loyalist Mixes Businesses and Access at ‘Advisory’ Firm
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore and Kenneth Vogel | Published: 8/1/2017

Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairperson, left the K Street firm he helped to establish amid scrutiny over his clients and his access to the president. Lewandowski then started a new consulting business. Now, as he takes on an increasingly broad role as an unofficial White House adviser, he is building a roster of clients with major interests before the Trump administration. Lewandowski appears to be positioning his new firm as an “advisory” business, part of a growing cohort of Washington, D.C. influencers who advise companies on how to navigate the government but do not register as lobbyists or disclose their clients.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: Anaheim City Council Passes County’s Toughest Restrictions on Lobbying
Orange County Register – Joseph Pimentel | Published: 8/1/2017

The Anaheim City Council voted to approve a bill that requires paid lobbyists to register with the city and file quarterly reports, and prohibits the city from hiring people from lobbying firms. Anaheim elected officials and workers also will be barred from lobbying the city for two years after they leave their government jobs. The ordinance defines a lobbyist as anyone who receives $500 or more a month to communicate with city officials for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative actions. The council needs to take a second vote on the ordinance, slated for August 15, before it goes into effect.

California: San Diego Boosts Qualifications for Ethics Commission Members
San Diego Union-Tribune – David Garrick | Published: 8/1/2017

The city council approved four changes that aim to boost the experience and expertise of San Diego Ethics Commission members. The council amended the commission’s rules to say “priority consideration” will be given to nominees familiar with campaign finance laws, government ethics, lobbying laws, and conflict-of-interest regulations. In addition, the council clarified that rules prohibiting commission members from seeking elective office in the city do not extend to seeking other offices, such as county supervisor or the state Legislature. In September, the council is scheduled to consider amending a rule that prohibits anyone who ran for office against a current member of the council from being appointed to the commission.

Colorado: Walker Stapleton Found a Way Around Governor’s Race Donation Limits – It’s Raising Money and Eyebrows
Denver Post – Mark Matthews | Published: 8/3/2017

The longer that state Treasurer Walker Stapleton waits before formally announcing his bid for governor of Colorado, the more he can help steer unlimited sums of money toward a super PAC-style group that is expected to provide his major funding during the campaign. It is a setup that watchdogs said could stretch the limits of the state’s election law, even as it projects Stapleton’s fundraising might. And it is another sign that the 2018 race to replace Gov. John Hickenlooper is likely to surpass spending records in Colorado’s gubernatorial elections.

Maryland: Marijuana Experts Scored Prospective Md. Pot Businesses. Some Had Ties to Them.
Washington Post – Fenit Nirappil and Aaron Gregg | Published: 7/30/2017

Several of the independent experts hired to review applications to open medical marijuana businesses in Maryland had ties to companies whose materials they reviewed. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission said it is investigating these potential conflicts of interest. The connections, which The Washington Post discovered after a public records request, raise new questions about how the state tried to avoid conflicts in setting up a legal marijuana industry where hundreds of businesses were competing intensely for a limited number of growing, processing, and selling licenses.

Missouri: Greitens Faces More ‘Dark Money’ Questions Over No-Bid Contract with Express Scripts
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 7/28/2017

When Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens issued an executive order creating a prescription drug monitoring program, he said his goal was to help combat the scourge of opioid addiction in the state. His critics quickly homed in on another detail: to start the program, Greitens’ administration was giving a no-bid contract  to Express Scripts, a St. Louis-based pharmacy benefits management company that donated an undisclosed amount of money to the governor’s inauguration. It has become a familiar accusation, one that has dogged Greitens throughout his nearly eight months in office – that secret campaign contributions could be influencing his actions. Critics say this is the unavoidable byproduct of the governor’s reliance on so-called dark money.

Missouri: Lobbyist Gifts Averaging $1,760 Per Missouri Lawmaker – Less Than Year Before
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock and Kelsey Ryan | Published: 8/3/2017

Lobbyists reported giving Missouri lawmakers and their staff members $347,368 in gifts from during the first six months of this year, which is less than the same period in 2016. Lobbyist gifts have declined every year since 2013. Observers point to numerous factors contributing to the decline, from increased public scrutiny on the practice to a series of embarrassing legislative scandals two years ago. Regardless of the reason, reform advocates say the drop is a sign that the tide is turning and lobbyist gifts are increasingly seen as a potential political liability.

Pennsylvania: Firms to Pay $9M to Feds to Resolve LCB Payola Case
PennLive.com – Mike Miller | Published: 7/27/2017

Four suppliers of alcohol to the state-owned system of liquor stores agreed to pay about $9 million in penalties for providing gifts to Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board officials. The U.S. attorney’s office in Harrisburg said the vendors, in turn, will not be prosecuted. Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits of Pennsylvania will pay $5 million for giving cash, all-expenses paid trips, and tickets to shows and sporting events to board officials from 2000 to 2012. Breakthru Beverage Pennsylvania, formerly Capital Wine and Spirits, and White Rock Distilleries will pay $2 million each for giving away gift cards, tickets, meals, and entertainment to the officials. Pio Imports will pay $200,000 for handing out gift cards to officials.

 

State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.