News You Can Use Digest – December 1, 2017

campaign finance, elections, ethics, lobbying, News You Can Use
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National:

Gerrymandering Opponents Turn to Ballot Initiatives to Redraw Lines
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 11/28/2017

Advocates of radically overhauling partisan gerrymandering are increasingly looking to ballot initiatives to reform the redistricting process, in hopes of circumventing recalcitrant state Legislatures. Each initiative is unique to its own state, but all would strip the power to draw favorable district lines, the practice known as gerrymandering, from partisan lawmakers who zealously guard their ability to craft preferred terrain. Several national redistricting measures have been proposed in Congress, though none have gained traction.

Federal:

Foreign Lobbying Law Open to Exploitation
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 11/28/2017

People who work for foreign government clients are subject to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a World War II-era law. Requirements for FARA registration are broad, covering anyone who engages in lobbying or public relations for a foreign government-connected client. Communications with media, government officials and staff, and think tank experts must be disclosed every six months. But to a large extent, the foreign agent disclosure rules operate on what essentially amounts to an honor system. The FARA Unit in the National Security Division of the Justice Department is notoriously understaffed and underfunded despite being tasked with policing the hundreds of registrants who file, and those who do not.

Nevada Senator Wants to Close Tax Deduction Loophole for Lobbyists
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Gary Martin | Published: 11/28/2017

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto plans to file legislation that would close a loophole used by corporate lobbyists influencing policy on the local level. Under the current tax code, lobbyists and businesses are prohibited from deducting their expenses when they try to sway federal and local lawmakers. But those expenses are deductible when lobbying tribal, county, or local governments. Cortez Masto said her bill would end taxpayer subsidies for special interests “and closes a loophole that gives unnecessary tax breaks for lobbyists.”

Voters Lose Protest of Campaign-Contribution Ceilings
Courthouse News Service – Daniel Staples | Published: 11/29/2017

In a case brought by a Florida couple, a federal appeals court rejected a challenge to a campaign finance law that places limits on contributions in primary and general elections. In a lawsuit against the FEC, Laura Holmes and Paul Jost did not challenge the overall $5,200 contribution limit, but said they should have been able to write $5,200 checks to their candidates for the general election instead of splitting the amount between contributions for the primary and general elections. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the arguments.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: A Woman Approached The Post with Dramatic – and False – Tale About Roy Moore. She Appears to Be Part of Undercover Sting Operation.
Washington Post – Shawn Boburg, Aaron Davis, and Alice Crites | Published: 11/27/2017

The conservative organization Project Veritas, appears to have been get caught trying to pass false sexual misconduct allegations against Senate candidate Roy Moore to The Washington Post, extending its history of deploying deceptive tactics to try to ensnare news organizations in controversy. The Post reported that a woman who falsely told its reporters she had been impregnated by Moore as a teenager was seen entering the offices of Project Veritas in New York, seemingly tipping the group’s hand in its efforts to bait the newspaper into publishing uncorroborated accusations against Moore.

California: Adelanto Councilman’s Bribery Case Latest in Long History of City Corruption
San Bernardino Sun – Joe Nelson | Published: 11/24/2017

The city of Adelanto has dealt with scandals involving elected officials, members of its police force, and even an animal control supervisor. The U.S. Justice Department recently indicted Councilperson Jermaine Wright on charges of receiving a $10,000 bribe and attempting to burn down his restaurant to collect on a $300,000 insurance policy. The city’s remoteness, high poverty rate, and lack of government oversight all likely factor into its checkered past, said Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Connecticut: Campaign Finance Laws Changed in New Budget
Connectict Post – Ken Dixon | Published: 11/21/2017

Two provisions in the new state budget signed by Gov. Dannell Malloy may make it easier for those in wealthier districts to run for the Connecticut General Assembly while putting time constraints on election regulators whose staffs in recent years have been targeted for reductions. One new law raises individual contributions for legislative and top-of-the-ticket candidates to $250, instead of the $100 limit approved in the 2005 campaign finance law. Another change puts a one-year limit on State Election Enforcement Commission investigations.

Connecticut: Federal Judge Upholds Law Barring Ganim from Public Financing
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 11/29/2017

A federal judge dismissed Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim’s challenge to a Connecticut law that prevents him, as a politician convicted of corruption while in office, of obtaining public campaign financing. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shea rejected Ganim’s claim that the restriction violated his constitutional right to free speech by putting him at a disadvantage against gubernatorial opponents who qualify for millions of dollars in taxpayer money. Ganim was convicted in 2003 for his role in a scheme in which businesspeople paid millions of dollars for city contracts. He served more than seven years in prison. Upon his release, Ganim won a sixth term as Bridgeport’s mayor, a term he is still serving.

Idaho: Bill Would Revise Campaign-Finance Regulations
Idaho Mountain Express – Peter Jensen | Published: 11/29/2017

Idaho lawmakers will reconvene in January, and they will hear a proposal to increase the state’s disclosure requirements for candidates. It would require elected officials and candidates for state, county, and city offices to file disclosure forms that identify sources of income, investments, and properties. There are provisions that would include internet and social-media websites in the definition of electioneering communication. Donations in support of campaigns for lawmakers, judges, and city and county offices are capped at $1,000 for a primary election, and $1,000 for a general election. For statewide offices, that cap is raised to $5,000. A plan to extend lobbying disclosure requirements to local governments was rebuffed.

Indiana: Council OKs Bill Limiting Contributions
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 11/29/2017

The Fort Wayne City Council approved an ordinance that bars contractors from bidding on city projects if they contribute more than $2,000 a year to an elected official’s campaign. The proposal would inhibit any company or company employee who owns more than a seven-and-a-half percent stake, as well as their spouses and live-in children, from donating more than an aggregate $2,000 per calendar year to an elected city official’s re-election campaign. That means the limit during a typical four-year election cycle is $8,000. Mayor Tom Henry has expressed opposition to the proposal.

Massachusetts: Ethics Commission Investigating Altered State Police Report
Boston Globe – Andrea Estes | Published: 11/24/2017

The Massachusetts Ethics Commission is investigating why the former State Police colonel allowed the arrest report of a judge’s daughter to be altered. That scrubbed report led to the early retirements for the top two commanders of the State Police, as well as lawsuits filed by the two troopers who were asked to redact comments from the document. Anyone involved in changing the police report could face charges of violating the state conflict-of-interest law, which bars anyone from using an official position to get something for themselves or others that an ordinary person could not get.

New Mexico: Pearce Wins Court Order on Campaign Cash
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd and Dan McKay | Published: 11/28/2017

U.S. Rep. Rep. Steve Pearce won access to $1 million he raised while in Congress to use in his run for New Mexico governor. A federal judge blocked enforcement of limitations on campaign transfers from Pearce’s federal campaign account to a state one. The preliminary injunction gave Pearce access to the campaign funds while underlying issues are litigated. The secretary of state’s office has said only $11,000 can be transferred by Pearce, based on a New Mexico law that limits campaign contributions to $5,500 in a primary election and again in the general election. Attorneys for Pearce contend Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver misinterpreted state law, effectively violating Pearce’s constitutional rights to free speech under the First Amendment.

New York: JCOPE Chair: Lobbying regulations will carry force of law
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/28/2017

The acting chairperson of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) said “comprehensive lobbying regulations” crafted by its staff would indeed have the force and effect of law. The statement by Michael Rozen came after a hearing several weeks ago when JCOPE’s executive director, Seth Agata, had said a violation of the regulations “would not create a separate actionable violation of the law,” and were meant to “maximize guidance.”

Texas: What Do Clients Pay to Sway Austin City Council? Lobbyists Won’t Say.
Austin American-Statesman – Elizabeth Findell | Published: 11/29/2017

Regulations that took effect in June require lobbyists to disclose how much their clients are paying them to sway Austin officials, as they must report on the state and federal level. But at least 18 lobbyists who are also lawyers refused to complete the form on the grounds that their compensation is privileged attorney-client communication. The lobbyist reporting form asks for a ballpark range of payment. Their refusal to disclose compensation to City Hall appears to have been coordinated.

West Virginia: WV Chief Justice Has Court Employees Remove Missing Couch from His House
Charleston Gazette – Phil Kabler | Published: 11/28/2017

A day after The Charleston Gazette inquired about the whereabouts of a couch missing from West Virginia Supreme Court offices, Chief Justice Allen Loughry had court employees remove a leather couch from his home. Loughry said the couch was not state property and was purchased by late Justice Joe Albright, whose office Loughry took over when he was sworn in as a justice in December 2012. Loughry has been under fire for news reports regarding the Supreme Court spending $3.7 million to renovate offices, with expenses including a $32,000 couch and $7,500 floor medallion outlining the counties of the state in Loughry’s office.

 

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.