News You Can Use Digest – July 19, 2013

campaign finance, ethics, lobbying, News You Can Use
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News You Can Use

National:

Corruption-Rocked Rhode Island Tops Public Integrity List

Bloomberg News – Elise Young | Published: 7/16/2013

The Integrity Index, a report issued by the Better Government Association, analyzes laws from all 50 states in four categories: open meetings, freedom of information, whistleblower protection, and conflict-of-interest. This year, the association said Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Illinois, three states infamous for their history of corruption, have the strictest anti-corruption laws in the country.

Federal:

Lobbying Powerhouses Flexible on Billable Hour vs. Retainer

Corporate Counsel – Andrew Ramonas | Published: 7/16/2013

Large K Street firms have not followed Holland & Knight’s lead in essentially eliminating the billable hour in favor of retainers for its lobbying clients. W. Michael House, director of Hogan Lovell’s legislative group, said it would be imprudent not to promote both options for lobbying clients. “If you have a firm with a very large regulatory practice like we do, you have to offer both,” said House.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – Suit Aims to Block Hike in Campaign Contributions

Arizona Daily Sun – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 7/18/2013

A lawsuit filed with the Arizona Supreme Court aims to block the increase in campaign contribution limits passed by lawmakers in this year’s legislative session. The Citizens Clean Elections Commission wants to block House Bill 2593 from taking effect on September 13, saying quick action is needed before candidates get too deep into the campaign cycle.

California – In San Diego, Mayor Rejects Calls by Allies to Step Down

New York Times – Adam Nagourney | Published: 7/16/2013

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, facing calls for his resignation amid allegations he sexually harassed female staff members and constituents, adamantly refused to step down. Although Filner admitted to treating women on his staff poorly, he stopped short of admitting to harassment. He also promised to seek professional help and apologize to women he may have offended.

District of Columbia – Marion Barry Censured, Fined $13,600 for Accepting Gifts from Contractors

Washington Post – Mike DeBonis | Published: 7/11/2013

District of Columbia Council member Marion Barry was censured and fined $13,600 by the city’s ethics board for accepting cash gifts from two city contractors. Barry also appeared to have violated the council’s code of conduct by voting on matters involving the contractors without disclosing the gifts.

Georgia – Ga. Limit on Lobbying Gifts Doesn’t Apply to All

San Francisco Chronicle – Ray Henry (Associated Press) | Published: 7/13/2013

Shortly after taking office in 2011, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order saying executive branch employees should not accept gifts worth more than $25. But lobbyists have spent more than $25 on executive branch employees more than 150 times through June, totaling nearly $17,000.

Hawaii – Probe Targets State Officials for Receiving Free Golf

Hawaii News Now – Rick Daysog | Published: 7/11/2013

State employees and legislators receiving free golf perks from companies that do business with the state is being investigated by the Hawaii Ethics Commission. The probe is still in the early stages, but the agency found the problem appears to be so common that it issued a warning to tens of thousands of state workers reaffirming the practice violates the ethics code.

Illinois – Cook County Board Approves $529,000 for Patronage Case

Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 7/17/2013

Cook County taxpayers will be on the hook for $529,000 to be paid to 11 employees who were fired for unlawful political reasons by Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios after he took office in 2010. A federally appointed monitor assigned to sift through alleged violations of the Shakman Decree, which bans political hiring and firing for certain positions, decided the claims by the 11 former employees were legitimate, and the county board approved the payment.

Nebraska – Group Wants Legislative Clerk Out of Booking Process for Lawmakers Fundraisers

Lincoln Journal Star – Kevin O’Hanlon | Published: 7/18/2013

Nebraska Common Cause is criticizing private fundraising events held for state lawmakers while the Legislature is in session. The watchdog group released a report that identified 19 state lawmakers who participated in breakfast, lunch, and dinner events sponsored by lobbyists this year. Common Cause said Nebraska should join 29 other states that have banned in-session fundraisers, or at least lower the disclosure requirement to $100.

New Mexico – Investment Agency Reaches Settlement with Advisory Firm That Was Sued in Pay-to-Play Lawsuit

Columbus Republic – Barry Massey (Associated Press) | Published: 7/15/2013

The State Investment Council agreed to drop its legal claims against a now defunct investment firm in exchange for a $643,000 settlement. Aldus Equity Partners was sued for steering government investment business to political supporters of former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. The proposed settlement must be approved by a state court.

Ohio – Commissioner Casts Deciding Vote to Hire Relative

Elyria Chronicle-Telegram – Brad Dicken | Published: 7/16/2013

Although Ohio’s nepotism laws typically bar government officials from being involved in the hiring of close family members, Lorain County Commissioner Lori Kokoski voted hire her half-brother to work at the Charles Berry Bascule Bridge, which the county oversees. Kokoski said she was adopted as a young child into a different family than Edward Mervis and a county attorney’s opinion was the adoption effectively severed the familial ties that would have prevented her from voting.

Pennsylvania – Judge Sends 6 Pa. Turnpike Defendants to Trial

Philadelphia Inquirer – Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 7/16/2013

Former state Sen. Robert Mellow and five others charged with rigging bids for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission will face trial later this year. Prosecutors allege turnpike officials and vendors were directed to raise campaign money for state officials and vendors lavished some with gifts. Officials steered contracts to companies that donated money or gifts, said prosecutors.

South Carolina – State Ethics Agency Fines SC Governor

The State – Adam Beam and Andrew Shaw | Published: 7/16/2013

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley agreed to pay a $3,500 fine for not properly identifying all donors to her 2010 campaign. Haley also agreed to forward money from eight donors, totaling nearly $4,200, to the Children’s Trust Fund and reimburse the state Ethics Commission $2,000 for its investigation. State law requires campaigns to know the names and addresses of all donors before depositing their checks, and to report them as part of their on-line disclosures.

Tennessee – For What it’s Worth: Campfield has fun with campaign disclosure form

Knoxville News Sentinel – Tom Humphrey | Published: 7/17/2013

Tennessee Sen. Stacey Campfield listed former Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale as giving a $1,000 in-kind contribution to his re-election campaign. Campfield said he did so because Ragsdale had given money to Richard Briggs, the senator’s opponent in the 2014 Republican primary. According to Campfield, that cash donation helped his campaign because people would be less likely to vote for Briggs if they knew Ragsdale supported him.

Virginia – Cuccinelli Broke No Laws in Late Filings, Prosecutor Says

Richmond Times-Dispatch – Jim Nolan | Published: 7/18/2013

An investigation has cleared Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of criminal wrongdoing for failing to promptly report thousands of dollars in personal gifts he received on his required state economic interest statements. Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor, omitted more than $13,000 worth of gifts from his state disclosure forms for a period of four years. He amended his filings from 2009 through 2012 in April, saying he simply overlooked the gifts earlier.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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