News You Can Use Digest – July 21, 2017

campaign finance, ethics, legislative issues, legislative sessions, lobbying, News You Can Use
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Federal:

Citing Recusal, Trump Says He Wouldn’t Have Hired Sessions
New York Times – Peter Baker, Michael Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman | Published: 7/19/2017

President Trump said the never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision “very unfair to the president.” Trump complained that Sessions’ decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel that should not have happened. In an interview with The New York Times, the president accused former FBI Director James Comey of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Trump also took on Robert Mueller, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Couple Wants to Make Lobbying Accessible and ‘Good’
Roll Call – Alex Gangitano | Published: 7/13/2017

Less than a year after their wedding, Billy and Callie DeLancey started Lobbyists 4 Good to give the public access to K Street lobbyists. The group uses a crowdfunding platform, which allows anyone to create advocacy campaigns around social issues they care about and start raising money. Anybody who creates a campaign and raises $31,000 within a year gets access to either a lobbyist or a lobbying firm on retainer for six months to work on the issue, or a partnership with other nonprofits in the field. “Long-term, we hope to see as many lobbyists working for the people as there are lobbyists working on behalf of the business community,” Billy DeLancey said.

FEC Contacts with IRS Broke No Rules, Report Says
Bloomberg BNA – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 7/19/2017

The FEC’s inspector general found that agency staffers contacted former IRS official Lois Lerner about tax-exempt groups involved in politics, but the contacts did not violate any rules and were not intended to target conservative groups. The conclusion contradicted suggestions by congressional Republicans and others that FEC and IRS staff deliberately targeted Tea Party and other conservative nonprofit groups. The controversy followed the release of a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which said certain political organizations, primarily conservative groups, received more scrutiny than others when applying for tax-exempt status.

Health Care Has G.O.P. Down. Tax Cuts May Be the Cure.
New York Times – Jeremy Peters | Published: 7/19/2017

With the collapse of the effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the Republican vision of enacting significant conservative reform fell victim to the intraparty division, dysfunction, and gridlock that one-party control had been expected to eliminate. Now, some of the conservative groups that helped the GOP win control of Washington are increasingly worried their party’s inability to pass ambitious legislation will imperil its chances in next year’s elections. Republicans fear they could be looking at a worst-of-two-worlds scenario in which they have a historically unpopular president dogged by persistent legal and ethical questions, at the same time they remain unable to restore a semblance of functionality to Capitol Hill.

Outgoing Ethics Chief: U.S. Is ‘Close to a Laughingstock’
New York Times – Eric Lipton and Nicholas Fandos | Published: 7/17/2017

The outgoing leader of the federal government’s ethics office warns in a new interview of the ethics crisis created by President Trump, saying he thinks the country is “pretty close to a laughingstock.” Walter Shaub Jr. said the Trump administration had flouted or directly challenged long-accepted norms in a way that threatened to undermine the United States’ ethical standards, which have been admired around the world. Shaub called for nearly a dozen legal changes to strengthen the federal ethics system – changes that, in many cases, he had not considered necessary before Trump’s election.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: Gov. Kay Ivey Bans Lobbyists from Executive Branch Appointments
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 7/13/2017

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey banned officials in the executive branch from appointing registered lobbyists to serve on state boards and commissions. In an executive order, Ivey said more than 100 registered lobbyists now serve on boards or commissions. The order says lobbyists represent the interests of their clients and employers, rather than the public. Ivey said that creates conflicts-of-interest and undermines the public’s confidence in the government.

California: What Happens to Local News When There Is No Local Media to Cover It?
Washington Post – Paul Farhi | Published: 7/17/2017

In many respects, East Palo Alto, California, is a “news desert,” a community overlooked, if not entirely ignored, by the media. It is one of thousands of towns across America in which community reporting is shrinking and sometimes disappearing. The biggest factor, according to study of the phenomenon, are cutbacks, consolidation, and closures of daily and weekly newspapers, the traditional lifeblood of local reporting in the U.S. The pressures on local news outlets have been building for years, driven by the recession and the disruption caused by the shift to digital media.

Colorado: What Does $80 Million Buy Oil and Gas Interests? Voter Profiles, Door Knocking and Influence at Local and Statewide Levels
Denver Post – Christopher Osher | Published: 7/16/2017

The oil and gas industry has spent more than $80 million in Colorado over the past four years to shape public opinion and influence campaigns and ballot initiatives. That political muscle came into play recently when the industry successfully lobbied to defeat legislation tightening regulations in the wake of a fatal home explosion investigators have blamed on a severed gas pipeline. The new approach has been broad, sustained, and effective in its reach, according to interviews and a review of industry documents, campaign finance records, and public remarks by an industry consultant who helped develop the strategy.

Florida: Corey’s Ties to Others in FBI Probe Run Deep
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 7/14/2017

Lobbyist and restaurateur Adam Corey has built a business and political portfolio that has seen its share of success and failure, even as it has drawn him deep into the circle of Tallahassee’s new generation of power elite. Those twin rails of ambition have also drawn Corey into the midst of an FBI probe of the city’s redevelopment agency and several other high-profile entrepreneurs it has done business with in the last five years. Front and center are Corey and former lobbying partner at Unconventional Strategies, Nick Lowe, who arranged meetings between city and county officials and three mysterious developers whom sources say are FBI undercover agents.

Illinois: Emanuel Email Case Nets Five More Lobbying Violations
Better Government Association – Jared Rutecki | Published: 7/19/2017

The Chicago Board of Ethics found that five more people who sought to influence City Hall by contacting Mayor Rahm Emanuel on his personal email broke the city’s lobbying laws. The board also leveled fines of $2,500 against an Emanuel campaign donor and the husband of a city council member that it had found illegally lobbied the mayor without being registered lobbyists. In addition, the board released a list of more than two-dozen lobbyists it said had failed to undergo required lobbyist training and could be subject to fines of up to $750 for every day they are in non-compliance.

New York: Airbnb Fights Back Against Lobby Groups, Demands Info on Their Funding Sources
New York Daily News – Kenneth Lovett | Published: 7/17/2017

The battle between Airbnb and its hotel industry-backed nemesis ShareBetter is intensifying. The hotel listing site plans to file a complaint with the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics alleging the advocacy group failed to register as a lobbyist. The move comes after it was reported that ShareBetter pays for spies who pose as Airbnb customers to expose illegal listings. Airbnb claims that the group failed to register as a lobbyist and disclose its funding and expenses, even though it is legally required to do so.

South Dakota: Revolving Door Rarely Swings for Lawmakers Returning as Lobbyists
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Dana Ferguson | Published: 7/17/2017

A review identified 14 former South Dakota legislators who made the jump to lobbyist since 2012 after serving in office between 2006 and 2017. Only four registered less than two years after vacating their legislative seats. Under a state law that took effect recently, the required waiting period was extended from one year to two. Supporters said the added buffer time was needed to prevent undue influence of lawmakers returning to lobby their peers. Meanwhile, lawmakers who transitioned to lobbyists more quickly said 12 months is enough of a time cushion.

 

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