News You Can Use Digest – October 13, 2017

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

How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore and Daisuke Wakabayashi | Published: 10/9/2017

A New York Times examination of hundreds of Facebook posts shows one of the most powerful weapons that Russian agents used to reshape American politics was the anger, passion, and misinformation that real Americans were broadcasting across social media platforms. Some posts on the Russian pages used stilted language or phrases rarely found in American English. Yet their use of borrowed ideas and arguments from Americans, which were already resonating among conservatives and liberals, demonstrated a deft understanding of the political terrain.

Why Some Campaign Contributions Get Returned
Center for Responsive Politics – Andrew Mayersohn | Published: 10/10/2017

Refunds of campaign contributions are not rare, and most are not particularly scandalous. Losing campaigns often give back their leftover funds, although they are not legally obligated to. The issue came to the fore recently when Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. returned a $32,000 contribution from Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, who made the donation after Vance decided not to pursue a fraud investigation against Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. At least a dozen Democrats have refunded or donated to charity contributions from media mogul Harvey Weinstein following reports alleging decades of sexual harassment.

Federal:

Trump Supporters Eager to ‘Drain the Swamp’ Help Fill Republican Party Coffers
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 10/6/2017

Prodded by emails from President Trump urging them to fight “a weak and self-serving political class,” and angered by the sense the president is being treated unfairly, thousands of his loyal backers are helping redefine a party that has long cultivated rich donors, one small contribution at a time. In giving to support Trump, his backers are pouring tens of millions of dollars into the coffers of the Republican National Committee (RNC), which has raised more from small-dollar contributions at this point in the election cycle than the national party has collected in more than a decade. The low-dollar donations are helping fuel a massive fundraising advantage for the RNC, which has pulled in nearly twice as much as its Democratic counterpart this year.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: Undisclosed Deal Guaranteed Roy Moore $180,000 a Year for Part-Time Work at Charity
Washington Post – Shawn Boburg and Robert O’Harrow Jr. | Published: 10/11/2017

Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, arranged to receive a salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work at the Foundation for Moral Law. A review of documents found errors and gaps in the group’s federal tax filings obscured until now the compensation paid to Moore. The charity helped Moore thrive, financially and otherwise, after his ouster from the court in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a courthouse. Charity and tax law specialists said the nonprofit’s activities raised questions about compliance with IRS rules, including prohibitions on the use of a charity for the private benefit or enrichment of an individual.

California: Big Oil Pulls Democratic Lawmakers Through the Revolving Door
CALmatters – Lauren Rosenhall | Published: 10/9/2017

Sacramento is full of termed-out or retired lawmakers who make second careers as lobbyists, strolling through a “revolving door” between government and the private sector. After failing last year to prevent a new law requiring massive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, the oil industry came back this year lobbying hard. The industry’s goal was to shape the next phase of cap and trade through 2030. And it had hired four former lawmakers to advocate on its behalf. Two are from Kern County, the biggest oil producer in California. And three quit their elective office mid-term to work for industry.

California: Who’s Behind That Political Ad? Voters Will Know More in 2018
Sacramento Bee – Taryn Luna | Published: 10/7/2017

An effort to give Californians more information about the biggest donors to ballot measure campaigns was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a major victory for groups that insist the current system fails to help voters make an informed choice. The law will simplify the wording on political advertisements that discloses the top three donors of $50,000 or more to a campaign. It also changes existing state regulations on when and how to disclose “earmarked” donations in campaign finance reports, donations that are bundled together by a group such as a labor union or other membership organization.

Colorado: A New Colorado School Board Campaign Finance Law Is Having Unintended Impacts on Big-Ticket 2018 Races
Denver Post – Jesse Paul | Published: 10/10/2017

A new campaign finance law for Colorado school board races is causing headaches for candidates in the state’s top-line elections in 2018, from governor to attorney general and beyond, by requiring them to effectively file daily contribution reports more than eight months before their primary contests. State lawmakers last year passed legislation meant to make public last-minute contributions flowing into Colorado’s off-year school board races by requiring candidates to disclose contributions of $1,000 or more within 24 hours starting a month from the election. But House Bill 1282 accidentally applied the requirements to statewide races.

Florida: An Exodus from Puerto Rico Could Remake Florida Politics
New York Times – Michael Tackett | Published: 10/6/2017

Every day, Puerto Ricans flee their homes and lives ravaged by Hurricane Maria and come to Florida. That could remake politics in the state, where the last two presidential and governor’s races were decided by roughly one percentage point or less. There are more than a million Puerto Ricans in Florida, a number that has doubled since 2001, driven largely until now by a faltering economy. But their political powers have evolved slowly in this state, and the wave of potential voters from the island could quickly change that calculus. If the estimates hold, the Puerto Rican vote, which has been strongly Democratic, could have rough parity with the Cuban vote in the state, for years a bulwark for Republicans in both state and national races.

Florida: Governance Was Focus of 2010 Miami-Dade Ethics Probe
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 10/7/2017

An ethics probe in South Florida involving Tallahassee Commissioner Scott Maddox and his close friend Paige Carter-Smith found insufficient evidence of wrongdoing but unveiled plenty of political drama and some of the inner workings of their government consulting work. Among other things, the investigation, conducted in 2010, revealed that Maddox’s official residence was used for some time as a crash pad for visiting politicians, who called it “Governance House.” It also showed blurry lines between Carter-Smith’s Governance Services firm and Governance, Inc., the firm Maddox sold to her in 2010 in a handwritten note.

Florida: St. Petersburg Council Acts to Limit Big Money in City Elections
Tampa Bay Times – Charlie Frago | Published: 10/5/2017

The St. Petersburg City Council voted to become a pioneer in local campaign finance reform and likely invited a legal challenge that could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Council members passed an ordinance that limits contributions to PACs from individuals to $5,000, and bans donations from companies that are more than five percent foreign owned. Violators would be fined $500. City Attorney Joe Patner has warned the council that if they passed the proposal, they would face immediate court action. The ordinance takes effect in January 2018.

Georgia: Atlanta Contractors Get Prison Time in Contract Bribery Case
Bryan-College Station Eagle – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 10/10/2017

A federal judge gave prison sentences to two contractors for their role in a bribery scheme at Atlanta City Hall. E.R. Mitchell and Charles Richards both admitted to paying money to win city contracts. Mitchell gave more than $1 million in bribes and was sentenced to five years in prison. He will pay $1.12 million in restitution. Richards received a sentence of 27 months in prison and was ordered to pay $193,000 in restitution. The city’s former chief procurement officer, Adam Smith, pleaded guilty to conspiratorial bribery and is set to be sentenced in January. Prosecutors say Smith accepted bribes to give contracts to an unnamed vendor.

New Mexico: New Rule on Political Spending Takes Effect
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 10/10/2017

New disclosure rules for political spending took effect October 10 in New Mexico that require independent groups that spend heavily to influence the outcome of elections to name their contributors, under certain circumstances. The rules were designed by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to help voters understand which individuals and special interests are paying for political advertising outside of direct campaigning by candidates. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allows donors to give as much as they would like as long as candidates are not controlling how the money gets spent.

Oklahoma: Speakers Criticize Plan to Put Restrictions on Lawmakers, State Employees Who Want to Go into Lobbying
Tulsa World – Barbara Hoberock | Published: 10/5/2017

A proposed rule that would prohibit state lawmakers and employees from serving as a lobbyist or consultant for two years after they leave any state post was criticized at a recent public hearing before the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Rep. John Enns said the Capitol has lost institutional knowledge due to term limits. If restrctions are placed on lawmakers who become lobbyists, it could slow down the Legislature’s work due to a shortage of people with experience with the process, Enns said. Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said the measure’s language may be modified.

South Carolina: Who Wins When Power Companies Make Political Contributions? The Lawmakers Who Police Utilities
The State – Avery Wilks | Published: 10/7/2017

Power companies have contributed at least $294,000 since 2005 to the campaigns of a handful of South Carolina lawmakers who help choose the watchdogs that oversee those utilities. The volume of the donations flowing to members of the legislatively controlled Public Utilities Review Committee is another sign South Carolina’s regulatory system is broken, critics say, noting the $1.7 billion that one utility was allowed to charge its customers for a failed nuclear construction project in Fairfield County. One House member said he soon will file a proposal to block regulated utilities from donating to campaigns of state-level candidates, including the lawmakers who decide who polices those utilities.

Texas: Texas AG Ken Paxton Faces New Investigation Under Bribery Statute over $100K Gift
Dallas News – Lauren McGaughy | Published: 10/5/2017

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is under investigation for accepting $100,000 from the head of a company that was being investigated for fraud, and a decision on whether to pursue bribery-related charges is expected soon. The money, part of almost $548,000 Paxton has collected to help pay for his legal defense against felony charges that he defrauded investors in private business deals in 2011, came from James Webb, president of Preferred Imaging. Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Wiley said she has been investigating whether accepting Webb’s donation violated state bribery laws that limit gifts from people subject to the “jurisdiction” of a public servant.

 

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.