News You Can Use Digest – September 29, 2017

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

GOP Governors Launch a ‘News’ Website with a Mission to Get Themselves Elected
Business Insider – Bill Barrow (Associated Press) | Published: 9/19/2017

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected. The RGA describes the website as routine political communication. Critics say it pushes the limits of honest campaign tactics in an era of increasingly partisan media and a proliferation of “fake news” sites.

Your Favorite Companies May Be Political Black Boxes
Center for Public Integrity – Lateshia Beachum | Published: 9/26/2017

A new study on corporate disclosure and accountability showed a slight dip in the number of companies that disclosed some or all their election-related spending, or banned such spending altogether. The study also revealed a trend toward more managerial and board oversight of political spending and more disclosure or prohibition of campaign donations. Scores were calculated based on 24 indicators that range from whether a company publicly discloses corporate contributions to political committees and organizations, including politically active nonprofit organizations that do not themselves disclose their donors, to whether it posts a detailed report of its corporate political spending on its website.

Federal:

At Least 6 White House Advisers Used Private Email Accounts
New York Times – Matt Apuzzo and Maggie Haberman | Published: 9/25/2017

At least six members of President Trump’s White House have used private email addresses while conducting government business. Current and former officials say former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former chief strategist Stephen Bannon, and current advisers Gary Cohn and Stephen Miller sent or received government-related emails on personal email accounts, in addition to two staffers who were previously reported. The news follows reports that senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has used a private email for White House business, and that Ivanka Trump used a personal email account to communicate with a member of the administration.

Ethics Office: Anonymous gifts to legal defense funds are not allowed
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 9/28/2017

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) clarified its policy on legal defense funds, stating that anonymous contributions should not be accepted. The announcement comes after a report that suggested the OGE was departing from internal policy regarding the donations, paving the way for federal officials to accept anonymous donations from otherwise prohibited groups, such as lobbyists, to offset their legal bills. The White House has said it would not allow an employee to receive anonymous donations should someone set up a legal defense funds.

Russian Operatives Used Facebook Ads to Exploit Divisions Over Black Political Activism and Muslims
Washington Post – Adam Entous, Craig Timberg, and Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 9/25/2017

The batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook is preparing to turn over to Congress shows a deep understanding of social divides in American society, with some ads promoting African-American rights groups including Black Lives Matter and others suggesting these same groups pose a rising political threat. The Russian campaign, taking advantage of Facebook’s ability to simultaneously send contrary messages to different groups of users based on their political and demographic characteristics. These targeted messages highlight the sophistication of an influence campaign slickly crafted to mimic and infiltrate U.S. political discourse while also seeking to heighten tensions between groups already wary of one another.

Skadden, Big New York Law Firm, Faces Questions on Work with Manafort
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Andrew Kramer | Published: 9/21/2017

The U.S. Justice Department asked a prestigious law firm for documents and information related to its work for deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, on whose behalf Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairperson, also worked. The New York Times reported that the Justice Department asked Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for information and documents relevant to its work on Yanukovych’s behalf. Tt was not clear whether the request was related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which has focused in recent months on Manafort.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona: 116 Arizona Lobbyists Could Face Attorney General Investigation
Arizona Republic – Alia Beard Rau | Published: 9/22/2017

The Arizona secretary of state’s office referred 116 lobbyists to the state attorney general after they did not file the 2017 second-quarter expenditure reports required under state law. The reports provide details about which public official the lobbyist spent money on, what was paid for, and which company benefited. The reports were due by July 31. If they do not comply, the lobbyists can face fines up to $1,000 each. Records indicate many of the lobbyists on the list are not active. Matt Roberts, a spokesperson for the secretary of state, said inactive lobbyists still must file reports if they were active during that reporting period.

California: Anaheim’s Lobbyist Sunshine Ordinance Will Be Largely Self-Enforced
Voice of OC – Thy Vo | Published: 9/20/2017

New restrictions on lobbyists now are in effect in Anaheim, although enforcement of the law will be largely self-reported. The city attorney will not be proactively questioning whether certain employees and contractors are in compliance with the law, said city spokesperson Mike Lyster. Instead, council members or city commissioners can request the city clerk to determine whether someone is a lobbyist and needs to register. Lobbyists are required to register within 15 days after any lobbying activity. The first quarterly report is not due until January 2018.

Illinois: Lobbying Is All in the Zalewski Family
Chicago City Wire – W.J. Kennedy | Published: 9/26/2017

In an era in which states are barring politicians from lobbying their former colleagues until after a waiting period, an investigation found three current elected officials in Illinois working as lobbyists. And it is legal. Chicago Alderman Michael Zalewski lobbies the Legislature with the Z Consulting Group. Zalewski’s son is a representative who by all appearances lobbies the city of Chicago through the law firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister. State Sen. Toi Hutchinson is registered in Cook County in her role as director of community relations and social responsibility for the law firm of Chapman and Cutler.

Maine: Lawmakers Make Case That Maine’s Initiative Process Is Being Gamed
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 9/25/2017

Lawmakers on the Government Oversight Committee made the case that Maine’s initiative process is being gamed, and pointed to a flow chart showing a dizzying array of out-of-state and overseas entities with ties to the casino referendum on the November ballot. The committee said it is still gathering facts and has not launched a formal investigation into the ballot question campaign, but lawmakers on the panel said they were concerned the casino ballot question and several others in recent years were not the work of Maine citizens, but stemmed from out-of-state interests looking to cash in on the state’s citizen initiative process.

Maryland: Maryland Lobbyist Pleads Guilty to Bribing Lawmaker to Help with Prince George’s Liquor Licenses
Washington Post – Drew Gerber | Published: 9/22/2017

A Maryland lobbyist has pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge. Matthew Gorman pleaded guilty to paying then-Prince George’s County Councilperson William Campos $2,000 in 2013 for writing a letter to the county’s liquor board recommending a business receive a license. Gorman faces up to 10 years in prison. Campos, a former state delegate, pleaded guilty to accepting $40,000 to $50,000 from people for official actions while he was on the council. Eight people have been charged in the probe, including former Del. Michael Vaughn.

Missouri: Ethics Panel Fines Adviser to Missouri Mega Donor at Center of Pay-to-Play Allegations
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 9/27/2017

The Missouri Ethics Commission and a political consultant agreed to a consent order that involved the man’s failure to register as a legislative lobbyist over the last two years. The consultant, Paul Mouton, agreed to pay a fee of $2,000, with all but $200 stayed if he follows other provisions of the order. The order instructs Mouton to register as a lobbyist and file necessary disclosure reports.

New Mexico: Did Gov. Susana Martinez Break SEC Rules in New Mexico Pension Deals?
International Business Times – David Sirota, Josh Keefe, and Andrew Perez | Published: 9/20/2017

With New Mexico reeling from an influence-peddling scandal involving state investments in 2010, voters elected a new governor promising a swift crackdown. But as Gov. Susana Martinez’s second term draws to a close, an investigation shows that when it comes to campaign cash from managers of state investments, Martinez turned a blind eye to the ethical standards she championed. During her tenure, New Mexico has been giving lucrative investment deals to financial firms whose executives have delivered big campaign donations to Martinez and to groups that have supported her election campaigns, a situation that may have violated the very “pay-to-play” rules that were passed in the wake of the previous scandals.

New York: Dean Skelos Has Conviction Overturned; Prosecutors Will Pursue Retrial
Albany Times Union – Staff | Published: 9/26/2017

A federal appeals court overturned the bribery and other convictions of former New York Sen. Dean Skelos, asserting jurors were wrongly instructed in the case based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that narrowed what constitutes public corruption. The appeals court also vacated the convictions of Skelos’s son, Adam. Dean Skelos, prosecutors said, targeted businesses that depended on state help either through legislation or contracts and forced them to pay his son hundreds of thousands of dollars for jobs where he did not actually have to work. Federal prosecutors have vowed to promptly pursue retrials.

Ohio: BlackRock Executive’s Kasich Donation May Cost $37 Million
Bloomberg.com – Miles Weiss | Published: 9/25/2017

A senior BlackRock executive donated to an unsuccessful U.S. presidential candidate last year, an action that may prohibit the world’s largest asset manager from collecting some fees from the state of Ohio. Mark Wiedman, a BlackRock senior managing director, gave $2,700 to the presidential campaign of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was seeking the Republican Party nomination. Federal securities rules prohibit companies or their executive officers from contributing to government officials who could influence the hiring of a fund manager or have authority to appoint a person who could do so and then providing asset management services to their governments for a fee. The ban is in effect for two years after the contribution is made. The state of Ohio uses BlackRock-managed funds.

 

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