News You Can Use Digest – September 6, 2013

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

National:

Battle over Dark Money Takes Many Forms on State Level

Sunlight Foundation – Peter Olsen-Phillips | Published: 9/5/2013

A Sunlight Foundation survey found dozens of laws that passed or are pending in state Legislatures addressing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling. The foundation said while few bills have made it into law so far, the legislation that has been introduced suggests widespread interest in improving transparency at the state level.

Federal:

Feds Could Allow Bitcoin Campaign Donations

Politico – Byron Tau | Published: 9/4/2013

The FEC may determine rules governing donations made in Bitcoins and how they apply to campaigns. Lawyers for Conservative Action Fund PAC asked the agency decide if candidates and outside groups are allowed to accept the digital currency, in addition to U.S. dollars. Bitcoin, which allows for anonymous, encrypted digital transactions, has come under fire from regulators who worry about the lack of oversight and the currency’s potential use in crime.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alaska – Alaska Town Roots for Feline Mayor Attacked by Dog

Houston Chronicle – Rachel D’Oro (Associated Press) | Published: 9/5/2013

The honorary mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska is in bad shape after being attacked by a dog. Stubbs the cat made it to the mayor’s office through a write-in campaign. He has held the honorary position for more than 15 years. His election earned him enough press to catapult the town at the base of Mount McKinley into a tourist destination.

California – California Republicans Thrive at the Local Level

Los Angeles Times – Mark Barabak | Published: 9/3/2013

Over the last two decades, California has become a Democratic fortress, beyond the GOP’s reach in presidential campaigns and all but hopeless in statewide contests. At the local level, the picture is quite different. Despite the Democrats’ sizable statewide registration advantage, Republicans hold close to half the 2,500 mayoral and city council seats in California.

California – New Rules Give Daily Updates on Money in Mayor’s Race

San Diego Union Tribune – Craig Gustafson | Published: 9/4/2013

New rules in San Diego require any campaign contribution of $1,000 or more be disclosed within 24 hours during the 90-day period before an election. That is an expansion from the earlier state law that mandated such disclosures in the final 16 days of a race. The change will be in effect for the November 19 special election for mayor.

Colorado – In Colorado Recall Law, Victory for Incumbents Means Cash Refunds

Denver Post – Kurtis Lee | Published: 9/3/2013

If Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron win their recall elections, Colorado law provides that incumbents can collect up to 10 cents per vote. Morse and Giron, who face recalls for their support of gun laws passed this year by the Legislature, would have 60-days after the date of the recall election to file a request with the state.

Florida – Top Florida Senate Aide Gets $400,000 as Moonlighting Political Consultant

Tampa Bay Times – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 8/31/2013

For three years, Chris Clark took a leave of absence from his job as a legislative staff member when the session ended and went to work as Florida Senate President Don Gaetz’s campaign manager, and earned more than $400,000. The lucrative arrangement underscores the financial ties special interests have with the Legislature as staff often cycle in and out of government and the private sector, developing relationships with the lobbyists who have a financial stake in influencing them.

Kentucky – Ex-Hoops Star Reaches Plea Deal, Could Get 2 Years

Kansas City Star – Roger Alford (Associated Press) | Published: 9/5/2013

Former Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer entered into agreements with federal and state prosecutors, as well as the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, that would resolve all charges against him. He will plead guilty to two counts and receive a sentence in the range of 21 to 27 months. Farmer had faced a five-count federal indictment for misusing state resources. He also faced a 42-count charge brought by the commission.

Massachusetts – Former Mass. LG Fined for Campaign Violations

Boston Globe – Bob Salsberg (Associated Press) | Published: 8/29/2013

Timothy Murray agreed to pay $80,000 to settle charges he collected illegal campaign contributions raised by two public officials, capping a controversy that derailed the former Massachusetts lieutenant governor’s political career. Murray collected tens of thousands of dollars in donations solicited by former Chelsea Housing Authority Executive Director Michael McLaughlin, who was indicted for several campaign finance violations, including unlawful solicitation by a public employee.

New Jersey – Birdsall Services Group Ordered to Pay $1 Million after Pleading Guilty to Making Illegal Campaign Contributions

Bergen Record – Abbott Koloff | Published: 8/31/2013

Birdsall Services Group was ordered to $1 million in criminal penalties for making illegal campaign contributions that violated New Jersey’s “pay-to-play” law. The engineering firm is prohibited from working on government contracts in New Jersey for 10 years. Birdsall ceased operating after it declared bankruptcy earlier this year and sold its assets to a California company.

New Mexico – Judge Strikes Down City Ban on Corporate Gifts

Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 9/5/2013

U.S. District Court Judge M. Christine Armijo ruled Albuquerque’s ban on corporate campaign contributions is unconstitutional. Armijo did not explicitly address a companion prohibition that covers donations from city contractors. Her earlier decisions, however, restricted the scope of that ban.

Oklahoma – Oklahoma Ethics Commission Seeks Clearer Rules

Enid News & Eagle – Dale Denwalt | Published: 8/30/2013

Oklahoma Ethics Commission Director Lee Slater said a rewrite of the rules governing lobbying and campaign finance is on schedule. Slater said the first set of draft rules, dealing primarily with administrative matters, will be posted soon. Additional draft guidelines will be posted around the first of October and the first of November. The commission expects to vote on a final draft in January. Those rules will become effective 90 days after adoption unless they are rejected by the Legislature.

South Carolina – Leadership Positions Pay Off in Legislature

The State – Jamie Self | Published: 9/1/2013

Climbing the leadership ladder in the South Carolina General Assembly pays fundraising dividends for powerful lawmakers, according to campaign finance reports. A review by The State found contributions increased substantially for six members elevated to powerful leadership roles in the committees that oversee state spending and laws, and the Legislature’s political caucuses.

Texas – Eluding Big Ethics Fines

San Antonio Express-News – David Saleh Rauf | Published: 9/1/2013

The Texas Ethics Commission, when challenged in court, rarely walks away with the fine it originally levied. Experts point to the appeals process, which the commission and some lawmakers argue undermines the agency’s enforcement muscle. Since 1992, the commission has been challenged four times in court and forced to settle for reduced penalties in three cases.

Virginia – Study Highlights Check-Splitting in Va. Gift Reporting

Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 8/28/2013

Lobbyists who entertain state officials in Virginia often report each meal as a gift provided by multiple clients. Spreading entertainment costs across multiple clients also understates the value of gifts provided to legislators, who base their disclosure reports on gift summaries that lobbyists provide at the end of the year. Although the practice is not necessarily intended to dodge reporting requirements, it is drawing more scrutiny.

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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