April 12, 2019 •
News You Can Use Digest – April 11, 2019
You Elected Them to Write New Laws. They’re Letting Corporations Do It Instead.
USA Today – Rob O’Dell (Arizona Republic) and Mark Penzenstadler | Published: 4/4/2019
A two-year investigation reveals for the first time the extent to which special interests have infiltrated state Legislatures using model legislation. USA Today and The Arizona Republic found at least 10,000 bills almost entirely copied from model legislation were introduced nationwide in the past eight years, and more than 2,100 of those bills were signed into law. In all, these copycat bills amount to?the nation’s largest, unreported special-interest campaign, driving agendas in every statehouse and touching nearly every area of public policy. For lawmakers, copying model legislation is an easy way to get fully formed bills to put their names on, while building relationships with lobbyists and other potential campaign donors.
Courts Have No Say When FEC Wants to Ignore Alleged Wrongdoing
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 4/5/2019
A decision by two federal judges is making it impossible to challenge the way the FEC enforces campaign laws. When the agency deadlocks along party lines, that is now the end of the line, no court can second-guess letting an accused wrongdoer off the hook. Judicial review was eliminated last June by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Critics of that ruling have waited for the better part of year to find out if they would be allowed to argue before the full court on reversing that precedent. Many FEC enforcement complaints have been dismissed on party-line votes, with Democrats voting to pursue action and Republicans opposed.
Democrats Are Cozying Up to Corporate Lobbyists Despite Purity Pledges
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 4/8/2019
Some Democratic lawmakers who have promised to steer clear of campaign donations from corporate PACs are allowing the same corporations’ lobbyists to write them personal checks, and in some cases even host fundraisers for them. Democrats on K Street are frustrated by what they view as arbitrary restrictions on which kinds of money lawmakers will take and which kinds are forbidden, according to interviews. Democrats’ rush to reject corporate PAC money falls heaviest on in-house Democratic lobbyists for big corporations. Some of those lobbyists have found it harder to mingle with House Democrats when they cannot attend fundraisers by writing a corporate PAC check to get in the door.
Scant Staffing Means Few Monitoring Whether Lobbyists Obey Law
Bloomberg Government – Megan Wilson | Published: 4/9/2019
In 2016, enforcement of the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) was handled by six part-time Justice Department lawyers and one full-time paralegal. Two years later, that work was being done by a much smaller staff: one part-time lawyer, one full-time paralegal, and one part-time paralegal. There has not been an enforcement action for an LDA violation in four years, and since the law was enacted in 1995, there have been a total of nine civil enforcement actions. For firms that want to stay on the right side of the law, “the lack of lawyers in the office has complicated matters when there are tricky legal issues to be resolved,” said Caleb Burns, a partner at Wiley Rein.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama: Ward: Bill allowing lobbyist gifts to lobbyists ‘dead’ in his committee
Montgomery Advertiser – Brian Lyman | Published: 4/10/2019
The Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee delayed a vote on a proposed bill that critics say would represent a major step back from ethics laws passed in 2010. The legislation’s sponsor, Sen. Greg Albritton, argued Senate Bill 230 would provide clarity by providing better definitions, explicit lines of enforcement and punishments for transgressions, and disclosures of gifts from lobbyists to officials. But the bill would lift any limits on what lobbyists could give to officials, provided they do not do so with corrupt intent. It also curtails the Alabama Ethics Commission’s ability to refer complaints to the attorney general’s office. “This bill is dead in my committee as far as I am concerned,” Judiciary Committee Chairperson Cam Ward wrote in a text.
California: To Block California Soda Taxes, Companies Paid for ‘Black Panther’ Tickets, Fancy Dinners
Los Angeles Times – Samantha Young (California Healthline) | Published: 4/7/2019
Dinners at an expensive restaurant in Maui, with ocean views. Tickets to professional sports games. A free screening of “Black Panther” at a Sacramento IMAX theater. And a $250,000 donation to a group that funds the governor’s travel. That is a sampling of the $11.8 million that soft drink companies and their lobbyists spent at the state and local levels in the past two years in California to block proposals such as taxing sugary beverages and imposing health warnings on their drinks, an analysis found. The beverage industry, like other interest groups, spends money to influence lawmakers in several ways. It makes financial contributions to their campaigns and lobbies them and their staffs, sometimes plying them with meals, events, and travel. It also donates to charities in lawmakers’ names.
Georgia: Georgia Ethics Chief to Issue Subpoenas in Investigation of Abrams Gubernatorial Campaign
The Hill – Zach Budryk | Published: 4/11/2019
David Emadi, the new executive secretary of the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission, will subpoena bank records from 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ campaign. Emadi said he will also soon make a decision on whether to charge campaigns of Atlanta mayoral candidates for campaign finance fraud. Emadi replaced Stefan Ritter, who was accused of watching pornography at work and telling staff not to pursue potential campaign finance violations by candidates for city and statewide office. Ritter resigned in February.
Michigan: Mayor Mike Duggan Set Her Up to Succeed. That Raises Questions.
Detroit Free Press – Joe Guillen and Kat Stafford | Published: 4/4/2019
A charitable program run by a woman with close ties to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan received $358,000 in city grants and benefited from a fundraising campaign that a top city official spearheaded at the mayor’s direction. An email request shows Duggan ordered the city’s chief development officer to raise money for Make Your Date, which is a nonprofit medical organization where Dr. Sonia Hassan serves as president and director. Hassan was seen last year arriving after hours at the same suburban residence as Duggan in a surveillance video taken by a private investigator. The city’s financial support, attempted fundraising campaign, and Duggan’s repeated promotion of Make Your Date raises ethics questions about whether the mayor used city resources to benefit Hassan’s program.
Mississippi: Other States Ban Gifts to Lawmakers. Why Doesn’t Mississippi?
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Luke Ramseth and Geoff Pender | Published: 4/9/2019
There are no restrictions on gifts from lobbyists to Mississippi lawmakers. A newspaper’s investigation found the state’s public universities alone spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on gifts for public officials from 2015 to 2018, including more than $200,000 in free sports tickets. In the 1990s, the Legislature passed a bill that required lobbyists and their clients to regularly report expenditures to the secretary of state. The reporting requirements caused lobbyists to “reign in” their spending some, said former legislator John Reeves, but it remains hard to tell if reporting now is honest and accurate. It not clear whether anyone in state government keeps a close eye on the lobbyist reports. Some contain errors, and most provide only vague details about what gifts were purchased.
Missouri: Appeals Court Upholds Joyce Ruling – Corporations Can Create PACs, but Not Donate Directly to Them
Jefferson City News Tribune – Bob Watson | Published: 4/10/2019
Missouri corporations may not make direct contributions to their own PACs, a three-judge panel of the state’s Western District appeals court ruled. The decision upheld a similar ruling by Cole County Presiding Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce in the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s lawsuit against the state Ethics Commission. That lawsuit challenged the commission’s interpretation of voters’ intent, after more than two-thirds of the people who voted in November 2016 added the “Missouri Campaign Contribution Reform Initiative” to the state constitution.
New Hampshire: In Votes at N.H. State House, Lawmakers’ Personal and Public Interests Often Overlap
New Hampshire Public Radio – Casey McDermott | Published: 4/9/2019
New Hampshire lawmakers are paid $100 a year, so it is no surprise that many of them rely on other sources of income to get by. As a result, state lawmakers end up dealing with all kinds of proposals that can directly impact their family finances, the taxes they pay, the companies where they work, or the boards on which they serve. In policing these potential conflicts of interest, New Hampshire’s ethics rules tend to favor disclosure over recusal – which means that, with few exemptions, lawmakers are allowed to vote on or even sponsor legislation that has a clear benefit to their personal interests.
New York: To Get Trump’s Tax Returns, N.Y. Democrats Try a New Strategy
MSN – Jesse McKinley (New York Times) | Published: 4/8/2019
New York lawmakers introduced legislation that would make President Trump’s state income tax returns public, the latest step in a battle over details Trump has refused to release. Backers see the bill as an alternative way to Trump’s tax records, even if the president’s allies manage to stonewall efforts in the U.S. House to get his federal returns. A tax return from New York, the president’s home state and the headquarters of his business empire, could likely contain much of the same financial information as a federal return. Under the bill, the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance would be permitted to release any state tax return requested by leaders of three congressional committees for any “specific and legitimate legislative purpose.”
Rhode Island: Rhode Island Reaches Lobbying Disclosure Agreement with Mastercard
Pensions and Investments – Hazel Bradford | Published: 4/4/2019
Mastercard Inc. reached a shareholder agreement with Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner to increase its disclosure of corporate lobbying expenses. Inadequate lobbying disclosure by publicly traded companies presents reputational risks, Magaziner said, particularly in recent cases where large companies have upset customers, investors, and other stakeholders by supporting controversial causes. Mastercard will publish an annual list of its lobbying priorities and amounts spent on lobbying and an annual list of U.S.-based trade associations receiving $25,000. It will also disclose the percentage of those payments used for lobbying and ask the trade associations for that information.
Washington: A Washington State Senator Praised the Cambodian Government Last Year. Then It Gave Him a $500,000 Lobbying Contract.
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner and Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 4/5/2019
A company created by Washington Sen. Doug Ericksen landed a $500,000 lobbying contract from the Cambodian government he praised last year during a controversial visit as an election observer. Ericksen registered as a foreign agent for Cambodia in a recent filing with the U.S. Justice Department, along with former state Rep. Jay Rodne. Ericksen said his arrangement is “100 percent legal,” noting state legislators serve part time and are expected to have outside jobs. He also disputed characterizations of the deal as a lobbying contract, saying he is acting as a consultant. Neither Ericksen nor Rodne disclosed their ownership of PacRim Bridges in 2018 statements filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission. Ericksen said they did not have to list the business because he was not yet making money from it.
Wyoming: Wyoming’s Campaign Finance Reforms Leave Several Holes for Dark Money Influence
Casper Star Tribune – Nick Reynolds | Published: 4/5/2019
Campaign finance experts say the reforms passed by the Wyoming Legislature this year leave a number of gaps that could potentially be exploited by so-called dark money groups in the 2020 elections. While sponsors acknowledged Senate File 18 was not a perfect bill, it does make a number of changes to a system that, in the 2018 cycle, was exploited by multiple PACs of often mysterious origins. Some of these fixes include improving the reporting of late political activity, requiring PACs formed outside of Wyoming to disclose their activity, and defining “electioneering communications.”
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