May 23, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Glass Ceilings in Statehouses in the Northeast New York Times – Jonathan Martin | Published: 5/18/2014 The Democratic Party has yet to elect a female governor in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, or Massachusetts. Even this year, […]
New York Times – Jonathan Martin | Published: 5/18/2014
The Democratic Party has yet to elect a female governor in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, or Massachusetts. Even this year, with women running for governor in three of those states, it is uncertain that any of them will break the pattern. It is no quirk of history, according to a few dozen politicians, scholars, and strategists who have examined or experienced firsthand the difficulties women have had in seeking to become chief executives in some of the flagship states of blue America.
From the States and Municipalities:
Connecticut – Judge Orders Settlement Try in DGA Campaign Case
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 5/21/2014
U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall ordered settlement talks to begin in a case in which the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) claims the State Elections Enforcement Commission and Connecticut campaign laws restrict its First Amendment right to spend money on behalf of Gov. Dannel Malloy in the coming election. Hall sharply questioned lawyers for both sides in open court, probing the DGA’s legal standing to challenge a statute it is yet to be accused of violating, and testing whether the state law comports with recent court rulings minimizing restrictions on campaign contributions.
Delmarva Daily Times – Jonathan Starkey (Wilmington News Journal) | Published: 5/19/2014
Gov. Jack Markell’s administration has paid millions of dollars to law firms tied to supporters and former staff members that were hired to help collect money from out-of-state businesses incorporated in Delaware. Nothing about the relationships and contracts is illegal. But the contracts raise questions about how Markell, who came into the governor’s office critical of backroom deals that benefit insiders, runs the program that collects so much state revenue. James Browning of Common Cause said the state should require better lobbying disclosures for those seeking public business.
WXIA – Catherine Beck | Published: 5/21/2014
In an interview, former state ethics commission Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman recounted the turbulent last three years she has faced. In dealing with an ethics case against Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Kalberman lost her job, her professional reputation, and the Atlanta community she had lived in for more than 25 years. But she won from a jury what she needed the most: vindication.
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 5/19/2014
Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard issued a report that calls for stricter rules after finding “rogue lobbyists” are ignoring requirements to register or report their activities. He said people selling products to the government escape from all lobbying requirements under a loophole in the county ordinance. County Clerk David Orr, who introduced the county’s lobbyist reporting requirements, said he was open to the reforms that Blanchard proposed.
Belleville News Democrat – Tom LoBianco (Associated Press) | Published: 5/20/2014
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. awarded Mainstreet Property Group $345,000 for the construction of a nursing home that is expected to net House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner $1.8 million. It was one of many Mainstreet projects that Turner helped save when he defeated legislation that would have banned the construction of new nursing homes. Turner owns 50 percent of a company which owns 76 percent of Mainstreet.
New Orleans Advocate – Sara Pagones and Faimon Roberts III | Published: 5/16/2014
A federal judge granted Terry and Laura King’s request to strike down a state law under which the couple was charged with a crime for allegedly making public statements about an ethics complaint they filed against St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan. The Kings filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law, saying it violates citizens’ rights to freedom of speech. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman agreed that the section of the law used to prosecute the Kings is too broad.
Portland Press Herald – Eric Russell | Published: 5/19/2014
A national group that helped defeat a same-sex marriage law in Maine could face more than $50,000 in fines for violating the state’s campaign finance laws. The state ethics commission said its investigators found the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) should be fined for failing to register as a ballot question committee and not filing reports. NOM was the primary donor when it gave nearly $2 million to Stand for Marriage Maine, a PAC, to help defeat the law in a 2009 referendum. State law requires groups to register if they raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence a state ballot question.
Massachusetts – Mayor Walsh Received $1.4M in Gifts for Gala, Transition
Boston Globe – Andrew Ryan | Published: 5/19/2014
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh received $1.4 million in private donations for his inauguration and transition, with most of the contributions coming from corporations, developers, lobbyists, and others who do business with the city. Walsh used no tax dollars for the January inauguration, and he barred money from PACS and organized labor, although unions hosted a private reception for the new mayor. The administration suggested a cap of $25,000 for donors and voluntarily disclosed all contributions and expenditures. Walsh said it did not pose a conflict to accept money from companies with interests before the city.
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Rachel Stassen-Berger | Published: 5/20/2014
Minnesota’s law limiting the amount of money candidates can take from lobbyists, PACs, and big donors is on hold after a ruling by a federal judge. U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank suspended the law while a court challenge plays out. The statute in question says candidates can only accept 20 percent of their contributions from certain types of donors and then must abide by lower limits after that.
Newark Star Ledger – Matt Friedman | Published: 5/18/2014
Contributions to GOPAC, a Washington-based nonprofit political advocacy group, reveal how such organizations allow contractors to get around state and local laws designed to keep them from making big campaign donations in New Jersey. Some of the candidates and committees were restricted from taking major donations directly from the contractors because of New Jersey’s web of “pay-to-play” laws aimed at keeping political money from influencing the awarding of contracts. But the contractors are free to donate to GOPAC, which is allowed to give money to any candidate.
North Carolina – NC Legislature Adopts New Rules on Protests
Raleigh News & Observer – Craig Jarvis | Published: 5/15/2014
North Carolina lawmakers adopted new rules governing protests at the Legislative Building. The move was prompted by legal concerns over the guidelines cited by judges hearing the cases of some of the more than 900 people who were arrested in last year’s “Moral Mondays” demonstrations at the General Assembly. But the process, rushed through on the second day of session in advance of the anticipated first round of protests this year, drew criticism from Democratic legislators.
The Oklahoman – Rick Green | Published: 5/20/2014
A bill signed into law by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin imposes a new disclosure requirement for groups that make independent expenditures to local campaigns. These groups will be required to identify donors who contribute more than $50. The law also designates the state Ethics Commission as the body to enforce local campaign finance statutes.
Vermont – Donor Rules Same for All VT Candidates
Burlington Free Press – Nancy Remsen | Published: 5/19/2014
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell issued guidance saying the state would not enforce different contribution limits for candidates who run in both a primary and general election and candidates running for the same office who have only one election. All candidates will now be allowed to accept $2,000 per donor, even if they do not have a primary. This policy applies through December 31, 2014, after which new donations limits take effect for the next election cycle.
Wisconsin State Journal – Mary Spicuzza | Published: 5/22/2014
The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board said lobbyists can pass along campaign contributions made by others, such as PACs, at any time of the year. A new campaign finance law raised questions about what the rules for lobbyists were. The board decided that timing limitations for lobbyist donations to candidates apply only to personal contributions, and not those they are delivering on behalf of others.
State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.
News You Can Use is a news service provided at no charge only to clients of our online Executive Source Guides, or ALERTS™ consulting clients.
May 16, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: GOP Civil War Rages in Senate Primary Battles The Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 5/8/2014 Hard-line conservative groups have together spent nearly three dollars attacking Republican candidates for every one dollar spent criticizing Democrats, according […]
The Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 5/8/2014
Hard-line conservative groups have together spent nearly three dollars attacking Republican candidates for every one dollar spent criticizing Democrats, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis. The dichotomy illustrates the family feud between mainstream Republicans and their tea party-affiliated cousins, many of whom have forced GOP incumbents into expensive primary fights because they believe the candidates are not conservative enough.
Politico – Byron Tau | Published: 5/9/2014
Americans for Prosperity expects to spend more than $125 million this year in support of conservative candidates. The plans, combined with those of other groups in the political operation affiliated with the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, more closely resemble the traditional functions of a national political party than a network of private nonprofit groups. The goal of the network is a long-term movement to expand the political playing field for conservatives, both into new states and into non-traditional demographics.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona Capitol Times – Jeremy Duda | Published: 5/14/2014
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk rejected an administrative judge’s conclusion that there is not enough evidence to show Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and Kathleen Winn, who ran an independent expenditure committee during the 2010 election, illegally coordinated their activities. Polk’s office maintains that records show the two illegally collaborated on ads attacking Horne’s Democratic opponent. Polk has ordered Horne to return about $400,000 to donors and amend his campaign finance reports to properly reflect the contributions.
San Luis Obispo Tribune – Laurel Rosenhall (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 5/12/2014
The California Senate passed a bill that would ban lobbyists from holding campaign fundraisers at their homes for candidates and elected officials. Senate Bill 1441 now moves to the Assembly. A prominent Sacramento lobbyist and nearly 40 politicians got in trouble earlier this year with the Fair Political Practices Commission for home-based fundraising events that exceeded a $500 limit.
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 5/14/2014
Nonprofit organizations that make political contributions in California will have to disclose more information about the source of their money under a bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. Senate Bill 27 requires nonprofits to disclose the names of donors who give them $1,000 or more to spend on political activity, if the group makes contributions of more than $50,000 in a year, or $100,000 over four years. The disclosure requirement takes effect for donations made after July 1 of this year.
Miami Herald – Dan Christensen | Published: 5/10/2014
Lobbyists hired to influence spending and policy at Florida’s five water management districts must register and disclose their clients under ethics reforms passed by the state Legislature. If signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, the bill would for the first time apply state lobbying regulations to some special-purpose governments that raise and spend hundreds of millions dollars every year.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Virginia Young | Published: 5/14/2014
Missouri lawmakers are feted with free food in the Rotunda, hearing rooms, and area restaurants. Big-ticket items outside the Capitol, such as expensive dinners, sporting event tickets, and out-of-state travel, helped push the total value of the gifts to nearly a million dollars’ worth in 2013, according to state Ethics Commission records. That Is unlikely to change as legislators have stymied bills that would ban or limit the gifts they receive.
City & State – John Lentz, Matthew Hamilton, and Morgan Pehme | Published: 5/11/2014
To date, there has been considerable speculation about what exactly the recently disbanded Moreland Commission on Public Corruption investigated during the months it was in operation, but few specifics have been disclosed to the public. Now, commission documents show its investigators sought to determine if New York lawmakers were spending the contributions they received for legitimate campaign-oriented purposes, or whether any money was going to their personal use, in violation of state law.
Cleveland Plain Dealer – John Caniglia | Published: 5/14/2014
Youngstown Mayor John McNally and Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino were indicted on corruption charges including bribery, conspiracy, and tampering with records. The indictment outlines a series of illegal activities related to a plan to move the offices of the county Department of Job and Family Services. McNally and Sciortino were indicted four years ago on related charges, but the case was dismissed. A judge said then that the charges could be refiled. Prosecutors said at the time their inability to obtain tape recordings held by the FBI and provide them to defense lawyers made it impossible to proceed with the case.
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 5/9/2014
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association agreed to stop providing free football and basketball playoff tickets to state legislators, and will pay $1,200 in civil penalties for not disclosing the gifts to the state Ethics Commission for the last three years. The association was required to disclose the gifts once it started using lobbyists. It continues to blame two former lobbyists for the disclosure failure.
Pennsylvania – Candidates’ Parents’ Mutual Donations
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jonathan Tamari | Published: 5/13/2014
During Kevin Strouse’s bid for congressional seat from Pennsylvania, his parents, who had never before donated to federal candidates beyond the commonwealth, sent money to Democrats in tight congressional races in California, Colorado, Florida, and Illinois. Days before or after, those candidates’ parents sent nearly identical contributions, usually for the maximum allowed, to Strouse’s campaign. The donations appear legal, campaign finance experts say, though some said any agreement among the parents to trade donations could be viewed as an attempted end run around contribution limits.
The State – John Monk | Published: 5/12/2014
A judge dismissed allegations of corruption against South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell, ruling such a case must first be considered by a legislative panel before state prosecutors could touch it, and saying a grand jury was improperly empaneled. The grand jury had been considering whether Harrell should be indicted on allegations he used campaign funds for personal use. Critics and lawyers following the case said it was a rare, if unprecedented step for a judge to halt a grand jury investigation.
Burlington Free Press – Nancy Remsen | Published: 5/14/2014
Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said the state’s campaign contribution limits will remain the same through the end of the year. The secretary of state’s office asked for the formal opinion after the Legislature passed an updated campaign finance law. The law had an error making it appear there was a gap between the date the old limits expire and January 1 when the new caps take effect.
Minneapolis Star Tribune – M.L. Johnson (Associated Press) | Published: 5/14/2014
The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down major provisions of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law as unconstitutional. The ruling said state elections officials had overstepped their bounds by prohibiting spending by corporations, setting limits on how much they could raise for affiliated political committees, and establishing burdensome rules for groups that merely mentioned candidates’ names in ads.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 5/8/2014
State election officials said Wisconsin lawmakers may have inadvertently toughened campaign finance rules by barring lobbyists from passing on campaign donations from their clients. Others disagree with that interpretation. The Government Accountability Board will take up the issue on May 21, but the matter may ultimately be decided by the courts.
State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.
News You Can Use is a news service provided at no charge only to clients of our online Executive Source Guides, or ALERTS™ consulting clients.
May 9, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Federal Election Commission Approves Bitcoin Donations to Political Committees Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 5/8/2014 The FEC unanimously ruled that political committees could legally accept bitcoin donations. The commission also affirmed that political committees could buy and […]
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 5/8/2014
The FEC unanimously ruled that political committees could legally accept bitcoin donations. The commission also affirmed that political committees could buy and sell the digital currency as an investment, as long as they turned those proceeds into dollars before spending them. But after the vote, individual commissioners offered conflicting views on whether their decision limits bitcoin donations to small amounts.
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 5/7/2014
While traditional lobbying revenue hit its lowest point in four years in the first months of 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, industry insiders say those statistics miss the hundreds of millions of dollars that are flowing to firms that are not registered to lobby. Companies and industries are increasingly using public relations for a broad array of tasks. Unlike lobbyists, public affairs firms are not required to report their clients, specific activities, or revenue, so the amount of money they take in is hard to determine.
Politico – Byron Tau | Published: 5/7/2014
Two brand-new programs will offer aspiring lobbyists and K Street veterans alike a chance to learn new skills and beef up their resumes. George Washington University has instituted a master’s degree with a focus on global advocacy and lobbying. The Public Affairs Council unveiled a certificate program aimed at giving mid-career professionals a chance to expand their expertise and improve their management skills. Other established programs include the Association of Government Relations Professionals’ Lobbying Certificate Program and the Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute at American University.
From the States and Municipalities:
Miami Herald – Jay Weaver | Published: 5/7/2014
Richard Candia, a lobbyist caught up in a FBI sting that also snared two South Florida mayors, pleaded guilty to honest services fraud. The undercover operation revolved around a bogus federal grant program that prosecutors say was designed to line the pockets of the mayors, Candia, and another lobbyist instead of benefiting their cities. Under his plea agreement, Candia is expected to be a key witness for the prosecution in the upcoming trial of former Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi.
Wichita Eagle – Bryan Lowry | Published: 5/5/2014
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback dismissed reports of an FBI investigation into the activities of his former chief of staff, David Kensinger, as a smear campaign. Sources have said three lobbyists and a former state official were interviewed about whether Kensinger and others have been involved in “pay-to-play’ schemes. Two of the interviewees said they were pressured and intimidated by Kensinger to support and donate to certain candidates. But another said no quid pro quo took place.
WFPL – Jonathan Meador | Published: 5/7/2014
In the face of a public outcry, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission revisited its sexual-harassment case against former state Rep. John Arnold, finding him guilty of three ethics violations and imposing a $3,000 fine. When the commission originally heard the complaints, the hearing ended in a vote of four-to-one that Arnold was guilty. That vote was insufficient for a finding of guilt because the panel has nine members and five votes are needed to take action. That decision led to much public criticism and prompted leaders from both parties to call on the commission to re-hear the case.
Columbus Republic – Melinda Deslatte (Associated Press) | Published: 5/2/2014
A federal judge barred Louisiana from enforcing its $100,000 cap on donations in a four-year election cycle to a super PAC formed by a lawyer who has said it will advocate for U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s 2015 gubernatorial campaign. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman said the state’s contribution limit was unconstitutional for a group that does not coordinate with candidates and “engages only in independent expenditures,” a ruling that could have widespread implications across Louisiana elections.
Missouri – Familiar Impasse Threatens Ethics Measures
Columbia Daily Tribune; Associated Press – | Published: 5/4/2014
Opposition has once again emerged to suggest ethics reform is at an impasse at the Missouri General Assembly. During each of the past two sessions, bills to curb lobbying have been derailed in the Senate by Democratic attempts to reinstate campaign contribution limits. Both sides show no signs of backing down before lawmakers adjourn on May 16. A stalemate means Missouri would continue to be the only state that allows the trio of unlimited contributions to candidates, unlimited gifts from lobbyists, and no waiting period before elected officials can lobby.
Huffington Post – Amanda Terkel | Published: 5/7/2014
The decision by Special Operations for America to support Ryan Zinke, a U.S. House candidate in Montana, is not exactly surprising. Zinke founded the super PAC himself two years ago. The group has been running ads touting his candidacy and was even encouraging people to back him before he officially jumped into the race. The two were literally so close that at one point, the super PAC was renting office space from Zinke in a building across the street from his house.
Bergen Record – Jean Rimbach | Published: 5/6/2014
Despite ethics rules on the books, top New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) officials routinely move quickly and easily into the industries that once had cases before them. Unlike some other states, New Jersey has no waiting period, during which departing commissioners face a prohibition on taking a job with a regulated utility, leaving open the opportunity for immediate employment with companies they oversaw. And decisions on what constitutes a banned activity in a post-BPU job are made case by case.
Providence Journal – Katherine Gregg | Published: 5/2/2014
At least a dozen companies and trade associations that had lobbyists at the Capitol last year provided money to the Senate Presidents Forum, which paid for Rhode Island Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed’s trip to Spain. The state Ethics Commission has placed limits on gifts from “interested” parties, defined as any person or an entity that has a direct financial interest in a decision the public official is authorized to make. Paiva Weed believes such trips provide opportunities to confer with counterparts who face the same kinds of issues as Rhode Island. “I did not have one-on-one meetings with [any] lobbyist,” said Paiva Weed.
WPRI – Tim White and Ted Nessi | Published: 5/5/2014
Rhode Island Secretary of State Ralph Mollis will investigate whether 38 Studios, the video game company founded by former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling that went bankrupt in 2012, violated state lobbying laws. According to WPRI, 38 Studios did not register any lobbyists with the state while the company was active in Rhode Island, as required by law. But a contract uncovered by the television station showed 38 Studios had agreed to pay $300,000 per year to an associate of the former House Speaker Gordon Fox to work with government agencies and officials.
Dallas Morning News – Gromer Jeffers, Jr. | Published: 5/4/2014
Since he joined the Legislature in 2003, Texas Sen. Ken Paxton, who is running for state attorney general, has started or become part of 28 business ventures. Paxton, like other lawmakers, has voted on measures that could affect his personal holdings. He has declined to say how much his net worth has grown since he joined the Legislature, and he has refused to release his federal tax returns. The state requires officeholders to list only broad ranges that their income and investments fall in, so it is difficult to say how extensive Paxton’s business holdings are.
New York Times – Monica Davey | Published: 5/7/2014
A U.S. appeals court ruled Wisconsin investigators can continue a secret probe into possible campaign finance law violations by conservative groups in the state. The order stopped for now enforcement of a federal judge’s ruling that the 20-month inquiry must be halted, and records and property seized by investigators returned to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, the group that sued to halt the probe.
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Scott Bauer (Associated Press) | Published: 5/8/2014
Wisconsin has reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s limits on how much individuals can contribute to campaigns. The state law prohibits donors from giving more than $10,000 a year to all candidates. The settlement says in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Wisconsin’s law is unconstitutional so donors now will be able to spend as much as they want in aggregate to PACs and political parties.
State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.
News You Can Use is a news service provided at no charge only to clients of our online Executive Source Guides, or ALERTS™ consulting clients.
May 2, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: States Are Now Targets of ‘Citizens United’ Politico – Byron Tau | Published: 5/1/2014 General Majority PAC, created last year by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s chief of staff, Susan McCue, has won legal challenges in New Jersey and Pennsylvania […]
Politico – Byron Tau | Published: 5/1/2014
General Majority PAC, created last year by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s chief of staff, Susan McCue, has won legal challenges in New Jersey and Pennsylvania over the past year to enforce the Supreme Court ruling permitting unlimited corporate and union spending. The successful lawsuits essentially have created the equivalent of super PACs at the state level and are part of a larger transformation of election law in the past few years as the changes at the federal level eventually creep down into state election law.
Politico – Anna Palmer and Tarini Parti | Published: 5/1/2014
While presidential inaugurations and party conventions are not what they used to be as fundraisers have struggled with getting corporate donors to act as sponsors, one weekend a year these fears fade away and companies open their checkbooks to join in the fun of the establishment celebrating the establishment: the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Dozens of corporations are sponsoring cocktail receptions and late night soirees, along with an educational event or two, during the weekend of the dinner.
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 4/29/2014
Whether they are managing the lobbying operations of Fortune 200 companies, running their own shops, or building up a roster of big-name clients at mega-firms, women are steadily moving into roles once considered part of Washington’s “old boys club.” While men still outnumber women on K Street by a significant margin, the environment has changed dramatically from just over a decade ago, when a prominent lobbyist felt she could not successfully open a firm without a man’s name on the masthead.
From the States and Municipalities:
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 4/28/2014
Former Chicago Ald. Dick Mell has started a new lobbying firm with the help of daughter Patti Blagojevich. Mell said the venture is something to keep him busy in retirement and also a way to financially help his daughter. Her husband, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison for corruption. Mell retired before the implementation of a new revolving door policy that as of January 1 bars aldermen from lobbying the city for one year after their last day in office.
The Post-Tribune; Associated Press – | Published: 4/30/2014
A panel of lawmakers said Indiana Rep. Eric Turner did not violate House ethics rules when he fought legislation that would have cost his family’s nursing home business millions of dollars. But the Ethics Committee expressed concerns that Turner’s efforts to defeat a proposed nursing home moratorium did not achieve the “highest spirit of transparency” and vowed to tighten those rules. Documents show Turner had more than $4 million in profits on the line through his ownership stake in the company.
Topeka Capital-Journal – Tim Carpenter | Published: 4/27/2014
The FBI has been investigating influence peddling involving some of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s top advisers. Of concern were behind-the-scenes financial arrangements related to the privatization of the state’s Medicaid program, which handed exclusive contracts to three for-profit insurance companies to provide services. The inquiry focuses on Parallel Strategies, a lobbying firm founded by David Kensinger, the governor’s former chief of staff. Kensinger quit two months before contracts were signed with the three companies, which reportedly hired a lobbyist who works with him.
Columbus Republic; Associated Press – | Published: 4/29/2014
Starting in July, the amount that can be spent by a Louisiana lobbyist per person for an occasion is increasing to $58. The limit applies to food, drink, and other refreshments purchased for public employees and elected officials. The amount has been steadily rising since the Legislature implemented a $50 spending cap and then allowed it to increase with the consumer price index.
Cincinnati Enquirer – Chrissie Thompson | Published: 5/1/2014
Lobbyist John Rabenold must pay $2,000 in fines for failing to report gifts of sports tickets and upscale dinners to Ohio lawmakers. He will spend up to three years on probation. Rabenold must also continue to cooperate with an investigation that could result in charges against lawmakers for accepting the gifts and failing to report them.
Harrisburg Patriot News – Jeff Frantz | Published: 4/28/2014
The Senate State Government Committee heard testimony that Pennsylvania’s ethics laws regarding gifts are among the weakest in the country and must be strengthened. The Senate has approved a bill that would prohibit cash gifts, but Committee Chairperson Lloyd Smucker has advocated a wide ban on gifts and hospitality. John Schaaf, counsel for the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, testified about his state, which called a special session after several lawmakers were charged with corruption by the FBI. Schaaf said Kentucky now has some of the toughest ethics measures in the country.
Houston Chronicle – David Saleh Rauff | Published: 4/27/2014
Dark money has been injected into a broad mix of state and local elections in Texas. With the state in the midst of a heated gubernatorial race attracting national attention and national donors, the stream of secret campaign cash from outside groups is expected to steadily increase. The Texas Ethics Commission has put up for public comment proposed rulemaking to address anonymous contributions, and some lawmakers, annoyed after being targeted by dark money, are working to revamp 501(c)(4) disclosure legislation vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry last session.
Seven Days – Paul Heinz | Published: 5/1/2014
With just days remaining in the legislative session, Vermont lawmakers and lobbyists took a break to attend a political fundraiser at the Capitol Plaza Hotel. Over the course of two hours, a reporter from the website Seven Days observed nearly two dozen lobbyists and a dozen Democratic lawmakers, mostly committee chairpersons and members of the House leadership team, entering the Ethan Allen room. “… In our business, you trade on knowledge and you trade on relationships,” said lobbyist Joe Choquette.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 4/28/2014
Some are questioning whether four of the state’s seven Supreme Court justices can hear one or more challenges to an ongoing probe into whether Wisconsin Club for Growth illegally coordinated with Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign. The group has spent about $1.8 million to help elect the four justices who make up the conservative bloc controlling the court. Wisconsin’s recusal rules for judges says campaign contributions and independent spending, absent other factors, are not enough to warrant getting out of cases.
April 18, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: G.O.P. Campaign Outreach Tool: Gun sweepstakes New York Times – Jeremy Peters | Published: 4/17/2014 Online gun sweepstakes are one of the fastest growing and most useful tools for campaign outreach in the 2014 Republican primaries. Across the country, […]
New York Times – Jeremy Peters | Published: 4/17/2014
Online gun sweepstakes are one of the fastest growing and most useful tools for campaign outreach in the 2014 Republican primaries. Across the country, from a race for sheriff in California to the U.S. Senate primary in South Carolina, candidates are using high-powered pistols and rifles as a lure to build up their donor lists and expand their base of support. But as a lot of candidates have learned, giving a gun away is not easy.
Washington Post – Rosalind Helderman | Published: 4/13/2014
The State Department under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bypassed ethics guidelines to take a $2 million donation from Boeing, just a month after Clinton helped the company secure a multi-billion dollar contract with Russia. Clinton was attempting to resuscitate the dismal fundraising for the privately-sponsored U.S. pavilion planned for the 2010 World’s Fair in Shanghai. State Department officials had told planners to skip soliciting some firms with major business ties to the government, including Boeing, to avoid the appearance of a conflict-of-interest.
Politico – Byron Tau | Published: 4/16/2014
Dan Backer, the attorney who won a landmark ruling when the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the overall limit on how much any donor can give to federal campaigns each election cycle, has filed a lawsuit looking to strike some of the restrictions still on the books. The latest lawsuit seeks to open the door for more money to flow from a PAC to a candidate or party committee. The suit objects to federal restrictions on transfers out of PACs based on the amount of time they have been registered.
From the States and Municipalities:
Connecticut – Rowland Indicted In Two Alleged Campaign Finance Schemes
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney and Jon Lender | Published: 4/10/2014
Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who resigned 10 years ago in a corruption scandal that sent him to prison, was indicted recently on charges he tried to hide his role in two congressional campaigns, one of them involving a sham contract written to conceal $35,000 he was paid for political advice to candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley. Rowland is also accused of pitching a similar phony consulting deal to Mark Greenberg during his unsuccessful 2010 race for Congress.
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Andy Reid | Published: 4/12/2014
Donation records show lobbyists, developers, and others potentially vying to do business with local government were some of the biggest donors at the Palm Beach County Mayor’s Ball fundraiser. Many local elected officials, led by Palm Beach County Mayor Priscilla Taylor, were the main attraction at the fundraiser to help the homeless. It also tested new ethics rules which seek to limit opportunities for attendees at such events to curry favor with elected officials by contributing to a cause they support.
Topeka Capital-Journal; Staff – | Published: 4/11/2014
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed Senate Bill 99, which would have raised the expenditure threshold triggering the requirement to register as a lobbyist from $100 to $500. A news release from the governor’s office said the bill was vetoed in the interest of promoting continued transparency in government.
WFPL – Jonathan Meador | Published: 4/14/2014
Two legislative staff members who filed sexual harassment charges against former Kentucky Rep. John Arnold said they were also subjected to crude behavior by state Rep. Jim Gooch at the Southern Legislative Conference. Cassaundra Cooper and Yolanda Costner said Gooch approached a group they were sitting with, pulled a pair of panties out of his pocket, and tossed them on the table. Gooch said his actions were harmless and the two women are retaliating against him.
Baltimore Sun – Luke Broadwater | Published: 4/10/2014
Maryland election officials said they would not enforce the state’s $10,000 limit on aggregate campaign contributions during a four-year election cycle in the wake of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The State Board of Elections announced that no person may donate more than $4,000 to any individual campaign, but may give that amount to an unlimited number of candidates.
Newark Star Ledger – Salvador Rizzo | Published: 4/13/2014
Three former New Jersey Ethics Commission officials are accusing Gov. Chris Christie’s office of unprecedented interference with an agency set up to be free of political influence. They say Christie pushed the commissioners to replace the executive director at a time when she was investigating a member of his own staff, thus crossing a line no other governor had before. The Christie administration called the charges without merit and denied any interference with the commission.
New Mexico – Controversial Audio Leaked of Governor and Her Staff
KRQE – Gabrielle Burkhart | Published: 4/16/2014
Leaked audio recordings reveal New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez used profanity and offensive names to describe political opponents during her 2010 campaign. The tapes were part of an unflattering profile of Martinez by Mother Jones magazine. Martinez’s re-election campaign sent an email supporters noting she had referred to her general election opponent, then-Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, “using the B-word four years ago in a private conversation with close advisers.”
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Susanne Craig | Published: 4/9/2014
Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, took control of confidential records of the commission probing public corruption that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shut down following a budget deal with the Legislature. Bharara’s move on the Moreland Commission files was motivated by his interest in the unfinished probes, unexplored leads, and abrupt close to business of the panel that Cuomo or his aides reportedly interfered with through back channels.
The Oklahoman – Nolan Clay | Published: 4/13/2014
The state Ethics Commission voted to investigate the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) for alleged violations of lobbying disclosure rules. Commissioners acted after The Oklahoman reported the association has provided free football and basketball playoff tickets to legislators for years. Records show the OSSAA has not reported those gifts to the Ethics Commission as required by law.
New York Times – Manny Fernandez | Published: 4/16/2014
A judge seated a grand jury to look into the threat that Texas Gov. Rick Perry carried out to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit under Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Perry last year said he would veto money for the unit, which prosecutes wrongdoing by public officials, unless Lehmberg resigned in the wake of a drunken-driving arrest. Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint with prosecutors over the threat, contending Perry abused his power.
The Olympian – Brad Shannon | Published: 4/15/2014
Washington lawmakers can accept free meals on an “infrequent’ basis during the course of doing their jobs. But the law it does not say what is infrequent. The Legislative Ethics Board held a public hearing to get comments on a proposal to clarify the statue. In addition, a staff proposal going before the Public Disclosure Commission would raise the threshold for itemizing spending on lawmakers from $25 for an event to $50.
April 11, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: States Look Harder at Rules on Gifts to Lawmakers Philadelphia Inquirer – Amy Worden | Published: 4/6/2014 News that four state lawmakers from Philadelphia were caught on tape allegedly taking cash or gifts from a lobbyist has stoked new […]
Philadelphia Inquirer – Amy Worden | Published: 4/6/2014
News that four state lawmakers from Philadelphia were caught on tape allegedly taking cash or gifts from a lobbyist has stoked new calls for reform. Pennsylvania is not alone. Organizations that monitor ethics laws nationwide say the last decade has brought tighter state laws involving gift-giving, lobbying, and conflict-of-interest, some driven by similar scandals.
Politico – Anna Palmer and Tarini Parti | Published: 4/2/2014
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the limit on an individual’s overall campaign contributions infringed on First Amendment rights cleared the way for donors to give the maximum amount to as many candidates and political parties as they wish during a two-year election cycle. The decision means a common excuse for brushing off fundraising requests – that potential donors, many of them lobbyists, have already “maxed out” their contributions under the cap – is now moot.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona Republic – Mary Jo Pitzl | Published: 4/8/2014
Disclosure is not a comfortable topic at the Arizona Capitol, where four years ago the Fiesta Bowl scandal erupted over 28 current and former lawmakers accepting lavish trips and college-football game tickets. Since then, despite proposals to clarify disclosure rules, nothing has changed. State law requires elected officials to disclose gifts they received that were worth $500 or more. But that is not strictly followed, according to an Arizona Republic review of the annual reports. At least nine lawmakers did not initially report trips they took in 2013.
Sacramento Bee – Jeremy White | Published: 4/6/2014
The legal troubles roiling Sacramento have left millions of constituents without the elected representatives they sent to the Capitol to advocate and vote for their interests. Three senators fighting criminal cases were suspended from office. When lawmakers are stripped of their most basic and potent tool for shaping policy – a vote on legislation – the constituents are also, in a sense, disenfranchised.
Delaware – Lobbying Fee Proposed to Pay for Oversight
Wilmington News Journal – Jonathan Starkey | Published: 4/9/2014
Legislation will be introduced in Delaware that would require lobbyists to pay an annual registration fee to help fund the state Public Integrity Commission. The bill would require lobbyists to pay the fee for each client they represent. Another measure filed recently would impose a fee for lobbyists who file disclosure reports late.
Athens Banner Herald – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 4/5/2014
A jury ruled former state ethics commission Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman was unfairly forced from that job as retribution for investigating Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign, and ordered the state to pay her $700,000. Kalberman’s lawyers tried to show the decision to cut her salary by $35,000 and to eliminate an aide’s job were a response to the pair’s desire to issue subpoenas for records in the investigation. Attorneys for the commission tried to establish the agency’s budget was in crisis and that was what motivated the cuts.
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook | Published: 4/4/2014
An Indiana House ethics committee is set to probe Rep. Eric Turner’s role in quashing legislation that would have halted new nursing home development and helped his son’s company. An Indianapolis Star review of Turner’s personal business interests found he has a stake in at least a half dozen companies that have been engaged in building, leasing, or investing in nursing home properties. The Star also found Turner did not list some of the companies on financial disclosure statements.
Reuters – Lawrence Hurley | Published: 4/7/2014
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to an Iowa law that prohibits campaign donations from corporations but allows them from unions. By opting not to hear the case, the justices left intact an Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from June 2013 that upheld the ban.
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Rachel Stassen-Berger | Published: 4/8/2014
For decades, Minnesota law has said campaigns can raise 20 percent of their cash from lobbyists, PACs, and donors who give large amounts. After candidates hit that limit, they only can accept lesser amounts from subsequent contributors. Opponents say the “first come, first served” law is an unconstitutional limit of free speech, and the libertarian Institute for Justice will file a lawsuit challenging the statute.
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer (Northeat Ohio Media Group) | Published: 4/9/2014
The Ohio House passed legislation that would abolish a state rule restricting corporate political spending. Under the rule, corporations have to identify themselves in political ads and disclose money they spend in support of candidates. It also bars political spending made independently of campaigns by foreign-owned corporations and companies that recently received government contracts. House bill 483 now goes to the Senate.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Senate Passes Bill to Ban Cash Gifts to Legislators
Philadelphia Inquirer – Amy Worden | Published: 4/9/2014
The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously approved a bill that bans cash gifts to lawmakers and other elected and appointed officials in state and local government. The Senate also approved unanimously passed an ethics rule change for the chamber that carries the same provisions on cash and cash-like gifts. The only difference between the two is the bill caries the weight of the law so violators could be prosecuted. The ethics rule does not; it calls for a civil penalty.
Pennsylvania – Sources: U.S. prosecutors made no judgment on sting case
Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 4/8/2014
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported federal officials never came to a final conclusion about the merits of a suspended legislative sting operation before Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane asked them to halt that review. Kane, after revelations she decided to abandon the case in which several officials were caught on tape accepting cash and other gifts from an informant posing as a lobbyist, had said her decision had been endorsed by federal law enforcement officials who she has not identified by name.
South Carolina – SC Governor, AG Candidates Collected Excess Campaign Cash
The State – Andrew Shain | Published: 4/5/2014
An analysis by The State showed candidates for governor and attorney general in 2010 received $336,345 in campaign contributions above South Carolina’s legal limits. While the excessive donations represent a fraction of the amounts raised by these candidates, the newspaper said its analysis of state Ethics Commission data points to how campaigns can fail to follow campaign finance rules without getting caught by regulators.
Columbus Republic – Alan Suderman (Associated Press) | Published: 4/8/2014
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe amended an ethics bill that passed the General Assembly in the wake of a gifts scandal that led to corruption charges against former Gov. Bob McDonnell. McAuliffe’s proposed changes would require lobbyists to report what they spend on gifts and entertainment for both lawmakers and their families. Lawmakers will have to approve the governor’s changes.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley and Daniel Bice | Published: 4/10/2014
A secretly recorded video produced by a conservative activist shows state Senate President Mike Ellis talking about creating and raising money for a committee to run negative ads against his Democratic opponent, which would be illegal for a candidate to do in Wisconsin. Ellis issued a statement acknowledging the conversation but said he learned the next day the proposal was illegal and did not pursue it.
April 4, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: New G.O.P. Bid to Limit Voting in Swing States New York Times – Steven Yaccino and Lizette Alvarez | Published: 3/29/2014 Some swing states under Republican control are enacting new restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond recent […]
New York Times – Steven Yaccino and Lizette Alvarez | Published: 3/29/2014
Some swing states under Republican control are enacting new restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond recent voter identification requirements. The bills, laws, and administrative rules shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote.
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 4/2/2014
The U.S. Supreme Court freed wealthy donors to give more money directly to congressional candidates. The conservative majority struck down aggregate limits that barred political donors from giving more than $123,000 in an election cycle to candidates running for seats in the House or Senate. The court said this limit violated the free-speech rights of the donors, and it was not needed to prevent corruption of the political process. The justices noted donors must still abide by rules that prevent them from giving more than $2,600 per election per candidate.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama – Wren Resigns
Montgomery Advertiser – Kala Kachmar and Brian Lyman | Published: 4/1/2014
Alabama Rep. Greg Wren resigned and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor ethics violation in a deal that will secure his cooperation with a corruption investigation at the Capitol. Court documents said Wren, an insurance agent by trade who served as chairperson of the Joint Legislative Medicaid Committee, tried to insert language in the state budget that would have given American Pharmacy Cooperative an edge in certain Medicaid contracts. At the same times, management with the cooperative helped Wren secure a contract with RxAlly for consulting worth $24,000.
San Francisco Chronicle – Melody Gutierrez and Carla Marinucci | Published: 3/31/2014
Much of the money donated to California lawmakers comes from groups or individuals with pending business before the Legislature. The recent arrest of state Sen. Leland Yee prompted several lawmakers to suggest it is time to revisit campaign finance reform to fix inadequacies in the law or to, at the very least, stop politicians from using campaign donations to pay for their legal defense following criminal charges.
Connecticut – Co-Conspirators’ Guilty Pleas Make John Rowland a Target
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 4/1/2014
A former congressional candidate and her husband pleaded guilty in a scheme to set up a phony contract to hide the role played in the campaign by former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who resigned a decade ago in a corruption scandal. Prosecutors said Lisa Wilson-Foley, Brian Foley, and Rowland entered into an unlawful conspiracy in 2011 to make illegal contributions to Wilson-Foley. Rowland was paid about $35,000 for services to the campaign. The payments originated with Foley and constituted campaign contributions but were not reported to the FEC.
Greenfield Daily Reporter – Randall Chase (Associated Press) | Published: 3/31/2014
A federal judge ruled in favor of Delaware Strong Families in its challenge to a 2012 state law requiring groups that spend $500 or more during an election period on third-party advertisements to disclose the source of donations. The judge issued a preliminary injunction that halts this reporting requirement.
District of Columbia – Councilwoman Bowser Defeats Incumbent Gray in D.C. Mayoral Primary
Washington Post – Mike DeBonis and Aaron Davis | Published: 4/1/2014
District of Columbia Councilperson Muriel Bowser won an upset victory in the Democratic primary for mayor in a race that turned on the integrity of the incumbent, Vincent Gray. Only three weeks before the election, Gray was comfortably ahead in the polls when a donor pleaded guilty to illegally pumping nearly $700,000 into Gray’s campaign four years ago. The donor said the mayor had participated in the plot. Gray denied knowledge of the under-the-table effort on his behalf, but overnight, a listless race became a referendum on the mayor’s credibility.
Marietta Daily Journal – Christina Cassidy (Associated Press) | Published: 4/1/2014
A jury will decide whether they believe the claims brought by former state ethics commission Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman in a wrongful termination lawsuit, who says she was forced out her job in an effort to stifle an investigation of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, or side with state attorneys who argue she left after her salary was reduced by 30 percent for budgetary reasons in 2011 and it was unrelated to the governor’s ethics probe.
Chicago Sun-Times – Dave McKinney | Published: 4/1/2014
Todd Vandermyde, the National Rifle Association’s Illinois lobbyist, was fined $120 last December for breaking a state hunting law. A month later, he worked with House Minority Leader Jim Durkin to rewrite the law he broke. “If I … changed the law because I got a ticket, people would be screaming bloody murder; I don’t think it’s any different when someone with the level of influence and access that he has does it, too,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy.
Russellville News-Democrat & Leader – George Troutman (Legislative Ethics Commission) | Published: 4/3/2014
Kentucky lawmakers gave final approval to House Bill 28, which makes significant changes to the lobbying statute, including a “no cup of coffee” rule, meaning lobbyists and their employers will be prohibited from buying a meal, or even a cup of coffee, for an individual legislator, candidate, or the spouse or child of a lawmaker or candidate. In this opinion piece, George Troutman of the Legislative Ethics Commission delineates the reforms, and the positive effects he believes will ensue if Gov. Steve Beshear signs the measure into law.
Columbia Tribune – Rudi Keller | Published: 3/30/2014
Missouri Rep. John Wright is calling on lawmakers to sign a pledge promising not to accept gifts from lobbyists. Last year, lobbyists purchased almost $1 million worth of meals, trips, golf outings, and sports tickets for lawmakers, including tickets to the World Series and University of Missouri football and basketball games. “Most of the people here are good people, but a lot of bad habits have developed and there is a culture of lobbyist gifts and a culture of entitlement that needs to be completely reset,” said Wright.
The Daily Journal – Matt Volz (Associated Press) | Published: 4/1/2014
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl concluded Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich violated the law by coordinating with Western Tradition Partnership and other entities to accept illegal corporate donations in his 2010 primary election campaign. Motl asked a state judge to weigh his findings and decide whether Wittich’s actions merit removal from office and from the 2014 election ballot.
New York Times – Jesse McKinley and Thomas Kaplan | Published: 3/31/2014
Ethics provisions attached to the state budget signed into law by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo disbands the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, which was formed last July and given a broad mandate to restore public trust in government. Cuomo said the reforms he wanted would be accomplished by changes to campaign finance reporting requirements and bribery laws, and the public financing of elections in this year’s race for state comptroller.
Pennsylvania – Pa. House Leaders Impose Ban on Most Cash Gifts
Philadelphia Inquirer – Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 4/2/2014
Legislative leaders adopted a new ethics rule that prohibits members of the Pennsylvania House from accepting cash gifts, although money from specified close family members and non-lobbyist friends is allowed. A spokesperson for House Speaker Sam Smith said the policy change was made in response to reports in The Philadelphia Inquirer that four House members accepted payments from a lobbyist who was part of a sting operation.
Wisconsin – Lobbyist Bill Draws Sharp Reactions
WisconsinWatch.org – Bill Leuders | Published: 4/1/2014
Senate Bill 655, which was signed into law recently by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, allows lobbyists to start making personal donations the day candidates can circulate petitions for office, which is April 15. Under the previous law, they could not make any contributions until June 1. The bill has been assailed for both its process and its substance. Meanwhile, some lament that this dissent led to it being watered down.
March 28, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: IRS Rule Would Limit Advocacy Over Nominees USA Today – Gregory Korte | Published: 3/24/2014 The IRS says a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court or Cabinet secretary should be considered a “candidate” for federal […]
USA Today – Gregory Korte | Published: 3/24/2014
The IRS says a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court or Cabinet secretary should be considered a “candidate” for federal office and is drafting rules to limit how nonprofit groups advocate for or against such nominees. The change in defining a candidate is part of an effort by the Obama administration to clarify how much political activity certain nonprofits can engage in, following last year’s revelation that IRS agents had held up tax-exempt applications for tea party groups.
From the States and Municipalities:
Sacramento Bee – Laurel Rosenhall and Jeremy White | Published: 3/26/2014
California Sen. Leland Yee has been charged with conspiring to traffic in firearms and public corruption as part of a major sting operation spanning the Bay Area. A criminal complaint alleges Yee did favors for an undercover FBI agent in exchange for campaign contributions. Prosecutors said Yee also offered to facilitate a meeting between the undercover agent and an arms dealer, and discussed the types of weapons the agent might need.
Denver Post – John Ingold | Published: 3/21/2014
At least three officials at the state agency in Colorado that regulates marijuana businesses have found work doing cannabis industry consulting after leaving the department. The officials say they adhered to ethics rules in switching from the regulators to the regulated, and an expert said the moves are not necessarily a conflict, noting such public-to-private switches are common in many regulated industries. But the moves do show the increasing legitimization of the marijuana industry. And they have caused concern among remaining state officials, who say the moves could send the wrong message to the public.
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 3/24/2014
Three self-reported complaints were recently accepted by the State Elections Enforcement Commission, all in relation to campaign contributions that donors fear could run afoul of Connecticut’s sweeping ban on donations from contractors. A one-year ban on additional state business is a potential penalty for a principal or employee making a prohibited contribution. Connecticut law places the burden for knowing the statute on the donors, not the campaigns or political committees that are the recipients.
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Bousquet | Published: 3/26/2014
Billionaire Mike Fernandez was co-finance chairperson of Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign, gave $1 million to his re-election effort, and helped raise much more by opening two of his homes to wealthy Republican donors. Fernandez sat near the first family at the State of the State speech before everything fell apart with his resignation followed by leaked e-mails filed with frustration and armchair quarterbacking, a rare public display of campaign dirty linen.
Reno Gazette-Journal – Sandra Chereb (Associated Press) | Published: 3/26/2014
A group that ran hundreds of television advertisements supporting Brian Sandoval for governor in 2010 has agreed to a $40,000 fine for failing to register as a PAC in Nevada. The Alliance for America’s Future, a Virginia group that supports Republican candidates, and the office of Secretary of State Bob Miller reached a settlement on his suit against the organization. Miller said the civil fine is the largest ever imposed for a campaign finance violation in Nevada.
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman | Published: 3/27/2014
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did not know of his top aides’ plan for a politically motivated traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, according to lawyers hired by the Christie administration to investigate the “Bridgegate” scandal. But while clearing Christie and his senior staff, the report urged the appointment of a chief ethics officers within the governor’s office. And it called for a restructuring of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
North Carolina – Mayor Cannon Resigns after Corruption Arrest
Charlotte Observer – Mark Washburn, Michael Gordon, and Jim Morrill | Published: 3/27/2014
Patrick Cannon resigned as mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina after he was arrested on public corruption charges, as federal law enforcement officials alleged he accepted a trip to Las Vegas, use of a luxury apartment, and more than $48,000 in cash in exchange for helping smooth out municipal obstacles for undercover agents posing as investors. Cannon had been in the mayor’s office only since early December.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy and Angele Couloumbis | Published: 3/24/2014
State senators are proposing bills to ban Pennsylvania lawmakers from accepting cash gifts. Lloyd Smucker said the legislation was prompted by stories about an aborted sting investigation by the attorney general’s office that captured five Philadelphia politicians, including four state legislators, accepting cash or money orders on tape. Smucker said he was surprised the state allows lawmakers to accept cash gifts, as long as they report them on their annual financial-disclosure forms.
Columbus Republic – Michelle Smith (Associated Press) | Published: 3/25/2014
Federal and state authorities have refused to comment on the target of their investigation since a raid on Rhode Island Rep. Gordon Fox’s office and home. Fox resigned as House speaker the next day and said he would not seek re-election, but he did not directly address the probe. In his legal practice, Fox performed loan closings and that work got him into trouble with the state Ethics Commission after he failed to report more than $40,000 for work he did for a Providence economic development agency.
Dallas Morning News – David Barer | Published: 3/24/2014
Michael Sullivan is the brash leader of the influential Empower Texans, and he is in a battle with the state Ethics Commission over his influence at the Capitol. The commission could stamp Sullivan as a lobbyist and hem in his political activities, but first, its members want to know the sources of the money that props up his nonprofit corporation. Critics contend Sullivan relies on “dark money,” leaving Texans unable to determine who funds his group’s legislative ratings and endorsements, which can affect Republican primaries.
Wisconsin – Gov. Walker Signs Several Bills into Law
WBAY; Associated Press – | Published: 3/27/2014
A bill signed into law by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker allows lobbyists to start making personal donations the day candidates can circulate petitions for office, which is April 15. Under the previous law, they could not make any donations until June 1. In passing the measure, Republican lawmakers backed off from another change that would have let lobbyists hand over campaign checks from others during the legislative session.
March 21, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Lobbyist Faces $5 Million Fine for Allegedly Failing to File Disclosure Reports Washington Post – Holly Yeager | Published: 3/18/2014 Federal prosecutors said Alan Mauk and his firm, Alan Mauk Associates, did not file required quarterly […]
Washington Post – Holly Yeager | Published: 3/18/2014
Federal prosecutors said Alan Mauk and his firm, Alan Mauk Associates, did not file required quarterly lobbying reports at least 13 times between 2009 and 2013. In addition, they are charged with failing to file semi-annual reports on political contributions on at least 13 occasions, also in violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act. The law carries a fine of up to $200,000 for each violation. House and Senate officials notified Mauk at least 22 times about the missing reports, according to the civil complaint.
Washington Post – Matea Gold and Philip Rucker | Published: 3/18/2014
The U.S. Senate approved a House bill that takes $126 million over 10 years out of the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and authorizes it for use in pediatric medical research. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Barack Obama would sign the legislation. Republican National Committee Chairperson Reince Priebus said political parties should be able to raise “soft money” to pay for their presidential nominating conventions now that federal funding for the quadrennial events will be cut off.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona Daily Star – Jacques Billeaud (Associated Press) | Published: 3/13/2014
John Junker, the former chief executive officer of the Fiesta Bowl, was sentenced to eight months in federal prison for violating campaign finance laws. He became the sixth person to be sentenced in a scheme in which bowl employees were reimbursed for donating federal, state, and local candidates. The scandal also exposed the lavish spending and perks the Fiesta Bowl heaped on lawmakers and employees, though no charges were filed involving those perks.
Sacramento Bee – Jeremy White | Published: 3/17/2014
California Democrats’ loss of a legislative supermajority stifled their push to change the state’s campaign finance law. Senate Bill 27, which fell one vote short of passage, sought to lift the veil on outside campaign spending by compelling nonprofits to identify their donors if contributions hit certain thresholds in a given election cycle.
inewsource.org – Joe Yerardi | Published: 3/14/2014
The San Diego Ethics Commission proposed reforms that would restrict the activities of independent political committees in the city. They are permitted to raise unlimited funds from nearly any source but are prohibited from coordinating strategy with candidates’ campaigns. At a recent meeting, the first in a months-long process, the commissioners debated the suggested changes.
KUSA – Brandon Rittiman | Published: 3/15/2014
Lobbyists in Colorado are required to register and file disclosures stating who is paying them and how much. State law says the fines are charged to the person who registers as a lobbyist, not the organization they work for. This means groups can keep on influencing public officials even if some of the lobbyists who worked for them owe thousands of dollars to the state.
Augusta Chronicle – Walter Jones (Morris News Service) | Published: 3/19/2014
Many regular citizens show up at the Capitol and attempt to influence Georgia lawmakers. Angela Bean and Jan Horne, for example, spent a lot of time at the statehouse this year for various causes. “We know our being here is important; if people are going to come down here, the legislators know we’re representing [others] who aren’t here that feel the same way,” said Bean.
The Post Tribune – Tom LoBianco (Associated Press) | Published: 3/17/2014
On the surface, Indiana Rep. Eric Turner had nothing to do with a last-minute decision to defeat a proposed nursing home moratorium that would have harmed his son’s business. But behind the scenes, Turner played a much different role, urging fellow Republicans during a private caucus meeting to defeat the moratorium. Last year, The Associated Press reported Turner had pushed a measure to benefit a client of his daughter, who is a lobbyist.
Washington Post – John Wagner | Published: 3/20/2014
Gerard Evans, an Annapolis-based lobbyist for “House of Cards,” has invited the entire Maryland General Assembly to a local wine bar on March 21 to meet the show’s star, Kevin Spacey. The event is scheduled just a few days after the Senate voted to increase a tax credit that rewards production companies that choose to film in the state. The House has yet to act on the bill. “House of Cards” has been the biggest beneficiary of the credit in recent years.
Newark Star Ledger – Jenna Portnoy | Published: 3/19/2014
After criticism that the action violated civil liberties, New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman banned state police from taking photographs of hecklers and protesters at Gov. Chris Christie’s now-weekly town hall meetings. At least a dozen people were thrown out of a recent town hall after shouting criticisms at Christie. They complained about how his administration is distributing federal recovery money and questioned the governor’s role in a political payback scandal orchestrated by his aides.
North Carolina – Tweak to N.C Law Protected Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Pits
Greensboro News and Record; Associated Press – | Published: 3/17/2014
In 2013, a coalition of environmental groups sued to force Duke Energy to clean up nearly three dozen leaky coal ash dumps spread across North Carolina. The company turned to the state Legislature for help. Documents and interviews show how Duke’s lobbyists prodded Republican lawmakers to tuck provision in a regulatory reform bill that allowed Duke to avoid any costly cleanup of contaminated groundwater leaching from its unlined dumps toward rivers, lakes, and the drinking wells of nearby homeowners.
Cincinnati Enquirer – Chrissie Thompson | Published: 3/19/2014
John Rabenold, vice president of governmental affairs for Axcess Financial, which runs Check ‘n Go, will be sentenced on May 1 for a pair of misdemeanor counts of filing false lobbying disclosure forms. Authorities said Rabenold failed to disclose meals and gifts he provided to Ohio lawmakers on his filings in 2010, as the payday lenders tried to hold back efforts to pass tighter regulations on the industry.
Coshocton Tribune – Deirdre Shesgreen (Gannett Newspapers) | Published: 3/17/2014
Weighing in against an Ohio statute that makes it a crime to lie about a candidate, the Cato Institute filed a brief co-written by humorist P.J. O’Rourke with the U.S. Supreme Court using satire to poke fun at what it calls an “Orwellian” law that violates the First Amendment. The justices will not decide whether the law is constitutional but instead examine whether the plaintiffs have standing. Experts say that question, while seemingly technical, is important. And the underlying issues, touching on politics and free speech, are even more vital.
Pennsylvania – City Council Approves Ban on Cash Gifts to Phila Officials
Philadelphia Inquirer – Claudia Vargas and Tony Graham | Published: 3/20/2014
The Philadelphia City Council passed an ordinance that bans the city’s officers and employees from receiving any cash from a person seeking business or official action, while allowing non-monetary gifts up to $99 in value annually per donor. Mayor Michael Nutter is expected to sign the bill into law. City Board of Ethics Executive Director Shane Creamer said his agency would start working on new regulations once Nutter signs the measure.
Pennsylvania – Kane Shut Down Sting That Snared Phila. Officials
Philadelphia Inquirer – Angela Couloumbis and Craig McCoy | Published: 3/16/2014
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane shut down an operation that allegedly showed a handfull of Philadelphia politicians, including four members of the city’s state House delegation, accepting bribes and unreported gifts. The sting has not led to charges against the accused, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The report shows the probe seems marred with political head-butting between Kane and state prosecutor Frank Fina, who led the investigation. Kane called the investigation poorly conceived, badly managed, and tainted by racism, saying it had targeted African Americans.
March 14, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
Federal: Activist Lawyer Aims to Drop Campaign Restrictions USA Today – Fredreka Schouten | Published: 3/10/2014 Dan Backer is on a campaign finance crusade. Many of the lawyer’s far-fetched proposals have been rejected by federal regulators. But […]
USA Today – Fredreka Schouten | Published: 3/10/2014
Dan Backer is on a campaign finance crusade. Many of the lawyer’s far-fetched proposals have been rejected by federal regulators. But the conservative Republican could be on the brink of making election history – and his reputation – with a case the U.S. Supreme Court is deliberating. McCutcheon v. the Federal Election Commission seeks to eliminate the ceiling on what wealthy individuals can donate to federal candidates, parties, and PACs in a two-year election cycle.
New York Times – Frances Robles | Published: 3/11/2014
Roberto and William Isaias, who are fugitives from Ecuador now living in the U.S., have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from relatives for President Barack Obama and more than a dozen members of Congress. While the contributions were not illegal, campaign finance experts say they have opened the already politicized nature of extradition requests to greater scrutiny and raised questions about the access to power the donations provide.
From the States and Municipalities:
ABC News – Chuck Bartels (Associated Press) | Published: 3/11/2014
A jury found former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner guilty on 14 counts of bribery and extortion. Prosecutors said during the federal trial that Shoffner received money from broker Steele Stephens and in exchange, she steered a disproportionate amount of the state’s investment business to Stephens. Shoffner was arrested in May when FBI agents raided her home and found $6,000 that was delivered in a pie box.
KPCC – Sharon McNary | Published: 3/12/2014
Bobby Shriver, who is running for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the June 3 primary, has rejected voluntary campaign spending limits and said he will at least partially self-fund his race. The action removes expenditure caps for all the candidates, and imposes a $300 limit on donations to Shriver.
District of Columbia – Prosecutors Say DC Mayor Knew of Illegal ‘Shadow Campaign,’ Personally Requested Funds
Star Tribune – Ben Nuckols (Associated Press) | Published: 3/10/2014
Prosecutors said District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray knew about an illegal fundraising operation that helped him capture the 2010 election and personally asked a prominent business executive to finance the scheme. The allegations were revealed in court documents detailing the activities of Jeffrey Thompson, the multimillionaire former owner of a well-connected accounting firm who pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges.
Florida – Who Says Lobbyists Can’t Win Elections?
Politico – Byron Tau | Published: 3/12/2014
Despite his profession’s low approval ratings, lobbyist David Jolly edged out Alex Sink in Florida’s special election for the 13th Congressional District seat. It is the latest sign a Washington, D.C. lobbying or consultant background is not a deal-breaker at the ballot box. Jolly is the second prominent K Street denizen to get a nod from voters in recent months and two other candidates with ties to lobbying firms or trade associations will face voters this year: Ed Gillespie in Virginia and Debbie Dingell in Michigan.
Quad City Times – Kurt Erickson | Published: 3/6/2014
A lawsuit challenging Illinois’ caps on political donations is unlikely to be resolved before the 2014 elections, so limits put in place in 2009 will probably remain in place for the rest of this election season. U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feinerman dismissed most of a challenge to the landmark changes filed by the Liberty Justice Center, but kept one piece of the case alive for further debate, potentially extending arguments for several more months.
Topeka Capital Journal – Timothy Carpenter | Published: 3/12/2014
A federal grand jury indicted former Kansas Rep. Trent LeDoux, charging he used bank loans obtained to purchase cattle to finance his political activities. LeDoux faces three counts of bank fraud and two counts of money laundering for allegedly depositing funds from the cattle loans into his campaign account in 2011 and 2012.
Detroit News – Chad Livengood | Published: 3/10/2014
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will pay almost $200,000 to settle alleged campaign finance violations from a failed 2012 ballot proposal seeking collective bargaining rights for home health workers in Michigan. The complaint accused the principals behind Home Care First and Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care of intentionally delaying required filings with the secretary of state’s office to conceal that SEIU had made substantial contributions to support the proposal.
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Abby Simons | Published: 3/10/2014
The Minnesota House voted to reverse course on a recent change to the law that made it easier for lobbyists to buy meals for legislators. The bill would do away with an exception that allows lawmakers to get lobbyist-purchased meals at receptions as long as all legislators are invited. Under the state’s prior gift ban, lawmakers had to reimburse sponsoring group or lobbyists for the cost of those meals.
Charleston City Paper – Corey Hutchins | Published: 3/7/2014
Onetime lobbyist Joyce Hearn gave a total of $200 to South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s campaign in 2009 and 2010. Hearn de-registered as a lobbyist on May 30, 2010, but that does not matter, said State Ethics Commission Deputy Director Cathy Hazelwood. Even if a lobbyist de-registers in South Carolina, he or she cannot give direct campaign contributions to a lawmaker or statewide candidate during the year they lobbied.
Salt Lake Tribune – Robert Gehrke | Published: 3/12/2014
A House panel closed its investigation of former Utah Attorney General John Swallow by releasing a report that says he traded favors with businesspeople, obscured campaign donations, and destroyed records, among other allegations. “[Swallow] hung a veritable ‘for sale’ sign on the office door that invited moneyed interests to seek special treatment and favors,” alleges the report. Two county attorneys in Utah, with the assistance of the FBI, are in the middle of a criminal investigation of Swallow and others.
Washington Post – Laura Vozella, Michael Laris, and Rachel Weiner | Published: 3/8/2014
Virginia lawmakers passed an omnibus ethics reform bill that sets a $250 annual limit on the amount of certain gifts elected officials can accept from lobbyists, principals, and anyone who has or is seeking business with the state. It requires disclosure of gifts given to spouses and immediate family members, establishes an ethics advisory council, and increases the transparency of financial disclosure forms by putting them online.
The Olympian – Brad Shannon | Published: 3/11/2014
Washington lawmakers most likely will adjourn their legislative session without addressing the issue of lobbyist-paid entertainment. A bill that would have required lobbyists to file spending reports electronically at the state Public Disclosure Commission failed to move out of Senate Ways and Means Committee at the deadline for policy bills.
March 7, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Outrage Over Sexist Remarks Turns Into a Political Fund-Raising Tool New York Times – Amy Choziak | Published: 2/27/2014 With a record number of women in Congress and dozens more on the ballot, gender-charged attacks – […]
New York Times – Amy Choziak | Published: 2/27/2014
With a record number of women in Congress and dozens more on the ballot, gender-charged attacks – stoked by the growth of social media and small-dollar Internet donations – can generate campaign contributions in an instant. In the past few months, Republicans have likened Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes to an “empty dress” and referred to a pregnant woman as a “host.” Democrats blast these comments out to supporters to build voter lists and drum up donations.
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 2/28/2014
There is now a near-universal view among top donors and strategists that the Democratic Party needs its own super PACs to compete with the growing role such groups are playing on the right. But there are disagreements over how to use the independent organizations. Some say Priorities USA Action and other groups that can accept unlimited contributions are too focused on the 2016 presidential race and a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy, even as Democrats face a costly, uphill fight this year to retain a thin Senate majority and gain seats in the House.
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore | Published: 3/4/2014
Organizing for Action, a political advocacy group backed by President Barack Obama, said its executive director set up a White House meeting for a businessperson entangled in a lawsuit with a federal agency, who then pledged to raise $100,000 for the group one day after the meeting. The organization also said on three occasions its fundraisers or other employees had tried to steer potentially controversial donations to allied liberal groups that did not disclose their donors.
From the States and Municipalities:
Sacramento Bee – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 3/5/2014
Countering a series of scandals, California Senate Democrats plan to propose sweeping changes to the Political Reform Act, including stricter limits on accepting gifts and campaign contributions. Sources said the legislation will cut roughly in half the $440 annual limit on gifts to elected state officials, and prohibit candidates from holding political fundraisers at the homes of lobbyists.
Colorado Independent – John Tomasic and Tessa Cheek | Published: 3/2/2014
A bill that aims to fix the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission comes as the number of complaints filed with the panel continues to grow. House Bill 1258 seeks to bolster protections for state employees who are brought before the commission. It would ensure they are provided with tax-paid legal counsel and have the right to sue individual members of the commission for damages. Critics say the measure would do more harm than good.
Denver Post – Lynn Bartels | Published: 3/1/2014
Colorado Independent Ethics Commission Executive Director Jane Feldman has submitted her resignation, effective at the end of March. Complaints about the commission have led to legislation being introduced this session. That would affect its operations.
Bradenton Herald – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/3/2014
Many of the decisions about what issues make the agenda of Florida’s 2014 legislative session have already been made, in large part due to special interest groups and a torrent of money flowing into the coffers of legislative political committees. Longtime lobbyist Bob Levy said money has always been a major part of what happens in Tallahassee, but the difference is the number of zeroes. “It existed then, but it was $50,000; today it’s $500,000,” said Levy.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Walker Moskup | Published: 3/3/2014
From 2011 to 2013, more than half of the money raised by Missouri campaign committees – about $67 million – came from donations of $5,000 or more. Those larger donations represent about three percent of the total number of contributions. The absence of contribution limits in the state exacerbates the reliance on mega-donors, said Missouri State University professor George Connor.
Harrisburg Patriot-News – Matt Miller | Published: 3/3/2014
A Washington, D.C.-based super PAC filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to void a Pennsylvania law that is blocking its efforts to raise funds from corporations, associations, and unions in the state. The General Majority PAC contends the U.S. Constitution and a Supreme Court ruling grant it the right to solicit money from those sources to finance its political message during Pennsylvania’s legislative races this year.
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 3/3/2014
While events featuring free food remain a popular way to attract Utah lawmakers to hear lobbying pitches, they appear to be changing. The number of free lunches, which are expensive for sponsors, dropped by nearly half this year. Less-costly receptions nearly doubled. Still, special interests do not see free “wining and dining” disappearing any time soon. That is too bad, say groups who cannot afford that style of lobbying.
Washington Post – Michael Laris | Published: 3/1/2014
The Virginia House and Senate have passed different bills that address ethics reform. They will work on a compromise as the legislative session draws to a close, but neither bill addresses key loopholes. Lawmakers said it was more difficult than they expected to make far-reaching changes, in part because as they got into the details, they became concerned that imposing tough provisions could end up inadvertently criminalizing their own honest mistakes.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 3/4/2014
Recently introduced bills in Wisconsin would exempt political groups behind issue ads from disclosing donors and allow lobbyists to funnel donations to candidates. Senate Bill 655 would allow lobbyists to provide contributions on behalf of others to elected officials at any time. The bill also would move up the date on which lobbyists can personally give campaign contributions from June 1 to April 15 of election years.
February 28, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: In Some States, gaming Industry Consultants Double as Gambling Regulators Las Vegas Review-Journal – Hannah Dreier (Associated Press) | Published: 2/23/2014 As more cities and states embrace legalized gambling across the country, private companies are being […]
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Hannah Dreier (Associated Press) | Published: 2/23/2014
As more cities and states embrace legalized gambling across the country, private companies are being hired to write regulations and vet casinos, even as the same firms work the other side of the fence, helping casinos enter new markets and sometimes lobbying for their interests. Letting consulting companies with deep ties to the gambling industry decide how casinos are run is a significant departure from how established gambling states, including Nevada and New Jersey, do things.
The Nation – Lee Fang | Published: 2/19/2014
January records show spending on federal lobbyists decreased for the third consecutive year, and the number of registered lobbyists dropped to the lowest level since 2002. Despite word if its demise, some experts believe lobbying is not becoming extinct; it is only going underground. The combination of a loophole-ridden law, meager enforcement efforts, and a sophisticated strategy permitting third parties to develop faux-grassroots campaigns, as well as White House executive orders that dissuaded lobbyists from registering, all combined to collapse the system designed to track federal lobbying.
From the States and Municipalities:
Fresno Bee – Laurel Rosenhall (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 2/21/2014
California Sen. Ron Calderon was charged with accepting $100,000 in bribes, lavish trips, and no-show jobs for his children in exchange for pushing legislation to benefit a hospital engaged in billing fraud and participating in a film industry tax scheme that actually was an FBI sting. Calderon’s brother, Tom, a former state lawmaker-turned-lobbyist, was charged with money-laundering for funneling bribes through a tax-exempt group he controlled.
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy and Paige St. John | Published: 2/20/2014
The California Fair Political Practices Commission signed off on a $133,500 fine for lobbyist Kevin Sloat, who made improper campaign contributions to elected officials. The attorney whose lawsuit triggered the investigation, criticized the commission for not addressing other allegations. The suit said Sloat and his firm arranged free golf games for lawmakers at a course run by a client, helped legislators get sports and concert tickets, and assisted one state Assembly member in buying art at a deep discount.
Connecticut – Federal Grand Jury Probes GOP Contracts
Connecticut Post – Ken Dixon and Neil Vigdor | Published: 2/21/2014
Lawmakers say they believe federal authorities are trying to determine whether any Connecticut House Republicans were pressured to use a particular company for their political campaign mailings. Federal subpoenas show the FBI wants to see contracts and correspondence between the House Republicans and two direct mail companies that have been used by the caucus members and the caucus’ PACs.
Georgia – Ethics: The ghost of Legislatures past
Georgia Public Broadcasting – Jeanne Bonner | Published: 2/20/2014
Georgia lawmakers attended a joint question and answer session to straighten out growing confusion about how to abide by the law that lobbyists’ spending on individual legislators to $75 per expenditure. Critics and supporters alike say it contains exceptions that may undermine the intent to rein in lobbyists’ power. The state ethics commission probably will not issue guidelines on complying with the law until this summer.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nathan Eagle | Published: 2/25/2014
Hawaii lawmakers are advancing legislation this session that would require lobbyists to account for the money they are spending by breaking it into categories that show how much goes toward food, entertainment, gifts, loans, and other areas. A separate bill aims to make lobbying disclosure reports available in a timelier manner, particularly after a special legislative session.
Rochester Post-Bulletin – Heather Carlson | Published: 2/25/2014
During the last legislative sessionin Minnesota, a campaign finance bill was successfully amended to allow lawmakers and legislative employees to attend receptions thrown by lobbyists without having to pay for food and drinks. It does require that all 201 lawmakers be invited and given at least five days’ notice. Now, state Rep. Ryan Winkler has sponsored a bill to reinstate a ban on the practice.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Virginia Young | Published: 2/26/2014
Members of the Missouri House General Laws Committee agreed the state needs to update its ethics laws, but were divided on how to do it and how far an overhaul should go. The committee considered several proposals, including ones that would require limits on campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts.
Bergen Record – John Ensslin | Published: 2/20/2014
Bergen County freeholders approved a “pay-to-play” bill that will drastically lower the amount of money contractors can donate to county political parties. The freeholders passed a resolution that will lower the allowed contribution from no-bid county contractors from $5,200 to $2,000. The move represents a reversal of a 2013 measure that softened restrictions during a critical election year for both parties and led to criticism from watchdog groups.
Salem Statesman Journal – Hannah Hoffman | Published: 2/24/2014
Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown announced her department’s online systems – the Central Business Registry and ORESTAR, the state’s online campaign finance reporting system – are back up and running after being shut down for nearly three weeks following a security breach. Brown said a grace period has been established for political campaigns filing overdue reports, with fines for late transactions being waived.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Bob Warner | Published: 2/24/2014
A Philadelphia City Council committee gave initial approval to specific limits on the value of gifts that city workers can accept. The city’s five-decades-old gift law had never sets limits on the value of gifts that city workers, including elected officials, can receive. The ordinance would allow city employees to annually accept noncash gifts worth up to $99, even from people with official business before them.
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 2/24/2014
Utah and Oregon are the only two states where lawmakers cannot abstain and are required to vote even if they have a major conflict-of-interest on a bill. Utah Rep. Jim Nielson has introduced legislation to allow lawmakers to abstain or vote “present.” But he does not expect it to go far. In part, that is because leaders see conflicts as natural in a citizen Legislature, and they worry that creating more pressure to declare them and skip votes could get out of hand. Ethics reformers say a better system is needed.
The Daily Progress – Marcus Schmidt (Richmond Times Dispatch) | Published: 2/26/2014
The Virginia House passed a Senate ethics reform package. Senate Bill 649, which is almost identical to a proposal a House committee hammered out over several weeks, puts a $250 cap on gifts from lobbyists and anyone with business before the state, and it creates an ethics advisory council that will oversee and update Virginia’s financial disclosure system. Del. C. Todd Gilbert said he expects both bills to be dealt with in conference committee before one broad proposal heads to Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Washington – State Legislators’ Financial Disclosures Fall Short
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 2/22/2014
Although Washington frequently gets high marks from national open-government groups, some experts say one area where the state is lagging is in the personal financial disclosure by public officials. There are other flaws in the state’s disclosure system that leave holes in the public’s understanding of the financial affairs of their elected officials. As a result, some lawmakers file erroneous or confusing reports that go uncorrected unless spotted by political opponents, journalists, or activists.
February 21, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Last Call for State Parties? Politico – Byron Tau | Published: 2/16/2014 State party officials across the country say the increase in money going to super PACs, nonprofits, and presidential campaigns has made fundraising more difficult. […]
Politico – Byron Tau | Published: 2/16/2014
State party officials across the country say the increase in money going to super PACs, nonprofits, and presidential campaigns has made fundraising more difficult. Some of those outside groups are starting to take over the traditional local roles state parties play, spending big on voter contact and outreach operations. The effect is that candidates can be more beholden to national organizations or single-issue groups rather than state party leaders.
Washington Post – Holly Yeager | Published: 2/17/2014
The retirements of several powerful members of Congress are affecting former aides that have moved to K Street. Across a variety of areas, the departures – more than two dozen at last count – are prompting former Capitol Hill staffers whose biographies boast of their high-level connections to try to reassure their lobbying clients that they bring more to the job than links with their old bosses.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – Ex-SF Supervisor Yaki Heads off Suit, Pays $75K
San Francisco Chronicle – John Coté | Published: 2/20/2014
Former San Francisco Supervisor Michael Yaki agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a lawsuit in which the city alleged he was an unregistered lobbyist who broke the municipal lobbying law “in every way.” The proposed settlement would be the largest payment in state history to resolve allegations of unreported lobbying. Yaki also must register retroactive to 2012 and report all of his contacts with city officials from that point forward.
San Louis Obispo Tribune – Laurel Rosenhall and Christopher Cadelago (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 2/14/2014
The San Francisco 49ers fired their Sacramento lobbying firm, Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates, after the company was fined $133,500 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for violating the state’s lobbying laws. Kevin Sloat acknowledged hosting elaborate fundraising parties for nearly 40 politicians, providing liquor, cigars, and other hospitality that amounted to campaign contributions that are prohibited from lobbyists.
Miami Herald – Patricia Mazzei | Published: 2/14/2014
In June, during his early days exploring Miami as a location for his expansion Major League Soccer franchise, David Beckham and his investors had meetings with local officials. Now, Miami-Dade’s ethics commission is examining whether Beckham and his partners broke any rules requiring lobbyists to register with county government before making a pitch to public officials.
New Orleans Times Picayune – Julia O’Donohue | Published: 2/18/2014
A super PAC set up to support U.S. Sen. David Vitter and his 2015 gubernatorial run is asking a federal court to rule Louisiana’s cap on donations to PACs unconstitutional. The Fund for Louisiana’s Future argues the state is restricting political speech by imposing a contribution limit on PACs of $100,000 per four-year election cycle from individuals, corporations, and unions. It wants the court to make a decision before April 5, when the next round of Louisiana’s local and state elections take place.
NJ.com – Alex Zdan and Jenna Pizzi | Published: 2/16/2014
Trenton Mayor Tony Mack has refused to step down after he was found guilty February 7 on corruption charges. His conviction in a federal court does not trigger his automatic removal from office; without a resignation, Mack will remain mayor until state prosecutors can get a judge to sign off on an order of forfeiture. Removal after a conviction in state court is automatic, but not if the official is tried by federal prosecutors as Mack was.
New York – JCOPE Returns to Waivers
Albany Times Union – Casey Seiler | Published: 2/18/2014
At a recent meeting, members of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics debated exemptions to rules that require the disclosure of donors by nonprofit groups that engage in lobbying. The controversy over the exemptions began last summer, when it was revealed the state arm of the pro-choice group NARAL had been granted an exemption, prompting Republicans to complain that the panel had created a secret path for political giving.
Raleigh News & Observer – Bruse Henderson | Published: 2/14/2014
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory denied he had any talks with Duke Energy executives or lobbyists about his administration’s now scuttled deal to settle environmental violations at two of the company’s coal ash dumps. McCrory worked at Duke 28 years before retiring to make his first run for governor in 2008. On a state disclosure form, McCrory last year indicated his investment portfolio includes holdings of Duke stock valued in excess of $10,000, though he is not obligated to disclose the specific amount.
Salem Statesman Journal – Hannah Hoffman | Published: 2/19/2014
The Oregon secretary of state’s office shut down most its public online systems after detecting an intrusion into its website. Secretary of State Kate Brown is waiving fines for missing a campaign finance reporting deadline while ORESTAR remains down.
South Carolina – SC Poised to Elect First Black Candidate to Statewide Office
The State – Adam Beam | Published: 2/18/2014
The last time South Carolinians elected an African-American to statewide office was 1872, when Richard Howell Gleaves was elected the state’s second – and last – black lieutenant governor. The black community’s political influence was squashed in 1895 when then-Gov. Ben Tillman rewrote the state constitution, which is still in place today, to virtually eliminate all black influence in state politics. Now, 142 years later, that influence appears to be returning, albeit it in small steps.
Rutland Herald – Neal Goswami (Vermont Press Bureau) | Published: 2/14/2014
The Vermont House defeated an attempt by one member to delay implementation of the state’s new campaign finance law until 2019. Rep. Cynthia Browning tried to add the delay as an amendment to a bill making a technical correction to the campaign finance law signed by Gov. Peter Shumlin in January. Browning and other critics have charged it did too little to clamp down on the influence of wealthy political donors.
Washington Post – Rosalind Helderman | Published: 2/20/2014
Thousands of recently unsealed documents link Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to a secret email system used in his office that would avoid public scrutiny when he was Milwaukee County executive. The documents show just how intertwined Walker’s campaign operation was with his taxpayer-paid county staff in the months leading to the November 2010 election. It is against state law for public employees to work for political parties and campaigns while being paid by taxpayers to provide government services.
February 14, 2014 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: The State Races Ignored – Until Now Politico – Tal Kopan | Published: 2/12/2014 Races for secretary of state have captured the attention of some of the country’s major political players, who have formed national PACs […]
Politico – Tal Kopan | Published: 2/12/2014
Races for secretary of state have captured the attention of some of the country’s major political players, who have formed national PACs and sketched out multimillion-dollar fundraising plans. They believe that winning these offices could give their side an edge in the 2016 presidential race because secretaries of state run elections and can shape voter ID rules and other details. When margins are tight, those small differences can mean the difference between a win and a loss.
Washington Post – Reid Wilson | Published: 2/7/2014
For the Democratic professionals who run campaigns, the thing that frustrates them most about the coordinated network of conservative donors built by Charles and David Koch is that there is no real equivalent on their side. That is because big Democratic donors and big Republican contributors are motivated by different types of issues, and therefore give differently, according to Democratic strategists who deal frequently with wealthy donors.
New York Times – Carl Hulse | Published: 2/12/2014
In a rare agreement between tea party and liberal activists, organizations across the political spectrum say new regulations drafted by the Internal Revenue Service to curb a surge in political spending and activity by nonprofits are far too broad. They fear that enforcement of the regulations would chill more neutral civic initiatives such as voter registration efforts and candidate forums.
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 2/9/2014
Conservative and liberal groups are again working in opaque ways to shape controversial political debates in Washington through organizations with benign-sounding names that can mask the intentions of their wealthy patrons. They do it with the gloss of research, and play a critical and often underappreciated role in multilevel lobbying campaigns, backed by corporate lobbyists and labor unions, with a potential payoff that can be in the millions of dollars for the interests they represent.
From the States and Municipalities:
Sacramento Bee – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 2/11/2014
Kevin Sloat and his lobbying firm, Sloat Higgins Jensen & Associates, agreed to pay a record $133,500 fine to the California Fair Political Practices Commission for making improper campaign contributions to some 40 politicians. In addition to improperly providing expensive wines, liquor, and cigars at fundraisers, Sloat and his firm also illegally arranged for gifts including sports tickets for some lawmakers.
Denver Post – Kurtis Lee | Published: 2/6/2014
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office issued an opinion clearing the way for political parties to form independent expenditure committees and solicit unlimited funds. In the years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows unlimited contributions for some groups, the Colorado Republican Party, which asked for the opinion, has felt weakened by the state’s campaign finance laws parties must adhere to.
Connecticut – Panel Warns About Fundraising from Contractors
Hartford Courant – John Lender | Published: 2/12/2014
Connecticut’s Elections Enforcement Commission adopted an unsolicited advisory opinion outlining when it is appropriate for a state campaign or candidate to receive money from a federal account, either directly or indirectly. Without accusing the Democratic Party of doing anything wrong, the agency that regulates elections sought to clarify questions raised by the news media and state contractors, who are banned from giving money directly to a party’s state account.
Miami Herald – Dan Christensen (Broward Bulldog) | Published: 2/7/2014
Lobbyist registration and disclosure has been mandatory for years in Tallahassee and in many city and county halls across Florida. Those who violate the law can be fined and barred from lobbying for up to two years. But the nearly 1,000 special-purpose governments across the state that raise and spend billions of dollars in public funds every year do not require lobbyists who appear before them to register, pay fees, or disclose any information about themselves or their clients.
Louisiana – Nagin Guilty of 20 Counts of Bribery and Fraud
New York Times – Campbell Robertson | Published: 2/12/2014
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was convicted on 20 of 21 bribery and conspiracy charges, capping a broad federal investigation into public corruption in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Seven contractors and officials also have been convicted of, or have pleaded guilty to, trading city business for trips and payments. Nagin could receive a sentence of as many as 20 years in prison.
Massachusetts – House Ejects Carlos Henriquez for Assault Conviction
Boston Globe – Jim O’Sullivan and Michael Levenson | Published: 2/7/2014
The Massachusetts House expelled state Rep. Carlos Henriquez, who is serving a six-month jail sentence after being convicted of assaulting a former girlfriend. Henriquez said he was innocent of the charges and rejected calls for him to resign. House leaders insisted Henriquez’s confinement would prevent him from discharging the duties of his office. They urged colleagues to look at photos of the victim, which they said showed multiple black-and-blue marks on her chest, torso, and arms.
St. Paul Pioneer Press – Brian Bakst (Associated Press) | Published: 2/11/2014
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board issued an opinion that discourages candidates from helping independent political groups raise money that could eventually be routed back into their races. The board said such activity would likely violate laws meant to keep activities of candidates and independent expenditure committees separate.
Washington Post – Carol Morello and Carol Leonnig | Published: 2/10/2014
When Chris Christie became U.S. attorney for New Jersey, he took an oath to uphold public trust by prosecuting corruption and fraud in a state infamous for both, and to be above political influence or bias. But he held this powerful, apolitical post at a time when he was building a political future for himself, laying the groundwork for his campaign for governor. Christie’s bosses were concerned about the appearance of several deals he struck with corporations that agreed to change their ways if they were not charged in cases involving financial irregularities.
New York – City Hall’s New ‘In’ Crowd
Crain’s New York Business – Chris Bragg | Published: 2/10/2014
Political observers say lobbyists’ reputed closeness to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other recently elected power brokers will determine who prospers in the influence industry. “Anytime a story is written saying a lobbyist is close to a politician, they raise their rates,” said Ken Fisher, a lobbyist at Cozen O’Connor and a former City Council member.
Roanoke Times – Marcus Schmidt (Richmond Times-Dispatch) | Published: 2/11/2014
The Virginia Legislature moved forward with measures to overhaul the state’s ethics law. The House and Senate each passed almost identical reform bills by overwhelming margins. Both bills require lawmakers and public officials to disclose gifts to their immediate families, mandate gift disclosures twice rather than once a year, and cap tangible gifts from lobbyists at $250.