News You Can Use – April 13, 2018

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

 

 

 

National:

AP Finds Legislatures Lack Public Records on Harassment
Arizona Daily Star – David Lieb (Associated Press) | Published: 4/11/2018

In the past 15 months, dozens of state lawmakers have been forced from office, removed from their leadership roles, reprimanded. or publicly accused of sexual misconduct in a mounting backlash against misbehavior by those in power. Yet the majority of state legislative chambers across the country have no publicly available records of any sexual misconduct claims over the past 10 years. They say no complaints were made, no tally was kept, or they do not legally have to disclose it. Some lawmakers and experts on sexual wrongdoing in the workplace say that suggests legislators are not taking the problem seriously.

Facebook Fallout Deals Blow to Mercers’ Political Clout
MSN – Nicholas Confessore and David Gelles (New York Times) | Published: 4/10/2018

The revelation that Cambridge Analytica improperly acquired the private Facebook data of millions of users has set off government inquiries, plunging Facebook into crisis. But it has also battered the nascent political network overseen by wealthy conservative donor Rebekah Mercer and financed by her father, Robert Mercer. Cambridge Analytica was co-founded by Robert Mercer. An advocacy group backing President Trump and controlled by Rebekah Mercer has gone silent following strategic disputes between her and other top donors. And no American candidate or super PAC has reported payments to Cambridge Analytica since the 2016 campaign.

Facebook’s New Rules Aim to Thwart the Kind of Ads Bought by Russian Trolls During the Election
Washington Post – Tony Romm | Published: 4/6/2018

Facebook announced a series of moves meant to improve the transparency of political ads and pages on its social media service. Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in a post that the company has started requiring advertisers to verify their identity and location before they can run political ads. That verification is meant to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections. Facebook will also soon start verifying the identify and location of people who run large Facebook pages. Officials say Russian agents used pages to pose as Americans on different sides of the political spectrum in an attempt to spread misinformation before the election.

Federal:

Investigators Focus on Another Trump Ally: The National Enquirer
WRAL – Jim Rutenberg, Emily Steel, and Mike McIntire (New York Times) | Published: 4/11/2018

President Trump has deep connections with the country’s largest tabloid publisher, American Media Inc (AMI), which publishes The National Enquirer. The company’s chairperson, David Pecker, is a close friend of the president’s. Since the early stages of his campaign, Trump, his lawyer Michael Cohen, and Pecker have strategized about protecting him and lashing out at his political enemies. Now AMI has been drawn into an investigation of Cohen’s activities, including efforts to head off potentially damaging stories about Trump during his run for the White House. The inquiry presents thorny questions about AMI’s First Amendment protections, and whether its record in supporting Trump somehow opens the door to scrutiny usually reserved for political organizations.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Ivey Signs Ethics Exemption for Developers into Law
AP News – Kim Chandler | Published: 4/6/2018

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that will exempt economic developers from the state ethics law. Economic developers would not be considered lobbyists and would not register with the state and disclose their employers and activity as lobbyists do, under the legislation. Supporters said developers do not currently register, but the law needed to be clarified because of recent questions over whether they should. Critics had argued that anyone seeking deals with the state should not be exempted, and such exemptions could be exploited.

Arizona – Ducey Signs Bill Overriding Local Laws on Certain Campaign-Finance Disclosures
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 4/5/2018

Arizona cities are losing their right to demand that nonprofit groups seeking to sway local elections divulge who is financing the effort. Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation that pre-empts local ordinances requiring these groups to register as PACs. The measure, which takes effect this summer, also makes any effort to identify contributions off limits. It is not known whether Tempe will challenge the new law as an unconstitutional infringement on local powers. Tempe residents voted earlier this year to mandate disclosure of spending on local races.

Georgia – Man Gets Prison for Obstruction in Atlanta Bribery Probe
Washington Times – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 4/9/2018

An Atlanta man who threw a concrete block through a city contractor’s window to discourage him from talking to federal investigators was sentenced to prison for obstructing their bribery probe. Shandarrick Barnes had pleaded guilty to obstructing justice. He is the fourth person to receive a prison sentence after entering a guilty plea in the ongoing federal investigation into a “pay-to-play” scheme for city contracts. U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said Barnes used “mob-like tactics” to try to keep construction contractor Elvin Mitchell Jr. from cooperating with investigators.

Hawaii – What’s Up with All the Gut-And-Replace Trickery at The Legislature This Year?
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nathan Eagle | Published: 4/5/2018

Watchdog groups have called on the Hawaii Legislature for years to end “misleading practices which keep the public in the dark,” as their 2013 petition to the House and Senate put it. There is the “gut-and-replace” tactic, which involves removing the entire contents of a bill and inserting the contents of another in its place without any notice. And there are the so-called Frankenstein bills that keep the original contents of one bill and add the contents of another that had died earlier in the session. A common practice this session combines both tactics while giving a couple of days’ notice.

Kansas – Kansas AG Wants Court to Bar Out-of-State Residents from Running for Governor
Kansas City Star – Hunter Woodall | Published: 4/10/2018

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed a lawsuit to put the brakes on out-of-state gubernatorial candidates after 10 people living outside the state’s borders took initial steps to run. State law makes no express statement about candidates’ age or residency. News coverage about the lack of requirements has led to a slew of teenagers and non-Kansans forming campaign committees for a gubernatorial run. A man tried, and failed, to get his dog on the ballot.

Missouri – Woman: Sexual encounter with Greitens was not consensual. Lawmakers find her credible
Kansas City Star – Lindsay Wise (McClatchy) and Jason Hancock | Published: 4/11/2018

The crisis confronting Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens deepened with the release of a legislative report that outlines in detail new allegations about the governor’s behavior toward a woman who was his hair dresser. While Greitens has described the extramarital relations as “consensual,” the woman said it included unwanted and potentially coerced sexual acts that she felt afraid to say no to and physical violence, in addition to the threat of blackmail. The governor is facing a felony charge that he invaded the woman’s privacy by taking a nude photograh of her without her consent. The report raised the specter of impeachment for Greitens and prompted another round of calls for him to step down.

New Mexico – Biggest Donors Get Around Contribution Limits
New Mexico Political Report – Marjorie Childress (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 4/9/2018

Even though New Mexico passed campaign contribution limits in 2009 after several high-profile elected officials went to jail for corruption, people still have the potential to contribute more than the limits by giving through companies they own, or combining with family members to give. A debate over contribution limits since then has often included arguments that limits just push money into political committees or “dark money” groups that spend money independently, making it more difficult for the public to know who is paying for political ads and other activities designed to influence elections. But good government advocates disagree.

New York – JCOPE Reaches Settlement with Top Lobbyist Over de Blasio Donation
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 4/9/2018

Lobbyist James Capalino agreed to pay $40,000 to settle an investigation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). The commission has been investigating Capalino’s fundraising for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s now-defunct nonprofit Campaign for One New York. The probe relied on JCOPE’s re-interpretation of the state gift ban law. The law disallows public officials from accepting “valuable gifts” from people with business before state government if such a gift appears intended to influence the official. JCOPE in 2014 said donations to an official’s nonprofit are covered under the law.

Ohio – Amid FBI Investigation, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger Resigns
Cincinnati Enquirer – Chrissie Thompson and Jessie Balmert | Published: 4/10/2018

Facing an FBI investigation into his spending and overseas travel, Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said he will resign from office on May 1. Rosenberger has been criticized for his lavish lifestyle, which includes traveling around the world and staying in a luxury Columbus condominium owned by a wealthy Republican campaign donor. In August, Rosenberger took a four-day trip to London with GOP leaders from other states for an event paid for by the GOPAC Education Fund’s Institute for Leadership Development. Steve Dimon, a registered lobbyist for title lender LoanMax, also was on the trip. Title and payday lenders have been lobbying against proposed legislation in Ohio that would place restrictions on their industry. Dimon declined to say whether the two discussed any legislation or if he has been questioned by the FBI.

South Dakota – South Dakota a ‘Standout’ in Limiting Voters’ Ability to Bring Issues to the Ballot
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Dana Ferguson | Published: 4/6/2018

South Dakota voters in 2016 passed a sweeping ethics reform initiative, which state legislators then struck down. A year after Initiated Measure 22’s demise, lawmakers passed a dozen bills tightening the reins on the initiative and referendum process. The onslaught of bills puts South Dakota in a league of its own in terms of restricting direct democracy. Now, advocates are scrambling to undo the laws that do the most damage before they are left fighting under the new constraints imposed on the process.

 

State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.