News You Can Use Digest – August 24, 2018

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

 

 

 

National:

Despite Year-of-the-Woman Buzz, Female Candidates Lag Behind Men in Pulling in Campaign Cash
The News-Times – Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy (Washington Post) | Published: 8/16/2018

Even as a record number of women run for office this year, female congressional candidates trail their male counterparts when it comes to fundraising. Of candidates who showed viability by raising at least $50,000, men running for the House had collected almost 17 percent more on average than their female counterparts by the end of June. One key factor is many female candidates lack relationships with longtime donors who work in traditionally male-dominated industries such as finance. That is a particular challenge for women this cycle, because the majority are newcomers to politics and, like any non-incumbent, must build donor networks from scratch. But their task is often more difficult, some female candidates said, because of skepticism about their potential, based on their gender.

Federal:

Elizabeth Warren Unveils Plans to Root Out Corruption in Washington, Ensure Federal Government Works for Americans
MassLive.com – Shannon Young | Published: 8/21/2018

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, which lays out a multi-step approach to ending corruption and increasing public integrity. It calls for permanently banning elected and appointed officials from becoming lobbyists after they leave office, barring presidents and federal lawmakers from owning companies while in office, and ending “legalized lobbyist bribery” by preventing them from writing campaign checks or giving personal gifts to candidates or lawmakers. The bill would also create an independent anti-corruption agency dedicated to enforcing federal ethics laws and requiring elected officials and candidates to disclose more financial and tax information, among other provisions.

Hunter Indictment Could Jeopardize GOP Seat
Politico – John Bresnahan and Rachel Bade | Published: 8/21/2018

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife were indicted on allegations of using more than $250,000 of campaign funds for personal expenses, including family vacations, private school tuition for their children, dental work, and an airline ticket for a pet rabbit. The indictment portrays the Hunters as a couple with serious financial problems. They allegedly overdrew their joint checking account more than 1,100 times during a seven-year period, leading to more than $37,000 in overdraft charges. Hunter’s indictment endangers a traditionally conservative southern California seat long held by Republicans. Hunter cannot take his name off the November ballot and California does not allow write-in candidates.

Michael Cohen Says He Arranged Payments to Women at Trump’s Direction
MSN – William Rashbaum, Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess, and Jim Rutenberg (New York Times) | Published: 8/21/2018

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other charges, saying Trump directed him to arrange the payment of hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal to fend off damage to his White House bid. Cohen’s admission marks the first time any Trump associate has gone into open court and implicated Trump himself in a crime. Under federal law, expenditures to protect a candidate’s political fortunes can be construed to be campaign contributions, subject to laws that bar donations from corporations and set limits on how much can be given. Trump denied to reporters in April that he knew anything about Cohen’s payments to Daniels.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: Developer Whose Wife Sat on Ethics Commission Faces $15,000 Fine Over Political Donations
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser | Published: 8/20/2018

Six years ago, city council President Herb Wesson drew criticism for putting the wife of a campaign fundraiser on the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, a panel that votes on fines for people who violate political contribution rules. Wesson had selected nonprofit executive Erin Pak, who was also the wife of architect and real estate developer Chris Pak, host of fundraising events for Mayor Eric Garcetti and other local politicians. Erin Pak left the commission three years ago. Now, Chris Pak is facing $15,000 in proposed fines from the commission for giving contributions that exceeded the city limit. All but one of the violations took place during the period when Erin Pak was on the commission.

Florida: After a Florida Democrat Said She’d Take Donations from the Marijuana Industry, Wells Fargo Closed Her Bank Account
Washington Post – Christopher Ingraham | Published: 8/20/2018

Nikki Fried, who is running for agriculture commissioner in Florida, said Wells Fargo terminated her campaign’s account because of her links to the medical marijuana businesses. Fried said the action came after the bank questioned her about her campaign platform and donations she had taken, as well as her stance on medical marijuana. Wells Fargo spokesperson Jennifer Dunn said the bank’s policy is to not provide services for businesses related to marijuana businesses. Fried has accepted campaign contributions from lobbyists connected to medical marijuana. If such a policy were applied nationwide it could potentially jeopardize the banking access of dozens of state and national politicians.

Georgia: Georgia Voting Rights Activists Move to Block a Plan to Close Two-Thirds of Polling Places in a Majority Black County
Chicago Tribune – Vanessa Williams (Washington Post) | Published: 8/18/2018

Randolph County in rural Georgia wants to eliminate all but two of the county’s polling locations just months before the midterm elections because they are not in compliance with disabilities laws. Some residents and progressive groups allege the move was aimed at suppressing turnout in the county, in which more than 55 percent of the voters are black and have backed Democratic candidates in statewide elections. Activists noted many residents have low incomes and the county, which covers 431 square miles, has no public transportation system. All nine of the polling places were used for the May primaries and less than a month ago for statewide run-offs.

Kentucky: Loophole Allows Organizations to Pay for Legislators’ Out-of-State Travel Without Disclosing Amounts
Insider Louisville – Joe Sonka | Published: 8/22/2018

Due to a loophole in Kentucky’s ethics law, a large majority of travel expenditures for state lawmakers covered by private organizations are not required to be disclosed by lawmakers to the Legislative Research Commission or the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission. John Schaaf, executive director of the ethics panel, said this reporting loophole occurs when those groups pay in advance for legislators’ travel, as “there is no disclosure required of expenses prepaid for transportation, food and lodging.” Events organized by outside groups are sometimes funded by businesses and interests that lobby the Legislature.

Louisiana: Louisiana Senate President Sank Ride-Sharing Bill. His Close Pal Sells Insurance to Cabs.
ProPublica – Rebekah Allen | Published: 8/23/2018

Ride-sharing companies are not coming to many parts of Louisiana anytime soon because the state does not have legislation in place allowing them to operate. It is one of only five states that lacks such a law, instead requiring the companies to go through the costly and time-intensive process of getting approval in each locality. A bill to change that has garnered widespread and bipartisan support among politicians and was favored by many economic development groups. But the legislation has been blocked by Senate President John Alario. Many observers noted Alario’s close personal, professional, and political alliance with former Sen. Francis Heitmeier, who makes a living selling insurance to cab companies and lobbied against the ride-sharing bill. The cab industry was one of the few opponents of the measure.

Mississippi: Inside a Super PAC That Spends on Everything but Winning
Associated Press – Brian Slodysko | Published: 8/16/2018

Two billionaire political donors poured $1.25 million into a super PAC that was supposed to supercharge Chris McDaniel’s insurgent bid to be Mississippi’s next Republican senator. A year later, much of the money from Richard Uihlein and Robert Mercer is gone. Only a fraction was spent reaching voters who could boost the former state lawmaker’s uphill battle against Cindy Hyde-Smith in a November special election that will determine who finishes out Sen. Thad Cochran’s term. What the Remember Mississippi super PAC has provided, however, is a generous payday for at least 18 campaign consultants who received the lion’s share of the money.

Montana: Montana’s Campaign-Contribution Limits Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court
KXLH – Mike Dennison | Published: 8/17/2018

James Bopp Jr. asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a 2017 lower-court ruling that upheld Montana’s limits on campaign contributions for state candidates. Bopp has been an attorney in many cases challenging limits on campaign spending and contributions, including Citizens United. His appeal in the Montana case is the latest development in a seven-year-old lawsuit challenging the state’s contribution limits, which were enacted by initiative in 1994.

New York: A Corrupt Lobbyist’s Influence in the Cuomo Administration Is Revealed in Newly Disclosed Emails
New York Times – Jesse McKinley | Published: 8/20/2018

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly downplayed his relationship with his former aide Todd Howe, who became key figure in a pair of federal corruption cases after pleading guilty and reaching a deal with prosecutors. Howe’s cooperation in those cases helped convict two other former top aides: Joseph Percoco, once one of Cuomo’s closest friends and trusted advisers, and Alain Kaloyeros, the economic expert who the governor praised as a genius. But in nearly 350 pages of emails, it was clear Howe had entree to the top levels of Cuomo’s administration, a period that included the time leading up to the news of the federal probe.

New York: Cuomo Signs Bill Banning Use of Paid Intermediaries to Win State Pension Fund Business
New York Daily News – Kenneth Lovett | Published: 8/21/2018

New York Gov. Andrew Gov. Cuomo signed legislation that bars firms from using placement agents, paid intermediaries, and registered lobbyists in obtaining investments from the state pension fund. Assembly Bill 3137 puts into law a policy adopted by Controller Thomas DiNapoli nearly a decade ago amid a “pay-to-play” scandal. The probe resulted in eight people being charged criminally, including two, former state Controller Alan Hevesi and his political consultant Hank Morris, who went to prison.

West Virginia: How One West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Gave Natural Gas a Big Victory and Shortchanged Residents
ProPublica – Ken Ward Jr. | Published: 8/20/2018

The West Virginia House impeached the four sitting justices on the state Supreme Court for extravagant spending, among other charges. Justice Beth Walker was impeached over allegations of irresponsible spending and poorly managing the court’s administrative affairs. Left unmentioned in the debate has been a peculiar vote by Walker that benefited the natural gas industry. She made an unusual decision to reopen a case and then reverse a Supreme Court ruling that would have forced drillers to pay more in profits to residents. Walker made the decision around the time her husband owned stock in a variety of energy companies, including those participating in West Virginia’s growing gas boom.