News You Can Use Digest – February 23, 2018

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

Sexual Misconduct Spurs New Elections: The #MeToo race
New York Times – Trip Gabriel and Jess Bidgood | Published: 2/20/2018

Allegations of sexual misconduct led to resignations by nearly a dozen state and federal lawmakers in recent months, setting off a flurry of special elections around the country to fill seats suddenly left open by the #MeToo reckoning. Yet the candidates running to replace these disgraced men, many of whom are women, are hesitating to put sexual harassment front and center as an issue in their campaigns. In at least eight state legislative and two congressional races, including special elections in Minnesota and Oklahoma that were held recently, the subject has rarely been mentioned in advertisements, rallies, or when knocking on doors.

State Officials Say They Are Told Too Little About Election Threats
New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 2/19/2018

State elections officials said they want more information from federal officials to ensure they are protected from cybersecurity threats in light of evidence that foreign operatives plan to try to interfere in the midterm elections. At a conference of secretaries of state, several officials said the government was slow to share information about specific threats faced by states during the 2016 election. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Russian government hackers tried to gain access to voter registration files or public election sites in 21 states. Although the hackers are not believed to have manipulated or removed data from state systems, experts worry that the attackers might be more successful this year.

With Grief and Hope, Florida Students Take Gun Control Fight on the Road
New York Times – Brendan Farrington, Josh Replogle, and Tamara Lush (Associated Press) | Published: 2/21/2018

Students in the vanguard of protests are giving gun-safety advocates fresh hope that the violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and the widespread response to it among youths, could create new momentum across the country to enact restrictions on firearms. But these students are also attracting political attacks from advocates for gun rights. And established groups, demoralized after a string of shootings that have prompted no political response, are aware of how quickly such a moment can fade. For now, however, there is momentum on the issue.

Federal:

K Street Reinvents Itself in the Era of Trump
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 2/15/2018

Political upheaval, partisan stalemate on Capitol Hill, and technological innovations have all disrupted and transformed the $4 billion-a-year federal lobbying business. But the Donald Trump presidency, the GOP-controlled Congress, and a resulting surge of grassroots resistance have catapulted the lobbying sector into uncertain, though still lucrative, terrain. Lobbyists increasingly are adapting their methods to harness the power of social media campaigns amid the president’s atypical style of governing, which often includes policy proclamations via tweet. Trump’s administration has intensified changes to the lobbying industry that were underway well before he launched his run for office.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – Kelli Ward Touts Endorsement from Fake-News Site
Politico – Jason Schwartz and Shawn Musgrave | Published: 2/15/2018

Kelli Ward posted a link on her campaign website and blasted out a Facebook post, quoting extensively from a column in the Arizona Monitor that endorsed her to replace U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake. But despite its reputable sounding name, the Arizona Monitor is not a real news site. It is an anonymous, pro-Ward blog. The site launched just a few weeks before publishing the endorsement. It seems to be part of a growing trend of conservative political-messaging sites with names that mimic those of mainstream news organizations, and whose favored candidates then tout their stories and endorsements as if they were from independent journalists.

Delaware – Lobbyists No Longer Have a Dedicated Room in Legislative Hall
Wilmington News Journal – Scott Gross | Published: 2/15/2018

State Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride said he has given up on his hope that Delaware’s 300-plus registered lobbyists would hang out in a conference room rather than the hallways of the Capitol. The door to the second-floor room was closed and locked for the first time since McBride first invited lobbyists to use the space in January. At the time, he dismissed questions about the optics of providing a dedicated space for professional lobbyists, noting reporters have long used a room in the basement of Legislative Hall.

District of Columbia – D.C. Public Schools Leader to Resign After Skirting School Assignment Rules
Washington Post – Perry Stein, Peter Jamison, and Fenit Nirappil | Published: 2/20/2018

Antwan Wilson, chancellor of the District of Columbia’s public schools, resigned after it was revealed he skirted the city’s competitive lottery system so his daughter could transfer to a high-performing school. Wilson had overhauled lottery system rules months before he broke them to benefit his daughter. Parents and politicians said Wilson had forfeited the public’s trust. His departure delivers a political blow to Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose selection of Wilson was one of the most important and high-profile appointments of her tenure.

New York – Citizens United Can’t Hide Donor Lists from NY
Courthouse News Service – Nick Rummell | Published: 2/15/2018

New York may require the public disclosure of donors who give more than $5,000 to nonprofits in the state, an appeals court said. Citizens United sued New York in 2014, saying the rule infringed upon its First Amendment rights and its donors could face public backlash if their support was disclosed. The appeals court upheld a lower-court ruling saying the regulations are “substantially related to the important interest in keeping non-profit organizations honest” and do not wrongly “chill the speech” of Citizens United or its donors.

New York – How Albany Really Works: Cuomo loyalist exposes pay-to-play culture
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 2/16/2018

Former lobbyist Todd Howe testified for two weeks in a corruption trail that has rocked Albany. The story that Howe has unfurled included tales of six-figure campaign contributions to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, made from a company with business before the state, that were purposefully divided up to hide their origin. There were private plane trips, courtesy of Howe’s clients, for Cuomo days before his first election – as well as a deep-sea fishing expedition for his campaign manager. Joseph Percoco, formerly one of Cuomo’s most-trusted aides, is on trial, along with three co-conspirators in two bribery and corruption schemes. Cuomo has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but the courtroom drama has served as a stinging indictment of Albany as a city where money talks and Cuomo administration officials have listened.

North Carolina – Conspiracy Theories, Criminal Investigations Plentiful in NC Bail Bonds World
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 2/17/2018

Attorney Mark Bibbs and a pair of clients in the bail industry have been indicted, accused of lobbying the North Carolina Legislature without filing the proper paperwork and covering it up. The secretary of state’s office and the Wake County district attorney say Bibbs falsified records to make lobbying payments look like legal fees and the clients cooperated in the scheme. Some Democrats have suggested House Speaker Tim Moore tried to interfere in Secretary of State Elaine Marshal’s investigation of Bibbs; Moore and Bibbs are close friends. Republicans also passed legislation to move lobbying enforcement out of Marshall’s office as part of broader reforms. The secretary of state’s office sent legislative leadership a letter, pointing to the indictments as a reason to leave lobbying enforcement with the office instead of shifting it to the state’s new Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement as planned.

Oregon – John Kitzhaber Could Face Up to $50,000 in Fines for Ethics Violations
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 2/17/2018

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission said former Gov. John Kitzhaber violated state laws against conflicts-of-interest, misused his office for financial gain, and improperly received a gift. The scandal ended Kitzhaber’s long political career. He resigned in 2015 just over a month into his fourth term amid accusations of influence peddling involving his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. In January, the commission found Hayes violated a law against public officials misusing their public positions for personal financial gain. Kitzhaber has 21 days after being formally notified of the vote to say whether he will contest the ruling. The maximum fine for each violation is $5,000, meaning the commission could penalize Kitzhaber up to a total of $50,000.

Pennsylvania – Pa. Supreme Court Releases New Congressional Map
Pittsburghh Post-Gazette – Jonathan Lai and Liz Navratil | Published: 2/19/2018

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a new congressional map after the previous district lines were found to be a result of unconstitutional gerrymandering from Republicans. The new map is set to go into effect in time for the state’s May 15 primaries. It leaves voters, current representatives, and potential candidates with little time to figure out their districting before the deadline hits for those running in elections to declare their candidacy. Republicans are expected to challenge the decision from the Supreme Court, saying only lawmakers and governors hold the authority to redraw congressional maps, rather than the courts.

South Carolina – After Quinn’s Probation, Shock, Dismay, Joy and Wondering: What’s next?
The State – John Monk | Published: 2/16/2018

Watchdogs say it is sad that years of accusations against South Carolina Rep. Rick Quinn and his father’s consulting business ended with such a whimper. Beyond two years of probation, Rick Quinn was sentenced to community service and a fine of $1,000 after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count of misconduct in office. Under a package deal, all charges were dropped against his father, Richard Quinn. His consulting firm instead pleaded guilty to failing to register as a lobbyist. “This slap is near the wrist but not even on it,” said John Freeman, the University of South Carolina law school’s professor emeritus on professional ethics.

South Carolina – S.C. Lawmakers Call for Law Enforcement Probe of Bogus Pro-Utility Emails
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown | Published: 2/19/2018

South Carolina lawmakers have received a barrage of form emails from constituents in recent days urging them to avoid passing laws they say could defeat a proposed sale of SCANA Corp. to Dominion Energy. But some of the people who supposedly sent the emails say they were impersonated. It is unclear who is behind the fraudulent emails as Dominion, SCANA, and the outside group that crafted the messages say they do not know why they are being sent from South Carolina residents without their knowledge. Law enforcement officials are likely to open an investigation into the matter.

Tennessee – How $225,000 Can Help Secure a Pollution Loophole at Trump’s E.P.A.
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 2/15/2018

The big rigs sold by the Fitzgerald family’s truck dealership in central Tennessee are equipped with rebuilt diesel engines that do not need to comply with rules on modern emissions controls. That makes them cheaper to operate, but means they emit up to 55 times the air pollution of other new trucks. The special treatment is made possible by a loophole in federal law that the Obama administration tried to close, and the Trump administration is now championing. The survival of this loophole is a story of money, politics, and suspected academic misconduct, and has been facilitated by Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has staked out positions in environmental fights that benefit the Trump administration’s corporate backers.

 

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.