News You Can Use Digest – January 12, 2018

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

 

 

 

National:

These Are the Only Two States That Don’t Require Lawmakers to Disclose Finances
Center for Public Integrity – Kristian Hernandez | Published: 1/8/2018

Despite ongoing efforts to bring about reform, Michigan and Idaho are the last remaining holdouts among states that do not require lawmakers to disclose anything about their personal finances. While watchdogs say this sort of personal financial disclosure is a crucial tool for holding lawmakers accountable to the public, the prospects for change in Boise and Lansing are uncertain at best.

Federal:

Lobbyists Have a New Secret Weapon
Bloomberg.com – Alexandra Stratton | Published: 1/10/2018

While the face of lobbying is often a government relations executive trekking the halls of Capitol Hill armed with talking points, attending luncheons, and writing op-eds, the hidden side of the business entails hours of research and grunt work. And despite the billions of dollars that corporations pour into lobbying efforts each year, the work has remained relatively low-tech. Part of the problem is knowing how to sift through reams of information. Alex Wirth co-founded Quorum Analytics in his Harvard dorm room. The idea was to give lobbyists the tools to automate some of the more rote, labor-intensive parts of their work. Wirth claims Quorum has built the world’s most comprehensive database of legislative information.

Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation
MSN – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 1/4/2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is aware of an unsuccessful attempt by President Trump to lobby Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia inquiry. The New York Times reported Trump had ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing himself from oversight of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The reported attempt to have a political ally maintain control of an investigation into his associates would add to a list of possible examples of Trump seeking to influence the Justice Department, and opening himself up to potential obstruction of justice claims.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – A Sexist Culture Endures at Arizona Capitol, Insiders Say
Arizona Republic – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Dustin Gardiner | Published: 1/7/2018

The Arizona Republic interviewed more than 40 women and men – including lobbyists, lawmakers, and policy advisers – about their experiences working at the Arizona Legislature. The interviews elicited anger, tears, or dispassionate frustration with what has long been the status quo. From those interviews, a portrait emerged of a coarse, male-dominated and often sexist culture that permeates the workdays and the social gatherings that define a legislative session. The stories they told, independently of each other, showed an often unhealthy workplace – one where women and men are conditioned to try to capitalize on the physical appearances of women to advance a cause.

Illinois – Investigation Details Secretive Contacts with Lobbyist on $2 Billion Illinois Lottery Contract
Chicago Tribune – Joe Mahr and Matthew Walberg | Published: 1/4/2018

A top staffer for the Illinois Lottery failed to disclose her relationships and contact with lobbyists for a firm that was bidding for a contract to manage the lottery, a state investigation found. The lack of disclosure led the state’s top contract officer to suspend the contract with the British lottery firm Camelot, potentially worth at least $2 billion. Illinois reinstated the contract recently after an investigation by an outside law firm determined the lapses were not significant enough to affect the fairness of the bidding process.

Iowa – A Lobbyist Got Married in the Iowa House, and a Portrait of Donald Trump Was Removed Before the Ceremony
Des Moines Register – Jason Noble | Published: 1/4/2018

The marriage ceremony of a prominent statehouse lobbyist in the Iowa House chamber last year has ruffled feathers at the Capitol. The ceremony was not approved in advance by House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, and photographs later revealed a portrait of President Trump that hangs behind the chamber dais had been removed while the vows were exchanged. “We’ve had a conversation about what’s appropriate for the chamber and what is not, and that falls into the what-is-not category,” Upmeyer said.

Kansas – Awkward: Brownback said he was leaving as Kansas governor. He hasn’t
New York Times – Julie Bosman | Published: 1/8/2018

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback appointment as the Trump administration’s as ambassador at large for international religious freedom was announced in July. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer was widely expected to succeed Brownback and kick off the 2018 legislative session. But as lawmakers began meeting in the Capitol for the start of the session, Brownback was still the governor. And there is no certainty about when he might actually depart this stage. Some Kansans said it was not entirely clear who was truly in charge of the state, and for how long.

Kentucky – Kentucky House Speaker Lashes Out in Resignation Speech after Sexual Harassment Settlement
Washington Post – Derek Hawkins | Published: 1/9/2018

In an emotional speech, Rep. Jeff Hoover resigned as Kentucky House speaker following weeks of turmoil over a sexual harassment scandal. Hoover had promised to step down in November after it was reported he had secretly settled a sexual harassment claim with a woman on his staff. In remarks lasting more than 20 minutes, Hoover portrayed himself as the victim of a wide-ranging conspiracy to oust him from power, accusing the governor and fellow lawmakers of lying about his actions. With his wife watching from the balcony, he acknowledged trading inappropriate texts with the staffer, but denied any misconduct, saying while the messages were ill-advised, they were consensual.

Maryland – Feds: Indicted Baltimore state senator confessed to taking cash payments
Baltimore Sun – Justin Fenton | Published: 1/5/2018

Federal prosecutors revealed in new court documents that indicted Maryland Sen. Nathaniel Oaks confessed to taking cash payments in exchange for official business before cooperating with the FBI and upending another bribery investigation. While the U.S. attorney’s office says Oaks confessed both to taking cash payments and to interfering with an investigation, he has pleaded not guilty and has a trial scheduled for April, right after the legislative session concludes.

Missouri – Greitens Admits Affair but Denies Related Blackmail Allegation
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kevin McDermott, Jack Suntrup, and Celest Bott | Published: 1/11/2018

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admitted he had an extramarital affair in 2015, when he was considering a run for governor. But he denied allegations he tried to blackmail the woman into silence. A report on a St. Louis television station featured an interview with the ex-husband of Greitens’ mistress, who had secretly recorded his then-wife confessing the affair to him before they divorced. A lawyer for the governor denied the sensational allegations that Greitens threatened to distribute naked photos he took of the woman if she ever disclosed the affair.

North Carolina – NC Congressional Districts Struck Down as Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymanders
Raleigh News and Observer – Anne Blythe | Published: 1/9/2018

A three-judge federal panel struck down North Carolina’s congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, giving the state Legislature until January 24 to adopt a new map and potentially throwing this year’s elections into chaos. The panel said if the General Assembly fails to enact a new map, a special master will be appointed to draw the districts. The judges ruled the remedial map violated the equal protection clause when GOP legislative leaders drew the maps with an explicit conservative bias in an effort to favor Republican candidates.

Oregon – Oregon Ethics Commission Rebukes Cylvia Hayes for ‘Blatant Disregard of Ethics Laws
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/5/2018

Former First Lady Cylvia Hayes committed 22 ethics violations stemming from the misuse of her public position for financial gain, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission decided. Each violation could carry a maximum fine of $5,000. The commission also could require Hayes to forfeit up to twice the amount she earned from contracts received because of her access to top government officials. While the findings of this inquiry focused on Hayes, commissioners said they should also be considered in the ongoing case against former Gov. John Kitzhaber since the violations often involved his actions. The commission rejected a proposed settlement with Kitzhaber because they wanted a more detailed investigation and the proposed fine of $1,000 was too small.

Washington – Spokane City Council Overrides Condon Veto of Campaign Finance Reporting Law
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Kip Hill | Published: 1/8/2018

The Spokane City Council overrode Mayor David Condon’s veto of a campaign finance ordinance. The new law requires political committees spending on behalf of candidates to reveal their top five donors. The measure also halves the amount any person or entity can give a political candidate in Spokane compared to the rest of the state. Councilperson Mike Fagan took issue with what he said were elements of the law that disadvantaged conservative politicians, chief among them the prohibition for firms that do business with the city for greater than $50,000 to give to local candidates, while public bargaining units may continue to give freely though they must disclose those donations on contracts.

Wisconsin – State Ethics Commission Finalizing Audit of Possible Lobbying Violations
Wisconsin State Journal – Mark Sommerhauser | Published: 1/5/2018

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission is finalizing an audit of whether lobbyists and principals violated disclosure requirements, the findings of which may be released at its next public meeting. Commission staff began the audit after noticing a trend of lobbyists and lobbying groups that had not complied with registration or authorization requirements. Commission Administrator Brian Bell said types of potential violations examined in the audit generally fall into two groups: lobbyists and principals that inadvertently failed to follow requirements, and those who may have engaged in so-called shadow lobbying, in which someone knowingly lobbies public officials without registering.

 

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.