News You Can Use Digest – January 19, 2017

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

One Year After Women’s March, More Activism but Less Unity
New York Times – Farah Stockman | Published: 1/15/2018

The Women’s March a year ago aimed to start a movement of women from all walks of life who would continue their activism long after they had gone home. In many ways, that goal has been realized. Thousands of women threw themselves into activism for the first time in their lives, especially in red states where the events provided a rare chance to build a network of like-minded people. But as the movement evolves, differing priorities and tactics have emerged among the women, nearly all of them unpaid and spread across the country. Now, on the eve of the anniversary, a rift is emerging between two groups. The split has raised questions about who can claim the mantle of the Women’s March, and the funding and press attention that goes with it.

Federal:

House Judiciary Advances Foreign Lobby Overhaul
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/17/2018

The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would tighten oversight of lobbyists who work for foreign governments or companies. The committee voted to give the Department of Justice additional powers to enforce rules requiring lobbyists to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The bill would also close loopholes in FARA and require the Justice Department to develop a strategy for enforcing the law. Critics have argued that FARA reporting requirements are unclear and contain loopholes that allow American lobbyists to avoid disclosure of their foreign clients.

Trump’s Inauguration Money Is Still Missing One Year After His Administration Took Control of the White House
Newsweek – Linley Sanders | Published: 1/18/2018

Almost one year after President Trump took the oath of office, millions of dollars from his leftover inauguration funds have still not been donated to the charities they were promised to. Trump’s inauguration committee raised a record-breaking $107 million as his administration prepared to assume the White House last year, but very little has been disclosed about where the remaining money was allocated. A watchdog group is questioning why the funds disappeared, and a member of Congress is proposing legislation to keep future administrations from obscuring their own inaugural donations.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – Lavish Bash for California Politicians and Lobbyists Gets a #MeToo Makeover
CALmatters.org – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 1/17/2018

For more than a decade, California’s extravagant Back to Session Bash was a place to let loose. Debauchery at the party, insiders joked, ended at least one career annually. But with the Capitol reeling from accusations of sexual harassment and assault that have caused two legislators to resign and a third to take a leave of absence, the mood at the party this month was more subdued. Many wore black, a statement inspired by Hollywood actresses to highlight efforts to stop sexual misconduct.

Delaware – Lobbyists Given a Space of Their Own in Legislative Hall
Wilmington News Journal – Scott Gross | Published: 1/10/2018

Lobbyists have been offered a dedicated room at Delaware’s Legislative Hall on a trial basis. Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride announced that the state’s more than 300 registered lobbyists could use a conference room on the second floor of the statehouse, in an effort to clear out public space. McBride says lobbyists have long “camped out in the hallways, taking up couches and space” designed for citizens’ use. Senate Republicans expressed frustration, with Minority Leader Greg Lavelle questioning the need for a “comfort station” for lobbyists.

Maine – Maine Republican Party Promoting ‘Fake News’ Sites That Target Democrats
Portland Press Herald – Brian MacQuarrie (Boston Globe) | Published: 1/15/2018

Fake news – misleading stories that have mushroomed in the age of social media and that became Internet fodder during the 2016 presidential election – has found a way into Maine politics, Democrats say. Of even more concern to some Democrats: it appeared the GOP was working directly with an anonymous conservative website called the Maine Examiner, which ran a series of negative stories against Democrat Ben Chin in the runoff election for Lewiston mayor.

Minnesota – Minnesota GOP Leader Seeks Cut of Big Donations
Federal News Radio – Kyle Potter (Associated Press) | Published: 1/17/2018

Jennifer Carnahan, the new chairperson of Minnesota’s Republican Party, is seeking a 10 percent commission from large donations to the party. Campaign finance experts said they have never heard of such an arrangement. And it risks upsetting major GOP donors and activists by diverting critical resources from a party that has struggled with debt for much of the last decade, even as it prepares for two U.S. Senate elections, a wide-open race for governor, and four or more competitive congressional elections.

Missouri – Lobbyist Gift Restriction Launched from Missouri House to Senate
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 1/17/2018

The Missouri House passed a bill that restricts lobbyist gifts to lawmakers. It now goes to the Senate, which has defeated such legislation in the past. House Bill 1303 would ban lobbyist expenditures on individuals save for customary gifts such as flowers. It would also exempt events in which every member of the Legislature is invited.

Montana – Montana Secretary of State Sends Email Criticizing Mainstream Media to 130,000 People
Helena Independent Record – Holly Michels | Published: 1/17/2018

An email sent to thousands of Montanans by Secretary of State Corey Stapleton stirred up discussion over how state resources were used to disseminate the message. The email, sent to 130,000 business owners and subscribers through an e-blast system using state funds and resources, has a subject line that reads “Be Careful What Gets Your Attention” and says there “is one huge problem with mainstream media in America.” Stapleton said the email was not in response to any specific news coverage or event, either nationally or in Montana.

New Mexico – Lobbyist Transparency Takes a Nosedive
New Mexico In Depth – Marjorie Childress and Melorie Bagey | Published: 1/13/2018

What money buys in Santa Fe is a pressing question these days in New Mexico, where in the past three years, a former secretary of state has pleaded guilty to embezzlement and a former state senator has been convicted of bribery. Over the last seven or eight years, due to public pressure following an earlier series of scandals, the New Mexico Legislature seemed to be opening the doors slightly on how decisions are made. So, it was a bit of a surprise when during the 2016 legislative session state lawmakers reduced the amount of money spent by lobbyists and their employers that has to be publicly disclosed.

South Carolina – South Carolina Lawmakers Overseeing Regulators Were Also Wined and Dined by Utility Companies
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown | Published: 1/13/2018

Years before South Carolina was saddled with two failed nuclear reactors, utility companies hosted “appreciation dinners” for the lawmakers who pick the state’s seven utility regulators.  The social affairs were held at top-end restaurants in cities across the country, with the state’s largest utilities lavishing some of the Legislature’s most influential lawmakers. All of these lawmakers were on the Public Utilities Review Committee. That little-known panel selects and oversees the commissioners who decide how much residents pay for water, gas, and electricity.

Tennessee – Tennessee Legislature’s New Home Is Less ‘Middle School,’ More ‘Corporate’
Chattanooga Times Free Press – Andy Sher | Published: 1/15/2018

In December, Tennessee lawmakers left their home in the Legislative Plaza complex to take up residence in the Cordell Hull State Building, newly renovated at a cost of $126 million. Legislative Plaza, and adjoining space in the War Memorial Building, was where lawmakers had offices and where committees did much of their work, shaping legislation that later was passed in the actual House and Senate chambers, located in the Capitol. But for all of its faults, including leaks from water fountains on the park-like plaza above, the old Legislative Plaza had more of an intimate feel, according to some lawmakers, staffers, and lobbyists.

Wisconsin – As Senate Vote Nears, State Ethics Chief Blasts Former Government Accountability Board as Partisan, Inconsistent
Wisconsin State Journal – Mark Sommerhauser | Published: 1/18/2018

Brian Bell, the administrator of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, said he left the Government Accountability Board in 2015 because it enforced the law unevenly and one of its top attorneys, Democrat Shane Falk, “displayed open partisanship.” The denunciation comes as the state Senate is poised to vote on the confirmations of Bell and the state Elections Administrator, Mike Haas. Watchdogs signaled they may go to court over whether legislators can forcibly remove the administrators.

Wisconsin – State Report: Nearly 15 percent of Wisconsin lobbyists lobbied without authorization
Wisconsin State Journal – Mark Sommerhauser | Published: 1/10/2018

A Wisconsin Ethics Commission audit has determined that more than 14 percent of the state’s lobbyists may be engaging in unauthorized lobbying. The commission released its report without naming any of the potential violators. It planned to contact the 78 lobbyists identified for an explanation. Attorney Mike Wittenwyler who represents lobbyists told the commission before the report was released that the problems may be due to paperwork and process, not ill intent. The report also found that of the 691 registered interest groups that employ lobbyists, 74 appeared to have engaged in unauthorized lobbying.

 

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