News You Can Use Digest – November 2, 2018

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

 

 

 

National:

‘My Comrades Will Kill You’: Pipe bombs sent in year of many death threats against politicians
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 10/25/2018

Political violence has dominated the news recently, with pipe bombs mailed to CNN’s New York office and prominent Democrats, as well as liberal donor George Soros and actor Robert De Niro. Threats of violence have become commonplace in American politics. New Jersey Rep. Jay Webber, a Republican candidate for Congress, received a note calling him a liar and a “scumbag” and threatening him and his children. “You BETTER hope that you don’t win! Or else,” the note read. “How many kids do you have…7? Unlucky 7. This is what we think of you. Time to get out of politics!” In a year when record numbers of women are running for office, many have been harassed or become targets of sexist or threatening remarks.

Voters Could Clamp Down on Ethics, Campaign Finance at The Ballot Box
National Public Radio – Peter Overby | Published: 10/30/2018

Voters in more than a dozen states will consider ballot measures on November 6 that would affect ethics and campaign finance reform. Some of the initiatives would exceed federal standards, which have been steadily relaxed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Congress last passed a major campaign finance bill in 2001. “It’s telling that we have so many challengers for Congress that are running on this issue,” said Larry Norden of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “But to get real change now, the only way to do that is at the local and the state level.”

Federal:

How ActBlue Is Trying to Turn Small Donations into a Blue Wave
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine and Chris Zubak-Skees | Published: 10/25/2018

ActBlue, a nonprofit whose online fundraising tools have been used to varying degrees by nearly every Democrat running for Congress, says it has raised more than $2.9 billion for Democrats and progressive organizations since its founding in 2004. September 2018 was the biggest month in its history. Donors are using the platform to reshape the map of competitive races this year, becoming a powerful force that could sway Democratic politics beyond November’s election.

Mueller Refers Sex Misconduct Scheme Targeting Him to FBI for Investigation
NBC News – Brandy Zadrozny, Ben Collins, and Tom Winter | Published: 10/30/2018

Special counsel Robert Mueller has asked the FBI to investigate an alleged scheme to manufacture sexual assault stories about him. At issue is an email widely circulated among journalists from someone who claimed she had been approached with an offer to pay her tens of thousands of dollars if she would answer questions about Mueller and then sign a sworn affidavit accusing him of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment. The plot appeared to be the latest, and one of the more bizarre, in a string of attempts by supporters of President Trump to discredit Mueller’s investigation as a hoax and a witch hunt.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alaska: Begich Spent Four Years as a Consultant. As Governor, He Could Sign Bills Affecting Former Clients.
KTOO – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 10/30/2018

For nearly four years, Mark Begich has owned a public affairs and consulting firm, Northern Compass Group, which has worked with clients that intersect with both state and federal government. If Begich is elected as Alaska’s governor on November 6, he will likely be faced with decisions that will directly affect the businesses, unions, and Native organizations that have been paying his business for advice. Alaska politicians often emerge from the worlds of public policy and business, and Begich is far from the first with potential for conflicts. Begich’s work is significant, though, because of the number of clients he has had, as well as the recentness of his work, said state Rep. Jason Grenn, who helped lead a successful push for legislative ethics reforms this year.

Arizona: Arizona Commissioner Andy Tobin Texted APS Lobbyists Frequently, Including About Open Rate Case
Energy Policy Institute – David Pomerantz | Published: 10/29/2018

Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) member Andy Tobin exchanged text messages throughout 2018 with lobbyists from Arizona Public Service (APS), often to complain about negative media coverage of APS’ rate increase requests before the commission. On one occasion, Tobin asked an APS lobbyist whether the utility had a “public information strategy planned” to combat negative media coverage of a rate increase request while the case was still pending before Tobin and the commission. The ACC, which is supposed to regulate APS in the public’s interest, has been embattled by scandals for the past four years, ever since two non-profit “dark money” organizations spent $3 million on the ACC elections in 2014. APS never confirmed nor denied being the source of that money.

Maine: Pro-Offshore Oil Group Chaired by LePage Is Run by Energy Lobbyists
Biddeford Journal Tribune – Colin Woodward (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 10/28/2018

A coalition of governors headed by Maine Gov. Paul LePage that seeks to open most federal waters to oil and gas exploration is staffed by employees of an oil industry lobbying firm. The Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, which LePage joined in 2015 and has chaired for the past two years, outsources its day-to-day staffing, research, and communications tasks to an advocacy group purporting to represent energy consumers. But a closer look at the group, the Consumer Energy Alliance, reveals it is funded by energy producers and staffed and run by senior officials of HBW Resources, an energy-focused lobbying and consulting firm.

Maryland: Question G Would Undercut Independence of Baltimore Ethics Board, Chairwoman Says
Baltimore Brew – Mark Ruettner | Published: 10/31/2018

Question G on the November ballot in Baltimore would tether the director of Legislative Reference to the mayor and city council president. The director of Legislative Reference is also the chief advisor to the city Board of Ethics. By making the director an “at will” employee of Mayor Catherine Pugh and Council President Bernard Young, as Question G does, that same employee is placed in a very awkward position on the ethics board. “Our director may be faced with having to handle an ethics complaint against one of the two people who appointed him,” said board Chairperson Linda Pierson.

Montana: How Big Sky Country Became the Front Line in a Long Battle Over Dark Money
Yahoo! News – Christa Case Bryant | Published: 10/29/2018

Two women are central figures in a fight in Montana over money in politics, one that may well set the tone for the rest of the nation. Jamie MacNaughton is the sole lawyer at the office of the Commissioner of Political Practices, which is tasked with enforcing Montana’s strict campaign finance laws. She is helping to prepare two cases under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court. Anita Milanovich serves as the Montana outpost for the Bopp Law Firm, which is led by the preeminent lawyer fighting campaign finance regulations across the country. Now the firm is pursuing the legal cases against MacNaughton’s office.

Oklahoma: Legislators Act As ‘Super Donors,’ Sending Their Own Donors’ Cash to Other Candidates
KGOU – Trevor Brown (Oklahoma Watch) | Published: 10/30/2018

A review of contributions in Oklahoma found sitting lawmakers and legislative candidates’ campaigns have given more than $746,000 to other legislative candidates since January 1, 2016. About 75 percent of the money came from about a dozen Republican and Democratic legislators, almost all of whom hold or have held leadership positions. The sharing of contributions means these lawmakers act as de facto “super donors,” or at least bundlers, who dole out thousands of dollars to candidates running in a wide range of races. The large amounts of circulating cash have raised concerns at the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, which is examining a possible rule change, still being drafted, that would block candidates from transferring campaign funds to other candidates.

Pennsylvania: State Rep. Vanessa Brown Guilty on All Counts; Took $4,000 Bribe in Sting
Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy | Published: 10/31/2018

A jury convicted Pennsylvania Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown of charges she accepted $4,000 in cash from an undercover informant. Brown was the last defendant in an ambitious and controversial sting investigation launched by state prosecutors nearly a decade ago but secretly ended by then-state Attorney General Kathleen Kane. The guilty verdict represented the most dramatic repudiation yet of Kane’s criticism of the sting, which she had contended could not produce winnable cases in court. Under the law, Brown, who is running unopposed in the November 6 election, will also be barred from her House post upon her sentencing.

South Carolina: SC Rep. Harrison Found Guilty in Public Corruption Case, Gets Prison Sentence
Greenville News – John Monk (The State) | Published: 10/27/2018

A jury found former South Carolina Rep. Jim Harrison guilty of perjury and misconduct in office, marking the fifth conviction of a legislator in the past four years and capping off the first trial to come out of the high-profile probe into corruption in the statehouse. Prosecutors accused Harrison of secretly profiting from an influential consulting firm that pleaded guilty to illegal lobbying earlier this year. That firm, Richard Quinn & Associates, has been at the center of the five-year corruption investigation because of its once sprawling network of lawmakers, lobbying interests, and corporate clients. Harrison, the former chairperson of the House Judiciary Committee, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

West Virginia: For a Groundbreaking Candidate in West Virginia, Big Money and Attention Come with Downsides
Washington Post – Greg Jaffe | Published: 11/1/2018

Back when his campaign had raised just $7,000, when just about anyone who knew anything about politics gave him zero chance of winning, West Virginia Sen. Richard Ojeda decided to make a campaign video for his run for Congress. The pivotal moment for Ojeda came near the end of the shoot when he gave out his personal cell phone number. Ten months later, Ojeda was driving past burned-out houses and abandoned storefronts in the coal town where he had spent his childhood and still lived. The polls had him neck and neck with his Republican opponent. It was 21 days until the election and his cellphone was now ringing 100 times a day with calls from all over the United States and the world. At a moment in American politics when authenticity is everything, Ojeda is being hailed as an unpolished, authentic voice.

Wisconsin: Last-Minute Surprises and Secretive Moves Hide Wisconsin Lawmakers’ Actions from Public View
Wisconsin Public Radio – CV Vitolo-Haddad and Dee Hall (Wisconsin Center For Investigative Journalism) | Published: 10/29/2018

Since voters swept Republicans into power in 2010, Wisconsin lawmakers have increasingly used secretive maneuvers to keep the public in the dark about major spending and policy changes. An investigation found the Legislature systematically diminishes the voices of the public by Introducing budget amendments at the end of the approval process with no public notice or debate; approving anonymous, last-minute budget motions containing changes, including major policy items that have nothing to do with state spending; and altering the scope and impact of a bill after its public hearing has been held, which excludes citizens from having influence on legislation before it is enacted. When Democrats controlled the Legislature and governor’s office they played that game, too, notably with their own end-of-the-session wrap-up budget bills of anonymously authored items.