News You Can Use – October 5, 2018

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

 

 

 

National:

Missing in the G.O.P.: Black and Hispanic Nominees for Governor
New York Times – Astead Herndon | Published: 10/3/2018

In the first midterm elections under Donald Trump, whose campaign and presidency included strong appeals to white voters, Republicans have no black or Hispanic nominees for governor in 2018, and few from other racial minorities, in the 36 states holding elections for the position. The overwhelming majority are white men. Democrats this year have nominated black, Hispanic, and Native American candidates for governor in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, and elsewhere. The Republican falloff is striking after past election seasons when party leaders attempted to identify and then rally behind minority candidates for governor in major states, like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Federal:

Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches from His Father
MSN – David Barstow, Susanne Craig, and Russ Buettner (New York Times) | Published: 10/2/2018

Donald Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has insisted his father provided almost no financial help. But an investigation reveals Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day. Much of this money came to Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents. Records indicate Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions of dollars more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: ‘Beach House Sheriff’ Used Pistol Permit Fees to Pay for TV Commercials During Campaign
AL.com – Connor Sheets | Published: 10/3/2018

Between October 31, 2017, and July, Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin paid Venture Marketing Group more than $29,000 for work related to television ads. Venture created multiple commercials that only aired during the eight months prior to the June primary election. Even though the ads feature Entrekin speaking about the sheriff’s office and promoting programs he oversees as sheriff, his campaign committee did not pay Venture for the work. Entrekin instead paid the company out of an official sheriff’s office account he alone controls called the Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Fund. Nearly half of the money in the fund is generated by selling pistol permits.

Arizona: This Lawmaker Stands to Earn at Least $11M on His Own Charter Schools. His Votes Helped Lay the Groundwork.
Arizona Republic – Craig Harris | Published: 10/2/2018

Arizona House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and Rep. Eddie Farnsworth amended the state budget to exempt charter schools from procurement and conflict-of-interest laws, and from a requirement to disclose their entire annual spending plans on school websites. Farnsworth was not just a lawmaker interested in the details of the bill. He also runs a four-campus charter chain that because of the amendment would remain free of state oversight of its spending. Farnsworth’s involvement in the last-minute maneuver highlights how his roles as a state lawmaker and charter-school operator have for years mingled at the Capitol, almost always to the benefit of Farnsworth and the state’s other charter school operators.

California: Gov. Brown Signs Bill Requiring Lobbyists to Receive Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
San Francisco Chronicle – Bay City News Service | Published: 10/1/2018

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that requires lobbyists to receive sexual harassment prevention training.  Assembly Bill 2055 requires lobbyists’ ethics courses to include information on Assembly and Senate policies against harassment, including sexual harassment, in connection with lobbying activities. “We need to make sure that everyone who does business in the Capitol understands what we mean by our zero-tolerance policy. Mandated training is an effective method to get that message across,” Assemblyperson Marc Levine said.

California: New State Law Requires More Transparency from Social Media Political Ads
Voice of OC – Brandon Pho | Published: 10/3/2018

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a social media disclosure bill into law. A separate bill had bolstered the requirements for disclosing the names of the top three funders of ballot measures and independent expenditures on television, radio, and print ads. Assembly Bill 2188 now extends those same requirements to online platforms. Social media platforms that sell ads directly to advertisers will be required to keep a database of any political ad disseminated on the platform by a committee that purchased $500 or more in ads within a year.

Florida:Lobbyists Paid to Pressure County Officials Skip Filing Required Disclosures, Audit Says
Fort Myers News-Press – Bill Smith | Published: 9/29/2018

An audit found nearly 60 percent of registered lobbyists in Lee County, Florida have missed the required filing of annual or quarterly statements on their activities. The county ordinance covers contact with county commissioners and employees at the director level and above to report contacts with anyone who is paid to “influence the passage, defeat, modification or repeal,” of any matter requiring a commission vote. It also includes non-secretarial employees in the purchasing division and contracts office. Companies that employee lobbyists are required to file an annual registration statement and quarterly statements about lobbying activities.

Kentucky: Ethics Bill Seeks to Close Reporting Loophole on Groups Paying for Legislators’ Travel
Insider Louisville – Joe Sonka | Published: 9/27/2018

An ethics bill pre-filed in Kentucky could close a reporting loophole that allowed groups, including partisan advocacy organizations, to prepay for the out-of-state travel and lodging expenses of state legislators. A recent investigation estimated that up to $100,000 was spent by outside groups on lawmakers’ approved travel outside of the state last year; that spending did not have to be reported to any state agency. While public funds spent on such travel and reimbursements from private groups must be reported, there is no requirement for legislators to disclose how much those organizations spend to send them to conferences and events, so long as such groups pay for the airfare, lodging, and meals in advance.

Mississippi: In Mississippi Senate Race, an African American Democrat Faces a Republican Using a Confederate Symbol
Washington Post – Cleve Wootson Jr. | Published: 9/30/2018

U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy has tried to remind Mississippians how he has served them in the past, with three terms in the U.S. House who spent time as President Clinton’s agriculture secretary. But even his most ardent supporters worry that when many voters go to the polls in November, what Espy has done will matter much less than what he is: a black man running for one of the highest elected offices in a state with a Confederate emblem on its flag. One of his opponents is hearkening to another version of the past: Republican Chris McDaniel, a conservative fond of provocative statements whose yard signs feature the flag of the Confederate States of America.

New Jersey: Murphy Still Defends Hiring Ex-Official Jailed for Corruption (Even Though He Was Forced to Resign)
Newark Star Ledger – Brent Johnson (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 10/2/2018

Gov. Phil Murphy  continued to defend his administration’s decision to hire a former Passaic City Council member who served prison time for accepting bribes, even after the hiring was deemed unlawful and Marcellus Jackson was forced to resign. Murphy hired Jackson in July for a $70,000-a-year position as a special assistant in the state Department of Education’s Office of Civic and Social Engagement. Murphy said his administration conducted a legal review that cleared Jackson’s hiring. But Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said state law should have prevented the hire because former public officials convicted of corruption are disqualified from ever holding a public job again in New Jersey.

Pennsylvania: Alex Trebek Moderated a Gubernatorial Debate in Pennsylvania. It Didn’t Go Well.
Chicago Tribune – Antonia Noori Farzan (Washington Post) | Published: 10/2/2018

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and his Republican challenger, Scott Wagner, met recently in their only debate prior to the November election with “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek serving as moderator. While moderators typically ask questions and let the candidates talk, Trebek spoke at length – at times sharing his own policy opinions – during the 45-minute debate, frustrating viewers. At one point, Trebek joked that the only thing with a lower approval rating than the Pennsylvania Legislature was the Catholic Church. Polite laughter from the audience turned to boos. On Twitter, the consensus was that Trebek should stick to his day job.

Tennessee: In Tennessee Senate Race, Financial Missteps Linger in the Background
New York Times – Danny Hakim | Published: 10/3/2018

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the Republican candidate for an open Senate seat in Tennessee, has faced questions about her spending practices. In her years as a member of Congress, she has paid out more than $370,000 from her campaign funds to her daughter and son-in-law or firms they control. Her campaigns have received 54 requests for additional information from the FEC since 2002, and in a 2008 audit, the campaign admitted receiving nearly $400,000 in unreported contributions and expenditures. Her opponent, Phil Bredesen, has had his own financial misstep. A longtime booster of the solar industry as governor, he started a solar company with two of his aides during his last year in office. After he left office, the business went on to reap some of the tax breaks the Bredesen administration had put in place.

Vermont: Governor’s Business Ties Violate State Ethics Code, Commission Finds
VTDigger.org – Mark Johnson | Published: 10/2/2018

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott violated the ethics code by maintaining an ongoing financial relationship with a company doing business with the state, according to the Vermont State Ethics Commission. Under political pressure, Scott sold his interest in Dubois Construction back to the company after he took office in 2017. Scott received no cash at the time of the transaction and is still owed $2.5 million by the company. The commission said the conflict arose when Dubois won a two-year contract for $250,000 in 2017, which the panel said “provides significant income to the company, and directly assists the company in meeting its financial obligation to the public official.”

Washington: Washington Court Upholds Fine Against Anti-GMO Group
Capital Press – Don Jenkins | Published: 10/3/2018

An appeals court affirmed that Food Democracy Now must pay a $319,281 fine for not reporting the names of more than 7,000 donors who supported a food labeling initiative in 2013. The court rejected the group’s argument that it should not have been convicted because it did not intentionally hide the donations. Judge Rich Melnick said the law does not make an exception for unintentionally concealing the source of campaign contributions. The fine stemmed from Initiative 522, which would have required food and beverage makers to label products with genetically modified ingredients.