News You Can Use – September 14, 2018

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

 

 

 

National:

Republicans Running for Governor Look for Success in Unlikely Places: Blue states
Washington Post – Tim Craig | Published: 9/9/2018

Democrats are becoming concerned as moderate Republican candidates are proving to be resilient in unexpected places, even as much of the GOP shifts to the right. With 36 gubernatorial races on the ballot nationwide, Democrats are still expected to make gains in statehouses this year. But recent polls suggest Republicans Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, and Phil Scot and of Vermont, all up for re-election this fall in states carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, remain among the most popular governors in the country and are favored to win re-election. Their success in winning and governing as moderates is serving as a model for GOP candidates elsewhere, including in Rhode Island and Oregon, where officials in both parties say the governor’s race is competitive.

Viral Videos Are Replacing Pricey Political Ads. They’re Cheaper, and They Work.
MSN – Jeremy Peters and Sapna Maheshwari (New York Times) | Published: 9/11/2018

The wave of female, minority, and outsider candidates that is breaking cultural barriers and toppling incumbents in the Democratic Party is also sweeping aside a longstanding norm in campaigns: that the public image of politicians, especially women, should be upbeat and conventional. For many of these Democrats who were running against better-financed rivals, the breakthrough moment came after they got personal in relatively low-cost videos that went viral, reaching millions of people. Using documentary-style storytelling, candidates have found a successful alternative to the traditional model of raising huge sums of money that get spent on expensive television commercials.

Federal:

Activists Raised $1 Million to Defeat Susan Collins If She Votes for Kavanaugh. She Says It’s Bribery.
Washington Post – Eli Rosenberg | Published: 9/11/2018

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a centrist Republican, is seen as a swing vote in Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. She has said she would not vote to confirm a nominee who was hostile to Roe v. Wade. So, a group of liberal activists in Maine created an unusual crowdfunding campaign to influence Collins: they raised money in the form of pledges they said they would give to whoever decided to challenge her re-election in 2020. Donors’ credit cards will only be charged if she votes to confirm Kavanaugh. At least one ethics expert said it may violate federal bribery statutes, which prohibit giving or offering anything of value to government officials in exchange for any acts or votes.

Campaigns, Parties Can Accept Free Service From Microsoft, FEC Says
Roll Call – Stephanie Aiken | Published: 9/10/2018

The FEC ruled Microsoft may offer special cybersecurity assistance to candidates without violating rules against corporate contributions. One watchdog group called it an unprecedented opening for corporations looking to influence lawmakers and skirt campaign finance laws. Federal election law prohibits companies from providing free services to lawmakers. But the FEC would make an exception in this case, it ruled, because Microsoft would be acting out of business interests and not trying to curry favor. The decision also noted Microsoft has promised to offer the services “on a non-partisan basis.” Opponents of the change said the exception was too broad.

In an Increasingly Diverse House, Aides Remain Remarkably White
WRAL – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 9/11/2018

U.S. House aides write federal policy, oversee the administration of government, and shape the public’s view of Congress. But the top staff members of the House are far less racially diverse than the country itself, or even the lawmakers who employ them. Approximately 14 percent of top staff members in the House are people of color. That compares with 38 percent of the country and 23 percent of the House. Of the 40 top Democratic and Republican aides who lead the staffs of committees, only six are nonwhite. “The House of Representatives cannot effectively create public policy that benefits all Americans if the people making policy decisions do not look like all of America,” said Spencer Overton, the president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which released the study.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: Banning Man Wins $220,000 from State Political Watchdog Panel
Riverside Press-Enterprise – Craig Schultz | Published: 9/7/2018

Frank Burgess was awarded more than $200,000 in legal fees after a court found the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) violated his Constitutional protections related to a fine levied against him as a member of a nonprofit hospital board. Burgess was fined $5,000 by the FPPC for trying to convince other members of the San Gorgonio Hospital board to continue doing business with his son’s moving and storage company. Burgess argued that as a nonprofit board, members did not fall under the Political Reform Act. A Superior Court judge overturned the fine, agreeing with Burgess’s contention that he had been denied due process because he had no forewarning he was considered a public official.

California: Koch-Backed Charity Must Reveal Donor List to California Officials, Appeals Panel Rules
Connecticut Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee (Washington Post) | Published: 9/11/2018

A federal appeals court ruled the charity Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation, which is linked to billionaire Charles Koch, must disclose its donors to California officials. The foundation had argued the state’s rules requiring filing of the donor list violate the First Amendment by discouraging individuals from giving and by exposing them to threats and harassment. The case could test the ability of state agencies to compel nonprofits to disclose the identities of their donors, particularly ones that are tied to “social welfare” nonprofits, commonly referred to as “dark money” groups. One such group is Americans for Prosperity, the main political arm of the influential Koch network. AFP Foundation, a sister organization, is a charity that focuses on education and research.

Colorado: Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission on Uncertain Course
Colorado Springs Gazette – Marianne Goodland | Published: 9/10/2018

Critics say the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission’s (IEC) structure, staffing, and funding make it impossible for the public to have any confidence that ethics issues – whether it is investigations into potential violations, training for government employees, or guidance – are handled in a logical or even timely manner. The monthly commission meetings focus on complaints and advisory opinions. But most of the meetings are conducted in executive sessions behind closed doors. During those sessions, commissioners decide which complaints are frivolous and then will make public what they have decided. Between 2008 and 2017, the IEC received 196 complaints. All but 20 were dismissed as frivolous, out of the IEC’s jurisdiction, or withdrawn. Whether those complaints were truly frivolous will never be known.

Iowa: Iowa Governor Flew to Game on Vendor’s Plane
Associated Press – Ryan Foley | Published: 9/12/2018

Gov. Kim Reynolds received approval from Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board Director Megan Tooker to fly with her family to Iowa State’s bowl game last year free of charge on the jet of a state vendor. Reynolds accepted the trip as a campaign donation from Sedgwick’s chief executive officer, who says he reimbursed his company for the plane’s use. The governor’s office said “bona fide campaign events” would take place during the half-day trip. Tooker said in December the governor could accept the flight, although Tooker now says she was unaware the airplane was owned by Sedgwick. Tooker also says she does not know what campaign activity Reynolds engaged in during the trip, which would be required for the flight to be considered an allowable campaign contribution instead of an illegal gift.

Kentucky: What’s Bevin Hiding? Worker Who Got $215K Raise Is His Old Army Buddy
Louisville Courier-Journal – Tom Loftus and Morgan Watkins | Published: 9/12/2018

When Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin wanted a new state chief information officer, he did not do a national search – he hired an old Army buddy and longtime business associate last October at a salary that now leads the nation for similar state. Some state lawmakers were stunned when it was reported Bevin gave Charles Grindle a $215,000 pay raise, an unusual 134 percent increase after less than a year on the job. Neither Bevin nor Grindle have responded to requests for information about their relationship and any role it might have played in Grindle’s hiring and rapid increase in pay. A former official of the Commonwealth Office of Technology said Grindle spoke openly about his long friendship with Bevin and that he had worked for Bevin in an unspecified capacity before going on the state payroll.

Maryland: Baltimore Ethics Board Rejects Mayor Pugh’s Request for Sweeping Exemption from Fundraising Rules
Baltimore Sun – Ian Duncan | Published: 9/7/2018

The Baltimore Board of Ethics rejected Mayor Catherine Pugh’s request to be exempted from rules that bar city employees from raising money for charitable causes without prior approval. Pugh was seeking a waiver so she could solicit funds from private donors that would help pay for her administration’s social programs and other community initiatives. The board said it was unwilling to grant a blanket exception to Pugh, who could still seek waivers on a case-by-case basis. Pugh;’s office said she needed the new fundraising powers to bolster the city’s existing budget. Board member Stephan Fogleman said he was concerned the waiver the mayor sought would have made it difficult for the public to know what she was raising money for.

Michigan: Why This U-M Regent Just Returned Thousands in Campaign Donations
Detroit Free Press – Matthew Dolan and David Jesse | Published: 9/13/2018

Wealthy alumni who have sway over the University of Michigan’s $11billion endowment have given thousands in campaign donations to members of the university’s governing board. A review of state records shows two members of the university’s elected Board of Regents accepted in total nearly $30,000 in contributions from donors associated with funds receiving university investments. In addition, a family who helps guide the university’s investment strategy gave more than $29,000 to the board’s longest-serving member. To critics, some of the donations could pose a conflict-of-interest. Regent Andrea Fischer Newman pledged to return thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from three wealthy businesspeople who help control millions of dollars in university investments.

Missouri: Court Affirms Major Blow to Missouri Amendment Restricting Campaign Donations
St. Louis Public Radio – Jason Rosenbaum | Published: 9/10/2018

A federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that Missouri’s ban on donations from one PAC to another is unconstitutional. The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the ban on PAC-to-PAC giving violates committees’ right to free speech. The appeals court ruled the Missouri Ethics Commission failed to show PAC-to-PAC contributions would breed corruption because the groups are not controlled by a candidate and operate independently from any party running for political office. The decision permanently stops the commission from enforcing the ban.

Ohio: Ethics Panel Imposes Stricter Rules on Ohio Lawmaker Travel
WOSU – Jo Ingles | Published: 9/11/2018

The Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee said lawmakers and their employees cannot accept travel expenses from lobbyists unless those result from participation in a panel, seminar, or speaking engagement or were incurred at a meeting of a national organization of which any state agency is a dues paying member. When it comes to sharing rides with lobbyists for personal travel, starting immediately, lawmakers must reimburse the cost of their travel within a week.

Washington: Washington AG to Press for $18 Million Fine Against Foodmakers
Capital Press – Don Jenkins | Published: 9/6/2018

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office will seek to restore an $18 million fine against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which an appeals court overturned recently. The court upheld GMA’s conviction and left in place a $6 million judgment for shielding the names of food and beverage companies that contributed to a campaign against a GMO-labeling initiative in 2013. The court ruled, however, that a lower court judge erred by finding that GMA intentionally broke the law and tripling the penalty. Even at $6 million, the fine would be the largest campaign finance penalty in U.S. history.