August 26, 2016 •

News You Can Use Digest – August 26, 2016

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National:

Inside Facebook’s (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine
New York Times Magazine – John Herrman | Published: 8/24/2016

Facebook, in the years leading up to this year’s election, has not just become nearly ubiquitous among American internet users; it has centralized online news consumption in an unprecedented way. According to the company, its site is used by more than 200 million people in the U.S. each month. A 2016 Pew study found 44 percent of Americans read or watch news on Facebook. Its algorithms pick text, photos, and video produced and posted by established media organizations large and small, local and national, openly partisan or nominally unbiased. But there is also a new and distinctive sort of operation that has become hard to miss: political news and advocacy pages made specifically for Facebook, uniquely positioned and cleverly engineered to reach audiences exclusively in the context of the news feed.

Study: Outside groups, secret money far more prominent than ever before
Center for Responsive Politics – Robert Maguire | Published: 8/24/2016

A new study shows outside groups that can raise and spend unlimited money, sometimes without disclosing the sources of their funds, make up a larger portion of election spending than at any point in the last 16 years. The two main proponents of the growth in outside groups’ overall share of election advertising are super PACs and politically active nonprofits. The former only came into existence in 2010, and since then has come to dominate the field. Politically active nonprofits, on the other hand, have been active in every cycle going back to 2000, but what may be the same in quality is not the same in quantity. These groups are the driving force behind the growth in “dark money” in elections.

Federal:

Foundation Ties Bedevil Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign
New York Times – Amy Chozick and Steve Eder | Published: 8/20/2016

The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has thrived on the generosity of foreign donors who gave hundreds of millions of dollars to the charity. But as Hillary Clinton seeks the White House, the funding has become an Achilles’ heel for her campaign and, if she is victorious, potentially her administration. With Mrs. Clinton facing accusations of favoritism toward foundation donors during her time as secretary of state, the organization will no longer accept corporate contributions should she win in November. But while the move did not resolve the question of how her administration would handle longtime donors seeking help from the U.S., or whose interests might conflict with the country’s own.

The Lobbying Law at the Center of Manafort’s Trouble with Ukraine
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 8/21/2016

Paul Manafort resigned as Donald Trump’s campaign chairperson after he had been ensnared in a wide-ranging Justice Department investigation about U.S. connections to the alleged corruption by former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Questions have been swirling about Manafort’s representation of Yanukovych for years, but recent reports have intensified the drum beats about whether he acted unlawfully as a “foreign agent” by lobbying for a foreign leader without registering that activity. The recent revelations, if true, suggest Manafort could face legal troubles stemming from violation of a World War II-era lobbying statute, the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – Little-Regulated Accounts Offer a Path to Political Clout in Sacramento
Marin Independent Journal – Jessica Calefati and Kaitlyn Landgraf (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 8/20/2016

Ballot measure committees, the accounts that are supposed to promote or oppose state and local initiatives, are in practice paying for California lawmakers’ consultants and polling firms, new suits, and trips to Mexico. And the money for the politicians’ perks comes in the form of five-figure donations from the same special interests that state rules were intended to curtail. Under the vague language of the law, elected officials can legally operate these committees, but the way they are doing it appears to bend state laws and rules governing how the money may be spent. No state agency adequately monitors the situation. Of the nearly $3 million spent by these committees since 2013, only one dollar out of every four dollars was used to help pass or defeat measures that actually made it to the ballot.

Connecticut – Malloy Releases Funds Withheld from CT Watchdog Agencies
CT Mirror – Keith Phaneuf | Published: 8/19/2016

After criticism from lawmakers and good government groups, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration relented and restored the $183,000 they had proposed to cut from three watchdog agencies. Following a meeting with the heads of the Office of State Ethics, Freedom of Information Commission, and State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Office of Policy and Management announced it would restore the funding. Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes steered clear of acknowledging the budget holdbacks would have violated a 2004 law that prohibits the executive branch from unilaterally cutting the three watchdog agencies. Carol Carson, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said the agencies are committed to prudently managing their budgets and whenever possible return money at the end of the year to the general fund.

Florida – On 2nd Try, Miami-Dade Commissioners Approve Petition Count
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 8/22/2016

Miami-Dade County commissioners agreed to start counting nearly 130,000 signatures tied to a proposed ballot measure on new campaign finance rules, but warned they still might halt the proposal over concerns raised by county attorneys. Only about 52,000 valid signatures are needed to win a spot on the November ballot. The proposed rules would impose a broad package of restrictions against campaign donations by vendors and lobbyists, prime sources of financial support for county officeholders.

Massachusetts – Donors Behind Charter Push Keep to the Shadows
Boston Globe – Mark Levenson | Published: 8/20/2016

A new $2.3 million ad boosting the expansion of charter schools in Massachusetts lists the campaign’s top five donors on screen, in accordance with state law. But the bland names, including Strong Economy for Growth and Education Reform Now Advocacy, give no hint of who is writing the checks. Four of the five donors to the pro-charter committee are nonprofit groups that do not, under state law, have to disclose their funders, allowing the individuals backing the effort to remain anonymous. The cloak of secrecy surrounding the financing of what could be the most expensive ballot campaign in state history has frustrated election officials and underscored the proliferation of untraceable money in political races across the country.

Missouri – Judge Tosses Out Effort to Keep Missouri Campaign Contribution Limits Off Ballot
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 8/25/2016

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce rejected an attempt to remove a voter initiative from the November 8 ballot that would impose limits on campaign contributions in Missouri for the first time since 2008. Attorney Chuck Hatfield said in court that the initiative unfairly limits some classes of businesses and associations from giving money to campaigns, but Joyce ruled the proposal mirrors federal law and is not unconstitutional. The decision will be appealed.

New York – Cuomo Signs Ethics Bill, with Few Cheers
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/24/2016

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that reforms the state’s lobbying, ethics, and campaign finance laws. But watchdog groups criticized the bill for what they say is a failure to address conditions that have fueled some of Albany’s corruption cases in recent years. The new law includes restrictions on independent expenditure groups intended to reduce coordination with a candidate’s campaign. Another provision requires issue-oriented lobbying groups, designated as 501(c)(4) organizations, that spend more than $15,000 in a year on lobbying to disclose donors who give more than $2,500. The previous limits had been $50,000 and $5,000.

New York – NY State Ethics Watchdog Investigating Nonprofit with Ties to Large Corporate Political Donor
Nonprofit Quarterly – Larry Kaplan | Published: 8/23/2016

The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics is looking into the nonprofit Pledge 2 Protect, created in 2013 to fight a marine waste transfer station on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. By law, nonprofits like Pledge 2 Protect must, if they spend more than $50,000 on lobbying, report the names of donors who contribute more than $5,000. Those amounts would be cut in half under a law awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature. Almost $700,000 made its way to Pledge 2 Protect the year it was formed with no indication of where the money really came from. The money was given first to a law firm, then to the group, so the only name that had to be disclosed was that of the law firm, not the actual donors. Among the opponents of the waste transfer station was Glenwood Management, a real estate firm that figured prominently in the corruption case against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Tennessee – Power Opens Door to Sexual Harassment
The Tennessean – Dave Boucher and Joel Ebert | Published: 8/21/2016

Powerful institutions and harassment at times go hand-in-hand. State Capitols are sometimes hotbeds of sexual harassment themselves. Most Legislatures are largely male, part-time, and require members to travel away from home, creating a fraternity atmosphere. In Tennessee, where 22 out of 132 lawmakers are women and 85 percent are white, the political culture has included limited policies and safeguards, leaving women with few options.

Wisconsin – Ethics Commission Will Be Able to Make Political Donations
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Scott Bauer (Associated Press) | Published: 8/23/2016

Members of the Wisconsin Ethics Commission will be able to make political donations. The commission voted to continue with the current practice allowing them to give to candidates and campaign committees. Nothing in state law bars Ethics Commission members from donating to the very politicians they are regulating. Commission members are partisan appointees, unlike their predecessors on the Government Accountability Board who were judges and prohibited under the law from donating.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

April 3, 2020 •

Rhode Island General Assembly Extends Postponement

Rhode Island State House

To contain the spread of COVID-19, lawmakers have extended the postponement of the legislative session for another week. All General Assembly sessions and committee hearings for the week of April 6 to April 10, have been canceled. This does not […]

To contain the spread of COVID-19, lawmakers have extended the postponement of the legislative session for another week.

All General Assembly sessions and committee hearings for the week of April 6 to April 10, have been canceled.

This does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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April 3, 2020 •

Illinois Further Extends All Filing Deadlines

Illinois State Capitol Building

Lobbying semimonthly reporting deadlines are now extended for 60 days, pushing the April 5 due date to June 4. In response to the exponential spread of COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-18 on April 1. This extends prior […]

Lobbying semimonthly reporting deadlines are now extended for 60 days, pushing the April 5 due date to June 4.

In response to the exponential spread of COVID-19, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-18 on April 1.

This extends prior executive orders for the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamations, which currently extends through April 30.

The Legislature also remains suspended through next week.

Additionally, lawmakers have been asked to keep their calendars clear for possible return dates.

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April 3, 2020 •

Oklahoma Governor Calls Special Legislative Session

Oklahoma Capitol Building

Oklahoma legislators will head back to the Capitol on April 6 for a special legislative session to confirm Gov. Kevin Stitt’s declaration of a statewide health emergency due to COVID-19. Lawmakers are in the middle of the legislative session, but […]

Oklahoma legislators will head back to the Capitol on April 6 for a special legislative session to confirm Gov. Kevin Stitt’s declaration of a statewide health emergency due to COVID-19.

Lawmakers are in the middle of the legislative session, but they cleared out of the state Capitol as the COVID-19 outbreak ramped up.

The Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn by 5 p.m. on May 29.

Legislators have not yet set a date to return to pass a state budget and any other legislative priorities.

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April 3, 2020 •

Lawsuit Challenges New Ohio Presidential, State Primary Election Date and Procedures

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures. The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary […]

A lawsuit has been filed challenging the new Ohio presidential and state primary election date and procedures.

The lawsuit challenges House Bill 197, which included a provision to extend absentee balloting until April 28 for the presidential and state primary elections.

In response to COVID-19, the state’s Health Department postponed in-person voting originally scheduled for March 17.

The lawsuit seeks to delay the election date further.

Additionally registered voters who have not cast a ballot in the election will have an absentee ballot mailed to them.

The lawsuit would also allow voters who do not receive a ballot in time to vote at board of elections.

Finally it would set the voter registration date 30 days prior to the primary date, as required by federal law.

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April 3, 2020 •

Justices Decline Challenge to Seattle Democracy Vouchers

United States Supreme Court Building

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns. The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, […]

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to Seattle’s first-in-the-nation democracy voucher program for public financing of political campaigns.

The court denied the challenge brought by two local property owners arguing the program violated the First Amendment by forcing them, through their tax dollars, to support candidates they don’t like.

In 2015, Seattle voters decided to tax themselves $3 million a year in order to receive four $25 vouchers they can donate to participating candidates in city elections.

The state Supreme Court unanimously upheld the voucher program last year.

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April 3, 2020 •

South Carolina Legislature Set to Meet on April 8

South Carolina Capitol Building

The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day. The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding. Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine […]

The South Carolina Legislature is set to return on April 8 for a single day.

The session is being called to consider a continuing resolution concerning state funding.

Additionally they will consider a resolution allowing the Legislature to adjourn sine die.

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April 3, 2020 •

North Carolina Secretary of State to Allow Late Filing of First Quarter Reports

North Carolina State Legislative Building

Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall has announced a grace period to file the first quarter lobbyist and principal reports due April 22. This comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of social distancing, Penalties for failure […]

Secretary of State Elaine F. Marshall has announced a grace period to file the first quarter lobbyist and principal reports due April 22.

This comes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of social distancing,

Penalties for failure to timely file will not be levied if report is filed on or before July 22; is accompanied by a sworn and notarized statement that a notary could not be obtained prior to the date the report was filed; and all other reports due by July 22 are timely filed.

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April 3, 2020 •

Idaho’s May Primary Election Won’t Be Delayed, Deadline for Absentee Ballots Pushed Back

Idaho Capitol Building - JSquish

Idaho Gov. Brad Little won’t delay the May 19 primary election, but the election will now be all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus. Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots to June 2. […]

Idaho Gov. Brad Little won’t delay the May 19 primary election, but the election will now be all-absentee due to the risk from coronavirus.

Secretary of State Lawerence Denney has extended the deadline to submit absentee ballots to June 2.

Idahoans will be able register to vote and request an absentee ballot up until 8 p.m. on May 19.

The extension pushes back voters’ deadline to submit ballots to county clerks to 8 p.m. on June 2.

Normally that deadline would have been 8 p.m. May 19.

The Office of the Secretary of State will be sending out absentee ballot requests to every registered voter who has not already requested one.

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