December 19, 2014 •

News You Can Use Digest – December 19, 2014

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National:

A State Guide to Political Corruption, According to the Reporters Who Cover It
Washington Post – Niraj Chokshi | Published: 12/8/2014

With Congress stuck in the least productive rut in American history, the bulk of important legislative action is taking place in the states. But according to one study, all that power might not be in the best hands. Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics published a study looking at state-level corruption throughout the U.S. But instead of relying on conviction data, researchers surveyed some 280 regional reporters and asked them to grade each of the three branches of government in their state on legal and illegal corruption.

Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance with Attorneys General
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 12/6/2104

An investigation by The New York Times found attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests to push back against the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda. The companies in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year. They share a common philosophy about the reach of the federal government, but the companies also have billions of dollars at stake. And the collaboration is likely to grow: for the first time in modern American history, Republicans in January will control a majority of attorneys general’s offices.

Payouts to McCrory, Sanford from Mortgage Broker Raise Ethical Questions
Charlotte Observer – Michael Biesecker and Mitch Weiss (Associated Press) | Published: 12/16/2014

Soon after taking office, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford accepted six-figure stock payouts from an online mortgage broker, a move that experts say raises ethical if not legal concerns. They were directors at Tree.com, the corporate parent of the website LendingTree. As board members, they were entitled to restricted company stock if they held their positions long enough. Both resigned after their election victories, which would have rendered their unvested stock worthless had the board not taken special action to provide them early payouts. McCrory and Sanford deny they did anything improper by accepting the payments from Tree.com, which were not fully described in their ethics statements.

Federal:

Every Election Is the Most Expensive Election. Or Not.
New York Times – Derek Willis | Published: 12/16/2014

Despite the efforts of the FEC, which has been faithfully disseminating campaign finance data since 1975, there are limitations in the ways that data is collected and summarized that make generating totals and comparisons very difficult. In a paper presented at the American Political Science Association conference this year, Temple University professor Robin Kolodny challenged the idea that we know each election is more expensive than previous ones, or that we even know how much campaigns really cost. Kolodny concludes this lack of knowledge fuels our perceptions of money in politics as an issue.

G.O.P. Angst Over 2016 Led to Provision on Funding
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore | Published: 12/13/2014

A campaign finance provision in the federal omnibus spending bill that will significantly raise certain contribution limits began with what Republican leaders regarded as an urgent problem: how would they pay for their presidential nominating convention in Cleveland in 2016? The talks ended with a bipartisan agreement that would allow wealthy donors to begin giving more than $1 million every election cycle to each party’s national committees.

Jeb Bush’s Decision to Explore Presidential Bid Scrambles the 2016 GOP Field
Washington Post – Matea Gold and Philip Rucker | Published: 12/16/2014

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he would “actively explore” a presidential run, immediately sending reverberations through the potential GOP field, tying up donors whom other candidates are courting, and forcing contenders to accelerate their own considerations for 2016. Bush became the first Republican to take an overt step toward a White House bid. He announced he would create a PAC, allowing him to raise money and travel the country ahead of an eventual decision.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – Registration Rule for Political Groups Ruled Too Vague
Arizona Daily Sun – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 12/6/2014

A federal judge ruled an Arizona law defining a political committee is unconstitutionally vague. Deputy Secretary of State Jim Drake said at the very least, the judge’s order eliminates the requirements for disclosure of funding by groups pushing or opposing ballot measures. It is not unusual for these campaigns to cost millions of dollars. But attorney Paul Avelar of the Institute for Justice said he reads the ruling to apply to all the independent groups pushing to elect or defeat candidates. The order does not bar the state from requiring political committees to register. But legislators will have to redo the law in a fashion that courts find to be constitutional.

Arkansas – Questions Surround Constitutional Amendment on Ethics, Term Limits
Arkansas News – John Lyon (Arkansas News Bureau) | Published: 12/8/2014

Rep. Warwick Sabin and Sen. Jon Woods are aiming to end the confusion surrounding their co-authored and recently passed constitutional amendment, Issue No. 3. But the head of the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce said he expects the amendment to face multiple court challenges. The measure enacts significant ethics reforms for state legislators, such as restricting gifts, eliminating corporate campaign contributions, and extending the lobbying period for former legislators once their service is complete. The amendment also extends term limits to 16 years in either chamber of the state Legislature or a combination of both.

Georgia – State Ethics Agency Faces More Changes
Gainesville Sun – Christina Cassidy (Associated Press) | Published: 12/7/2014

It has been a tumultuous year at Georgia’s ethics commission, which has been hamstrung by a number of lawsuits filed by former employees, personnel issues, and allegations of outside influence with questions raised about its ability to ensure candidates, campaign committees, lobbyists, and others are disclosing their financial activities. Meanwhile, the agency has had 216 open complaints that have been pending an average of three years. A recent audit issued 42 recommendations that state lawmakers might consider to improve the effectiveness and independence of the commission.

Missouri – Ethics Bills Filed to Open Debate on Lobbying and Campaign Finance Rules
Columbia Daily Tribune – Rudi Keller | Published: 12/15/2014

Missouri Rep. Caleb Rowden filed a bill that would ban lobbyists’ gifts to individual lawmakers, their staff members, and families. It also would require subcontracting lobbyists hired by principal lobbyists to disclose the actual client being served. Rowden addresses campaign finance issues by requiring that legislators and statewide elected officials disclose donations greater than $500 within 48 hours during legislative sessions.

New York – After Ethics Panel’s Shutdown, Loopholes Live On in Albany
New York Times – Thomas Kaplan, William Rashbaum, and Susanne Craig | Published: 12/8/2014

Investigators for the Moreland Commission, an anti-corruption panel that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo created last year, found a slew of questionable activity. But Cuomo abruptly shut down the commission as part of a deal with the Legislature. In Albany, some of the most questionable conduct by elected officials has long been perfectly legal, safeguarded by the only people who can outlaw it: the lawmakers themselves. Before it was disbanded, the commission urged elected officials to close loopholes, toughen criminal statutes, increase disclosure requirements, and restrict how campaign funds could be spent. Now, eight months after its work was cut short, little in Albany has changed.

Ohio – Work of FBI Squad Evident in Columbus Payday Probe
Marietta Times; Associated Press –   | Published: 12/11/2014

Columbus, Ohio’s growing population and increasing sophistication as a metropolis helped drive the FBI’s decision to dedicate a public corruption unit to the city. State Rep. Dale Mallory was fined for accepting Cincinnati Bengals tickets from lobbyists, Sen.-elect Sandra Williams was fined and sentenced to a suspended six-month jail term for selling Ohio State tickets her campaign purchased to a lobbyist and pocketing the proceeds. Two more state lawmakers, then- Reps. W. Carlton Weddington and Clayton Luckie, received prison time in the long-running investigation of payday-lending lobbyists. Two lobbyists also were convicted.

Pennsylvania – Two Philadelphia Lawmakers Charged in Sting Probe
Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 12/16/2014

In a case that Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said was “not prosecutable,” the Philadelphia district attorney’s office announced felony corruption charges against two state legislators accused of accepting cash from an undercover lobbyist who videotaped the exchanges. Reps. Ronald Waters and Vanessa Brown are charged with criminal conspiracy, bribery, conflict-of-interest, and failure to report on their financial interest disclosure forms – all stemming from allegedly accepting money in exchange for promised political actions. Kane dismissed the case in 2013, citing legal flaws, poor supervision, and a taint of racism to the investigation. District Attorney Seth Williams then took up the inquiry.

Rhode Island – Mollis Adopts Hearing Officer’s Decision that Corso Engaged in Unregistered Lobbying Related to 38 Studios
Providence Journal – Jennifer Bogdon | Published: 12/5/2014

Rhode island Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis has adopted the decision by a hearing officer that attorney Michael Corso engaged in unregistered lobbying relating to 38 Studios. Corso, whose friendship with former House Speaker Gordon Fox helped bring the now bankrupt video-game company to the state, will face a $2,000 fine if he does not file the required reports. Mollis convened the administrative hearing process after media stories shed light on Corso’s role in advocating for $75 million in state-backed loan guarantees in a jobs-creation bill. The funding eventually went to 38 Studios.

Wisconsin – Republicans Seize on Audit Critical of State Elections Board
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 12/12/2014

An audit critical of the nonpartisan board that oversees ethics and elections in Wisconsin fueled calls for change from Republicans who control the Legislature. The long-awaited report detailed a number of problems with the Government Accountability Board, which began in 2008. The audit said board staff did not consistently follow a penalty schedule for enforcing campaign finance, lobbying, and code of ethics laws; did not conduct 16 required reviews over a four-year period to identify felons who may have voted illegally; and did not put in place written procedures for considering complaints.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

November 23, 2020 •

Missouri Special Session Continued Until After Thanksgiving Break

Missouri Capitol Building

The second special session of the Missouri General Assembly has been delayed until after the Thanksgiving break. This comes in response to a number of positive COVID-19 cases among members and staff. The special session began on November 5 to […]

The second special session of the Missouri General Assembly has been delayed until after the Thanksgiving break.

This comes in response to a number of positive COVID-19 cases among members and staff.

The special session began on November 5 to focus on getting federal CARES Act funding distributed to the state.

This does not affect lobbyist reporting.

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November 23, 2020 •

Third Cincinnati Council Member Arrested

Cincinnati Skyline

Cincinnati Skyline - by Mr. RNGAndreson

Cincinnati City Councilman Alexander “P.G.” Sittenfeld was arrested on federal corruption charges. He is the third council member to be arrested this year. Sittenfeld denies the allegations of bribery and attempted extortion and does not plan to resign. If he […]

Cincinnati City Councilman Alexander “P.G.” Sittenfeld was arrested on federal corruption charges.

He is the third council member to be arrested this year.

Sittenfeld denies the allegations of bribery and attempted extortion and does not plan to resign.

If he does resign, four members of the council will choose his successor by a majority vote.

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November 23, 2020 •

San Luis Obispo County Adopts Campaign Contribution Limits

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo - by MARELBU

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 on Friday to set campaign contribution limits at $25,000. Hundreds of community members called in asking the county go with the forthcoming state limit of $4,700. Opponents of the $25,000 […]

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 on Friday to set campaign contribution limits at $25,000.

Hundreds of community members called in asking the county go with the forthcoming state limit of $4,700.

Opponents of the $25,000 ceiling voiced concerns the higher limit would lead to corruption.

Others argued the county should not make a decision until a replacement for deceased Supervisor Adam Hill is seated.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation limiting campaign contributions to local candidates to $4,700 in cities and counties not having their own contribution limits.

Those limits go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

The $25,000 limit will apply to candidates for 10 county offices, including the five supervisors, the district attorney, and the sheriff.

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November 23, 2020 •

Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup

Campaign Finance National: “Biden Transition Steps Up Fundraising as Trump Withholds Federal Money” by Elena Schneider and Theodoric Meyer for Politico California: “After Divisive Election Cycle, San Jose to Explore New Campaign Finance Laws” by Maggie Angst for San Jose […]

Campaign Finance

National: “Biden Transition Steps Up Fundraising as Trump Withholds Federal Money” by Elena Schneider and Theodoric Meyer for Politico

California: “After Divisive Election Cycle, San Jose to Explore New Campaign Finance Laws” by Maggie Angst for San Jose Mercury News

Nevada: “Las Vegas Judge Took Lawyer’s Campaign Donation Before Dismissals” by David Ferrara for Las Vegas Review-Journal

Elections

National: “Trump’s Escalating Attacks Put Pressure on Vote Certification Process” by David Fahrenthold, Beth Reinhard, Elise Viebeck, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) for MSN

Ethics

New York: “Trump Tax Write-Offs Are Ensnared in 2 New York Fraud Investigations” by Danny Hakim, Mike McIntire, William Rashbaum, and Ben Protess for New York Times

Ohio: “Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld Arrested on Federal Charges” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland Plain Dealer

Utah: “Audit Finds Free Spending and Cronyism by Ex-State Agency Head” by Bethany Rodgers for Salt Lake Tribune

Lobbying

National: “K Street Moves to Counter ‘Purity’ Test for Biden Administration” by Kate Ackley for Roll Call

Florida: “After Months of Work, Leon County Gives OK to Stronger Lobbying Ordinance” by Karl Etters for Tallahassee Democrat

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November 20, 2020 •

COVID Has Affected State and Federal Communications

First, we are all in good health at State and Federal Communications. For the most part, we are working one day a week in the office and the rest working from home. The staff is also social distancing and wearing […]

First, we are all in good health at State and Federal Communications. For the most part, we are working one day a week in the office and the rest working from home. The staff is also social distancing and wearing masks when in the office. We have only had one staff member who tested positive and is back in the office after the required quarantine period.

I do have to say, this pandemic has affected an important publication. After 21 years, the quick desk reference, State and Federal Communications Guidebook, will not be printed. Due to the pandemic, our clients are not in the office and we are already in possession of the 2020 Congressional Directory we ordered for everyone and received in May, when offices closed and people started working from home.

The information in the Guidebook is included in the very robust State and Federal Communications website, www.stateandfed.com, which will have a redesign unveiled on December 1, 2020.

Jon Spontarelli and Kristi Hadgigeorge will be alerting the State and Federal Communications Community about the updates and upgrades on our new website and, especially where you can continue to find the valuable materials from the Guidebook.

We will continue to make sure you have all the valuable information you need for your work and please do not hesitate to give us a call if you need guidance along the road to compliance.

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November 20, 2020 •

Colorado Governor Calls for Special Session November 30

Colorado Capitol

Colorado Capitol Building

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced the start date of the previously announced special session on COVID-19 relief to begin November 30 at 10 a.m. Among the action items to be addressed during the session are childcare support, housing and direct […]

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced the start date of the previously announced special session on COVID-19 relief to begin November 30 at 10 a.m.

Among the action items to be addressed during the session are childcare support, housing and direct rental assistance, food insecurity, and public health response.

It is expected to take at least three days to approve the legislation. A professional lobbyist must disclose within 72 hours if a lobbyist agrees to lobby for an existing client or takes a new position in connection to legislation, standard, rules, or rates during a special session.

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November 20, 2020 •

New Mexico Governor Announces Special Session

New Mexico Capitol

New Mexico Capitol Building - Ken Lund

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced November 19 she will call a special legislative session prior to Thanksgiving to provide COVID-19 relief. The state has about $300 million in federal aid. Gov. Grisham and lawmakers want to use the […]

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced November 19 she will call a special legislative session prior to Thanksgiving to provide COVID-19 relief.

The state has about $300 million in federal aid. Gov. Grisham and lawmakers want to use the resources toward small businesses and unemployment.

The special session is scheduled to begin Tuesday, November 24, and is expected to last one day. The Roundhouse will be closed to the public during that time.

A legislative report will be due within 48 hours for each separate expenditure of $500 or more made or incurred by a lobbyist or employer during the special legislative session.

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November 20, 2020 •

Illinois Cancels Veto Session due to the Surge in Coronavirus Cases

Illinois Capitol

Illinois State Capitol Building

The Illinois Legislature canceled the veto session originally scheduled for this week and December 1-3, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. State lawmakers hope to meet in January, though no date has been set. Generally, the veto session, a short session […]

The Illinois Legislature canceled the veto session originally scheduled for this week and December 1-3, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State lawmakers hope to meet in January, though no date has been set.

Generally, the veto session, a short session in the fall, is used to override bills that have been vetoed and resolve conflicts with the governor.

There are no vetoes to address this year, but lawmakers could address other matters.

The next General Assembly will be inaugurated on January 13, 2021.

Therefore, the veto session would have to take place before then if it is held.

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