October 12, 2018 •
Out-of-State Donors Pour Cash into Democrats’ State Races
Center for Public Integrity – Rui Kaneya and Joe Yerardi | Published: 10/10/2018
Nationwide, many Democrats running for state-level offices from governor to state representative are also collecting a significant amount of money from across state lines. Though Democrats still trail Republicans in the overall fundraising tally, they have so far raised at least $101 million from out of state, about $29 million more than their GOP counterparts have taken in. The influx of out-of-state contributions comes from a mix of companies with local interests, networks of contacts scattered across the country, and newly emboldened national groups that are mobilizing to influence state-level elections, mindful that the outcomes will have an impact on politics at the state and national levels lasting well into the next decade.
FEC Guidance to Limit Impact of Dark Money Court Ruling
Associated Press – Brian Slodysko | Published: 10/5/2018
The FEC issued new guidance in response to a U.S. District Court ruling that found the agency improperly allowed “social welfare” nonprofits to skirt disclosure requirements for some donors. While the guidance answers some questions, it raises others. “A lot of people were very excited when [the case] first came out, but when you get into the weeds, one has to acknowledge that the opinion is not as broad some people had hoped,” said FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub.
Saluting the Trump Administration, Not So Nicely
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 10/9/2018
At the White House, the nearby Trump International Hotel, and wherever the presidential motorcade goes, Washingtonians are greeting Donald Trump’s presidency with an extended middle finger. As episodes like the separation of migrant families and the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court continue to inflame passions in Washington, D.C., these one-fingered salutes have become a pervasive marker of an administration under siege in its own city. Tourists posing for photographs, passengers in the cars that drive by the White House, and pedestrians caught unaware by motorcades have all made increasing use of the vulgar gesture since Trump came to town. Some do it subtly; others make a show of it.
Wall Street Is Booming Under Trump. But Many of Its Donors Are Embracing Democrats.
WRAL – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 10/7/2018
The stock market is booming, unemployment is hitting record lows, and Republicans pushed through $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. But despite all that, for the first time in a decade, the broader financial community is on pace to give more money to Democratic congressional candidates and incumbents than their GOP counterparts. Some of the same grassroots energy coursing through the Democratic Party, House candidates from Kentucky to Montana to New York are reporting record sums of small donations, has spilled into the corporate boardrooms of American finance, even amid increasingly hostile rhetoric from Democrats in Washington and on the campaign trail toward Wall Street.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: Are Political Swamps in California and Washington Mostly Drained? This Study Says They Are.
Sacramento Bee – Andrew Sheeler | Published: 10/9/2018
California ranks second in the nation for anti-corruption laws, according to a new report from the Coalition for Integrity. California share second-place Rhode Island; both states fell behind Washington state, which claimed the best score in the 2018 States With Anti-Corruption Measures for Public Officials (S.W.A.M.P.) Index. The index looks at eight metrics when assigning a score to a state, including whether there is an ethics agency with subpoena and sanction power, and whether elected and appointed executive branch officials are prohibited from accepting expensive gifts from lobbyists. At the other end of the spectrum, the S.W.A.M.P. Index rated North Dakota as worst in the nation for ethics and transparency laws.
Colorado: Wall Street Pumping Cash Through Loophole in Anti-Corruption Rule
Capital & Main – David Sirota and Chase Woodruff | Published: 10/4/2018
If Wall Street executive look to land a lucrative contract to manage Colorado retirees’ pension money, a federal “pay-to-play” rule is designed to deter them from trying to use campaign donations to influence state officials who oversee those investment decisions. Despite that regulation, however, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton’s gubernatorial campaign is being boosted by a political group partially sponsored by financial firms that receive investments from the pension fund Stapleton helps run. If Stapleton is elected governor, he will leave the pension fund’s board but will appoint three members of the board, potentially giving him even more influence over which financial firms get pension investments.
Indiana: Former Intern Says Brian Bosma Tried to Intimidate Her Over Alleged Sexual Encounter
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook, Kaitlin Lange, and Ryan Martin | Published: 10/10/2018
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma investigated groping allegations against the state attorney general and is crafting a first-ever sexual harassment policy for legislators. He is also the same man who aggressively investigated the credibility of a former statehouse intern who said she had a sexual encounter with him decades ago. Family members of the woman claim Bosma’s attorney threatened to reveal the unfavorable information about her if her account became public and to expose her name even if news organizations withheld it. The former intern, Kandy Green, did not accuse Bosma of a crime. Bosma denies the encounter took place.
Kentucky: Amy McGrath Is Avoiding Attack Ads. Can a Congressional Candidate Win Without Them?
WRAL – Michael Tackett (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2018
The race for Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District between U.S. Rep. Andy Barr and his Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, has featured one of the highest concentrations of political ads in the country, almost 7,000 airings, in one of the most fiercely fought races. The contest also has one of the most lopsided ratios of negative-to-positive ads, with Barr and aligned Republican groups spending overwhelmingly on spots attacking his opponent. McGrath, so far, has not run attack ads, an approach that makes this contest a laboratory to test the proposition that while voters find negative ads distasteful, candidates use them because they work.
Missouri: Missouri Lobbying Rules Fought in Federal Court
Courthouse News Service – Joe Harris | Published: 10/8/2018
The Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit claiming an executive order that bans all gifts, including written materials, to certain government officials in Missouri violates its constitutional rights. At issue is Missouri Executive Order 17-02 which prohibits “anything of value” to be given to a member of the state’s executive branch by a lobbyist. The Institute for Justice claims that by prohibiting the distribution of two of its publications, “Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit” and “License to Work 2,” to government employees, the executive order violates its First Amendment right to free speech and Fourteenth Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances.
New Mexico: New Mexico Legislators Eat, Lobbyists Treat, but Public Left Guessing Who
Santa Fe New Mexican – Andrew Oxford | Published: 10/8/2018
Because of a loophole in New Mexico law, lobbyists for the most part do not have to disclose which officials they have been attempting to influence. Although the latest round of filings by lobbyists points to tens of thousands of dollars spent on entertaining policymakers, the representatives of companies and special interests remain largely free to conceal the issues they are advocating for and the policymakers they are trying to sway. The Legislature has shown little appetite for requiring more disclosure from lobbyists.
Ohio: Workers Allege Campaign Donations Were Expected, Rewarded by Summit Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh
WKYC – Phil Trexler and Tom Meyer | Published: 10/10/2018
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh is accused of ignoring acts of bullying, sexual harassment, and racial discrimination in her office, while allowing political campaigning to take place by favored workers, sometimes on county time, and requiring campaign donations of her workers and denying pay hikes to those who did not. Walsh’s campaign finance reports reflect the cash flow, showing her employees contributed thousands of dollars, or about half of her entire campaign funds, in the past six filing periods. Five employees have filed complaints alleging mistreatment.
Oklahoma: Attorneys Help Bankroll Campaigns of Judges Who Hear Their Cases
Oklahoma Watch – Taylor Brown | Published: 10/8/2018
Judges in Oklahoma rarely recuse themselves voluntarily or on request because they received money from attorneys arguing before them. That is despite the fact that attorneys represent the largest number of donors to district judges’ campaigns. Court filings show many of those attorneys frequently have appeared before the candidates to whom they gave money; some donated to judges while the judge was still presiding over their case. No evidence has emerged that donations from lawyers gained them or their firms more favorable rulings or treatment from judges. But campaign finance reform advocates, along with some Oklahoma judicial candidates, say the state’s system of electing district judges poses a risk to the integrity of the system.
South Carolina: SC Attorney General Tried to Impede Statehouse Corruption Probe, Grand Jury Says
Charleston Post and Courier – Glenn Smith and Thad Moore | Published: 10/9/2018
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s inaction impeded a probe into statehouse corruption, according to a grand jury report. Wilson’s conduct after former House Speaker Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty and named two other lawmakers cost investigators 13 months and meant the statute of limitations on potential federal crimes like money laundering ran out, the grand jurors said. The report notes Wilson’s close relationship with political consultant Richard Quinn. The corruption inquiry focused mainly on Quinn’s consulting business, his clients, and whether he acted like a lobbyist without registering. The report gives a behind the curtain look at the blurry line between political consultants, lobbyists, and powerful businesses in the state.
Tennessee: Taylor Swift’s Stunning Statement: Famously apolitical star slams Tennessee Republican, endorses Democrats
Washington Post – Emily Yahr | Published: 10/7/2018
Taylor Swift, the pop music star who has been notably apolitical in turbulent political times, endorsed two Democratic candidates running for election in Tennessee. In a post on Instagram, Swift said she planned to vote for Phil Bredesen, who is competing in a close U.S. Senate race against a Republican candidate backed by President Trump, and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, an incumbent who represents the Nashville area. Swift’s political views had previously been left up to interpretation, and at times her silence was viewed as support for Trump as well as the alt-right movement.
West Virginia: As 1 Supreme Court Justice Survives Impeachment in West Virginia, Others Face Trial
Governing – Phil Kabler (Charleston Gazette) | Published: 10/3/2018
One West Virginia Supreme Court justice has survived an impeachment scare. Beth Walker will remain in office after state senators rejected an impeachment article against her after a two-day trial. Senators later adopted a resolution by voice vote to issue a public reprimand of Walker. She was accused of abusing her authority. The impeachment charge stated Walker and other justices failed to control office expenses and maintain policies over matters such as working lunches and the use of state vehicles and office computers at home.
May 22, 2019 •
On May 28, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced the appointment of Tony Baptiste as Acting Inspector General of the agency. Mr. Baptiste, who has worked with the Office of the Inspector General for 19 years, will leave his position […]
On May 28, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced the appointment of Tony Baptiste as Acting Inspector General of the agency.
Mr. Baptiste, who has worked with the Office of the Inspector General for 19 years, will leave his position at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
“We look forward to working with him and drawing upon his deep expertise,” said Chair Ellen L. Weintraub in the FEC’s press release.
His appointment with the FEC becomes effective on May 28.
May 22, 2019 •
On May 22, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) will hold a virtual public hearing to gather comments for a proposed rule regarding executive branch officials and employees setting up legal expense funds. The virtual public hearing will be […]
On May 22, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) will hold a virtual public hearing to gather comments for a proposed rule regarding executive branch officials and employees setting up legal expense funds.
The virtual public hearing will be recorded and a transcript of the hearing will be posted on OGE’s website.
The agency is seeking public comments even after the virtual hearing, with the comment period ending on June 14.
The OGE has also listed questions on its website for the public to consider in order to help the agency determine issues specifically related to legal expense funds.
Those questions include whether there should be contribution limits to legal expense funds; whether donations of pro bono legal services to legal expense funds should be permitted; and whether contributions should be subject to reporting requirements?
May 20, 2019 •
On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would decline to hear a challenge to a Massachusetts law. The law in question bans corporate contributions to campaigns, parties and candidate-focused political action committees. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial […]
On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would decline to hear a challenge to a Massachusetts law.
The law in question bans corporate contributions to campaigns, parties and candidate-focused political action committees.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously rejected the challenge, brought by 1A Auto Inc. and 126 Self Storage Inc., in September.
The suit claimed disparate treatment by banning for-profit corporate contributions while allowing significant contributions by unions and nonprofits.
After the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, state law was updated to allow corporate spending for independent expenditures but not political contributions.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey applauded Monday’s decision not to hear the case for the integrity of state elections.
Opponents of the law are hopeful the Supreme Court will take up the issue in another case.
May 20, 2019 •
Top North Dakota officials are working towards forming a new panel to oversee ethical standards in state government as a result of last year’s passage of Measure 1. Gov. Doug Burgum’s office is accepting applications for the new ethics commission […]
Top North Dakota officials are working towards forming a new panel to oversee ethical standards in state government as a result of last year’s passage of Measure 1.
Gov. Doug Burgum’s office is accepting applications for the new ethics commission through May 24 and hopes to have members selected by July 1.
The five commissioners will be chosen by consensus agreement of the governor and the Senate’s majority and minority leaders.
The state constitution bars certain people from serving on the commission including lobbyists, political party officials, and those who hold statewide elected or appointed office.