April 4, 2016 •

Monday News Roundup

Lobbying “Annual GAO Report on Federal Lobbying Compliance Shows Mixed Enforcement Bag: Fewer audits, more and larger enforcement penalties” by Andrew Garrahan for National Law Review California: “Documentaries Like ‘Blackfish’ Influence California’s Capitol” by Alexei Koseff for Sacramento Bee California: […]

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Annual GAO Report on Federal Lobbying Compliance Shows Mixed Enforcement Bag: Fewer audits, more and larger enforcement penalties” by Andrew Garrahan for National Law Review

California: “Documentaries Like ‘Blackfish’ Influence California’s Capitol” by Alexei Koseff for Sacramento Bee

California: “Lawmakers Act to Shine Light on California Coastal Commission, Other Key State Boards” by Patrick McGreevy for Los Angeles Times

Campaign Finance

Arizona: “AZ Governor Signs Bill Easing Dark Money Rules” by Ryan Van Velzer (Associated Press) for Albuquerque Journal

Kentucky: “Judge Tosses Kentucky’s Ban on Corporate Campaign Donations” by The Associated Press for Lexington Herald-Leader

Mississippi: “Senate Passes Campaign Finance Reform” by Geoff Pender (Jackson Clarion-Ledger) for Hattiesburg American

Ethics

Alabama: “Rebekah Caldwell Mason, and How Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ‘Lost His Mind’ ‘” by Amber Phillips for Washington Post

California: “San Diego May Revamp Ticket Perk” by David Garrick for San Diego Union-Tribune

Elections

The American Idea in 140 Characters” by Vann Newkirk for The Atlantic

Targets of Trump’s Attacks Fight Back in D.C.” by Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman for Politico

Who Are the Angriest Republicans?” by Thomas Edsall for New York Times

Legislative Issues

Abortion, Guns and Gay Rights Offer Risks, Rewards for State Republicans” by Richard Fausset for New York Times

Missouri: “Political Insider Accused of Harassing Missouri Capitol Interns Can Return, with Conditions” by Alex Stuckey for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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April 1, 2016 •

Georgia Special Election Heading for a Runoff

A special election for House District 162, held on March 29, 2016, is headed for a runoff after no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote. Voters will return to the polls on April 26, 2016 to choose […]

Georgia special electionA special election for House District 162, held on March 29, 2016, is headed for a runoff after no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote. Voters will return to the polls on April 26, 2016 to choose between Rev. Carl Gilliard and Alicia Blakely.

The winner will become the office’s incumbent for the May 24 primary. Josey Sheppard, Jr., who came in third, plans to run against Gilliard and Blakely in the May primary to determine who will hold the seat for the 2017-2018 term, as all three are running as Democrats.

 

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April 1, 2016 •

News You Can Use Digest – April 1, 2016

National: Feeling G.O.P. Peril, Muslims Try to Get Out Vote New York Times – Alan Rappeport | Published: 3/24/2016 American Muslims are watching in growing horror as Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz battle for the Republican presidential nomination, outdoing […]

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National:

Feeling G.O.P. Peril, Muslims Try to Get Out Vote
New York Times – Alan Rappeport | Published: 3/24/2016

American Muslims are watching in growing horror as Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz battle for the Republican presidential nomination, outdoing each other with provocative proposals that have included Muslim registries, immigration bans, and fleets of police patrolling their neighborhoods. National advocacy groups are planning to fend off policies they consider hostile to Muslims with a more proactive strategy: driving up the Muslim vote. Organizations are encouraging mosques to turn themselves into voter registration centers before the November election so Muslims can make their voices heard at the polls. Registration drives are expected to ramp up significantly in June, during Ramadan, when attendance at Islamic centers peaks. Although Muslims make up only about one percent of the U.S. population, civil rights groups have set a goal of registering a million new voters.

Federal:

How Clinton’s Email Scandal Took Root
Washington Post – Robert O’Harrow, Jr. | Published: 3/27/2016

Since Hillary Clinton’s private email account was brought to light a year ago, the matter has been a source of nonstop national news. The FBI is now trying to determine whether a crime was committed in the handling of that classified material. It is also examining whether the server was hacked. The Washington Post reviewed documents and interviewed more than a dozen knowledgeable government officials to understand the decisions and the implications of Clinton’s actions. The resulting scandal revolves around questions about classified information, the preservation of government records, and the security of her email communication.

Surprising Source of GOP Petition
CBS News – Arden Farhi | Published: 3/29/2016

A man who says he authored a petition to allow open carry of guns at the Republican National Convention says he did it to test the limits of the party’s support for the Second Amendment. The petition, which has attracted national attention, reads as if it was written by a supporter of gun rights. Instead, the man behind the petition is a self-professed liberal Democrat and gun control advocate. In response to questions about the petition, the Secret Service said only law enforcement personnel will be allowed to carry firearms at the event.

Union ‘Persuader’ Rule to Offer Rare Look inside DC Consulting
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 3/27/2016

The U.S. Department of Labor finalized the so-called union persuader rule that requires third-party lawyers and outside consultants to disclose when they are paid to advise businesses on resisting union-organizing campaigns. The rule takes effect on July 1. The rule covers activities like conducting union-avoidance seminars, providing materials for employers to distribute to workers, and writing talking points. Registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C. often lament that while their activities are heavily regulated, other professionals in the advocacy industry do similar work without any disclosure requirements at all. Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, said the Labor Department’s persuader rule could show the value in expanding advocacy disclosure beyond registered lobbyists.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, Says He Won’t Quit
New York Times – Alan Blinder | Published: 3/30/2016

Rebekah Caldwell Mason announced her resignation, saying she would no longer serve as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s senior political adviser after he publicly admitted making inappropriate remarks to her but denied the two ever had an affair. It was uncertain whether it would be politically feasible for Bentley to remain in office. Some lawmakers are talking of impeaching the governor. His former pastor said Bentley was no longer a member of the Tuscaloosa congregation where he was once a deacon. The Alabama Ethics Commission said it would investigate whether Bentley and Mason had committed wrongdoing.

Arizona – Bill Overhauling Campaign Finance Laws Heads to Arizona Governor
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 3/29/2016

The Arizona Legislature passed a bill that rewrites campaign finance law, including a provision that would remove food, beverages, and invitations from the list of what is considered a political contribution or expenditure under state law. It also eliminates existing law that requires groups that spend money to influence elections to register first with the state. Critics call the legislation a back-door attempt to expand the influence of anonymous political spending in elections. Senate Bill 1516 now goes to the governor.

Arkansas – Ex-Judge Gets 10-Year Sentence for Taking Bribe
Arkansas News – John Lyon | Published: 3/24/2016

A former Arkansas judge was sentenced to 10 years in prison in federal court after he pleaded guilty to lowering the amount of damages a jury awarded in a civil suit in exchange for campaign contributions. Michael Maggio, a former state District Court judge, reached a plea deal where he admitted to receiving the bribes to reduce a $5.2 million judgment in a civil negligence case against a nursing home company to $1 million. Maggio met with an unidentified person who said he could provide about $50,000 in campaign funds in return for a favorable ruling in the civil case. Maggio was removed from office in 2014 after admitting he disclosed information about the adoption of a child by actress Charlize Theron, which was handled by another judge in the state.

California – Lobbying Class Teaches Sacramento State Students ‘Rough and Tumble’ Politics
Sacramento Bee – Taryn Luna | Published: 3/28/2016

Richie Ross is best known as a campaign consultant for many of California’s highest ranking Democrats and a longtime lobbyist and ally of the United Farm Workers. But he has a side job that few have heard about: helping to teach undergrads at Sacramento State University how to develop and carry an actual bill through the state Legislature. In the course description, “Making a New Law” is defined as “hands-on and grounded in rough and tumble politics.” Few universities offer lobbying majors or programs specifically geared for students interested in the profession. Ross said internships can provide valuable experience, but do not necessarily give students an insider’s perspective.

Florida – Opa-locka’s ‘Shadow’ Force Moves Millions in City Contracts
Miami Herald – Jay Weaver, Michael Sallah, and Katie Lepri | Published: 3/28/2016

In a community where money begets political favors at City Hall, Dante Starks has known few equals in pulling the levers of government in Opa-locka, Florida. The lobbyist has helped steer millions of dollars in public works projects to clients, shut down police investigations, and pushed successfully for the firing of a city manager – all after his own arrest on public bribery charges nearly a decade ago. Now, Starks is at the center of a federal investigation that threatens to topple him and a cadre of elected leaders in the most comprehensive corruption probe in Miami-Dade County in decades. A federal grand jury has issued 18 subpoenas to current and former City Hall employees in a kickback investigation involving nearly every public works project in Opa-locka in the past 10 years.

Kentucky – Beshear Aide Charged in Kickback Scheme
Louisville Courier-Journal – Joseph Gerth, Andrew Wolfson, and Tom Loftus | Published: 3/26/2016

The former secretary of the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet allegedly took more than $200,000 in kickbacks to steer business to a consulting company and make illegal campaign contributions. Timothy Longmeyer was charged with bribery. The alleged kickback scam involved the Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan, which is administered by the department that Longmeyer headed. The state contracts with private insurance companies such as Humana and Anthem to provide services to employees. The affidavit alleged Longmeyer abused his authority over the health plan in order to get Humana and Anthem to give business to a consulting company in return for bribes from the company.

Michigan – Feds Charge 12 Detroit School Principals with Bribery
USA Today – Katrease Stafford and Tresa Baldas (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 3/29/2016

Thirteen former or current principals with the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) system face federal conspiracy and bribery charges in an alleged scheme to receive kickbacks from Allstate Sales, a school supplies vendor. According to the charges, the principals approved fraudulent invoices from the vendor in order to receive payment from DPS for supplies that were ordered. Allstate Sales reportedly provided cash, checks, or gift cards to the principals in many cases as kickbacks, instead of delivering the full amount of supplies that were ordered. The payments for all of the defendants total more than $800,000. U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said DPS suffered a loss of $2.7 million in the scheme.

Missouri – Lawmakers Bunking with Lobbyists Show More Cozy Connections in Capitol
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 3/30/2016

A review of data collected by the Missouri Ethics Commission shows at least 13 state legislators have had business relationships in the past year with lobbyists, ranging from the renting of sleeping rooms to the use of lawmaker-owned businesses. It is all perfectly legal for lawmakers to have business dealings with lobbyists under Missouri’s ethics laws, where candidates can take unlimited amounts of campaign money and be entertained by the companies and groups seeking to influence policy. The housing data comes from business relationships reported by lobbyists on their monthly reports. Along with reporting how much they spend on legislators, lobbyists must note any direct business relationships or partnership with any public official.

Montana – Montana Lawmakers Rarely Refrain from Voting on Personal Interests
Helena Independent Record – James DeHaven | Published: 3/27/2016

Montana law requires the disclosure of potential conflicts-of-interest for state lawmakers only ahead of votes that “have a direct and distinctive personal impact on the legislator.” The law also leaves questions about the determination and enforcement of such conflicts up to each lawmaker and a pair of partisan legislative ethics committees that have not met for at least the past decade. An analysis of more than 900,000 floor and committee votes over the past four legislative sessions found just 20 recorded instances of a lawmaker announcing a conflict-of-interest ahead of a vote. Records point to only three documented instances when a legislator abstained from a vote in light of that conflict.

Ohio – City Hall Scandals Prompt Ginther to Propose New Ethics Rules
Columbus Dispatch – Lucas Sullivan | Published: 3/28/2016

The Columbus City Council approved new ethics regulations that center on more accountability for lobbyists, increased campaign finance reporting for city candidates, and more disclosure of gifts and trips by elected officials. The rules, which go into effect in April, will increase the penalties for noncompliance. Under the reforms, lobbyists will be required to disclose expenditures and interactions with any elected city officials and some of their staff three times a year. Lobbyists who make false statements or disclosures will be subject to first-degree misdemeanors. There will also be additional disclosure beyond the state requirement for gifts provided to city officials, including the type of gift, who gave it, and the value.

South Carolina – Wilson Defends Firing of Pascoe, Johnson Refuses Job
Greenville News – Tim Smith | Published: 3/30/2016

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson defended his decision to fire David Pascoe, a special prosecutor he had appointed to investigate corruption within South Carolina’s Legislature. Pascoe filed a petition with the state Supreme Court asking it to immediately hold a hearing and rule on whether Wilson has the authority to remove him. Meanwhile, the man tapped by Wilson to lead the inquiry, Dan Johnson, is refusing to take the job until the Supreme Court issues a decision in the matter. Wilson said he was shocked and disappointed to learn of the plea deal with House Speaker Bobby Harrell that Pascoe had negotiated. Harrell pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts of misusing his campaign funds and avoided jail time with his sentence.

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.

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March 31, 2016 •

Arkansas Director of Elections Resigns

Citing burnout from over 18 years of elections work, Director of Arkansas Elections Rob Hammons has turned in his resignation to the secretary of state’s office. Assistant Director Leslie Bellamy has taken over as the interim director. The Elections Division […]

Flag of ArkansasCiting burnout from over 18 years of elections work, Director of Arkansas Elections Rob Hammons has turned in his resignation to the secretary of state’s office. Assistant Director Leslie Bellamy has taken over as the interim director.

The Elections Division is responsible for maintaining elections records, assisting county officials with conducting elections, and ensuring compliance with federal election laws.

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March 31, 2016 •

Thursday News Roundup

Lobbying California: “Lobbying Class Teaches Sacramento State Students ‘Rough and Tumble’ Politics” by Taryn Luna for Sacramento Bee Missouri: “Lawmakers Bunking with Lobbyists Show More Cozy Connections in Capitol” by Kurt Erickson for St. Louis Post-Dispatch Campaign Finance Arizona: “Bill […]

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California: “Lobbying Class Teaches Sacramento State Students ‘Rough and Tumble’ Politics” by Taryn Luna for Sacramento Bee

Missouri: “Lawmakers Bunking with Lobbyists Show More Cozy Connections in Capitol” by Kurt Erickson for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Campaign Finance

Arizona: “Bill Overhauling Campaign Finance Laws Heads to Arizona Governor” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star

Indiana: “Exclusive: Special prosecutor investigating allegation against Monarch Beverage” by Tony Cook for Indianapolis Star

Ethics

Michigan: “Feds Charge 12 Detroit School Principals with Bribery” by Katrease Stafford and Tresa Baldas (Detroit Free Press) for USA Today

Missouri: “Missouri Lawmakers Pass Limits on Paid Political Consulting” by Adam Aton and Summer Ballentine (Associated Press) for Kansas City Star

Texas: “Indictment Aside, Crystal City Mayor is Running Again” by Jim Malewitz for Texas Tribune

Vermont: “Trimmed Down Ethics Commission Plan Gets Committee’s OK” by Mark Johnson for VTDigger.org

Elections

Ohio: “Surprising Source of GOP Petition” by Arden Farhi for CBS News

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March 30, 2016 •

Mississippi Governor Sets June Special Election

Gov. Phil Bryant has set a special election to fill a vacant seat in the state House. The election for the District 29 seat will be held June 7, 2016, with a runoff on June 28, 2016, if necessary. The […]

Mississippi-StateSeal.svgGov. Phil Bryant has set a special election to fill a vacant seat in the state House. The election for the District 29 seat will be held June 7, 2016, with a runoff on June 28, 2016, if necessary.

The position opened last week after Rep. Linda Coleman accepted an appointment as a circuit judge. She had served as District 29’s representative since 1992.

 

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March 30, 2016 •

Wednesday Government Relations News

Lobbying Minnesota: “Governments Spend Millions Lobbying Government” by J. Patrick Coolican for Minneapolis Star Tribune Missouri: “State Law Murky on Who Qualifies as a Local Lobbyist” by Caitlin Campbell for Columbia Tribune Campaign Finance “Marco Rubio’s Secret (Money) Legacy” by […]

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Minnesota: “Governments Spend Millions Lobbying Government” by J. Patrick Coolican for Minneapolis Star Tribune

Missouri: “State Law Murky on Who Qualifies as a Local Lobbyist” by Caitlin Campbell for Columbia Tribune

Campaign Finance

Marco Rubio’s Secret (Money) Legacy” by Shane Goldmacher for Politico

House Wants Campaign Finance Study” by Geoff Pender for Jackson Clarion-Ledger

Ethics

Ethics Advocates Decry Opaque Budget Negotiations” by Casey Seiler for Albany Times Union

Florida: “Opa-locka’s ‘Shadow’ Force Moves Millions in City Contracts” by Jay Weaver, Michael Sallah, and Katie Lepri for Miami Herald

Ohio: “City Hall Scandals Prompt Ginther to Propose New Ethics Rules” by Lucas Sullivan for Columbus Dispatch

South Carolina: “Solicitor David Pascoe Says He Won’t Step Down from Corruption Probe Unless Court-Ordered to Do So” by Cynthia Roldan and Glenn Smith for Charleston Post & Courier

Elections

How Clinton’s Email Scandal Took Root” by Robert O’Harrow, Jr. for Washington Post

Campaign Manager for Donald Trump Is Charged With Battery” by Maggie Haberman and for New York Times

Legislative Issues

Maryland: “Maryland Lawmakers Want Gender Pay Gap Closed. They Should Look at Their Own Payroll.” by Fenit Nirappil for Washington Post

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March 29, 2016 •

Tuesday Lobbying and Campaign Finance News Update

Lobbying “Union ‘Persuader’ Rule to Offer Rare Look inside DC Consulting” by Megan Wilson for The Hill “FOI Agency, In Role Reversal, Opposes Disclosure of Connected Lobbyist’s Emails” by Jon Lender for Hartford Courant Texas: “Travis County to Create Its […]

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Union ‘Persuader’ Rule to Offer Rare Look inside DC Consulting” by Megan Wilson for The Hill

FOI Agency, In Role Reversal, Opposes Disclosure of Connected Lobbyist’s Emails” by Jon Lender for Hartford Courant

Texas: “Travis County to Create Its First Code of Ethics” by Sean Collins Walsh for Austin American-Statesman

Campaign Finance

California: “Valley Councilwoman’s Aides Sought $5 and $10 Donations That Are Focus of U.S. Inquiry” by David Zahniser for Los Angeles Times

Ethics

Alabama: “Governor’s Political Adviser Discloses Pay from Nonprofit” by Kim Chandler (Associated Press) for Montgomery Advertiser

Florida: “Gov. Rick Scott Signs Anti-Corruption Bill” by Matt Reed and James Call for Tallahassee Democrat

Kentucky: “Beshear Aide Charged in Kickback Scheme” by Joseph Gerth, Andrew Wolfson, and Tom Loftus for Louisville Courier-Journal

Missouri: “Despite Fast Start, Legislative Progress on Ethics Reform Slows” by Ellen Cagle for Fulton Sun

Montana”Montana Lawmakers Rarely Refrain from Voting on Personal Interests” by James DeHaven for Helena Independent Record

Elections

Uninformed Voters Are a Problem. This May Be a Solution.” by Mike Maciag for Governing

How the G.O.P. Elite Lost Its Voters to Donald Trump” by Nicholas Co
nfessore for New York Times

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March 28, 2016 •

Monday News Roundup

Campaign Finance California: “Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Legacy Could Be How He Raises Money from So Many People” by Evan Halper for Los Angeles Times Arkansas : “Ex-Judge Gets 10-Year Sentence for Taking Bribe” by John Lyon for Arkansas News Ethics […]

Campaign FinanceGovernment Relations News

California: “Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Legacy Could Be How He Raises Money from So Many People” by Evan Halper for Los Angeles Times

Arkansas : “Ex-Judge Gets 10-Year Sentence for Taking Bribe” by John Lyon for Arkansas News

Ethics

Kentucky: “Ex-State Lawmaker Keith Hall Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison” by John Cheves for Lexington Herald-Leader

Elections

Feeling G.O.P. Peril, Muslims Try to Get Out Vote” by Alan Rappeport for New York Times

“Bernie Sanders Seizes 3 States, Sweeping Democratic Contests” by Amy Chozick for New York Times

Donald Trump Can’t Stop Saying Nasty Things about Women. It Could Cost Him.” by Jose DelReal and Jenna Johnson for Washington Post

Arizona: “Angry Arizona Voters Demand: Why Such Long Lines at Polling Sites?” by Fernanda Santos for New York Times

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March 25, 2016 •

News You Can Use Digest – March 25, 2016

National: Scorecard: Essential disclosure requirements for contributions to state campaigns, 2016 National Institute on Money in State Politics; Staff –   | Published: 3/15/2016 The National Institute on Money in State Politics released its latest review of campaign finance transparency across […]

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National:

Scorecard: Essential disclosure requirements for contributions to state campaigns, 2016
National Institute on Money in State Politics; Staff –   | Published: 3/15/2016

The National Institute on Money in State Politics released its latest review of campaign finance transparency across the country. The institute formulated its national scorecard to grade states’ disclosure practices governing direct contributions to state candidates, state political parties, and, where applicable, committees that support or oppose any kind of statewide ballot question. Twenty-nine states received a “B” or better, including 10 that earned an “A”; conversely, 12 states got a “D” or worse, including eight that flunked. Scores varied widely across the country, with almost every region represented on each side of the grading spectrum. Maine led the way with a perfect score. Mississippi stood alone at the opposite pole with only 37.5 points.

The U.S. Has ‘Worst Elections of Any Long-Established Democracy,’ Report Finds
Washington Post – Rick Noack | Published: 3/21/2016

The U.S. ranked 47th worldwide, out of 139 countries, in a comparison of election standards and procedures. The survey is a measure of dozens of factors, including voter registration, campaign financing rules, election laws, the voting process, and vote count. Overall, one in six elections around the world were considered electoral failures. But in general, countries in the Americas and Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in Asia, were considered to be on the winning side in terms of electoral integrity, with Scandinavian and Western European nations topping the lists.

Federal:

GOP Campaigns Hunt for Convention Killer App
Politico – Robert Samuelsohn | Published: 3/24/2016

Tracking, counting, and potentially swaying the Republican National Convention’s 2,472 delegates amid a maze of confusing rules is a critical function in a nominating process that figures to be contested, which is why the campaigns have already embarked on a once-in-a-generation feat of political and technological engineering. The goal is not necessarily an app, but rather some combination of technology designed for the first contested national convention in 40 years. While campaigns for statewide office have used delegate-tracking data technology in state party conventions and even at recent national party conventions, nothing on the scale of what would be required for the summer of 2016 has ever been attempted.

How ‘Ghost Corporations’ Are Funding the 2016 Election
Washington Post – Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy | Published: 3/18/2016

A growing cadre of mystery groups are financing super PACs. Many were formed just days or weeks before making six- or ­seven-figure contributions, an arrangement that election law experts say violates a long-standing federal ban on straw donors. But the individuals behind the “ghost corporations” appear to face little risk of reprisal from a deeply polarized FEC, which recently deadlocked on whether to even investigate such cases. Advocates for stronger campaign-finance enforcement fear there will be even more pop-up limited liability corporations funneling money into independent groups, making it difficult to discern the identities of wealthy players seeking to influence this year’s presidential and congressional contests.

Trump Wannabes Shake Up Cable Airwaves
Politico – Hadas Gold | Published: 3/21/2016

These days, with Donald Trump steamrolling to the Republican nomination while so many party regulars oppose him, the cable networks have little choice but to look outside their comfort zone for talking heads. They have almost endless hours of airtime to fill, and most of their regular conservative commentators – the ones kept on a retainer to be available at odd hours – are arrayed against Trump. Some speakers now have A-list status for the simple reason that they favor Trump. While their relationships to the Trump campaign range from loose to very loose, they do share their favored candidate’s penchant for eye-popping comments.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Alabama Governor, Robert Bentley, Denies Having Affair with Aide
New York Times – Alan Blinder | Published: 3/23/2016

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley admitted he made inappropriate remarks to a top female staffer, but denied accusations they had a “physical affair.” The governor’s admission capped a bizarre day in which, a day after his firing, his former law enforcement secretary and one-time close friend made public the content of a clandestine recording, made by a family member before Bentley’s wife filed for divorce last year, and accused his former boss of having an inappropriate relationship with the staffer. The governor, a former Baptist deacon, acknowledged he said “some inappropriate things” to his senior political adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

California – Former L.A. City Council Aide, Wife Acquitted of Embezzlement in Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – Marisa Gerber | Published: 3/22/2016

Jurors found Robert Katherman, Jr. and his wife, Marilyn, not guilty of misappropriation of public funds and embezzlement. A third defendant, Ronald Smith, treasurer of the West Basin Municipal Water District, pleaded guilty in 2014 to embezzling nearly $20,000 from the agency. Prosecutors alleged Smith, persuaded the water agency to give paid sponsorships to the Adopt a Stormdrain Foundation. The Kathermans were members of the nonprofit’s board. The couple, prosecutors argued, steered money to Smith, who used the funds to pay for tennis and dance lessons for his children and to fix his boat. But defense attorneys argued Smith deceived Rob Katherman into believing the checks covered educational grants, and that Marilyn Katherman had nothing to do with them at all.

Florida – Trump Camp Says $25,000 Charity Contribution to Florida AG Was a Mistake
Washington Post – David Fahrenthold and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 3/22/2016

Donald Trump’s aides admitted his charitable foundation made mistakes when it donated to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s political committee. In 2013, the Trump Foundation gave $25,000 to And Justice for All, a committee supporting Bondi’s re-election bid. But federal tax law bans 501(c)(3) charities like the Trump Foundation from contributing to political campaigns. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked for an IRS investigation into whether the foundation should lose its tax-exempt status and whether its accountants committed perjury by not properly disclosing a political contribution on its tax forms.

Indiana – Hogsett to Lobbyists: Disclose gifts, or face ban
Indianapolis Star – Brian Eason | Published: 3/23/2016

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett wants to close loopholes in the city ethics code with a package of reforms introduced recently. The proposed ordinance would strengthen reporting requirements, impose stronger penalties for violations, and create a web portal for easier public access to ethics disclosures. Thomas Cook, the mayor’s chief of staff, said the existing law lists certain gifts a lobbyist has to report, such as food, entertainment, and travel expenses, meaning lobbyists can omit those that do not fall into specific categories. Another problem, Cook says, was a lack of teeth. In addition to existing fines, lobbyists under the proposal could incur lifetime bans for themselves and their firms if they repeatedly break the rules, while contractors who violate the ordinance could be banned for a single offense.

Massachusetts – Large Donations Help Mass. GOP Avoid State Cap
Boston Globe – Frank Phillips | Published: 3/17/2016

Wealthy individuals with interests before state government are helping to keep the usually financially strapped Massachusetts Republican Party flush with cash and circumventing the state’s strict limits on political contributions and transparency requirements. These large donations are funneled through the Massachusetts Victory Committee, a joint fundraising effort between the state and national parties. Because of its national component, it was set up under federal guidelines, which allows annual donations up to $43,400, far above the $5,000 cap set for state-regulated political donations to party accounts and the $1,000 annual limit for contributions to Gov. Charlie Baker’s campaign committee. This appears to be the only such arrangement nationwide, according to FEC filings.

Mississippi – Many Mississippi Officials Take from Closed Campaign Accounts, Review Reveals
New York Times; Associated Press –   | Published: 3/20/2016

An Associated Press review shows that of 99 elected officials in Mississippi who have left office in recent years, as many as 25 may have pocketed more than $1,000 when they closed their campaign accounts. At least five former officeholders took more than $50,000. Mississippi is one of five states where such withdrawals are legal as long as state and federal income taxes are paid, with no restrictions on how the money is spent. A proposal to end the practice has consistently failed to win support from lawmakers; it died again this year without even a committee vote. Experts say the practice makes campaign contributions perilously close to bribes.

Montana – For Some Montana Office Seekers, It’s Not about Winning
Great Falls Tribune – Bobby Caina Calvan (Associated Press) | Published: 3/20/2016

Montana law allows campaign donors to give a gubernatorial candidate a maximum of $1,320 – up to $660 in the primary and another $660 in November’s general election. But without a primary challenger, candidates would have to send back any amount exceeding $660. Most states have limits on campaign contributions, but Montana and South Carolina may be the only ones requiring candidates to return money when they run unopposed. Some say Montana law should be changed to prevent “paper candidates.” It has become a ritual among Montana election watchers to see who Democrats and Republicans can wrangle into key races to skirt campaign finance rules.

New York – Harold Ickes, Mentor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Builds Lobbying Victories
New York Times – Michael Grynbaum | Published: 3/19/2016

On his path to becoming mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio has long relied on Harold Ickes, whom he calls his mentor. Ickes has advised de Blasio’s campaigns, introduced him to wealthy donors, and recommended him for a breakthrough job managing Hillary Clinton’s run for U.S. Senate. Shortly after de Blasio’s election in 2013, Ickes opened a New York branch of his lobbying firm. Although he had not lobbied in the city for nearly a decade, Ickes proved a quick study, collecting about $1 million in fees and securing wins for major clients. The mayor has said his friendship with Ickes does not influence his decision-making, or the city’s treatment of his mentor’s clients. But an examination of public records obtained shows the close relationship has given Ickes extraordinary access, enabling him to push his clients’ interests directly to the city’s top officials.

New York – Oft-Criticized Ethics Watchdog Names Cuomo Aide as Executive Director
Gotham Gazette – David Howard King | Published: 3/23/2016

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) picked a former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as its new director. JCOPE chose Seth Agata a former counsel to Cuomo and the governor’s pick last year to serve as chairperson of the Public Employment Relations Board. Agata will be the board’s third consecutive director with close ties to Cuomo. Critics have questioned JCOPE’s effectiveness and whether Cuomo has too much influence over its work. Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group said he had known Agata for years and he was an “honest, hard-working straight shooter. … Whether he’s independent enough or not is the question.”

Ohio – Security Officials Brace for GOP Convention amid Trump Protests, Brussels Attack
Politico – Anna Palmer | Published: 3/23/2016

Cleveland is preparing to host the Republican National Convention during one of the most tumultuous presidential elections in decades. Tensions are escalating as Donald Trump warns of “riots” if he is denied the nomination at the July convention. Add two major terrorist attacks abroad in four months into the cauldron, including the bombings in Brussels, and it is not hard to imagine the potential for chaos at the convention this summer. Still, convention organizers and security officials say they are ready to execute a plan that was in the works before fisticuffs broke out regularly at Trump’s rallies.

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.

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March 23, 2016 •

Wednesday Government Relations News

Lobbying California: “Tech Consultants May Soon Have to Register as Lobbyists” by Samantha Young for Techwire.net Missouri: “Lobbyists, Liaisons Would Take Sexual Harassment Training under Measure” by Alex Stuckey for St. Louis Post-Dispatch Campaign Finance “Will a Liberal Supreme Court […]

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California: “Tech Consultants May Soon Have to Register as Lobbyists” by Samantha Young for Techwire.net

Missouri: “Lobbyists, Liaisons Would Take Sexual Harassment Training under Measure” by Alex Stuckey for St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Campaign Finance

Will a Liberal Supreme Court Limit Money in Politics?” by Mark Schmitt for New York Times

Montana: “Lawsuit Says Disclose Act is Unconstitutionally Overbroad” by James DeHaven for Helena Independent Record

Vermont: “Corren, Attorney General Still at Odds on Campaign Finance Case” by David Gram (Associated Press) for Rutland Herald

Elections

How Does Trump Get So Much Air Time? Media Ethics under Fire” by Harry Bruinius for Christian Science Monitor

Clinton and Trump Win Arizona; Cruz Picks Up Utah; Sanders Takes 2” by Jonathan Martin for New York Times

Ethics

New York: “Another Cuomo Insider for JCOPE” by Casey Seiler for Albany Times Union

Legislative Issues

Congress Setting New Bar for Doing Nothing” by Lauren French for Politico

Kansas: “Kansas Senate Passes Judicial-Impeachment Bill” by Dion Lefler for Wichita Eagle

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March 22, 2016 •

Tuesday Lobbying and Campaign Finance News Update

Lobbying New York: “Nonprofit Linked to Mayor de Blasio Is Closing” by J. David Goodman for New York Times New York: “Harold Ickes, Mentor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Builds Lobbying Victories” by Michael Grynbaum for New York Times Campaign […]

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New York: “Nonprofit Linked to Mayor de Blasio Is Closing” by J. David Goodman for New York Times

New York: “Harold Ickes, Mentor to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Builds Lobbying Victories” by Michael Grynbaum for New York Times

Campaign Finance

Scorecard: Essential disclosure requirements for contributions to state campaigns, 2016” by Staff for National Institute on Money in State Politics

How ‘Ghost Corporations’ Are Funding the 2016 Election” by Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy for Washington Post

Massachusetts: “Large Donations Help Mass. GOP Avoid State Cap” by Frank Phillips for Boston Globe

Mississippi: “Many Mississippi Officials Take from Closed Campaign Accounts, Review Reveals” by The Associated Press for New York Times

Montana: “For Some Montana Office Seekers, It’s Not about Winning” by Bobby Caina Calvan (Associated Press) for Great Falls Tribune

Elections

The U.S. Has ‘Worst Elections of Any Long-Established Democracy,’ Report Finds” by Rick Noack for Washington Post

Trump Wannabes Shake Up Cable Airwaves” by Hadas Gold for Politico

Ohio: “Cleveland Prepares for Unrest at GOP Convention” by Tracy Jan for Boston Globe

Redistricting

Virginia: “Supreme Court May Decide against Va. Republicans in Redistricting Fight” by Robert Barnes and Jenna Portnoy for Washington Post

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March 21, 2016 •

Primer: Contested Convention for the Republican Party

As the primaries wind down and the conventions draw closer, there is more and more discussion of the Republican convention being contested. But what is a contested convention? How does the Republican Party handle such an event? And what does […]

Megan Huber-KovachikAs the primaries wind down and the conventions draw closer, there is more and more discussion of the Republican convention being contested. But what is a contested convention? How does the Republican Party handle such an event? And what does it mean for the eventual nominee?

The Pew Research Center describes a contested convention occurring “when no candidate has amassed the majority of delegate votes needed to win his or her party’s nomination in advance of the convention. A candidate still might gather the delegates needed by the time balloting begins, in which case the nomination is settled on the first ballot. But should the first ballot not produce a nominee, most delegates become free to vote for whomever they wish, leading potentially to multiple ballots.”

Since the adoption of the modern primary system in the early 1970s, most presidential conventions have not been contested as one candidate usually won enough delegates to enter the convention as the presumptive nominee. But this year there is a possibility no Republican candidate will have the majority of delegates when the convention begins.

Under the rules of the Republican National Convention, “each candidate for nomination for President … shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight or more states” (including territories) before he or she is able to be on the convention’s first ballot. The balloting process ends when one candidate receives the majority of delegate votes. This year there are 2,472 delegates, so to secure the Republican nomination a candidate will need 1,237—one more vote than 50 percent. Simply having a plurality of delegates is not enough to become the Republican nominee.

Entering the convention, each candidate who ran in the primaries will have a dedicated number of delegates from each state based on his or her performance in that state. Candidates who fail to have the support of enough states or who dropped out will not be able to be on the first ballot.

For the first ballot, the majority of delegates are bound to a specific candidate based on the performance of the candidate in the delegate’s state due to convention rules and, in some cases, state law. Some states assign delegates based on percentage of votes won in the primary, while others are “winner take all.” About 5 percent of the delegates come to the convention free to vote for who they want. These delegates, which include state party leaders and delegates from states or territories electing to not hold a primary, are able to vote their preference on the first ballot. Delegates who were bound to candidates who do not appear on the first ballot may also become unbound for the first ballot.

If no candidate receives a majority vote on the first ballot, the second and subsequent ballots are open to all who wish to put forth their names. Delegates are progressively unbound until all of them are free to vote their personal preference. The balloting will continue until a nominee is chosen. But the more ballots that occur, the less likely the nominee will win in November.

A Pew Research Center study looking at presidential elections since the Civil War found that only seven candidates coming out of contested conventions with multiple ballots were elected president. However, four of those seven candidates had opponents who had also been elected through a contested convention requiring multiple ballots. The last time this occurred was in 1920 when Warren Harding, who required 10 ballots to secure the nomination, beat James Cox, who required 44 ballots to secure his nomination.

The last president to be elected after a contested convention and face a candidate from an uncontested convention was Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. Adlai Stevenson was the last candidate to require multiple ballots to win the party nomination.

Sources:

Call of the 2016 Republican National Convention, Republican National Committee, 11/30/15

Contested presidential conventions, and why parties try to avoid them, Drew DeSilver, Pew Research Center, 2/4/16

The Democratic Convention of 1924, Digital History (archived page)

An Extremely Detailed Guide to What the Heck Might Happen at a GOP Contested Convention, Josh Voorhees, Slate Magazine, 3/10/16

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March 21, 2016 •

Monday News Roundup

Lobbying Illinois: “Cook County Lobbyists Were Paid $2.95 Million to Lobby County Officials in 2015, Most Ever, Report Says” by Carrie Baden for Cook County Report Campaign Finance Montana: “Campaign Violation Backlog Cleared, but Enforcement Needed” by Matt Volz (Associated […]

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Illinois: “Cook County Lobbyists Were Paid $2.95 Million to Lobby County Officials in 2015, Most Ever, Report Says” by Carrie Baden for Cook County Report

Campaign Finance

Montana: “Campaign Violation Backlog Cleared, but Enforcement Needed” by Matt Volz (Associated Press) for Brown County Democrat

South Carolina: “SC Lt. Gov. McMaster Ordered to Repay $72,700 in Campaign Contributions” by Andrew Shain for The State

Ethics

GOP Lawmaker’s ‘Meals with Constituents’ Draw Scrutiny” by Scott Wong for The Hill

Connecticut: “Administrator Who Angered Watchdog Agencies Resigns” by Jon Lender for Hartford Courant

New York: “Albany Area Lawmakers Who Also Run Businesses Criticize Outside Income Limit Proposals” by Marie French for Albany Business Review

Pennsylvania: “Wolf’s Reform Plan Targets Campaign Cash, Gifts to Lawmakers” by Marc Levy (Associated Press) for WPXI

Elections

The Great Unsettling” by David Maraniss and Robert Samuels for Washington Post

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