January 4, 2016 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance “Now it’s Even Easier for Candidates and Their Aides to Help Super PACs” by Matea Gold for Washington Post “The 10 Best 2015 Investigative Reports on Political Money” by Robert Faturechi for ProPublica “Campaign Cash in State Judicial […]
“Now it’s Even Easier for Candidates and Their Aides to Help Super PACs” by Matea Gold for Washington Post
“The 10 Best 2015 Investigative Reports on Political Money” by Robert Faturechi for ProPublica
“Campaign Cash in State Judicial Elections Grows” by Christina Cassidy (Associated Press) for Philadelphia Inquirer
New Mexico: “Campaign Finance Scandal Leads to Calls for Closing Loopholes in New Mexico’s System” by Susan Montoya Bryan (Associated Press) for Minneapolis Star Tribune
New York: “Legislature Passes Law Requiring Donation Disclosures from Contractors” by Joe Nikic for The Island Now
Wisconsin: “DAs Tap In for Wisconsin Campaign-Finance Probe” by Molly Willms for Courthouse News Service
Alabama: “Ethics Commission Vice Chair Resigns after Late Filing of Disclosure Statement” by Mike Cason for AL.com
Arizona: “Regulators Hire Lawyer to Serve as ‘Ethics Officer’” by Ryan Randazzo for Arizona Republic
Colorado: “CU Nutrition Expert Accepts $550,000 from Coca-Cola for Obesity Campaign” by David Olinger for Denver Post
Missouri: “Missouri State Lawmakers to Take another Swing at Ethics Reform” by Alex Stuckey for St. Louis Post-Dispatch
New Mexico: “Police Sgt. Says Governor Was ‘Inebriated’” by Edmundo Carrillo for Albuquerque Journal
New York: “Preet Bharara: The man behind NY corruption busting” by Joseph Spector for Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
New York: “Dean Skelos Files Pension Papers” by Jimmy Vielkind for Capital New York
Pennsylvania: “Colwyn, Pennsylvania: The town that can’t seem to govern itself” by Daniel Vock for Governing
South Carolina: “Clock Ticking for Ethics Reform in South Carolina” by Maya Prabhu for Charleston Post and Courier
Tennessee: “TN House Ethics Committee Hasn’t Met in at Least 5 Years” by Dave Boucher for The Tennessean
“An Effort to Give Women a Voice in the Republican Party” by Carl Hulse for New York Times
“Kids and Candidates a Potent Combination” by Ben Schreckinger for Politico
“Carson’s Many Faces: Doctor, author, speaker – and candidate” by Eileen Sullivan (Associated Press) for Philadelphia Inquirer
North Carolina: “Questions Raised about Rules Chairman David Lewis’ Actions Related to Printing Contract” by Patrick Gannon for Charlotte Observer
December 18, 2015 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: State Integrity Investigation Brings Calls for Reform as Legislative Sessions Approach Center for Public Integrity – Nicholas Kusnetz | Published: 12/16/2015 The State Integrity Investigation is yielding calls for change from lawmakers, good-government advocates, and editorial boards across the country. […]
State Integrity Investigation Brings Calls for Reform as Legislative Sessions Approach
Center for Public Integrity – Nicholas Kusnetz | Published: 12/16/2015
The State Integrity Investigation is yielding calls for change from lawmakers, good-government advocates, and editorial boards across the country. The investigation, published in November, is a data-driven ranking and assessment of each state’s transparency and anti-corruption measures conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity. No state earned better than a “C” grade. In several states, publication of poor grades coincided with ethics scandals that have prompted a growing number of political leaders to call for a transformation in how business is done in state capitals.
Why State Legislatures Are Still Pretty White
Governing – Teresa Wiltz | Published: 12/9/2015
The nation’s growing diversity is not reflected in state Legislatures. Nationwide, African-Americans, who make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, account for nine percent of state lawmakers. Latinos, who are 17 percent of the population, only account for five percent of legislators. Asian-Americans account for five percent of the population but only one percent of lawmakers. Research shows in local elections, voters tend to vote for candidates who look like them. That is a problem when a large proportion of minority voters are lumped together in a handful of districts. Such clustering increases the chances of there being at least a few minority lawmakers, but makes it less likely there will be very many of them. Another factor is few first- and second-generation immigrants can afford to get by on a part-time legislator’s salary, or have the kind of careers that will afford them the flexibility to serve in office.
E.P.A. Broke Law with Social Media Push for Water Rule, Auditor Finds
New York Times – Eric Lipton and Michael Shea | Published: 12/14/2015
Congressional auditors say the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broke the law on multiple occasions with “covert propaganda” in support of a controversial regulation that gives the agency power over smaller streams of water. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said a pair of social media campaigns by the EPA in support of its “waters of the United States” rule broke laws that prohibit federal agencies from promoting or lobbying for their own actions. GAO faulted the EPA for using Thunderclap, a social media amplification tool, to recruit hundreds of Twitter users to tweet in support of the rule. It also said the EPA broke the law with a blog post that linked to two environmental groups’ pages urging readers to contact members of Congress to oppose legislation.
Spending Bill Bars IRS and Others from Forcing Political Disclosure
USA Today – Fredreka Schouten | Published: 12/16/2015
The omnibus spending bill passed by Congress would bar the IRS from completing regulations to define and potentially crack down on the political activities of nonprofit groups. The bill also would prohibit the Securities and Exchange Commission from trying to force public companies to disclose their political activities to shareholders and the public. If the spending measure becomes law, any new disclosure rules from either the IRS or federal securities regulators probably could not be completed before the end of President Obama’s term in office. As a practical matter, that appears to bar any new agency rules from taking effect before either the 2016 presidential election or the 2018 midterm elections.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – San Jose Council Votes to Tighten Lobbying Rules
San Jose Mercury News – Ramona Giwargis | Published: 12/15/2015
The San Jose City Council voted to approve a host of changes to strengthen the lobbying ordinance. San Jose nearly a decade ago adopted transparency laws amid public scrutiny over costly backroom deals at City Hall. The rules required lobbyists to register with the city, pay fees, and file quarterly reports showing who they are meeting with and why. Another policy required elected officials to publish their calendars online to show how they spend their time. But a review found hundreds of contacts reported by lobbyists did not show up on the politicians’ calendars. Mayor Sam Liccardo recommended that lobbyists file online weekly reports and specify whether an interaction with an elected official is in-person, by phone, or email.
Florida – Broward Commission Rewrites its Ethics Code, Allows $5 Gifts
South Florida Sun Sentinel – Brittany Wallman | Published: 12/9/2015
Broward County commissioners loosening a zero-tolerance gift ban to allow a five-dollar limit. The no gift rule had been criticized by city and county officials as too strict, a rule that kept them from accepting a free bottle of water at an event. Under the changes, gifts from lobbyists or vendors of non-alcoholic beverages are allowed. And gifts of any type from those sources are legal, if they are not worth more than five dollars. In addition, loopholes were added to allow elected officials to accept gifts given to express sympathy, offers of free training, and tickets to charitable events, if the official pays for any meal served there.
Missouri – How This Missouri Mega-Donor Is Making His Pet Projects Part of the 2016 Elections
Huffington Post – Paul Blumenthal | Published: 12/16/2015
Taking advantage of a campaign finance system that greatly empowers wealth, Rex Sinquefield has been able to become the most dominant single political force in the state. Since 2008, he has contributed at least $35 million to candidates, political parties, PACs, and ballot initiative campaigns. The contributions have helped to create an unprecedented Republican Party supermajority in the Legislature. Sinquefield’s donations to ballot initiative campaigns have succeeded in putting significant restrictions on taxes at the local level. But with Democrat Jay Nixon in control of the governor’s mansion, Sinquefield’s main agenda items of eliminating the state’s income tax, expanding charter schools and private school vouchers, and crushing labor union power by passing so-called right-to-work legislation have remained just out of reach.
Nevada – Sheldon Adelson Said to Be Buyer of Las Vegas Review-Journal
New York Times – Ravi Somaiya and Sydney Ember | Published: 12/16/2015
Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate and Republican power broker, is behind the secret purchase of The Las Vegas Review-Journal, according to the newspaper. Speculation has mounted for days that Adelson was the primary backer of News + Media Capital Group, a secret group that acquired The Review-Journal and several local papers for $140 million. In the last presidential campaign, Adelson and his wife spent about $100 million, and the couple are expected to generously help whomever they endorse for president in 2016. Speculation turned to the political influence that Adelson could exert in his home state, a major presidential battleground in November 2016, and host to early Democratic and Republican nominating contests as well as a highly competitive U.S. Senate race.
New Mexico – Former New Mexico Secretary of State Prepares for Jail
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 12/16/2015
Former New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran greed to a 30-day jail sentence after pleading guilty to charges involving the siphoning of money from her election account to fuel a gambling addiction. Under a plea agreement, Duran had the choice to withdraw her pleas but did not. She must pay a $14,000 fine, make restitution of nearly $14,000 to campaign donors, serve five years of probation, and perform 2,000 hours of community service. The sentence also involves in-person apologies to campaign donors and appearances before school children across the state.
New York – Cash Flows Freely in Albany: Laws lax on political fundraising
Poughkeepsie Journal – Jon Campbell | Published: 12/15/2015
Critics contend New York’s wealthy political donors pour money into the campaign accounts of high-powered government officials and are rewarded with access and influence in Albany. As part of a yearlong series, Gannett’s Albany Bureau has explored the intersection of politics and money in New York, examining its impact on public policy, from the $285.5 million spent on education lobbying since 2006 to the rise of public-relations firms working on elections and advocacy campaigns. But it is the state’s laws and limits on political fundraising that critics have long characterized as lax and insufficient. And reformers are hoping the back-to-back convictions of former Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver may finally force Albany to act.
New York – Dean Skelos, Ex-New York Senate Leader, and His Son Are Convicted of Corruption
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Susanne Craig | Published: 12/11/2015
Former New York Sen. Dean Skelos and his son were convicted of charges they used the father’s position as majority leader to pressure companies to provide Adam Skelos with roughly $300,000 via consulting work, a no-show job, and a direct payment of $20,000. Dean Skelos had been one of the most powerful men in state government until his arrest this year, and his conviction – along with that of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – will have repercussions beyond the courtroom. As in Silver’s case, the verdict resulted in Dean Skelos’s expulsion from the Legislature, where both men had served for more than three decades.
South Carolina – S.C. Attorney General’s Office Weighs in on Ethics Law, Possible Window into Prosecutors’ Public Corruption Probe
Charleston Post & Courier – David Slade, Doug Pardue, and Tony Bartelme | Published: 12/16/2015
Amid an ongoing public corruption probe, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office issued an opinion that may hinder prosecutors’ efforts to crack down on ethics violators. The document argued courts would likely rule it is legal under the state’s ethics laws for lawmakers to steer lucrative campaign work to their own companies or those run by family members. The nonbinding opinion delves into the often ethical gray areas of how lawmakers spend campaign money and wield influence, a system that dispensed nearly $100 million since 2009, according to a recent investigation.
Utah – SLC Council Slashes Campaign Contribution Limits
Salt Lake Tribune – Christopher Smart | Published: 12/9/2015
The Salt Lake City Council cut the maximum contribution to a mayoral candidate from $7,500 to $3,500. It also reduced maximum donations to council candidates from $1,500 to $750. Those limits apply to individuals, corporations, nonprofits, and unions. The caps apply only to Salt Lake City. Utah state law contains no limits on campaign contributions.
Washington – Ethics Board Looks at Lawmakers’ Meal Limit
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 12/3/2015
The Legislative Ethics Board (LEB) discussed how to proceed on the trickier elements of a rule that imposed a hard limit on how many free meals that state lawmakers may take from lobbyists. LEB members approved a motion stating there is no special exemption for industry groups such as the Washington Bankers Association, which may feed lawmakers attending functions such as a luncheon or forum. But that motion also stressed such forums likely fall within an existing exemption for lawmakers, and so probably would not count as one of the 12 meals. The rules and discussion follow a review by The Associated Press that found the state’s most active lobbyists had lavished hundreds of meals upon lawmakers, estimated at more than $65,000 in value, in the first four months of 2013.
Wisconsin – Scott Walker Signs Bills on Splitting GAB, Campaign Finance
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley and Jason Stein | Published: 12/16/2015
Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a bill that rewrites Wisconsin’s campaign finance statutes. He also approved legislation that eliminates the state Government Accountability Board and hands its duties over to two new agencies, the Elections Commission and the Ethics Commission. Those new bodies will take over July 1. The campaign finance changes include doubling the limit for individual contributions and eliminating a requirement that donors giving more than $100 identify their employer. It also allows, for the first time, corporate donations to political parties and legislative campaign committees.
State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.
December 17, 2015 • Written by Myra Cottrill, Esq.
Q. What are the key components for a successful government affairs compliance program? A. We collaborate closely with our clients to create comprehensive and effective compliance programs. During this process, our clients often request guidance on best internal practices and […]
Q. What are the key components for a successful government affairs compliance program?
A. We collaborate closely with our clients to create comprehensive and effective compliance programs. During this process, our clients often request guidance on best internal practices and procedures. Certainly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach—a successful compliance program will adapt seamlessly into the fabric of the corporate structure, making every program unique. Notwithstanding, here are five common components for successful government affairs compliance programs:
1. Centralized Oversight: Great compliance programs have a strong organizational structure with oversight and review vested in one dedicated team of government affairs professionals. All requests for corporate contributions, gifts, and events should be approved by the central team. There should be one employer signatory for all state and local filings—one person who is responsible for oversight and who can attest to the accuracy of registrations and reports. This person typically has oversight of internal team activity, which affords an opportunity for a big picture overview of state and local responsibilities. The responsibility for all company reports should stay within the company—contract lobbyists typically should not be responsible for filing a company’s employer reports. Often, non-lobbyist employee activity, corporate contributions, and/or in-house corporate expenses need to be disclosed on employer reports. Contract lobbyists are not always privy to the necessary reporting information. We recommend working closely with your contract lobbyists to identify necessary reporting information (percentage of retainer dedicated to lobbying efforts, subject matter, etc.) and reviewing draft disclosure reports against company invoices to ensure accuracy in reporting.
2. Recurring Training Opportunities & Assessments: Providing adequate training opportunities for your team is necessary to ensure compliance. Ideally, this should be done on an annual basis, and completion should be required and documented. State and local requirements change quickly, as do team members. This is especially true for sales and procurement executives. We recommend a general training session or refresher course and individual follow-up to assess registration and/or reporting needs.
3. Broad Outreach Across Lines of Business and Departments: Contact with state and local government officials is usually not isolated to only the government affairs team—it can happen anywhere in your corporation, from the executive level to sales. A strong compliance program allows you to reach across lines of business and departments to ensure anyone engaging officials on behalf of your company is staying compliant with relevant rules and restrictions.
4. Clear Policies for Employee Engagement: Can you identify clear internal gift and contribution policies? Your compliance program should utilize and strengthen your existing gift, ethics, and corporate contribution policies. Ensure these policies are specific. For example, what employee activity triggers the policy? What activities are prohibited? What activities require pre-approval by your team? A well-structured compliance program will disseminate these policies companywide, and include a clear roadmap for employee compliance.
5. Open Door Policies and Procedures: In sum, you must make it easy to comply. If it’s too difficult to access information or request approval, your employees simply won’t do it. Is there an intranet, form, or a ticket system you can utilize to ensure your employees can easily access guidance? What resources do you provide to your employees? Is there a company contact employees can reach to discuss questions or concerns? Further, there must be a fast turn-around time for questions and guidance. The longer something sits in a queue, the higher the risk for noncompliance.
In 2016, it will be more important than ever to keep a close watch on your compliance program. Having a solid program in place will help when questions arise from the media, stockholders, and activists.
You can directly submit questions for this feature, and we will select those most appropriate and answer them here. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(We are always available to answer questions from clients that are specific to your needs, and we encourage you to continue to call or e-mail us with questions about your particular company or organization. As always, we will confidentially and directly provide answers or information you need.) Our replies to your questions are not legal advice. Instead, these replies represent our analysis of laws, rules, and regulations.
December 14, 2015 • Written by Geoff Wills, Esq.
Governor Cuomo has set a special election date for two vacant state Assembly seats and one vacant state Senate seat. Elections will be held on April 19, 2016, aligning with the date for New York’s presidential primary. Elections will fill […]
Governor Cuomo has set a special election date for two vacant state Assembly seats and one vacant state Senate seat. Elections will be held on April 19, 2016, aligning with the date for New York’s presidential primary.
Elections will fill vacant seats in Assembly District 59 following the election of former Representative Roxanne Persaud’s to the state Senate, as well as in Assembly District 65 and Senate District 9 following the criminal convictions of former Representative Sheldon Silver and former Senator Dean Skelos.
December 14, 2015 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Lobbying California: “Stricter Rules Proposed For Reporting ‘Payments To Influence’” by Ben Bradford on Capital Public Radio Campaign Finance “Campaign Finance Reform Explained With Cartoons” by Rio Tazewell in The Huffington Post “Romney super PAC fined” by Theodoric Meyer in […]
California: “Stricter Rules Proposed For Reporting ‘Payments To Influence’” by Ben Bradford on Capital Public Radio
“Campaign Finance Reform Explained With Cartoons” by Rio Tazewell in The Huffington Post
“Romney super PAC fined” by Theodoric Meyer in Politico.
Oregon: “Campaign finance reform still unresolved” by Gordon Friedman in the Statesman Journal
New York: “Governor Cuomo Promises More Ethics Reforms” on WNYC
New York: “Cuomo previews ethics reform plans and closing LLC loophole” by Matthew Hamilton in the Albany Times Union
New York: “Facing Criticism, Assemblyman Says He Is Declining Consulting Job” by MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM in The New York Times
Iowa: “Terry Branstad Breaks Record for Longest-Serving U.S. Governor” by Alan Greenblatt in Governing
Texas: “In Close Race, Houston Elects Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner” by Mike Morris and Rebecca Elliott in Governing
December 4, 2015 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Where do Ads Shaping State Politics Come From? Increasingly, These Outside Players Time – Ashley Balcerzak (Center for Public Integrity) | Published: 12/2/2015 Groups independent from candidates or parties are taking a larger role in shaping political campaigns. Thirty-three outside […]
Where do Ads Shaping State Politics Come From? Increasingly, These Outside Players
Time – Ashley Balcerzak (Center for Public Integrity) | Published: 12/2/2015
Groups independent from candidates or parties are taking a larger role in shaping political campaigns. Thirty-three outside groups spent more than $32 million on their own political ads this year, accounting for more than one-third of the estimated $86 million in broadcast television ad spending in seven states with major races. That represents more than one in four political spots aired, compared with less than one in five ads in both 2011 when the same states had comparable races and in 2014 when major races occurred in 45 states. “People who want to make change in policy are looking increasingly at state and local politics, and there is an increased capacity of these national organizations to raise money and distribute it,” said Campaign Finance Institute Executive Director Michael Malbin.
A Mole in the Koch Machine?
The Hill – Jonathan Swan | Published: 12/2/2015
Hillary Clinton’s well-financed ally David Brock has a team that claims to be coordinating with moles inside the corporate and political empire of the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The anti-Koch unit within the Bridge Project told The Hill it has covert channels feeding information from within the private world of the Kochs, the most influential campaign donors in conservative politics. The claim is a new indication the left may be countering what Politico recently reported was a Koch operation that “conducts surveillance and intelligence gathering on its liberal opponents,” partly with help from a former CIA analyst.
Campaigns Turn to a Cheaper Medium to Get Voters’ Ears: Radio
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 12/3/2015
Radio listeners, stuck in their cars for long stretches, may be the closest thing to a captive audience for political commercials. And in Iowa and New Hampshire, at least, they are already being pummeled with appeals, both positive and negative, by the presidential contenders and their allies. Television advertising is still king, both in terms of total spending and number of times that ads run, and will continue to eat up the bulk of campaign budgets. But if radio spending is still minuscule by comparison, that is partly because it is so inexpensive.
GOP Rider Would Boost Party Spending
Politico – Kenneth Vogel and Seung Min Kim | Published: 11/25/2015
U.S. Senate Republicans plan to insert a provision into a government-funding bill that would expand the amount of money that political parties could spend on candidates. The provision, which sources say is one of a few campaign finance related riders being discussed in closed-door negotiations over a $1.15 trillion omnibus spending package, would eliminate caps on the amount of cash that parties may spend in coordination with their candidates. Watchdogs argue it would allow wealthy donors to exercise even more influence with members of Congress. And they cried foul over the possibility that the provision could be slipped into the spending bill that Congress is working to pass before a December 11 deadline to avoid a government shutdown.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – California Campaign Law’s Loopholes Allow Donors to Skirt Limits
San Jose Mercury News; Associated Press – | Published: 11/30/2015
Two days after California’s elected tax board gave SpaceX exemptions worth millions of dollars last year, the rocket company donated $7,500, at the request of board President Jerome Horton, to a nonprofit group founded by his wife. SpaceX made the contribution as a sponsor of a public conference headlined by Horton as he was running for re-election. Such donations are among the ways that businesses and others with matters before the Board of Equalization have benefited its members despite a law to prevent conflicts-of-interest. Other ways to bypass the contribution caps include giving through PACs, donating just below the legal limit, and contributing to board members’ outside projects.
California – Fast Times at Rancho Santiago: Official’s passion for golf pays dividends for contractors
Voice of OC – Adam Elmahrek | Published: 12/2/2015
Peter Hardash’s job is vice chancellor of business operations for the Rancho Santiago Community College District, which makes him the gatekeeper of millions of taxpayer dollars that end up being spent on construction-related contracts. But his passion is golf. Luckily for Hardash, his passion and his job often intersect. Companies that do business with the district have lavished nearly $3,500 in gifts, primarily golf-related, on Hardash over a span of two years. Meanwhile, they have reaped almost $12 million in contracts. Oftentimes Hardash has submitted contracts to the district’s Board of Trustees within days of the vendors buying him rounds of golf, or, in one instance, just a week after offering him tickets to the Toshiba Classic golf tournament.
California – S.F. Ethics Commission Hires Director with Long Experience in L.A.
San Francisco Chronicle – Lizzie Johnson and Heather Knight | Published: 11/24/2015
LeeAnn Pelham, who finished a 10-year term as head of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission in 2011, will start as executive director of the San Francisco Ethics Commission in January, replacing John St. Croix. Pelham most recently served as director of ethics and corporate governance for the Santa Clara Valley Water District. St. Croix held the post for 11 years and was criticized by some for being slow to act and going too easy on those accused of ethics breaches. Critics of St. Croix are hopeful Pelham will reinvigorate the commission and push to strengthen ethics rules.
Hawaii – High Court Rejects Challenge to Hawaii Campaign Finance Laws
WRAL; Associated Press – | Published: 11/29/2015
The Hawaii Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a company that spent about $9,000 on newspaper advertisements during the 2010 election cycle. The ads from A-1 A-Lectrician, Inc. were critical of Blake Oshiro, a candidate for the state Legislature. Hawaii law requires any entity that spends more than $1,000 to influence elections to register as a PAC, triggering reporting and disclosure requirements. The company argues the law is too burdensome and should apply only to entities whose primary purpose is political activity.
Illinois – A Wealthy Governor and His Friends Are Remaking Illinois
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore | Published: 11/29/2015
Kenneth Griffin, the billionaire founder of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, and a small group of rich supporters from all over the country have poured tens of millions of dollars into Illinois, a concentration of political money without precedent in the state’s history. Their wealth has shifted the balance of power; they helped elect Bruce Rauner as governor last year. The rich families remaking Illinois are among a small group around the country who have channeled their wealth into political power, taking advantage of regulatory, legal, and cultural shifts that have carved new paths for infusing money into campaigns.
Kansas – Wichita City Council Votes to Change Local Campaign Finance Law, Increase Salaries
Wichita Eagle – Kelsey Ryan | Published: 12/1/2015
The Wichita City Council voted to allow campaign contributions from corporations, unions, and PACs in local elections. The majority said they did not think the move would greatly affect elections, particularly since the contributions would be limited to $500, like individual donations. But those against the measure cited concerns about opening up elections to party-affiliated groups like PACs. They said they were concerned about transparency since PACs do not have to report their individual donors.
New Campaign Reform Rules Filed with State
Great Falls Tribune – Phil Drake | Published: 11/24/2015
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl adopted new campaign finance rules that he says will improve the transparency and reporting of money spent to influence elections. They will be in effect during the 2016 campaign season. The new rules require candidates and political committees to file their reports electronically, which will make them immediately available online. The rules require candidates to file campaign finance reports at both 35 days and 12 days before elections. The 35-day reporting requirement is new. They also require third-party groups to report spending if their communication mentions a candidate or uses an image of them within 90 days of an election.
Nevada – Appointees to Key Positions in Nevada Remain Little-Known to Taxpayers
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Sean Whaley | Published: 11/30/2015
As a recent nationwide report noted, taxpayers do not know much about members of the Nevada Public Employees Retirement System, the individuals charged with managing the state retirement system for nearly all state and local government employees. The same is true for appointees to other boards and commissions. The appointed members of the Transportation Commission, who recently voted to award a $559 million highway contract, do not have to disclose potential financial conflicts. And members of the state Ethics Commission also are not required to file disclosure statements. The report found 47 states require state-level public officials to file financial disclosure forms, but few require detailed information. While Nevada’s disclosure forms are easily accessible on the secretary of state’s website, there is no budget to check for compliance.
New York – Corruption Trial: Adam Skelos laid out lobbyists’ views of upstate, downstate
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/29/2015
Adam Skelos, the son of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, believed he knew how things got done in Albany: do not hire a New York City lobbyist to influence the Senate Republican majority, which was led by his father until earlier this year. It is friendships, familiarity, and an upstate ZIP code that move the levers of power. The younger Skelos laid out those views of New York’s lobbying industry in a phone call recorded in February, recently disclosed as part of the father and son’s ongoing corruption trial, and his view of how to influence upstate lawmakers. In the call, Adam Skelos singles out one Albany lobbyist, Nick Barrella, managing partner of the Capitol Group, as especially effective in lobbying Senate Republicans. Adam Skelos said that is because Barrella and Dean Skelos have condos near one another in Florida, and their wives are “booze buddies, more or less.”
New York – Sheldon Silver, Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Is Found Guilty on All Counts
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and Susanne Craig | Published: 11/30/2015
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted of charges he traded favors in exchange for about $4 million in bribes and kickbacks disguised as legal fees and lied about it to regulators. The conviction triggers his automatic expulsion from the Legislature. Silver’s trial overlapped with the corruption trial of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on charges that Skelos badgered companies to give his son more than $300,000 in exchange for his political support. Silver is the fifth state lawmaker to be convicted by federal prosecutors in 2015. Thirty New York lawmakers have left office since 2000 because of criminal charges or allegations of misconduct.
North Carolina – 7 Legislators Failing to Detail Campaign Payments to Themselves
Raleigh News & Observer – Colin Campbell | Published: 11/27/2015
A Raleigh News & Observer review of legislators’ latest campaign reports found most meticulously detail expenses they pay with campaign donations. Meal charges list the date, amount, and the name of the restaurant. Travel expenses usually list where the lawmaker went and why. But those details are missing from seven legislators’ 2015 reports. Instead, the reports show they paid themselves thousands of dollars as reimbursement for “expenses related to holding public office,” a method of reporting that appears to skirt the requirements of campaign-finance law.
State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.
December 2, 2015 • Written by Jim Sedor
Lobbying “Pfizer’s Plan to Leave U.S. Unsettles Drug Lobbyists” by Gardiner Harris for New York Times “Funding for Lawmakers’ Portraits under Fire” by Megan Wilson for The Hill Campaign Finance Alaska: “Supreme Court Rules Against Anti-Pebble Mine Activist Gillam” by […]
“Pfizer’s Plan to Leave U.S. Unsettles Drug Lobbyists” by Gardiner Harris for New York Times
“Funding for Lawmakers’ Portraits under Fire” by Megan Wilson for The Hill
Alaska: “Supreme Court Rules Against Anti-Pebble Mine Activist Gillam” by Lisa Demer for Alaska Dispatch News
“High Court Rejects Challenge to Hawaii Campaign Finance Laws” by Associated Press for WRAL
“A Wealthy Governor and His Friends Are Remaking Illinois” by Nicholas Confessore for New York Times
Kansas: “Wichita Council Votes to Change Local Campaign Finance Law, Raise Council Salaries ” by Kelsey Ryan for Wichita Eagle
Montana: “New Campaign Reform Rules Filed with State” by Phil Drake for Great Falls Tribune
North Carolina: “7 Legislators Failing to Detail Campaign Payments to Themselves” by Colin Campbell for Raleigh News & Observer
Arizona: “AG Wants to Oust ACC Regulator Bitter Smith” by Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) for Arizona Daily Star
California: “S.F. Ethics Commission Hires Director with Long Experience in L.A.” by Lizzie Johnson and Heather Knight for San Francisco Chronicle
California: “California Campaign Law’s Loopholes Allow Donors to Skirt Limits” by Associated Press for San Jose Mercury News
Nevada: “Appointees to Key Positions in Nevada Remain Little-Known to Taxpayers” by Sean Whaley for Las Vegas Review-Journal
“Sheldon Silver, Ex-New York Assembly Speaker, Is Found Guilty on All Counts” by Benjamin Weiser and Susanne Craig for New York Times
“Thomas Libous, Ex-New York State Senator, Gets Probation and Home Confinement in Corruption Case” by Vivian Yee for New York Times
Oregon: “Online Financial Disclosure System to Launch Jan. 1” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Tribune
Pennsylvania: “Ex-Allentown Official Pleads Guilty in FBI Investigation” by Emily Opilo and Peter Hall for Allentown Morning Call
“Plan A for GOP Donors: Wait for Trump to fall. (There is no Plan B.)” by Matea Gold and Robert Costa for Washington Post
December 1, 2015 • Written by Geoff Wills, Esq.
A special election has been set on February 9, 2016, to replace Representative Ann Lenczewski. Lenczewski, who represented District 50B, is leaving at the end of the year to take a government relations job. If a special primary election is […]
A special election has been set on February 9, 2016, to replace Representative Ann Lenczewski. Lenczewski, who represented District 50B, is leaving at the end of the year to take a government relations job.
If a special primary election is necessary, it will be held on January 12. The special election to replace Lenczewski will fall on the same day as a special election for Senate District 35, filling the vacant seat after the resignation of state Senator Branden Petersen.
November 30, 2015 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Lobbying “Penalty against lobbying firm sends message to an industry unfamiliar with prosecution” by Marcus Howard in the Los Angeles Times New York: “Corruption trial: Adam Skelos laid out lobbyists’ views of upstate, downstate” by Chris Bragg in the Albany […]
“Penalty against lobbying firm sends message to an industry unfamiliar with prosecution” by Marcus Howard in the Los Angeles Times
New York: “Corruption trial: Adam Skelos laid out lobbyists’ views of upstate, downstate” by Chris Bragg in the Albany Times Union
“GOP rider would boost party spending” by Kenneth Vogel and Seung Min Kim in Politico
“Campaign Spending’s Gray Areas Are Getting Politicians Into Trouble” by Alan Greenblatt in Governing
California: “California campaign law’s loopholes allow donors to skirt limits” by The Associated Press in the San Jose Mercury News
Hawaii: “High Court Rejects Challenge to Hawaii Campaign Finance Laws” by The Associated Press on ABC News
New Mexico: “New Mexico lawmakers to discuss campaign finance reform” by The Associated Press in the San Francisco Chronicle
“Funding for lawmakers’ portraits under fire” by Megan Wilson in The Hill
New Mexico: “Will 2016 be the year for ethics reform in New Mexico?” by Steve Terrell in The New Mexican
“5 takes on 2016 as the campaign kicks into high gear” by Glenn Thrush in Politico
“The 2016 ballot wars begin” by Shane Goldmacher in Politico
“Congress Has a List of Deadlines, Is Checking It Twice” by Emma Dumain in Roll Call
“Dems go digital with whip operation” by Scott Wong in The Hill
November 25, 2015 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Lobbying “Twilio, TaskRabbit hire first lobbyists” by Mario Trujillo in The Hill Campaign Finance “Ben Carson’s Book Tour Draws Campaign Finance Complaint” by Trip Gabriel in The New York Times Montana: “Political Practices boss adopts new campaign finance rules” by […]
“Twilio, TaskRabbit hire first lobbyists” by Mario Trujillo in The Hill
“Ben Carson’s Book Tour Draws Campaign Finance Complaint” by Trip Gabriel in The New York Times
Montana: “Political Practices boss adopts new campaign finance rules” by The Associated Press in the Independent Record
New Mexico: “House Democrats push campaign finance reform, ethics board” by Susan Montoya Bryan (Associated Press) in the Sun Herald
California: “S.F. Ethics Commission hires director with long experience in L.A.” by Lizzie Johnson and Heather Knight in the San Francisco Chronicle
New York: “Thomas Libous, Ex-New York State Senator, Gets Probation and Home Confinement in Corruption Case” by Vivan Yee in The New York Times
“Forget the 2016 Polls: Nobody Knows Anything Yet” by S.V. Dáte (National Journal) in Government Executive
Missouri: “Auditor finds Sunshine Law violations in closed meetings” by Summer Ballentine (Associated Press) in the Columbia Daily Tribune
Social Media and Tech
“Top Ten Presidential Campaign Facebook Posts (11/13 to 11/19/2015)” by Colin Delany in Epolitics.com
November 24, 2015 • Written by Geoff Wills, Esq.
Councilwoman Maria Carmen del Arroyo has announced her plans to resign from the position effective December 31, 2015. Arroyo released a statement citing “pressing family needs” as her reason for stepping down, but it has been reported that the move […]
Councilwoman Maria Carmen del Arroyo has announced her plans to resign from the position effective December 31, 2015. Arroyo released a statement citing “pressing family needs” as her reason for stepping down, but it has been reported that the move has been made for a potential jump to the private sector.
Arroyo’s resignation will trigger a special election for the open seat. Mayor Bill de Blasio will have until three days after the vacancy to declare a date for a special election.
November 24, 2015 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Lobbying Arizona: “In Arizona, lobbyist disclose spending; you just don’t know on whom” by Justin Price in The Arizona Republic Canada: “Lobbying: important amendments to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct” by Gregory Kane, V. Peter Harder and Danylo Korbabicz in Lexology […]
Arizona: “In Arizona, lobbyist disclose spending; you just don’t know on whom” by Justin Price in The Arizona Republic
Canada: “Lobbying: important amendments to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct” by Gregory Kane, V. Peter Harder and Danylo Korbabicz in Lexology
Kansas: “House-Senate panel votes to double campaign donation limits” by Tim Carpenter in The Topeka Capital-Journal
Florida: “State Lawmakers Pushing To Extend Legislative Terms” by Nick Evans in WFSU.org
Vermont: “Off-session legislative activity causes concern” by Neal Goswami in the Times Argus
Washington: “Liias, Ryu selected for leadership posts in State Legislature” in My Edmonds News
“What to Know About the Presidential Race Today” in The New York Times
Florida: “Redistricting challengers amend filed maps, withdraw plan to cross Tampa Bay” by Mary Ellen Klas in Tampa Bay Times
November 23, 2015 • Written by Jonathan Spontarelli
Lobbying “Start-Up Leaders Embrace Lobbying as Part of the Job” by Cecilia Kang in The New York Times Campaign Finance Kansas: “Wichita City Council considers changes to campaign finance, salaries” by Kelsey Ryan in The Wichita Eagle Washington: “Seattle provides […]
“Start-Up Leaders Embrace Lobbying as Part of the Job” by Cecilia Kang in The New York Times
Kansas: “Wichita City Council considers changes to campaign finance, salaries” by Kelsey Ryan in The Wichita Eagle
Washington: “Seattle provides cash for average political players” by Gene Johnson (Associated Press) in The Detroit News
“Ethics Committee Defers to DOJ on Pittenger Probe” by Bridget Bowman in Roll Call
Oregon: “Online financial disclosure system to launch Jan. 1” by Hillary Borrud in The Daily Astorian
Maine: “Maine May Be 1st State to Eliminate ‘Winner Take All’ Elections” by Christopher Cousins (Tribune News Service) in Governing
Indiana: “Four things to expect from the Indiana legislature” by Brian Slodysko (Associated Press) in the Courier-Journal
Kansas: “Kansas black leaders agree on legislative, election agenda” by The Associated Press in The Topeka Capital-Journal
Massachusetts: “State legislative session sputters to an end” by Frank Phillips in the Boston Globe
Alaska: “Alaska’s Open Data Portal Still Dark” by Nathaniel Herz (Alaska Dispatch News) in Government Technology
November 20, 2015 • Written by Jim Sedor
National: Inside the Clinton Donor Network Washington Post – Matea Gold, Tom Hamburger, and Anu Narayanswamy | Published: 11/19/2015 The Washington Post identified donations from roughly 336,000 individuals, corporations, unions, and foreign governments in support of the political or philanthropic endeavors […]
Inside the Clinton Donor Network
Washington Post – Matea Gold, Tom Hamburger, and Anu Narayanswamy | Published: 11/19/2015
The Washington Post identified donations from roughly 336,000 individuals, corporations, unions, and foreign governments in support of the political or philanthropic endeavors of Bill and Hillary Clinton. The investigation found many top patrons supported them in multiple ways, helping finance their political causes, their legal needs, their philanthropy, and their personal bank accounts. The Clintons’ fundraising operation – $3 billion amassed by one couple, working in tandem for more than four decades – has no equal. The donor network is now serving as both a prime asset and liability for Hillary Clinton as she seeks the Democratic presidential nomination.
One Slogan, Many Methods: Black Lives Matter enters politics
New York Times – John Eligon | Published: 11/18/2015
Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag and grew into a protest slogan – after prominent police killings of blacks over the past year – and became an Internet-driven civil rights movement. The phrase is as much a mantra as a particular organization, with the general public lumping numerous groups under the Black Lives Matter banner, even if they are not officially connected. Yet amid the groups’ different approaches has been a swirl of political activity. Local affiliates of the Black Lives Matter organization have disrupted numerous Democratic presidential campaign events, pushing the candidates to support policies to end mass incarceration and police brutality. That organization now has 26 chapters that largely set their own direction. Yet the young and sometimes cacophonous movement is struggling to find its voice, as the activists who fly its banner wade into national politics.
Republican Governors: A winning machine
Politico – Kevin Robillard | Published: 11/18/2015
While Democrats have reshaped the federal government under President Barack Obama, Republicans have methodically taken over state after state around the country, swelling the number of GOP governors from 19 to 31 and enacting conservative priorities from budget cuts to new restrictions on unions and abortion. Behind each of those policy and political victories was the Republican Governors Association (RGA), planning, funding, and executing the GOP’s state-based resurgence. The RGA has avoided congressional Republicans’ problems, especially in hard-to-win blue states, by playing a relentless but “quiet” role in recruiting candidates that fit their states, said former RGA Director Phil Musser.
The Koch Intelligence Agency
Politico – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 11/18/2015
An operation that is part of the Koch brothers’ political network conducts surveillance and intelligence gathering to try to thwart liberal groups and activists, and to identify potential threats to the network. The intelligence team has a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst. It sends regular emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking, and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups, and their allies. The team utilizes high-tech tactics to track the movements of liberal organizers, including culling geo-data embedded in their social media posts. “We were caught off guard by what the left was doing in 2012, and we’d be foolish to be caught in that position again,” said Marc Short, president of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the network’s central group.
Clinton, Bush Lawyers Square Off in FEC Proxy War
Politico – Isaac Arnsdorf and Theodoric Meyer | Published: 11/11/2015
Requests to relax limits on coordination between candidates and super PACs left the FEC divided recently. The often-deadlocked commission only managed to agree on five of the dozen questions that were raised at a hearing. They were unable to reach a majority decision on whether a potential candidate could form a super PAC before announcing his or her campaign, or whether a potential candidate could share advance plans with a super PAC before jumping into the race. They also could not agree on whether super PACs could film footage of potential candidates with an eye toward using it in ads. Four of the six commissioners did vote to let candidates attend fundraisers with as few as two donors.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona – Lobbying Records Only Disclose Recipient for $1 Out of Every $8 Spent
Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting – Justin Price | Published: 11/13/2015
Lobbyists in Arizona are required to report their expenditures in quarterly reports. But loopholes and minimal regulatory oversight leave room for them to spend without reporting who benefited. Lobbying records for 2015 include a beneficiary for one dollar out of every eight dollars spent. A report by the Center for Public Integrity gave Arizona’s lobbying disclosure an “F” grade. Reporting exemptions exist for both large- and small-dollar expenditures and lobbyists face minimal threat of being audited for filing reports incorrectly or incompletely.
California – California Ethics Panel Targets Vague Lobbying Payments
Sacramento Bee – Jeremy White | Published: 11/18/2015
Under current California law, anyone who spends at least $5,000 to sway legislation or administrative rulemaking must file quarterly reports. But much of the spending falls into a nebulous category called “other payments to influence,” a designation that can include the cost of mounting advertising campaigns, paying office overhead, and retaining political consultants. Seeking more clarity, the Fair Political Practices Commission is pushing an amendment that would have lobbyist employers break down expenditures that exceed $2,500 into an array of categories that include paying employees other than lobbyists, advertising, and public affairs work. They also would have to disclose the recipients of the payments.
California – Inside California Lawmakers’ Paid Trips to Maui
Sacramento Bee – Alexei Koseff | Published: 11/18/2015
The California Independent Voter Project’s annual conference has once again arrived, bringing together 21 state lawmakers and dozens of corporate sponsors for five days in Hawaii. This type of travel is nothing new for California legislators, who have been venturing overseas for decades at the expense of business groups, labor unions, foreign governments, and their campaign donors. Yet the Independent Voter Project conference, with its luxurious setting, has become something of a lightning rod for criticisms about the cozy relationship between lawmakers and special interests. “… If the purpose of the trip were to educate lawmakers about the problems of California, they would go to Fresno,” said Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.
Florida – County Ethics Commission Sues Hialeah Mayor for Trying to Pay $4K Fine with Pennies
Miami Herald – Brenda Medina | Published: 11/18/2015
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust sued Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez for trying to pay a $4,000 fine with 28 buckets of pennies and nickels. The commission also doubled the fine imposed on Hernandez, saying he intentionally broke its regulations by sending the 360,000 coins even though he knew the panel accepts only checks.
Illinois – Feds Seize Computers, Files on Chicago Officials from Outgoing Inspector General
Politico – Natasha Korecki | Published: 11/16/2015
The FBI seized documents and computers from legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan’s office on his last day overseeing Chicago elected officials. Kahn said the office was working on several investigations. In the past four years, the inspector general’s office has had a tumultuous relationship with City Hall. While the office had jurisdiction over aldermen and support staff, it could not launch investigations based on anonymous complaints, and required the notification of any subject under investigation. Khan spoke about his disbelief both with the mayor’s office and with the city council over their resistance to oversight. “Thirty aldermen over 40 years have gone to jail. … I would describe to you that the oversight in Chicago is comparable to the Wild West – anything goes,” Kahn said.
Montana – Committee Fails to Block New Campaign Rules
Flathead Beacon – Matt Volz (Associated Press) | Published: 11/17/2015
New rules affecting Montana’s campaign finance law will take effect after a legislative committee failed to delay the changes. The regulations will be adopted by Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl in the coming days after a final review. They will become effective once they are published by the Montana secretary of state, which will likely happen in February, and will apply to the 2016 primary elections in June. The guidelines will require more reporting by candidates and organizations, tighten restrictions on candidate coordination, and require same-day electronic reporting of contributions.
New Mexico – Acting SOS Plans to Clarify Lobbyist Contributions
New Mexico in Depth – Sandra Fish | Published: 11/18/2015
Acting Secretary of State Mary Quintana intends to clarify rules on how lobbyists report campaign contributions to candidates in New Mexico. Lobbyists often contribute on behalf of their clients. But some list the clients as the donors in their reports and others do not. Some of those listings are also unclear about who the recipient is – a candidate or a candidate’s PAC.
Ohio – Ohio Probes Whether Wright University Violated Lobbying Laws
Washington Times; Associated Press – | Published: 11/19/2015
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is investigating whether Wright State University and its consultant, Ron Wine, violated lobbying laws when the university paid him nearly $2 million without prior approval from the state Controlling Board. State law since 2011 has mandated that public universities get Controlling Board approval for any lobbying contracts that exceed $50,000 in a calendar year. Employees paid to advocate for their clients’ interest are required to register as lobbyists if that part of their job exceeds five percent of their workload for legislative lobbying or 25 percent for executive branch lobbying. Ohio Legislative Inspector General Tony Bledsoe gave the university 15 days to register Wine as a lobbyist or explain why he is not one.
Texas – Travis County Has No Rules for Registering Lobbyists
Austin American-Statesman – Sean Collins Walsh | Published: 11/15/2015
Lobbyists are not required to register with Travis County, and firms do not have to disclose who is being paid to advocate for them. The city of Austin’s and the state of Texas’ lobbying disclosure systems are often criticized for loopholes and poor enforcement, but they still provide a level of transparency that Travis County’s procedures do not address. Advocates for lobbyist registration say it enables the public to monitor who is influencing government decisions and reduces the likelihood that insider deals will go undetected, or at least makes it easier to figure out what happened if a transaction is later scrutinized.
Wisconsin – Assembly GOP Approves Rewritten Campaign Finance Laws, GAB Overhaul
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 11/16/2015
The Wisconsin Assembly gave final approval to a pair of bills that would alter the flow of money to campaigns and change oversight of ethics laws. Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign them into law. One bill would replace the Government Accountability Board, which is comprised of retired judges, with two separate panels consisting of partisan appointees. The other bill would make clear that candidates can coordinate political activity with issue advocacy groups that do not have to disclose their donors. It would also double allowable individual campaign contribution limits, do away with a requirement that donors giving more than $100 to campaigns disclose who they work for, and allow corporate contributions to political parties and legislative campaign committees for the first time.
State and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.