January 12, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 12, 2018

      National: These Are the Only Two States That Don’t Require Lawmakers to Disclose Finances Center for Public Integrity – Kristian Hernandez | Published: 1/8/2018 Despite ongoing efforts to bring about reform, Michigan and Idaho are the last remaining holdouts among […]

 

 

 

National:

These Are the Only Two States That Don’t Require Lawmakers to Disclose Finances
Center for Public Integrity – Kristian Hernandez | Published: 1/8/2018

Despite ongoing efforts to bring about reform, Michigan and Idaho are the last remaining holdouts among states that do not require lawmakers to disclose anything about their personal finances. While watchdogs say this sort of personal financial disclosure is a crucial tool for holding lawmakers accountable to the public, the prospects for change in Boise and Lansing are uncertain at best.

Federal:

Lobbyists Have a New Secret Weapon
Bloomberg.com – Alexandra Stratton | Published: 1/10/2018

While the face of lobbying is often a government relations executive trekking the halls of Capitol Hill armed with talking points, attending luncheons, and writing op-eds, the hidden side of the business entails hours of research and grunt work. And despite the billions of dollars that corporations pour into lobbying efforts each year, the work has remained relatively low-tech. Part of the problem is knowing how to sift through reams of information. Alex Wirth co-founded Quorum Analytics in his Harvard dorm room. The idea was to give lobbyists the tools to automate some of the more rote, labor-intensive parts of their work. Wirth claims Quorum has built the world’s most comprehensive database of legislative information.

Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation
MSN – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 1/4/2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is aware of an unsuccessful attempt by President Trump to lobby Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia inquiry. The New York Times reported Trump had ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing himself from oversight of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The reported attempt to have a political ally maintain control of an investigation into his associates would add to a list of possible examples of Trump seeking to influence the Justice Department, and opening himself up to potential obstruction of justice claims.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – A Sexist Culture Endures at Arizona Capitol, Insiders Say
Arizona Republic – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Dustin Gardiner | Published: 1/7/2018

The Arizona Republic interviewed more than 40 women and men – including lobbyists, lawmakers, and policy advisers – about their experiences working at the Arizona Legislature. The interviews elicited anger, tears, or dispassionate frustration with what has long been the status quo. From those interviews, a portrait emerged of a coarse, male-dominated and often sexist culture that permeates the workdays and the social gatherings that define a legislative session. The stories they told, independently of each other, showed an often unhealthy workplace – one where women and men are conditioned to try to capitalize on the physical appearances of women to advance a cause.

Illinois – Investigation Details Secretive Contacts with Lobbyist on $2 Billion Illinois Lottery Contract
Chicago Tribune – Joe Mahr and Matthew Walberg | Published: 1/4/2018

A top staffer for the Illinois Lottery failed to disclose her relationships and contact with lobbyists for a firm that was bidding for a contract to manage the lottery, a state investigation found. The lack of disclosure led the state’s top contract officer to suspend the contract with the British lottery firm Camelot, potentially worth at least $2 billion. Illinois reinstated the contract recently after an investigation by an outside law firm determined the lapses were not significant enough to affect the fairness of the bidding process.

Iowa – A Lobbyist Got Married in the Iowa House, and a Portrait of Donald Trump Was Removed Before the Ceremony
Des Moines Register – Jason Noble | Published: 1/4/2018

The marriage ceremony of a prominent statehouse lobbyist in the Iowa House chamber last year has ruffled feathers at the Capitol. The ceremony was not approved in advance by House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, and photographs later revealed a portrait of President Trump that hangs behind the chamber dais had been removed while the vows were exchanged. “We’ve had a conversation about what’s appropriate for the chamber and what is not, and that falls into the what-is-not category,” Upmeyer said.

Kansas – Awkward: Brownback said he was leaving as Kansas governor. He hasn’t
New York Times – Julie Bosman | Published: 1/8/2018

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback appointment as the Trump administration’s as ambassador at large for international religious freedom was announced in July. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer was widely expected to succeed Brownback and kick off the 2018 legislative session. But as lawmakers began meeting in the Capitol for the start of the session, Brownback was still the governor. And there is no certainty about when he might actually depart this stage. Some Kansans said it was not entirely clear who was truly in charge of the state, and for how long.

Kentucky – Kentucky House Speaker Lashes Out in Resignation Speech after Sexual Harassment Settlement
Washington Post – Derek Hawkins | Published: 1/9/2018

In an emotional speech, Rep. Jeff Hoover resigned as Kentucky House speaker following weeks of turmoil over a sexual harassment scandal. Hoover had promised to step down in November after it was reported he had secretly settled a sexual harassment claim with a woman on his staff. In remarks lasting more than 20 minutes, Hoover portrayed himself as the victim of a wide-ranging conspiracy to oust him from power, accusing the governor and fellow lawmakers of lying about his actions. With his wife watching from the balcony, he acknowledged trading inappropriate texts with the staffer, but denied any misconduct, saying while the messages were ill-advised, they were consensual.

Maryland – Feds: Indicted Baltimore state senator confessed to taking cash payments
Baltimore Sun – Justin Fenton | Published: 1/5/2018

Federal prosecutors revealed in new court documents that indicted Maryland Sen. Nathaniel Oaks confessed to taking cash payments in exchange for official business before cooperating with the FBI and upending another bribery investigation. While the U.S. attorney’s office says Oaks confessed both to taking cash payments and to interfering with an investigation, he has pleaded not guilty and has a trial scheduled for April, right after the legislative session concludes.

Missouri – Greitens Admits Affair but Denies Related Blackmail Allegation
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kevin McDermott, Jack Suntrup, and Celest Bott | Published: 1/11/2018

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens admitted he had an extramarital affair in 2015, when he was considering a run for governor. But he denied allegations he tried to blackmail the woman into silence. A report on a St. Louis television station featured an interview with the ex-husband of Greitens’ mistress, who had secretly recorded his then-wife confessing the affair to him before they divorced. A lawyer for the governor denied the sensational allegations that Greitens threatened to distribute naked photos he took of the woman if she ever disclosed the affair.

North Carolina – NC Congressional Districts Struck Down as Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymanders
Raleigh News and Observer – Anne Blythe | Published: 1/9/2018

A three-judge federal panel struck down North Carolina’s congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, giving the state Legislature until January 24 to adopt a new map and potentially throwing this year’s elections into chaos. The panel said if the General Assembly fails to enact a new map, a special master will be appointed to draw the districts. The judges ruled the remedial map violated the equal protection clause when GOP legislative leaders drew the maps with an explicit conservative bias in an effort to favor Republican candidates.

Oregon – Oregon Ethics Commission Rebukes Cylvia Hayes for ‘Blatant Disregard of Ethics Laws
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/5/2018

Former First Lady Cylvia Hayes committed 22 ethics violations stemming from the misuse of her public position for financial gain, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission decided. Each violation could carry a maximum fine of $5,000. The commission also could require Hayes to forfeit up to twice the amount she earned from contracts received because of her access to top government officials. While the findings of this inquiry focused on Hayes, commissioners said they should also be considered in the ongoing case against former Gov. John Kitzhaber since the violations often involved his actions. The commission rejected a proposed settlement with Kitzhaber because they wanted a more detailed investigation and the proposed fine of $1,000 was too small.

Washington – Spokane City Council Overrides Condon Veto of Campaign Finance Reporting Law
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Kip Hill | Published: 1/8/2018

The Spokane City Council overrode Mayor David Condon’s veto of a campaign finance ordinance. The new law requires political committees spending on behalf of candidates to reveal their top five donors. The measure also halves the amount any person or entity can give a political candidate in Spokane compared to the rest of the state. Councilperson Mike Fagan took issue with what he said were elements of the law that disadvantaged conservative politicians, chief among them the prohibition for firms that do business with the city for greater than $50,000 to give to local candidates, while public bargaining units may continue to give freely though they must disclose those donations on contracts.

Wisconsin – State Ethics Commission Finalizing Audit of Possible Lobbying Violations
Wisconsin State Journal – Mark Sommerhauser | Published: 1/5/2018

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission is finalizing an audit of whether lobbyists and principals violated disclosure requirements, the findings of which may be released at its next public meeting. Commission staff began the audit after noticing a trend of lobbyists and lobbying groups that had not complied with registration or authorization requirements. Commission Administrator Brian Bell said types of potential violations examined in the audit generally fall into two groups: lobbyists and principals that inadvertently failed to follow requirements, and those who may have engaged in so-called shadow lobbying, in which someone knowingly lobbies public officials without registering.

 

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.

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January 5, 2018 •

News You Can Use Digest – January 5, 2018

      National: ‘Fake News’: Wide reach but little impact, study suggests New York Times – Benedict Carey | Published: 1/2/2018 Fake news evolved from Internet sideshow to serious electoral threat so quickly that behavioral scientists had little time to answer basic […]

 

 

 

National:

‘Fake News’: Wide reach but little impact, study suggests
New York Times – Benedict Carey | Published: 1/2/2018

Fake news evolved from Internet sideshow to serious electoral threat so quickly that behavioral scientists had little time to answer basic questions about it. But now the first hard data on fake-news consumption has arrived. Researchers posted an analysis of the browsing histories of thousands of adults during the run-up to the 2016 election, a real-time picture of who viewed which fake stories, and what real news those people were seeing at the same time. The reach of fake news was wide indeed, the study found, yet also shallow.

Partisans, Wielding Money, Begin Seeking to Exploit Harassment Claims
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 12/31/2017

As the #MeToo movement to expose sexual harassment roils the nation’s capital, political partisans are exploiting the moment, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support accusers who come forward with charges against President Trump and members of Congress, even amid questions about their motivation. As accusations take on a partisan tint, activists and lawyers fear such an evolution could damage a movement that has shaken Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Congress – and has taken down both a Democratic fundraiser, Harvey Weinstein, and a conservative stalwart, Bill O’Reilly.

The Modern Campaign-Finance Loophole: Governors Associations
MSN – Susan Pulliam and Brody Mullins (Wall Street Journal) | Published: 1/2/2018

Companies have found a loophole in state campaign finance rules by funneling donations through the Republican Governors Association (RGA) and its Democratic counterpart. Donors cannot earmark money for a candidate. Instead, they can simply – and legally – tell the groups they have “an interest” in a race or are contributing “at the request” of a candidate. Companies can give unlimited sums to outside groups that support candidates, but those contributions are generally disclosed. Corporate donations to the governors’ associations are also disclosed, but once the money is given to campaigns or organizations supporting them, it is labeled as coming from the RGA or the Democratic Governors Association.

Federal:

How the Russia Inquiry Began: A campaign aide, drinks and talk of political dirt
New York Times – Sharon LaFraniere, Mark Mazzetti, and Mat Apuzzo | Published: 12/30/2017

The hacking of Democratic emails and the revelation that a member of Donald Trump’s campaign, George Papadopoulos, may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the FBI to open an investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of Trump’s associates conspired. If Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, was the improbable match that set off a blaze that has consumed the first year of the Trump administration, his saga is also a tale of the Trump campaign in miniature. He was brash, boastful, and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And, like the campaign itself, he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influence operation.

Trump Disbands Commission on Voter Fraud
New York Times – Michael Tackett and Michael Wines | Published: 1/3/2018

President Trump announced he is disbanding a controversial panel studying alleged voter fraud that became mired in multiple federal lawsuits and faced resistance from states accusing it of overreach. The decision is a major setback for Trump, who created the commission last year in response to his claim, for which he provided no proof, that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016 because of millions of illegally cast ballots. The commission met only twice amid the series of lawsuits seeking to curb its authority and claims by Democrats that it was stacked to recommend voting restrictions favorable to the president’s party.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – L.A. Could Exempt Many Nonprofits from Revealing Lobbying
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 12/31/2017

Los Angeles requires people who are paid to try to influence city officials on municipal legislation to register and turn in regular reports on their spending. But it currently exempts some nonprofits from having to register and report their lobbying. The Ethics Commission recommended the city expand its current exemption, allowing any 501(c)(3) organization that gets less than $2 million in total income annually to avoid registering. The commission also recommended exempting any 501(c)(3) nonprofits that were formed primarily to provide assistance to disadvantaged people at reduced rates, no matter how much money they took in.

Florida – Tallahassee Commission Approves Separation Package for City Manager
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 1/3/2018

The Tallahassee City Commission accepted the resignation of City Manager Rick Fernandez. He was on paid administrative leave since November following an investigation by the Florida Commission on Ethics. He was accused of accepting football tickets to a Florida State University football game and receiving a $5,000 catering discount from the city-backed restaurant, The Edison. The tickets were arranged by a lobbying firm owned by Adam Corey, who also owns The Edison. Corey is one of several individuals named in federal subpoenas exploring dealings between the city Community Redevelopment Agency and several high-profile businesspeople.

Massachusetts – Pro-Charter School Group Fined for Hiding 2016 Campaign Donors including Mitt Romney’s Campaign
MassLive – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 1/2/2018

Massachusetts campaign finance officials have required a group that funneled large donations to 2016 ballot questions regarding charter schools and marijuana legalization to disclose the identity of their donors. Officials said Strong Economy for Growth raised and spent $1,168,000 to support the ballot questions. The Office of Campaign and Political Finance required Strong Economy for Growth to form a ballot question committee, disclose its donors, and pay $31,000 to the state for violating campaign finance laws – all the money left in its bank account. The group also agreed not to engage in any election-related activity in Massachusetts through 2018.

Michigan – FBI Wiretaps Reveal How Towing Titan Fiore Built His Empire
Detroit Free Press – Tresa Baldas and Keith Matheny | Published: 12/29/2017

Towing company owner Gasper Fiore was so politically connected that his daughter last year helped write an amendment to the Michigan Department of Transportation budget that ensured his company would win a multimillion-dollar contract, federal documents show. In wiretap evidence, the FBI offers a glimpse into how the Fiore built his towing empire by currying favor with high ranking officials across southeast Michigan. While Fiore has admitted to bribing just one Macomb County official, the FBI says he was in cahoots for years with many, from state lawmakers to police officials to a Detroit councilperson who was dating his daughter.

Missouri – Ethics Complaint Against Big Missouri Campaign Donor is Dismissed
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 1/2/2018

The Missouri Ethics Commission said it “finds no reasonable grounds” to believe businessperson David Humphreys violated state law governing lobbyists and the principals who employ them. State Rep. Mark Ellebracht filed the complaint against Humphreys, who along with his family donated more than $14 million to mostly Republican candidates and campaigns in 2016. At the center of the complaint was Paul Mouton, who was fined last year for illegally lobbying lawmakers on Humphreys behalf without registering.

New York – Howe Emailed Cuomo Officials on Private Accounts
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/30/2017

In the years before he pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, lobbyist Todd Howe regularly emailed top officials in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration about government business using their personal email accounts. The use of private email for public business would violate official state policy, and is contrary to Cuomo administration directives to conduct state business on state email accounts, to avoid the perception of an intent to hide communication from the public.

Oregon – Oregon Ethics Report Reveals New Details of How Cylvia Hayes Used Her Position to Profit
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 1/4/2018

Former Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes violated state ethics laws by using her position for the financial benefit of herself and her business, failing to avoid conflicts-of-interest, and receiving a gift of greater than $50, according to an investigation. Her fiancé, former Gov. John Kitzhaber, resigned in 2015 amid influence peddling allegations related to her contracting. He faces an ongoing inquiry by the state’s ethics watchdog agency. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission will vote whether to agree with the recommendation that violations took place. If so, Hayes will have the opportunity to appeal the ruling.

South Carolina – Golf, Beaches and Power: How utilities wine and dine the public officials that set your rates
Charleston Post and Courier – Andrew Brown | Published: 12/30/2017

Travel and other records reveal how South Carolina’s public service commissioners frequently eat, drink, and play golf with the people they regulate. They also show how on trip after trip, commissioners failed to properly report these as gifts as required under state ethics laws. Selected by state lawmakers, these regulators serve four-year terms and earn more than $100,000. They are supposed to be impartial, balancing the needs of utilities to make fair returns on investments with the rights of customers to pay fair rates. But the analysis of state travel records paints a picture of cozy gatherings and opportunities for influence-peddling.

Virginia – A Random Drawing Out of a Bowl Helped Republicans Win a Tied Virginia Election.
Washington Post – Laura Vozella | Published: 1/4/2018

An official of the Virginia State Board of Elections pulled out the name of Republican David Yancey from a bowl, breaking a tied race that is pivotal to control of the House of Delegates. The outcome means the House remains narrowly in the GOP hands, 51 seats to 49. The spectacle drew national attention as an odd way to decide a highly consequential contest. But it might not be the last word in the saga.

Washington – With Veto of City Council Ordinance, Condon Says Campaign Finance Better Left to the State
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Chad Sokol | Published: 12/29/2017

Spokane Mayor David Condon said he would veto a campaign finance ordinance passed by the city council that would impose new reporting requirements and halve the maximum amount a candidate can receive from any single donor. The mayor said he supports certain efforts to curb the role of “dark money” in politics. But he said the issue is better managed at the state level and predicted the proposed ordinance would not stand up to constitutional challenges.

 

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.

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December 15, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – December 15, 2017

      National: ‘Fake News,’ Trump’s Obsession, Is Now a Cudgel for Strongmen New York Times – Steven Erlanger | Published: 12/12/2017 Around the world, authoritarians, populists, and other political leaders have seized on the phrase “fake news,” and the legitimacy conferred […]

 

 

 

National:

‘Fake News,’ Trump’s Obsession, Is Now a Cudgel for Strongmen
New York Times – Steven Erlanger | Published: 12/12/2017

Around the world, authoritarians, populists, and other political leaders have seized on the phrase “fake news,” and the legitimacy conferred upon it by an American president, as a tool for attacking their critics and, in some cases, deliberately undermining the institutions of democracy. Though the term has been around at least since the 1890s, Donald Trump is most responsible for making it a part of the current global conversation. Social media, with its huge reach and its vulnerability to manipulation, has helped to amplify criticism from political leaders and undermine trust in traditional journalism.

For Female Lobbyists, Harassment Often Accompanies Access
New York Times – Trip Gabriel and Julie Bosman | Published: 12/8/2017

Charges of harassment are cascading through statehouses across the country, leading to investigations, resignations of powerful men, and anguish over hostile workplaces for women that for years went unacknowledged. Amid this reckoning, one group of victims has stood apart: lobbyists. Part of a frequently disparaged profession, female lobbyists have emerged as especially vulnerable in Legislatures and in Congress because, unlike government employees, they often have no avenue to report complaints and receive due process. Lobbyists who have been harassed are essentially powerless in their workplaces, all-dependent on access to mostly male lawmakers for meetings and influence to advance legislation and earn their living.

State Lawmakers Blur Line Between Public, Personal Interests
Center for Public Integrity – Ryan Foley (Associated Press) and Liz Essley Whyte | Published: 12/6/2017

State lawmakers around the country have introduced and supported policies that directly and indirectly help their own businesses, their employers, and sometimes their personal finances. The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity and found numerous examples in which lawmakers’ votes had the effect of promoting their private interests. Even then, the votes did not necessarily represent a conflict-of-interest as defined by the state. That is because Legislatures set their own rules for when lawmakers should recuse themselves. In some states, lawmakers are required to vote despite any ethical dilemmas. Many legislators defend votes that benefit their businesses or industries, saying they bring important expertise to the debate.

Federal:

‘Journalism for Rent’: Inside the secretive firm behind the Trump dossier
Washington Post – Jack Gillum and Shawn Boburg | Published: 12/11/2017

Fusion GPS bills itself as a corporate research firm, but in many ways, it operates with the secrecy of a spy agency. The small firm has been under public scrutiny for producing the document known as the Trump dossier. Senior executives summoned to testify before Congress invoked their right against self-incrimination, and the firm is resisting a congressional subpoena for bank records that would reveal who has paid for its services. But hundreds of internal company documents reveal how Fusion has used investigative reporting techniques and media connections to advance the interests of a range of clients on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley, and in the nation’s capital. The firm has played an unseen role in stories that dominated headlines in recent years.

Doubting the Intelligence, Trump Pursues Putin and Leaves a Russian Threat Unchecked
Washington Post – Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Philip Rucker | Published: 12/14/2017

Nearly a year into his presidency, Donald Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House. The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president – and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality – have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, Trump has waged his own campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat and has resisted or attempted to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account.

Foreign Lobbyists Contributed More Than $4.5 Million to Candidates in 2016 Elections
MapLight – Andrew Perez, David Sirota, and Jay Cassano | Published: 12/4/2017

During the last election, lobbyists for foreign governments gave more than $4.5 million to federal lawmakers and candidates. Foreign lobbyists and their firms’ PACs were also responsible for bundling $5.9 million in donations for candidates and party committees. Because the contributions come from foreign governments’ U.S.-based lobbyists, they effectively circumvent American laws designed to bar direct foreign donations. Under federal law, foreign nationals are banned from donating to any federal, state, or local campaigns, or political parties. But foreign governments frequently hire U.S. citizens to represent their interests, and those people face no such contribution ban.

From the States and Municipalities:

Colorado: Taxpayer Groups File Suit Against Denver to Prevent Disclosure of Nonprofits’ Donors in Election Spending
Denver Post – Jon Murray | Published: 12/13/2017

A lawsuit filed by the Goldwater Institute on behalf of two conservative groups says changes to the campaign finance law approved by the Denver City Council in September violate free speech provisions. The ordinance requires clubs, associations, corporations, and groups that advocate for or against local ballot measures to meet the disclosure requirements of issue committees once they raise and spend at least $500. Once it passes that threshold, an issue committee must identify by name and address each donor who gave $50 or more within that calendar year. The legal challenge, in targeting disclosure requirements’ impact on nonprofit groups, raises an issue that goes back more than a decade in Colorado, pitting donor privacy against the interest of campaign transparency.

Florida: Women in Florida Politics Fear #MeToo Moments Will Backfire
Miami Herald – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 12/11/2017

Female staffers and lobbyists who returned to the Florida Capitol for pre-session meetings, discovered many male legislators will no longer meet with them privately. Accustomed to Tallahassee’s Southern culture, where men and women casually and routinely greet each other with hugs, legislators are doing an awkward dance to replace a hug with a handshake. And the fear of retaliation, against women who brought forward allegations or those who may in the future, is as raw as the fear that lawmakers’ political enemies could turn sexual harassment claims into new weapons.

Indiana: Council Defeats Pay-to-Play Veto
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 12/13/2017

The Fort Wayne City Council overrode Mayor Tom Henry’s veto of a “pay-to-play” ordinance that city officials say likely runs afoul of state and federal law. The ordinance limits corporate campaign contributions to elected city officials to $2,000 per calendar year. Donations from any employee who owns more than seven-and-one-half percent of a firm, as well as contributions from that employee’s spouse or live-in children, would count toward that limit. Any firm that exceeds that limit would be barred from bidding on city contracts.

Kentucky: Law Which Prohibits Legislators Accepting ‘Anything of Value’ from Lobbyists Has Been Ruled Unconstitutional by U.S. District Court Judge
Spectrum News – Don Weber | Published: 12/7/2017

U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman issued a final order on his June ruling that found Kentucky’s legislative ethics prohibition on gifts and campaign contributions from lobbyists is unconstitutional. Bertelsman, who ruled the laws were too vague to be enforced and violated lobbyists’ freedom of speech, issued a final order which included an injunction telling the Legislative Ethics Commission that it could not enforce the unconstitutional rules. In response to the final order, the Kentucky Chamber announced plans to file an amicus brief along with other business groups urging the appeal of the ruling.

Maryland: Supreme Court Will Take Up a Second Gerrymandering Case This Term
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 12/8/2017

The U.S. Supreme Court added a second partisan gerrymandering case to its docket, suggesting the justices are seriously considering whether voting maps warped by politics may sometimes cross a constitutional line. The court has never struck down a voting district as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. A ruling allowing such challenges could reshape American politics. The earlier case, from Wisconsin, was argued in October. The new case, a challenge to a Maryland congressional district, differs from the first case in several ways. It was brought by Republican voters rather than Democratic ones; it is focused on a single district rather than a statewide map; and it relies solely on the First Amendment rather than a legal theory that includes equal protection principles.

Minnesota: Smith to Take Franken’s Senate Seat, Run in 2018
Minnesota Public Radio – Brian Bakst and Tim Pugmire | Published: 12/13/2017

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton chose Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to take over Al Franken’s seat in the U.S.  Senate, keeping a Democrat in the seat for now but setting the stage for a freewheeling 2018 election that could shift the balance of power in Minnesota and in Washington. Franken had announced he would resign after being accused by women of sexual misconduct. Smith will serve as senator until at least next fall, when voters are expected to choose a candidate to fill the remaining two years of Franken’s term. Smith also said she plans to run for the office in that 2018 election.

Missouri: Lobbyist Play Part, Spend Cash in Jefferson City
Kirksville Daily Express – Jason Hunsicker | Published: 12/11/2017

The role of lobbyists in the Missouri Legislature has grown over the last two decades from advocating for businesses, organizations, and causes to include the education of elected officials because of term limits. Their role also includes spending money on lawmakers. Some argue the expenditures lead to undue influence, or at least that perception, which has led in recent years to the introduction of various measures that would reform how lobbyists interact with lawmakers. Lobbyist Michael Gibbons estimated 80 percent of the work lobbyists do is educating lawmakers on issues, from the history of a proposal to how it impacts and relates to various groups across the state.

South Carolina: Rep. Rick Quinn Pleads Guilty in S.C. Corruption Case in Deal That Drops Charges for Kingpin Father
Charleston Post and Courier – Seanna Adcox and Glenn Smith | Published: 12/13/2017

State Rep. Rick Quinn resigned from the South Carolina House and entered a guilty plea to one count of misconduct in office. His plea is part of a deal in which charges against his father, political consultant Richard Quinn, were dropped. But Richard Quinn’s firm will pay a $3,000 fine for failing to register as a lobbyist. The elder Quinn also agreed to testify before a grand jury. Prosecutors alleged Richard Quinn & Associates was paid millions of dollars by some of South Carolina’s most prominent companies and institutions to illegally push bills in the General Assembly. Rick Quinn was secretly and illegally paid some of that money to use his position as a lawmaker to advocate for the proposals, prosecutors said.

Washington: PDC Complaints Becoming Weapons in Political Wars
Spokane Spokesman Review – Jim Camden | Published: 12/10/2017

Some 45 years ago, Washington voters got so tired of hidden money in questionable campaigns that they overwhelmingly approved an initiative with rules on campaign giving and spending. They also set up a commission to make sure the rules were followed. Now those rules are being used by citizen activists and political parties as weapons against their adversaries. Complaints are flooding both the Public Disclosure Commission and the Washington attorney general’s office, which can also investigate and sanction candidates or campaigns for violations.

 

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.

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December 1, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – December 1, 2017

      National: Gerrymandering Opponents Turn to Ballot Initiatives to Redraw Lines The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 11/28/2017 Advocates of radically overhauling partisan gerrymandering are increasingly looking to ballot initiatives to reform the redistricting process, in hopes of circumventing recalcitrant […]

 

 

 

National:

Gerrymandering Opponents Turn to Ballot Initiatives to Redraw Lines
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 11/28/2017

Advocates of radically overhauling partisan gerrymandering are increasingly looking to ballot initiatives to reform the redistricting process, in hopes of circumventing recalcitrant state Legislatures. Each initiative is unique to its own state, but all would strip the power to draw favorable district lines, the practice known as gerrymandering, from partisan lawmakers who zealously guard their ability to craft preferred terrain. Several national redistricting measures have been proposed in Congress, though none have gained traction.

Federal:

Foreign Lobbying Law Open to Exploitation
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 11/28/2017

People who work for foreign government clients are subject to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a World War II-era law. Requirements for FARA registration are broad, covering anyone who engages in lobbying or public relations for a foreign government-connected client. Communications with media, government officials and staff, and think tank experts must be disclosed every six months. But to a large extent, the foreign agent disclosure rules operate on what essentially amounts to an honor system. The FARA Unit in the National Security Division of the Justice Department is notoriously understaffed and underfunded despite being tasked with policing the hundreds of registrants who file, and those who do not.

Nevada Senator Wants to Close Tax Deduction Loophole for Lobbyists
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Gary Martin | Published: 11/28/2017

U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto plans to file legislation that would close a loophole used by corporate lobbyists influencing policy on the local level. Under the current tax code, lobbyists and businesses are prohibited from deducting their expenses when they try to sway federal and local lawmakers. But those expenses are deductible when lobbying tribal, county, or local governments. Cortez Masto said her bill would end taxpayer subsidies for special interests “and closes a loophole that gives unnecessary tax breaks for lobbyists.”

Voters Lose Protest of Campaign-Contribution Ceilings
Courthouse News Service – Daniel Staples | Published: 11/29/2017

In a case brought by a Florida couple, a federal appeals court rejected a challenge to a campaign finance law that places limits on contributions in primary and general elections. In a lawsuit against the FEC, Laura Holmes and Paul Jost did not challenge the overall $5,200 contribution limit, but said they should have been able to write $5,200 checks to their candidates for the general election instead of splitting the amount between contributions for the primary and general elections. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the arguments.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: A Woman Approached The Post with Dramatic – and False – Tale About Roy Moore. She Appears to Be Part of Undercover Sting Operation.
Washington Post – Shawn Boburg, Aaron Davis, and Alice Crites | Published: 11/27/2017

The conservative organization Project Veritas, appears to have been get caught trying to pass false sexual misconduct allegations against Senate candidate Roy Moore to The Washington Post, extending its history of deploying deceptive tactics to try to ensnare news organizations in controversy. The Post reported that a woman who falsely told its reporters she had been impregnated by Moore as a teenager was seen entering the offices of Project Veritas in New York, seemingly tipping the group’s hand in its efforts to bait the newspaper into publishing uncorroborated accusations against Moore.

California: Adelanto Councilman’s Bribery Case Latest in Long History of City Corruption
San Bernardino Sun – Joe Nelson | Published: 11/24/2017

The city of Adelanto has dealt with scandals involving elected officials, members of its police force, and even an animal control supervisor. The U.S. Justice Department recently indicted Councilperson Jermaine Wright on charges of receiving a $10,000 bribe and attempting to burn down his restaurant to collect on a $300,000 insurance policy. The city’s remoteness, high poverty rate, and lack of government oversight all likely factor into its checkered past, said Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Connecticut: Campaign Finance Laws Changed in New Budget
Connectict Post – Ken Dixon | Published: 11/21/2017

Two provisions in the new state budget signed by Gov. Dannell Malloy may make it easier for those in wealthier districts to run for the Connecticut General Assembly while putting time constraints on election regulators whose staffs in recent years have been targeted for reductions. One new law raises individual contributions for legislative and top-of-the-ticket candidates to $250, instead of the $100 limit approved in the 2005 campaign finance law. Another change puts a one-year limit on State Election Enforcement Commission investigations.

Connecticut: Federal Judge Upholds Law Barring Ganim from Public Financing
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 11/29/2017

A federal judge dismissed Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim’s challenge to a Connecticut law that prevents him, as a politician convicted of corruption while in office, of obtaining public campaign financing. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shea rejected Ganim’s claim that the restriction violated his constitutional right to free speech by putting him at a disadvantage against gubernatorial opponents who qualify for millions of dollars in taxpayer money. Ganim was convicted in 2003 for his role in a scheme in which businesspeople paid millions of dollars for city contracts. He served more than seven years in prison. Upon his release, Ganim won a sixth term as Bridgeport’s mayor, a term he is still serving.

Idaho: Bill Would Revise Campaign-Finance Regulations
Idaho Mountain Express – Peter Jensen | Published: 11/29/2017

Idaho lawmakers will reconvene in January, and they will hear a proposal to increase the state’s disclosure requirements for candidates. It would require elected officials and candidates for state, county, and city offices to file disclosure forms that identify sources of income, investments, and properties. There are provisions that would include internet and social-media websites in the definition of electioneering communication. Donations in support of campaigns for lawmakers, judges, and city and county offices are capped at $1,000 for a primary election, and $1,000 for a general election. For statewide offices, that cap is raised to $5,000. A plan to extend lobbying disclosure requirements to local governments was rebuffed.

Indiana: Council OKs Bill Limiting Contributions
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette – Dave Gong | Published: 11/29/2017

The Fort Wayne City Council approved an ordinance that bars contractors from bidding on city projects if they contribute more than $2,000 a year to an elected official’s campaign. The proposal would inhibit any company or company employee who owns more than a seven-and-a-half percent stake, as well as their spouses and live-in children, from donating more than an aggregate $2,000 per calendar year to an elected city official’s re-election campaign. That means the limit during a typical four-year election cycle is $8,000. Mayor Tom Henry has expressed opposition to the proposal.

Massachusetts: Ethics Commission Investigating Altered State Police Report
Boston Globe – Andrea Estes | Published: 11/24/2017

The Massachusetts Ethics Commission is investigating why the former State Police colonel allowed the arrest report of a judge’s daughter to be altered. That scrubbed report led to the early retirements for the top two commanders of the State Police, as well as lawsuits filed by the two troopers who were asked to redact comments from the document. Anyone involved in changing the police report could face charges of violating the state conflict-of-interest law, which bars anyone from using an official position to get something for themselves or others that an ordinary person could not get.

New Mexico: Pearce Wins Court Order on Campaign Cash
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd and Dan McKay | Published: 11/28/2017

U.S. Rep. Rep. Steve Pearce won access to $1 million he raised while in Congress to use in his run for New Mexico governor. A federal judge blocked enforcement of limitations on campaign transfers from Pearce’s federal campaign account to a state one. The preliminary injunction gave Pearce access to the campaign funds while underlying issues are litigated. The secretary of state’s office has said only $11,000 can be transferred by Pearce, based on a New Mexico law that limits campaign contributions to $5,500 in a primary election and again in the general election. Attorneys for Pearce contend Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver misinterpreted state law, effectively violating Pearce’s constitutional rights to free speech under the First Amendment.

New York: JCOPE Chair: Lobbying regulations will carry force of law
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/28/2017

The acting chairperson of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) said “comprehensive lobbying regulations” crafted by its staff would indeed have the force and effect of law. The statement by Michael Rozen came after a hearing several weeks ago when JCOPE’s executive director, Seth Agata, had said a violation of the regulations “would not create a separate actionable violation of the law,” and were meant to “maximize guidance.”

Texas: What Do Clients Pay to Sway Austin City Council? Lobbyists Won’t Say.
Austin American-Statesman – Elizabeth Findell | Published: 11/29/2017

Regulations that took effect in June require lobbyists to disclose how much their clients are paying them to sway Austin officials, as they must report on the state and federal level. But at least 18 lobbyists who are also lawyers refused to complete the form on the grounds that their compensation is privileged attorney-client communication. The lobbyist reporting form asks for a ballpark range of payment. Their refusal to disclose compensation to City Hall appears to have been coordinated.

West Virginia: WV Chief Justice Has Court Employees Remove Missing Couch from His House
Charleston Gazette – Phil Kabler | Published: 11/28/2017

A day after The Charleston Gazette inquired about the whereabouts of a couch missing from West Virginia Supreme Court offices, Chief Justice Allen Loughry had court employees remove a leather couch from his home. Loughry said the couch was not state property and was purchased by late Justice Joe Albright, whose office Loughry took over when he was sworn in as a justice in December 2012. Loughry has been under fire for news reports regarding the Supreme Court spending $3.7 million to renovate offices, with expenses including a $32,000 couch and $7,500 floor medallion outlining the counties of the state in Loughry’s office.

 

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.

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November 16, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – November 17, 2017

      National: Despite Recent Wins for Democrats, Gerrymanders Dim Hopes for 2018 New York Times – Alexander Burns, Michael Wines, and Trip Gabriel | Published: 11/12/2017 For all the Democrats’ optimism, the elections in Virginia vividly reflected why the reality might […]

 

 

 

National:

Despite Recent Wins for Democrats, Gerrymanders Dim Hopes for 2018
New York Times – Alexander Burns, Michael Wines, and Trip Gabriel | Published: 11/12/2017

For all the Democrats’ optimism, the elections in Virginia vividly reflected why the reality might be a good deal harsher. While Democrats won the governorship by nearly nine percentage points and won a similar margin in total votes in legislative races, it appears likely, unless recounts reverse seats, that they will fall just short of taking control of the state’s heavily gerrymandered House. And around the country, gerrymandering, refined to a high art, and increasingly restrictive voting laws have left many experts wary of assuming the intensity of Democratic voters will translate into equally robust electoral gains.

Federal:

Judge Declares Mistrial in Menendez Prosecution
Washington Post – Alan Maimon and Devlin Barrett | Published: 11/16/2017

The bribery trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez ended in a mistrial when the jury said it was hopelessly deadlocked on all charges against him and Salomon Melgen, a wealthy physician. Menendez is accused of using his political influence to help Melgen in exchange for luxury vacations, flights on a private jet, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to organizations that supported the senator. Prosecutors said Menendez pressured government officials on Melgen’s behalf over an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute and helped obtain U.S. visas for the doctor’s girlfriends. The defense argued the gifts were not bribes but tokens of friendship between two men who were “like brothers.”

Kochs Key Among Small Group Quietly Funding Legal Assault on Campaign Finance Regulation
Center for Public Integrity – Lateshia Beachum | Published: 11/15/2017

The Center for Public Integrity investigated an array of organizations that have participated in legal challenges dating back 40 years that have resulted in a campaign finance system allowing unlimited sums to be pumped into modern elections. It is a system that both Republicans and Democrats now fully rely upon. Throughout that history, groups backed by David and Charles Koch have stood out as reliable, stalwart opponents of regulation of money in politics. While far from the only players in the legal battle, the Kochs are certainly among the most recognizable – and significant.

Mueller Puts Spotlight on Foreign Lobbying
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 11/15/2017

Foreign advocacy work in Washington, D.C. is common, lucrative, and occasionally controversial, but has rarely received the front-page scrutiny it is attracting now. That is mostly because of Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, two high-level figures from the Trump campaign who have been indicted as part of Robert Mueller’s investigation. The charges against the two men, including allegations of money laundering, stem from work they did years ago to benefit a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. The lobbying work was not disclosed to the Department of Justice as is required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, according to the indictment. Manafort retroactively registered that work this year.

Russia Scandal Befalls Two Brothers: John and Tony Podesta
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 11/10/2017

Kimberly Fritts resigned as chief executive of the Podesta Group as she begins work on launching a new firm, which will be called Cogent Strategies. The move is creating new uncertainty for the Podesta Group following the departure of its founder, Tony Podesta, who stepped away after he and the firm were pulled into special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The Brave New World of Political Conspiracy-Theory Illustrations
Washington Post – Philip Bump | Published: 11/15/2017

Rep. Louie Gohmert produced a convoluted flowchart at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Justice Department ought to appoint a special prosecutor to probe the so-called Uranium One scandal. Sean Hannity also used the chart to explain interactions between President Obama’s administration, the Russians, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There is a reason both Hannity and Gohmert seized on these flowcharts to make their points. Americans have come to understand patterns of boxes and connecting arrows and lines as iconography meaning “conspiracy theory.” What Hannity and Gohmert are doing, in short, is implying a conspiracy by using the visual language associated with conspiracy theories.

From the States and Municipalities:

Florida: Hillsborough Will Go After Citizens Watchdogs Over Hagan Ethics Complaint
WTSP – Noah Pransky | Published: 11/15/2017

The Hillsborough County Commission voted to seek financial reimbursement from four activists who filed a failed ethics complaint against Commissioners Ken Hagan and Sandy Murman. Hagan filed a petition for fees and costs for his attorney following the Florida Commission on Ethics’ announcement it found do probable cause that Hagan, Murman, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn violated the state’s ethics code in their involvement with the Go Hillsborough transportation plan. The Florida First Amendment Foundation called the request “deeply troubling” for the “chilling” effect it could have on more citizen watchdogs coming forward with concerns about government officials breaking the law.

Louisiana: Louisiana Politics: State ethics revisions seem likely; committee created
StMaryNow.com – Jeremy Alford | Published: 11/15/2017

Members of an advisory committee reviewing Louisiana’s ethics laws sound optimistic, some even confident, that significant policy changes will be recommended to the Legislature, maybe even in time for the regular session that begins March 12. There was an organizational meeting in September and a more structured gathering in October, when committee members discussed travel provisions and the different reporting tiers for financial disclosure statements. Some members are interested in taking a deeper look into the monthly reporting requirements for lobbyists, arguing that quarterly filings should be sufficient. Others are more curious about fees and how the state ethics board is allowed to determine or negotiate fine and penalty payments.

Michigan: Trash Giant Rizzo Pleads Guilty to Bribery
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 11/9/2017

A year after getting indicted in a wide-sweeping corruption probe that toppled his family trash-hauling empire, Chuck Rizzo Jr. pleaded guilty to bribery and wire fraud, admitting he lined the pockets of public officials to win lucrative contracts. Between 2012 and 2016, Rizzo was chief executive of Rizzo Environmental Services and the company was looking to maintain or extend municipal contracts in Macomb and Clinton townships, along with other municipalities. Rizzo admitted he provided money to former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds and former Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Freitas in exchange for their support for his company’s attempts at securing lucrative garbage contracts in their communities. Reynolds and Freitas are both also facing federal charges.

Missouri: How’s a Former Missouri Lawmaker Spending Campaign Cash? Golf, Booze, Cigars and More
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 11/10/2017

Former Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones transferred more than $650,000 from his campaign committee to a PAC called Leadership for America. Since it was formed last year, the committee has donated $22,000 to various Republican candidates in Missouri and given roughly $38,000 to a handful of charities. But it has also spent about $5,000 in recent months at golf resorts in Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, and Tennessee, as well as several thousand more on meals, cigars, alcohol, event tickets, travel, and renovations to Jones’ St. Louis County office. Watchdogs worry that Jones has found a way to use campaign funds to bolster his lifestyle, despite prohibitions on using the money for personal business.

New Mexico: Compliance with ABQ Lobbying Rules Falls Way Short
NMPolitics.net – Marjorie Childress (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 11/13/2017

A review by New Mexico In Depth found a lack of compliance among registered lobbyists in Albuquerque. The reporting failure is due in part, to lack of education aimed at lobbyists about the rules. It is also due to how the ordinance’s enforcement provision is interpreted. According to the city attorney’s office, a written, notarized complaint is the only way to trigger an inquiry, although one transparency champion reads the ordinance as giving the city attorney’s office flexibility to pursue investigations even when there is no written complaint. The result is less public information than the law requires involving lobbyists whose employers have had an interest in influencing proposals before city officials this year.

New York: Museum of Political Corruption Bestows Nellie Bly Award
Albany Times Union – Amy Biancolli | Published: 11/14/2017

When Bruce Roter informed Susanne Craig that she won the Museum of Political Corruption’s inaugural Nellie Bly Award, he traveled to the offices of The New York Times to hand over the prize: a check for $1,250. It was the exact amount paid by the muckraking Bly when she bought off the state Legislature in 1888, successfully defeating a piece of legislation. “He presented me with a check in a brown envelope and passed it under the table,” recalled Craig. She is the reporter who discovered pages from Donald Trump’s tax returns in her newsroom mailbox in October 2016.

North Carolina: Nonprofit Provides TV Studio for Lt. Gov. Forest’s Office
WRAL – Travis Fain | Published: 11/12/2017

A little-known group set up by the lieutenant governor’s office and headed by a major campaign donor has provided Lt. Gov. Dan Forest with enough television equipment to build an in-office studio. Forest’s arrangement with the North Carolina Promotion and Development Fund (NCPDF) appears to be unique in state government. NCPDF is a 501(c)(4). These groups are perhaps best known as political advertising vehicles for anonymous donors. Attorneys who specialize in this section of the tax code said the way Forest’s office uses the NCPDF seems to be allowed under state and federal law, without disclosing donors, provided the group does not fund campaign activities.

Texas: Texas Sheriff Is on the Hunt for Driver with Profane Anti-Trump Window Sticker
Washington Post – Marwa Eltagouri and J. Freedom du Lac | Published: 11/16/2017

A sheriff in Texas is looking for a truck bearing a profanity-laced anti-Trump sticker and said authorities are considering charging its owner with disorderly conduct, a threat that raised alarm among free speech advocates. Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls posted a photograph of the truck on Facebook after, he said, he received several complaints about the display from unhappy people in the Houston-area county. The Houston Chronicle said the truck’s owners have no plans to remove the custom graphic, which they ordered after Trump’s election.

Wisconsin: Scott Walker’s Campaign Treasurer’s Firm Gets Capitol Contract After Being the Only Bidder
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 11/9/2017

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s administration helped give a contract worth at least $35,000 to a firm affiliated with Walker’s campaign treasurer. The administration in June sought proposals as it looked for a company that could raise $75,000 or more for improvements to the Capitol and a gala to celebrate its 100th anniversary, giving the contract to Solutions KCB. The company’s registered agent is Kate Lind, the governor’s campaign treasurer. Department of Administration spokesperson Steve Michels said the administration helped with the procurement process, but the ultimate decisions were made by the Wisconsin Historical Foundation and the commission organizing the anniversary celebration.

 

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.

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November 10, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – November 10, 2017

      Federal: Commerce Secretary’s Offshore Ties to Putin ‘Cronies’ New York Times – Mike McIntire, Sasha Chavkin, and Martha Hamilton | Published: 11/5/2017 Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross faces questions about his financial disclosures to Congress and the government after a report […]

 

 

 

Federal:

Commerce Secretary’s Offshore Ties to Putin ‘Cronies’
New York Times – Mike McIntire, Sasha Chavkin, and Martha Hamilton | Published: 11/5/2017

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross faces questions about his financial disclosures to Congress and the government after a report he did not disclose business ties to the son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin and an oligarch under U.S. sanctions. Ross said in an ethics disclosure filed following his nomination that he held an investment worth as much as $10 million in shipping company Navigator Holdings. But news organizations alleged he did not disclose the company’s clients include a Russian energy company called Sibur whose owners include Putin’s son-in-law and the oligarch, who is close to the Kremlin and has been sanctioned by the American government.

Lawmakers Alarmed at Push to Sell CNN
Politico – Steven Overly | Published: 11/8/2017

Antitrust regulators and AT&T sparred over whether the wireless carrier would be required to sell Time Warner’s CNN cable network as a condition of approval of its deal to buy the media company. Sources said the Department of Justice demanded significant asset sales in order to approve the $85.4 billion deal, and asked AT&T to sell CNN-parent Turner Broadcasting or its DirecTV operation. The dispute is the latest twist in a deal which took on broader political significance immediately after its inception in October 2016. President Trump, a frequent critic of CNN, attacked the deal on the campaign trail last year, vowing that as president, his Justice Department would block it.

‘Open Sesame:’ Lobbyists cheer warmer welcome in Trump White House
Reuters – Ginger Gibson | Published: 11/6/2017

During the eight years of the Obama administration, business lobbyists often found the gates to the White House closed tight. They are open now under President Trump. That is not altogether unexpected as Trump did campaign during the 2016 presidential election on a promise to elevate the needs of business, which he argued would fuel economic growth. What does surprise lobbyists, however, is the sheer number of wins in getting the Trump administration to roll back or delay unfavorable regulations in its first 10 months. And it is occurring despite White House dysfunction and distraction.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: Woman Says Roy Moore Initiated Sexual Encounter When She Was 14, He Was 32
Washington Post – Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhardt, and Alice Crites | Published: 11/9/2017

Leigh Corfman says Roy Moore, then an assistant district attorney and now the Republican nominee for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama, initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 and he was 32. Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. In a written statement, Moore denied the allegations. “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” Moore said.

Florida: City: Fernandez deleted text messages to lobbyist
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 11/7/2017

Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez deleted from his cell phone a text message chain with a lobbyist who he asked for expensive football tickets, believing they were not public records and did not need to be saved. John Bussian, a lawyer for The Tallahassee Democrat, said it does not matter what Fernandez believed, or that he made the bad call to destroy the texts. The city is still responsible for producing the texts, and failing to produce them violates Florida’s Public Records Act, Bussian said.

Florida: Code of Silence Is Breaking on Tallahassee’s Sex Secrets
Miami Herald – Mary Ellen Klas, Steve Bousquet, and Patricia Mazzei | Published: 11/5/2017

For decades, the culture at the Florida Capitol used attractive people as tools to cajole the powerful, and rumors of affairs were used to extort favors. Now, in the era of Harvey Weinstein and social media, women have been empowered to speak out about sexual harassment. But in Tallahassee, where questions are raised about the political motive of every leaked allegation, the claims of unidentified accusers can get tangled in the bitter political forces of an election year. Complicating the quest for justice, said Jose Felix Diaz, a recently retired state legislator, are questions about political motives.

Indiana: Indiana Politicians Got Thousands in Gifts While Pushing Solar Policy
Indianapolis Star – Emily Hopkins and Sarah Bowman | Published: 11/5/2017

An Indianapolis Star review has found that as state lawmakers were considering crucial energy legislation, utilities and their PACs poured millions of dollars into the General Assembly in the form of gifts, entertainment, campaign contributions, and lobbying. The issue at hand was a bill whose most controversial provision was to phase out net metering, the practice of requiring utilities to compensate customers who produce more energy than they consume, usually from rooftop solar panels. The passage of Senate Bill 309 has thrown Indiana’s burgeoning solar installation industry into a pit of uncertainty.

Iowa: Iowa Power Couple Scrutinized for Saudi Arabia Lobbying Work
Patch.com – Ryan Foley (Associated Press) | Published: 11/2/2017

A Republican power couple who work in Iowa’s executive branch are facing scrutiny after moonlighting as agents of Saudi Arabia to oppose a new law allowing victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks to sue the kingdom. Connie Schmett and Kim Schmett are accused of being part of a campaign that misled veterans by concealing who was funding their advocacy work, which Connie Schmett failed to list on a recent disclosure filing for Iowa officials.

Maine: Maine Ethics Commission Levies Record $500,000 Against York County Casino Campaign
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 11/3/2017

Maine’s ethics commission levied a record $500,000 in fines against four committees behind a referendum that would allow a casino in the state run by entrepreneur Shawn Scott. The commission investigated the ballot question committee Horseracing Jobs Fairness, where it got its financing to collect signatures to put the referendum on the ballot, and why it failed to meet campaign finance filing deadlines. Three other ballot question committees formed by Lisa Scott, Shawn Scott’s sister, were also penalized for missing deadlines to file reports that accurately reflected who was bankrolling the campaign.

New York: Long-Discussed Lobbying Rules Now Only ‘Advisory’
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/2/2017

For more than a year, a major priority of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics has been writing “comprehensive lobbying regulations” that would govern the activity of state lobbyists and their clients. But in a seeming reversal, any regulations will only be advisory. Violations will not result in either civil or criminal penalties. One possible explanation for the reversal is a threatened lawsuit.

New York: Pension? Not for Corrupt Lawmakers Anymore in New York.
Governing – Liz Farmer | Published: 11/7/2017

Voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that gives judges the right to trim or revoke the pensions of any public servant in New York convicted of a job-related crime. The measure was largely driven by outrage over the corruption scandal that forced the resignation of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Both long-time lawmakers put in for their substantial pensions just days after their convictions. Both of their convictions were later overturned on a technicality.

Texas: Former Dallas Business Consultant Gets Probation for Bribery in John Wiley Price Corruption Case
Dallas News – Kevin Krause | Published: 11/2/2017

Christian Campbell said in a plea agreement that he helped funnel bribes from a political consultant to Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. A federal jury said earlier this year that Price did not commit bribery. Campbell nevertheless was sentenced recently to 18 months’ probation for a bribery charge and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine. Campbell is in the unusual position of being the only one directly linked to the alleged bribery conspiracy to be convicted and punished.

Virginia: Danica Roem of Virginia to Be First Openly Transgender Person Elected, Seated in a U.S. Statehouse
Washington Post – Antonio Olivo | Published: 11/8/2017

Democrat Danica Roem is set to make history as the first openly transgender person elected and seated in a state Legislature in the U.S. She unseated Virginia Del. Bob Marshall, one of the state’s longest serving and most socially conservative lawmakers. The race was one of the year’s most high-profile, drawing international attention and big money to the district outside the nation’s capital. Roem openly discussed her gender identity during her campaign, but it was far from her focus. Instead, she concentrated on jobs, schools, and, with particular fervor, northern Virginia’s traffic congestion.

Washington: Judge Upholds Seattle’s Novel Campaign Finance Vouchers
Seattle Times – Gene Johnson (Associated Press) | Published: 11/3/2017

Two Seattle taxpayers lost their constitutional challenge to a voter initiative that sends vouchers to residents so they can financially support political candidates. Voters passed a campaign finance reform initiative called Honest Elections Seattle, which is funded by $30 million property tax levy over 10 years. The program offers residents $100 “democracy vouchers” to give to candidates. The idea behind it is to give citizens more of a direct voice in government and make their elected officials more accountable. Mark Elster and Sarah Pynchon said the program is a compelled subsidy of political speech that violates their First Amendment rights, while the city countered that it was a valid form of campaign financing.

 

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.

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November 3, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – November 3, 2017

      National: Russia-Financed Ad Linked Clinton and Satan New York Times – Cecilia Kang, Nicholas Fandos, and Mike Isaac | Published: 11/1/2017 Lawmakers released scores of political ads purchased by Russian agents on Facebook and Twitter that showed the extent of […]

 

 

 

National:

Russia-Financed Ad Linked Clinton and Satan
New York Times – Cecilia Kang, Nicholas Fandos, and Mike Isaac | Published: 11/1/2017

Lawmakers released scores of political ads purchased by Russian agents on Facebook and Twitter that showed the extent of the Kremlin’s attempts to polarize the American voting public on issues like race, police abuse, and religion. One account, Army of Jesus, published an illustration of an arm-wrestling match between Christ and the devil. “Satan: If I win, Clinton wins!” the headline read. The sampling of ads came during hearings with the top lawyers for Facebook, Twitter, and Google, and were intended to show the executives how pervasively Russia used their platforms to further its campaign of misinformation.

Federal:

Congress Mulls Toughening Foreign Lobbying Law
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 10/31/2017

A day after former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort was indicted on charges that included failing to register as a foreign agent, a top U.S. Senate Republican introduced legislation intended to stiffen enforcement of federal rules for foreign lobbyists. Sen. Chuck Grassley joined Rep. Mike Johnson to propose identical bills they said would address ambiguous requirements for those lobbying on behalf of foreign governments. That ambiguity has, over the years, led to a sharp drop in the number of registrations and the prospect of widespread abuses, they said.

Scofflaw Political Groups Are Ignoring FEC Fines
Politico – Dave Levinthal (Center for Public Integrity) | Published: 10/30/2017

More than 160 political committees and similar groups together owe the federal government more than $1.3 million worth of unpaid fines. Some of those unpaid fines amount to as little as $10 while others soar into five figures. Many cases concern all-but-forgotten also-ran political candidates, but others involve political luminaries. Super PACs and politically active nonprofits have joined the nonpayment parade of late. And there is little evidence any of that cash will soon begin to roll in. Uncooperative political committee leaders, bureaucratic bumbling, and weak enforcement efforts all contribute to election law breakers outrunning penalties.

Trump Campaign Adviser Admitted to Lying about Russian Contacts
Washington Post – Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger | Published: 10/30/2017

One of President Trump’s former campaign advisers, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents who are investigating possible collusion between the campaign and the Russian government. Papadopoulos had contact with unnamed overseas professor, who told him the Russian government had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, including thousands of her emails. The plea represents the most explicit evidence the Trump campaign was aware the Kremlin was trying to help Trump and the campaign was eager to accept that help. As part of that effort, the Russian government hacked Democratic accounts and released a trove of embarrassing emails related to Clinton’s campaign.

Under Mueller Scrutiny, Democratic Donor Tony Podesta Resigns from Lobbying Firm
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 10/30/2017

Hours after the first indictments in the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, Tony Podesta abruptly quit his post atop the Podesta Group, one of K Street’s top lobbying firms. The Podesta Group and another company with which it had worked, Mercury Public Affairs, were referenced, though not by name, in an indictment of two former Trump campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. No charges have been brought against Podesta or officials from his firm or Mercury. But both firms have been subpoenaed for records and testimony about their work on behalf of a client referred to them by Manafort and Gates, the European Center for a Modern Ukraine.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arkansas: State PACs Cite Confusion Over E-Filing
Arkansas Online – Michael Wickline | Published: 10/29/2017

Officials representing several PACs said that because they were confused about the effective date of a new Arkansas law requiring campaign finance reports to be filed in electronic form, they signed affidavits to declare they do not have access to the technology to meet the requirement. Meanwhile, five state elected officials filed their reports on paper without submitting the affidavit required by state law to show why they are not filing electronically. A few of them said they did not file the affidavits partly out of confusion. These five candidates are in addition to six others who did sign the exemption affidavits. Two new laws address electronic filing of the reports.

Connecticut: Tucked in Budget: Shorter leash on election watchdogs
Connecticut Post – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 10/30/2017

Connecticut lawmakers are using a bipartisan budget deal to do what they could not during the regular session: require the State Elections Enforcement Commission to dismiss complaints against candidates, including legislators, that are not resolved in one year. At the same time, lawmakers included a provision in the budget that more than doubles the maximum campaign contribution they can accept to qualify for public financing under the Citizens’ Election Program from $100 to $250, a change likely to ease their access to public dollars for their campaigns. Gov. Dannell Malloy has not yet signed the budget bill.

Florida: City Issues New Ethics Rules for Employees
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 10/30/2017

Tallahassee employees cannot accept gifts of $100 or more from contractors and suppliers with the city and must tell their supervisors each year of any outside work. The email notification of the changes was sent on the heels of an ethics workshop where the city commission adopted three provisions involving misuse of position, gifts from lobbyists, and greater financial disclosure.

Florida: Ethics Board Cites Justin Sayfie, Capitol Group for Reporting Violations
Florida Politics – Jim Rosica | Published: 10/25/2017

The Florida Commission on Ethics is moving against lobbyist Justin Sayfie and another firm for problems arising from random audits of their compensation reports. Sayfie called the problem “a simple math error.” The commission also dropped cases against three other executive-branch lobbying concerns. The ethics board said it found probable cause “to believe that the executive branch lobbying firm under-reported compensation received from a principal for the third and fourth quarters of 2015.” Once the commission finds probable cause, that finding is sent to the governor for further action. The firms can request a hearing, or the governor and Cabinet members can decide to call a hearing on their own.

Florida: Florida Politicians Become Surveillance Targets as Political Payback Rumors Swirl
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 10/30/2017

During the final week of the 2017 legislative session, a covert surveillance camera recorded the comings and goings of legislators and lobbyists living on the sixth floor of the Tennyson condominium near the Florida Capitol. Weeks later, in a parking lot of a restaurant in Tallahassee, Sen. Jack Latvala, a candidate for governor, was also being spied upon. Photographs show him kissing a female lobbyist. These incidents were the work of private investigators, whose research has fueled an escalating barrage of rumors about sexual harassment in Tallahassee and infidelity among state lawmakers.

Illinois: Emanuel’s Ethics Board Walks Back $2,500 Fines Against 3 Who Illegally Lobbied Him
Chicago Tribune – Bill Ruthhart | Published: 10/27/2017

In July, the Chicago Board of Ethics fined businessperson Jim Abrams, Linden Capital Partners President Tony Davis, and attorney Alan King $2,500 each after finding they failed to register as lobbyists after seeking to influence Mayor Rahm Emanuel through his personal email account. But the board has rescinded the fines. As part of the settlement, the men agreed not to lobby any city official for one year without registering and to complete a training program on the lobbying law. When large fines were levied in the first round of fines for illegally lobbying the mayor, Emanuel accused the ethics board of turning “average citizens” into lobbyists.

Massachusetts: Rare Trick Pays Off Big Time for Lobbyists
Boston Herald – Matt Stout | Published: 10/30/2017

Some of Massachusetts’ top-paid lobbyists have fattened their lucrative paychecks by working under multiple firms and in some cases, raising concerns of potential conflicts between their well-played clientele. At least three of the top 10 highest compensated lobbyists registered as working in the Capitol last year reported building a client list of at least two different lobbying firms, each pushing their total pay north of $500,000. Ethics experts cautioned that lobbyists have to tread lightly in situations involving complex bills in which clients stake out separate interests.

South Carolina: Law Provides Loophole for South Carolina Legislators to Be Paid for ‘Consulting’ Work
Charleston Post and Courier – Seanna Adcox (Associated Press) | Published: 10/29/2017

When they were in office, few knew that state Reps. Jim Harrison and Tracy Edge, both in House leadership posts, were working for Richard Quinn, one of South Carolina’s most influential political and business consultants. Between them, Edge and Harrison earned a reported $1.2 million from their secret consulting work with Quinn. They could keep the payments under wraps because, until this year, lawmakers did not have to disclose that kind of consulting work on ethics reports. But even after last year’s income disclosure law required public officials to start reporting all sources of income, much can remain hidden.

 

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.

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October 27, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 27, 2017

      National: Black Executives Join Forces, Forming a PAC to Back Them Up New York Times – Kate Kelly | Published: 10/24/2017 Dozens of black executives and their spouses joined U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, as well as Eric […]

 

 

 

National:

Black Executives Join Forces, Forming a PAC to Back Them Up
New York Times – Kate Kelly | Published: 10/24/2017

Dozens of black executives and their spouses joined U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, as well as Eric Holder Jr., the former attorney general, for a private dinner in July in Bridgehampton, New York. Many attendees had long been part of an informal group of friends and associates who raised money for philanthropies or policy issues on an ad hoc basis. At the dinner, they decided it was time to use their wealth and stature in a more formal way. By early 2018, the group hopes to start a political action committee, creating a new fundraising model for corporate executives of color. The group would support candidates of any political party who fit the PAC’s agenda.

Russia’s Favored Outlet Is an Online News Giant. YouTube Helped.
New York Times – Daisuke Wakabayashi and Nicholas Confessore | Published: 10/23/2017

As investigators examine the scope and reach of Russian interference in American politics, the once-cozy relationship between RT and YouTube is drawing closer scrutiny. YouTube played a crucial role in helping build and expand RT, an organization the U.S. intelligence community has described as the Kremlin’s “principal international propaganda outlet” and a key player in Russia’s information warfare operations around the world. While Kremlin-aligned agents secretly built fake Facebook groups to foment political division and deployed hordes of Twitter bots to stoke criticism of Hillary Clinton, RT worked out in the open, bolstered by one of the largest online audiences of any news organization in the world and a prominent presence on YouTube’s search results.

Study: Despite changing demographics, the political playing field still tilts toward white men
Washington Post – Vanessa Williams | Published: 10/24/2017

Women are running for office in larger numbers in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, but most of them face formidable odds because of long-standing practices and attitudes that are more favorable to men. The Reflective Democracy Campaign study finds that despite the growing diversity within the U.S. population, 90 percent of elected officials, from the local to the national level, are white, and most are male. Even in some jurisdictions in which the majority of the residents are people of color, the elected leadership is dominated by whites. The report’s authors point to gatekeepers such as political parties and outside groups that provide financial and logistical support to candidates as more often working to maintain the status quo than helping to elect candidates more reflective of their communities.

Federal:

As G.O.P. Bends Toward Trump, Critics Either Give in or Give Up
New York Times – Jonathan Martin and Jeremy Peters | Published: 10/25/2017

Some observers see an existential threat to traditional Republicans as the Grand Old Party risks a longer-term transformation into the Party of Trump. President Trump’s brand of hard-edge nationalism is taking root within his adopted party, and those uneasy with grievance politics are either giving in or giving up the fight. Many of those who remain will have to accommodate the president to survive primaries from the pro-Trump right. The party establishment, Trump backers say, wants to govern as if the election never happened. “They still think the election was about Trump’s personality. It wasn’t. It was his ideas,” said Laura Ingraham, a pro-Trump talk show host.

Mueller Now Investigating Democratic Lobbyist Tony Podesta
NBC News – Tom Winter and Julia Ainsley | Published: 10/23/2017

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating lobbyist Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group. Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russia’s attempts to meddle in the U.S. election, is reportedly probing the firm to determine whether it violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in its work for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU). The non-profit ECMU was part of a public relations campaign run by former President Trump’s campaign chairperson, Paul Manafort, to support Ukraine’s reputation. Sources said the investigation into Podesta and his company began as more of a fact-finding mission about the ECMU and Manafort’s role in the campaign, but has now morphed into a criminal inquiry.

From the States and Municipalities:

Colorado: Cub Scout Is Exiled After Pressing Legislator on Guns and Race
New York Times – Christine Hauser | Published: 10/22/2017

A Cub Scout was forced out of his den after he strongly questioned a state lawmaker about her stance on gun control. Ames Mayfield, 11, was asked to leave the den, the groups Cub Scouts are organized in, after he pushed Colorado Sen. Vicki Marble about her stance on gun legislation and past comments she made about health issues among black people. Soon after the event, Marble met with the leader of the Cub Scout pack that includes Mayfield’s den. Afterward, the leader told Mayfield’s mother that he was upset over the questions on guns and Mayfield would have to leave that den.

Florida: City Manager Asked Lobbyist for Football Tickets
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 10/24/2017

Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez asked a local lobbyist for four tickets to a Florida State University football game last year. The text exchange was delivered to the state ethics commission, which is investigating a complaint involving Fernandez. Florida’s ethics laws prohibit public officials from knowingly accepting, a gift from someone who lobbies the public official’s agency if he or she reasonably believes that the gift has a value over $100.  The box seat football tickets, which had an estimated total value of about $2,000, were not included in Fernandez’s public gift disclosures. There is no indication in the texts that the city manager paid for the tickets.

Missouri: New Limits to Campaign Financing Confuse Missouri’s Political Candidates
St. Louis Public Radio – Jo Mannies | Published: 10/24/2017

Missouri candidates are grappling with the new restrictions to campaign donations mandated by Amendment 2. Voters approved the constitutional amendment in 2016, putting an end to the Missouri’s status as one of only a handful of states without donation limits. But flaws in the new system are prompting the General Assembly and political activists to seek more changes. The Missouri Ethics Commission, charged with enforcing the new law, has had its hands full. The panel has issued at least 15 different opinions addressing various provisions of Amendment 2. It is also in the middle of several lawsuits.

Montana: Donors Once Again Much More Limited in Contributions to Montana Candidates
Helena Independent Record – Amy Beth Hanson (Associated Press) | Published: 10/23/2017

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated Montana’s previous limits on the amount of money candidates can receive. In May 2016, a federal judge declared that Montana’s contribution limits were unconstitutional and voided those caps. That kicked the state back to amounts set before a 1994 initiative where voters lowered how much candidates could collect. The Ninth Circuit’s actions bring Montana back to the voter-approved limits. A summary of the court’s opinion said the panel found the limits “both justified by and adequately tailored to the state’s interest in combating quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.”

New York: Former Top Assembly Ethics Official: Position a ‘waste of money’
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/22/2017

In the wake of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s indictment on fraud and extortion charges, his successor embarked on what seemed like a major reform. Speaker Carl Heastie was praised for conducting a nationwide search for the leader of the newly created Assembly Office of Ethics and Compliance. In September 2015, Heastie announced that Jane Feldman, a respected former top ethics official in Colorado, would lead the office. But only a few months after taking the position, Feldman began to doubt that Heastie was serious about reform. Looking back, Feldman regards her hiring in large part as a public relations move by the legislative chamber’s leadership.

New York: Reform Group Criticizes JCOPE’s Online Lobbying Filing System
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/24/2017

Reinvent Albany released a report calling the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics’ (JCOPE) online lobbying filing system “antiquated and outdated.” The group says certain filings raise questions about whether information is accurately and completely reported. Former top state lobbying official David Grandeau, now a private attorney, also submitted comments on JCOPE’s proposed comprehensive lobbying regulations alleging that a number go beyond what is allowed in state law.

Pennsylvania: Irate Judge Gives Ex-Philly DA Seth Williams 5-Year Sentence in Bribery, Corruption Case
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck | Published: 10/24/2017

Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, a career prosecutor who chased down municipal corruption but whose tenure was mired in a corruption scandal, was sentenced to five years in prison for accepting a bribe. “Your profound dishonesty has to be deterred,” U.S. District Court Judge Paul Diamond said before ordering that Williams be imprisoned immediately. An investigation into Williams’ financial affairs resulted in a wide-ranging indictment in which he was charged with accepting cash and gifts, fraudulently using thousands of dollars from his campaign fund for personal expenses, misusing city vehicles, and misappropriating money intended to fund his mother’s nursing home care.

South Carolina: Quinn’s State House ‘Tentacles’ Included Paying Lawmakers $1.3 Million, Judge Told
The State – John Monk | Published: 10/24/2017

For the first time, Solicitor David Pascoe laid out details of a much-rumored behind-the-scenes payoff scheme to buy influence at the South Carolina Legislature. Richard Quinn literally put lawmakers on the payroll of his consulting firm, working with now-former state Reps. Tracy Edge and Jim Harrison to peddle influence on certain legislation that would benefit his private industry clients. “[Quinn] used legislators, groomed legislators, and inspired legislators and others to violate multiple provisions of the state ethics act so they could all make money,” Pascoe told a judge.

Texas: Lawmakers Accept $1.5 Million While Passing Governor’s Agenda
Texas Monitor – Andrew McLemore | Published: 10/19/2017

During this summer’s special session of the Texas Legislature, the state’s top elected officials collected more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions. The lion’s share of those dollars went to Gov. Greg Abbott, who accepted nearly $900,000 during the two-month special session. State law prohibits campaign contributions during regular sessions but say nothing about accepting money during the special session. Some legislators see a conflict-of-interest in this practice and abstain. Most do not. Of the 183 officials involved in the legislative process, 103 reported campaign contributions during the special session.

Virginia: Ed Gillespie’s Lobbying Career Included Work for Firms with Vast Interests in Virginia
Washington Post – Beth Reinhardt | Published: 10/19/2017

If he is elected governor of Virginia, Ed Gillespie would face decisions in which the public’s interests may conflict with the interests of companies that have paid his firms millions of dollars collectively for lobbying and consulting services, and that could hire him again. Gillespie closed his consulting firm, Ed Gillespie Strategies, shortly before launching his campaign in January. The Republican nominee has no current financial interests in the companies, such as stock holdings, and he and his wife would put their personal investments in a blind trust if elected.

 

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.

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October 20, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 20, 2017

      National: Wary of Hackers, States Move to Upgrade Voting Systems New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 10/14/2017 State election officials, worried about the integrity of their voting systems, are pressing to make them more secure ahead of next […]

 

 

 

National:

Wary of Hackers, States Move to Upgrade Voting Systems
New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 10/14/2017

State election officials, worried about the integrity of their voting systems, are pressing to make them more secure ahead of next year’s midterm elections. Reacting in large part to Russian efforts to hack the presidential election last year, a growing number of states are upgrading electoral databases and voting machines, and even adding cybersecurity experts to their election teams. The efforts amount to the largest overhaul of the nation’s voting infrastructure since the contested presidential election in 2000 spelled an end to punch-card ballots and voting machines with mechanical levers.

Federal:

Republican Lawmakers’ Posh Hideaway Bankrolled by Secret Corporate Cash
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 10/18/2017

Behind the scenes at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, several major corporations and trade groups secretly bankrolled a plush hideaway for lawmakers. The companies funded Friends of the House 2016 LLC, which in turn paid for the design and outfitting of an exclusive office, lounge, and gathering space for legislators, and controlled access to the so-called cloakroom. That effectively hid the corporations’ donations from public view. National political conventions are legendary opportunities for access to lawmakers, despite ethics reforms passed in the wake of influence peddling scandals. Complex rules govern even the details of events, such as food menus, but often turn on technical points, forcing lawyers to double-check legal advice every four years.

From the States and Municipalities:

California: Female Lawmakers, Staffers and Lobbyists Speak Out on ‘Pervasive’ Harassment in California’s Capitol
Los Angeles Times – Melanie Mason | Published: 10/17/2017

More than 140 women – including state legislators, staff, political consultants, and lobbyists – are signing a letter calling out the “pervasive” culture of sexual harassment and mistreatment that plagues California politics. Their goal is to prompt changes in how harassment is handled and to force some soul-searching among those at the Capitol. Sexism is not exclusive to politics, but it can be particularly potent, many of the letter’s participants said, because of an imbalanced dynamic in which lawmakers and top lobbyists – predominantly men – hold much of the decision-making power.

Idaho: Idaho Lawmakers Reject Removal of Campaign Donation Limits; Call for More Reporting, Disclosure
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Betsy Russell | Published: 10/18/2017

A bipartisan working group of Idaho lawmakers rejected a proposal to eliminate all the state’s limits on campaign contributions, and instead endorsed changes to require more frequent and more detailed disclosures, including adding new reporting in local races and requiring information about who is behind shadowy outside groups that run independent expenditure campaigns. The panel also received a draft bill to give Idaho its first-ever financial disclosure requirements for officeholders and candidates; Idaho is one of just two states with no such requirements.

Kansas: Olathe GOP Lawmaker Takes on Additional Job: Senior government strategist with Cerner
Kansas City Star – Hunter Woodall | Published: 10/18/2017

Kansas Rep. Erin Davis has taken a job with the Cerner Corp. as a senior government strategist while still holding elected office. She said she did not see her Cerner job as a conflict-of-interest. “My territory is [the] Northwest United States. … Kansas is not part of my territory,” Davis said. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment currently has a contract with Cerner that runs through the end of 2019 to administer the state employee health plan wellness program.

Louisiana: As Quatrevaux Leaves New Orleans IG’s Office, Turmoil and Infighting Abound: ‘It’s vindictive’
New Orleans Advocate – Jessica Williams | Published: 10/17/2017

New Orleans; inspector general for the past eight years, Ed Quatrevaux, is retiring under duress after the board that oversees his work announced a national search for a replacement and after a report written by Howard Schwartz, a top deputy, alleged mismanagement and even corruption within the office. A second top deputy who was targeted in the report, Nadiene Van Dyke, is also expected to retire. On his way out, Quatrevaux fired Schwartz, accusing him of bias and a conflict-of-interest, essentially saying Schwartz had written the report to line up the top job for himself. Given the bitterness of the infighting, there is a range of opinions about how to restore the luster to an office whose efficacy largely depends on its reputation for integrity.

Maine: Lawmakers Call York County Casino Campaign a ‘Case Study’ in Abuse of Initiative Process
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 10/18/2017

The ballot question that asks Maine voters to allow a developer to build a casino in the state is the “poster child” for a citizen’s referendum process run amok, members of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee said. Sen. Roger Katz said the casino campaign violates the intent of the referendum process, a part of the Maine Constitution meant to give citizens a way to enact laws through a statewide vote if their elected representatives fail to respond to public concerns. He said the committee would explore ideas at its next meeting for reforming the initiative process.

Maryland: Ex-Liquor Board Director Admits Tipping Off Those in Bribery Scheme to FBI Probe
Washington Post – Lynh Bui | Published: 10/18/2017

A former Prince George’s County liquor board official pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery, and obstruction of justice. Prosecutors say David Dae Sok Son acted as a middle man between liquor store owners and elected officials to influence state legislation related to Sunday liquor sales. When the FBI questioned Son in December, he then tried to tip off people being investigated about the probe, prosecutors said. Son also told a restaurant manager in Beltsville who had agreed to pay a $50,000 bribe for a liquor license that the authorities were investigating the manager. That manager subsequently left the country.

Massachusetts: Massachusetts’ Top Court to Rule on Union Campaign Donation Loophole
New Boston Post – Evan Lips | Published: 10/12/2017

A conservative fiscal watchdog that has spent the last several years trying to overturn Massachusetts’ ban on campaign donations from business owners announced its case will be decided by the state’s top court. The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance began challenging the state’s union donation loophole in court in 2015. State campaign finance law allows labor groups, even those based out of state, to flood Massachusetts political campaigns with donations of up to $15,000. In-state businesses, however, are barred from paying anything to prop up candidates. Donations from individuals, meanwhile, are capped at $1,000.

New Jersey: N.J. Elections: Political fundraising laws must be updated, watchdog commission says
Bergen Record – Catherine Carrera | Published: 10/18/2017

In what the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) says is an indication that campaign donors are sidestepping New Jersey’s “pay-to-play” laws, fundraising by party-based committees is down for the 2017 election cycle when compared with 2013, the last time the governor’s seat and full Legislature were up for grabs. That has led to calls from the ELEC to update the laws regarding political donations, particularly those that apply to special-interest groups that are loosely affiliated with a party. Those PACs are not subject to current laws that require full disclosure.

New York: Vance Controversy Spotlights Lax Campaign Finance Rules for District Attorneys
Gotham Gazette – Rachel Silberstein | Published: 10/16/2017

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. was recently dragged into an unflattering spotlight over his decision not to prosecute disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein for a forcible touching incident in 2015 and for dropping a fraud investigation into members of the Trump family, while apparently receiving campaign contributions from lawyers associated with both parties. While it is not illegal, or uncommon, for district attorneys to accept contributions from lawyers in any type of practice, the details of the two cases, including the relevant campaign donations, are drawing newfound scrutiny to New York’s loose campaign finance rules for prosecutors and invite a new strain of questions about whether legal immunity can be bought by the rich and powerful.

Ohio: All State Senators Will Undergo Sexual Harassment Training, Senate President Says
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Laura Hancock | Published: 10/18/2017

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof said all senators will be required undergo sexual harassment training in the wake of Sen. Cliff Hite’s resignation for inappropriate behavior toward a woman. Hite said he talked to a female state employee in a way that was inappropriate for a married man and asked her for hugs. He said there was no physical contact beyond that. Obhof also said he does not think the Senate has a widespread problem with sexual harassment. He said the training, for both Republicans and Democrats and their staffs in the Senate, is intended to eliminate any ambiguity over what is and is not appropriate.

Pennsylvania: Philly PAC Hit with Record Fine for Failing to Report $160,000 in Campaign Spending
WHYY – Dana DiFilippo | Published: 10/16/2017

A PAC faces a $60,000 fine for failing to file required campaign finance reports for money it spent to sway voters in Philadelphia’s May 2015 primary. Three city council members paid thousands of dollars to Citizens Organizing for Pennsylvania’s Security to help influence voters. So did developer Ori Feibush, who sent the PAC more than $65,000 during his failed bid to for the council. Those payments were legal and the campaigns filed the necessary reports. But how the PAC spent the money has remained a mystery, since it did not file campaign finance reports, as city law requires.

South Carolina: Criminal Conspiracy Charges Lodged against Richard Quinn, 4 Others in S.C. Statehouse Corruption Case
Charleston Post and Courier – Glenn Smith and Andy Shain | Published: 10/18/2017

Political consultant Richard Quinn, along with former state Reps. Jim Harrison and Tracy Edge, were indicted in a corruption scheme that has now ensnared half a dozen South Carolina lawmakers. In addition, Rep. Rick Quinn, the elder Quinn’s son, was charged with criminal conspiracy. Sen. John Courson was charged with statutory misconduct in office. Both Rep. Quinn and Courson already faced other misconduct charges. Richard Quinn has been a clear target of the probe for months but the consultant had largely remained on the sidelines as others around him were indicted. The newest developments bring him front and center in the criminal case while looping in present and former lawmakers with ties to a firm with tentacles throughout state government.

Tennessee: Michael Flynn, Nicki Minaj Shared Content from This Tennessee GOP Account. But It Wasn’t Real. It Was Russian.
Washington Post – Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, and Adam Entous | Published: 10/18/2017

Russian internet trolls ran a popular Twitter account that claimed to belong to the Tennessee Republican Party. Twitter took nearly a year to shut down the account, @TEN_GOP, despite repeated notifications from the state’s real Republican Party pointing out the account was fake. The account had a knack for pushing incendiary content across the social media platform. The list of prominent people who tweeted out links from the account includes political figures such as Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, celebrities like Nicki Minaj and James Woods, and media personalities such as Ann Coulter and Chris Hayes. There is no evidence any of them knew the account was run by Russians.

 

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.

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October 13, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 13, 2017

      National: How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics New York Times – Nicholas Confessore and Daisuke Wakabayashi | Published: 10/9/2017 A New York Times examination of hundreds of Facebook posts shows one of the most powerful weapons that Russian agents […]

 

 

 

National:

How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore and Daisuke Wakabayashi | Published: 10/9/2017

A New York Times examination of hundreds of Facebook posts shows one of the most powerful weapons that Russian agents used to reshape American politics was the anger, passion, and misinformation that real Americans were broadcasting across social media platforms. Some posts on the Russian pages used stilted language or phrases rarely found in American English. Yet their use of borrowed ideas and arguments from Americans, which were already resonating among conservatives and liberals, demonstrated a deft understanding of the political terrain.

Why Some Campaign Contributions Get Returned
Center for Responsive Politics – Andrew Mayersohn | Published: 10/10/2017

Refunds of campaign contributions are not rare, and most are not particularly scandalous. Losing campaigns often give back their leftover funds, although they are not legally obligated to. The issue came to the fore recently when Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. returned a $32,000 contribution from Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, who made the donation after Vance decided not to pursue a fraud investigation against Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. At least a dozen Democrats have refunded or donated to charity contributions from media mogul Harvey Weinstein following reports alleging decades of sexual harassment.

Federal:

Trump Supporters Eager to ‘Drain the Swamp’ Help Fill Republican Party Coffers
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 10/6/2017

Prodded by emails from President Trump urging them to fight “a weak and self-serving political class,” and angered by the sense the president is being treated unfairly, thousands of his loyal backers are helping redefine a party that has long cultivated rich donors, one small contribution at a time. In giving to support Trump, his backers are pouring tens of millions of dollars into the coffers of the Republican National Committee (RNC), which has raised more from small-dollar contributions at this point in the election cycle than the national party has collected in more than a decade. The low-dollar donations are helping fuel a massive fundraising advantage for the RNC, which has pulled in nearly twice as much as its Democratic counterpart this year.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: Undisclosed Deal Guaranteed Roy Moore $180,000 a Year for Part-Time Work at Charity
Washington Post – Shawn Boburg and Robert O’Harrow Jr. | Published: 10/11/2017

Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, arranged to receive a salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work at the Foundation for Moral Law. A review of documents found errors and gaps in the group’s federal tax filings obscured until now the compensation paid to Moore. The charity helped Moore thrive, financially and otherwise, after his ouster from the court in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a courthouse. Charity and tax law specialists said the nonprofit’s activities raised questions about compliance with IRS rules, including prohibitions on the use of a charity for the private benefit or enrichment of an individual.

California: Big Oil Pulls Democratic Lawmakers Through the Revolving Door
CALmatters – Lauren Rosenhall | Published: 10/9/2017

Sacramento is full of termed-out or retired lawmakers who make second careers as lobbyists, strolling through a “revolving door” between government and the private sector. After failing last year to prevent a new law requiring massive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, the oil industry came back this year lobbying hard. The industry’s goal was to shape the next phase of cap and trade through 2030. And it had hired four former lawmakers to advocate on its behalf. Two are from Kern County, the biggest oil producer in California. And three quit their elective office mid-term to work for industry.

California: Who’s Behind That Political Ad? Voters Will Know More in 2018
Sacramento Bee – Taryn Luna | Published: 10/7/2017

An effort to give Californians more information about the biggest donors to ballot measure campaigns was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a major victory for groups that insist the current system fails to help voters make an informed choice. The law will simplify the wording on political advertisements that discloses the top three donors of $50,000 or more to a campaign. It also changes existing state regulations on when and how to disclose “earmarked” donations in campaign finance reports, donations that are bundled together by a group such as a labor union or other membership organization.

Colorado: A New Colorado School Board Campaign Finance Law Is Having Unintended Impacts on Big-Ticket 2018 Races
Denver Post – Jesse Paul | Published: 10/10/2017

A new campaign finance law for Colorado school board races is causing headaches for candidates in the state’s top-line elections in 2018, from governor to attorney general and beyond, by requiring them to effectively file daily contribution reports more than eight months before their primary contests. State lawmakers last year passed legislation meant to make public last-minute contributions flowing into Colorado’s off-year school board races by requiring candidates to disclose contributions of $1,000 or more within 24 hours starting a month from the election. But House Bill 1282 accidentally applied the requirements to statewide races.

Florida: An Exodus from Puerto Rico Could Remake Florida Politics
New York Times – Michael Tackett | Published: 10/6/2017

Every day, Puerto Ricans flee their homes and lives ravaged by Hurricane Maria and come to Florida. That could remake politics in the state, where the last two presidential and governor’s races were decided by roughly one percentage point or less. There are more than a million Puerto Ricans in Florida, a number that has doubled since 2001, driven largely until now by a faltering economy. But their political powers have evolved slowly in this state, and the wave of potential voters from the island could quickly change that calculus. If the estimates hold, the Puerto Rican vote, which has been strongly Democratic, could have rough parity with the Cuban vote in the state, for years a bulwark for Republicans in both state and national races.

Florida: Governance Was Focus of 2010 Miami-Dade Ethics Probe
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 10/7/2017

An ethics probe in South Florida involving Tallahassee Commissioner Scott Maddox and his close friend Paige Carter-Smith found insufficient evidence of wrongdoing but unveiled plenty of political drama and some of the inner workings of their government consulting work. Among other things, the investigation, conducted in 2010, revealed that Maddox’s official residence was used for some time as a crash pad for visiting politicians, who called it “Governance House.” It also showed blurry lines between Carter-Smith’s Governance Services firm and Governance, Inc., the firm Maddox sold to her in 2010 in a handwritten note.

Florida: St. Petersburg Council Acts to Limit Big Money in City Elections
Tampa Bay Times – Charlie Frago | Published: 10/5/2017

The St. Petersburg City Council voted to become a pioneer in local campaign finance reform and likely invited a legal challenge that could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Council members passed an ordinance that limits contributions to PACs from individuals to $5,000, and bans donations from companies that are more than five percent foreign owned. Violators would be fined $500. City Attorney Joe Patner has warned the council that if they passed the proposal, they would face immediate court action. The ordinance takes effect in January 2018.

Georgia: Atlanta Contractors Get Prison Time in Contract Bribery Case
Bryan-College Station Eagle – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 10/10/2017

A federal judge gave prison sentences to two contractors for their role in a bribery scheme at Atlanta City Hall. E.R. Mitchell and Charles Richards both admitted to paying money to win city contracts. Mitchell gave more than $1 million in bribes and was sentenced to five years in prison. He will pay $1.12 million in restitution. Richards received a sentence of 27 months in prison and was ordered to pay $193,000 in restitution. The city’s former chief procurement officer, Adam Smith, pleaded guilty to conspiratorial bribery and is set to be sentenced in January. Prosecutors say Smith accepted bribes to give contracts to an unnamed vendor.

New Mexico: New Rule on Political Spending Takes Effect
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 10/10/2017

New disclosure rules for political spending took effect October 10 in New Mexico that require independent groups that spend heavily to influence the outcome of elections to name their contributors, under certain circumstances. The rules were designed by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to help voters understand which individuals and special interests are paying for political advertising outside of direct campaigning by candidates. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allows donors to give as much as they would like as long as candidates are not controlling how the money gets spent.

Oklahoma: Speakers Criticize Plan to Put Restrictions on Lawmakers, State Employees Who Want to Go into Lobbying
Tulsa World – Barbara Hoberock | Published: 10/5/2017

A proposed rule that would prohibit state lawmakers and employees from serving as a lobbyist or consultant for two years after they leave any state post was criticized at a recent public hearing before the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Rep. John Enns said the Capitol has lost institutional knowledge due to term limits. If restrctions are placed on lawmakers who become lobbyists, it could slow down the Legislature’s work due to a shortage of people with experience with the process, Enns said. Commission Executive Director Ashley Kemp said the measure’s language may be modified.

South Carolina: Who Wins When Power Companies Make Political Contributions? The Lawmakers Who Police Utilities
The State – Avery Wilks | Published: 10/7/2017

Power companies have contributed at least $294,000 since 2005 to the campaigns of a handful of South Carolina lawmakers who help choose the watchdogs that oversee those utilities. The volume of the donations flowing to members of the legislatively controlled Public Utilities Review Committee is another sign South Carolina’s regulatory system is broken, critics say, noting the $1.7 billion that one utility was allowed to charge its customers for a failed nuclear construction project in Fairfield County. One House member said he soon will file a proposal to block regulated utilities from donating to campaigns of state-level candidates, including the lawmakers who decide who polices those utilities.

Texas: Texas AG Ken Paxton Faces New Investigation Under Bribery Statute over $100K Gift
Dallas News – Lauren McGaughy | Published: 10/5/2017

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is under investigation for accepting $100,000 from the head of a company that was being investigated for fraud, and a decision on whether to pursue bribery-related charges is expected soon. The money, part of almost $548,000 Paxton has collected to help pay for his legal defense against felony charges that he defrauded investors in private business deals in 2011, came from James Webb, president of Preferred Imaging. Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Wiley said she has been investigating whether accepting Webb’s donation violated state bribery laws that limit gifts from people subject to the “jurisdiction” of a public servant.

 

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.

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October 6, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – October 6, 2017

      National: Angry GOP Donors Close Their Wallets Politico – Alex Isenstadt and Gabriel Debenedetti | Published: 10/5/2017 With the Republican agenda at a virtual standstill on Capitol Hill, the party is contending with a hard reality. Some of the GOP’s […]

 

 

 

National:

Angry GOP Donors Close Their Wallets
Politico – Alex Isenstadt and Gabriel Debenedetti | Published: 10/5/2017

With the Republican agenda at a virtual standstill on Capitol Hill, the party is contending with a hard reality. Some of the GOP’s most elite and influential donors, who spent the past eight years plowing cash into the party’s coffers in hopes of accomplishing a sweeping conservative agenda and undoing President Obama’s legislative accomplishments, are closing their wallets. The backlash is threatening to deprive Republicans of resources just as they are gearing up for the midterms. Party officials are so alarmed that U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, who oversees fundraising for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told his colleagues that contributions had fallen off a cliff after the Obamacare flop.

Monsanto Banned from European Parliament
The Guardian – Arthur Nelson | Published: 9/28/2017

Lobbyists for Monsanto were barred from the European Parliament under new rules designed to force companies to submit to more scrutiny by lawmakers. The decision is the first time a company has violated European Union rules that came into force this January and means lobbyists for companies that do not co-operate in legislative hearings can have their access to parliament withdrawn. The parliament banned Monsanto lobbyists after the chemical company refused to attend a hearing into allegations that it interfered with safety studies.

Too Young to Vote, but Asking for Yours
New York Times – Lisa Foderaro | Published: 9/29/2017

Across the New York region, and indeed the country, young people are turning their attention to politics, motivated in part by the election of President Trump. From mayoral races to state legislative campaigns, teenagers and others who are too young to vote are canvassing neighborhoods and learning the intricacies of electoral politics. Some are running for office themselves.

Federal:

Health Secretary Tom Price Resigns After Drawing Ire for Chartered Flights
New York Times – Peter Baker, Glenn Thrush, and Maggie Haberman | Published: 9/29/2017

Tom Price, President Trump’s embattled health and human services secretary, resigned amid criticism of his extensive use of taxpayer-funded charter flights. Price, a multimillionaire and orthopedic surgeon by training, had announced he would reimburse the government for a fraction of the costs of his charter flights in recent months. Politico estimated the total expense of the taxpayer-funded trips exceeded $400,000. The ruckus prompted by the secretary’s travel habits followed complaints earlier this year by Democrats and other critics about his ethics for a separate reason: private investments he made while a House member in health-care companies that could have benefited from bills he sponsored.

Liberal Groups Got IRS Scrutiny, Too, Inspector General Suggests
Washington Post – Mike DeBonis | Published: 10/3/2017

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration identified scores of cases in which the IRS may have targeted liberal-leaning groups for extra scrutiny based on their names or political leanings. A 2013 report found 96 groups with names referencing “Tea Party,” “Patriot,” or “9/12” were selected for intensive review between May 2010 and May 2012, and the House Ways and Means Committee later identified another 152 right-leaning groups that were subjected to scrutiny. Those findings fueled accusations by Republican lawmakers that the Obama administration engaged in politically motivated targeting of conservatives. But Democrats have long challenged those claims, arguing that liberal-leaning groups were given close scrutiny alongside the conservative groups.

Russians Took a Page from Corporate America by Using Facebook Tool to ID and Influence Voters
Washington Post – Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg, and Adam Entous | Published: 10/2/2017

The use of Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool by Russian operatives adds to an emerging picture of the effort to shape the U.S. election and sow division using tools built by American technology companies. It makes clear that Russians used Facebook to direct their influence campaigns to voters whom they had already tracked and to find new ones wherever they browsed the Internet, even if they used multiple devices such as a smartphone for work or a tablet at home. Targeted people might also have directed that same disinformation, whether intentionally or not, to people linked to them on social networks, such as their friends on Facebook.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: Two Balch & Bingham Lawyers and One Drummond Executive Indicted in Bribery of State Legislator
AL.com – Kevin Faulk | Published: 9/28/2017

Two attorneys with a prominent Alabama law firm and a coal company executive have been indicted on charges of bribing a state legislator to oppose an environmental cleanup plan. Joel Gilbert and Steven McKinney are named on charges including conspiracy and bribery. They are partners handling environmental litigation with Balch & Bingham, one of Alabama’s leading law firms. Drummond Co. vice president David Roberson was charged with the same crimes. Top of Form The three are accused of bribing former state Rep. Oliver Robinson, who pleaded guilty to accepting $360,000 in payments. Prosecutors say the law firm represented Drummond, and Robinson got a contract to oppose an expansion of an environmental cleanup site linked to Drummond.

Arizona: ASU, AU Shield Lobbying Expenses Via Foundations
Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting – Jim Small | Published: 9/29/2017

The state’s two largest public universities have for years been represented at the Capitol by powerful lobbying firms, though neither Arizona State University or the University of Arizona has records of hiring a contract lobbyist. Instead, each school’s nonprofit foundation has contracted directly with outside lobbyists to advocate at the Legislature on behalf of the schools. As a result, it is impossible for the public to know how much lobbying firms are being paid to represent the interests of public universities. State law does not require university foundations to disclose donors or expenditures, aside from the information required to be made public by federal tax laws governing 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Annual 990 forms require only summary figures for broad categories of income or expenses.

Florida: Figures in FBI Probe Worked Uber Ordinance Behind the Scenes
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 9/29/2017

Two central figures in the FBI’s public corruption probe in Tallahassee worked behind the scenes to help Uber and its taxicab rivals as city commissioners hashed out changes to their regulations on ride-sharing. Uber hired Paige Carter-Smith, executive director of the Downtown Improvement Authority and a close friend of city Commissioner Scott Maddox, as part of its consulting team. On the other side, Yellow Cab hired Adam Corey, a lobbyist and longtime friend of Mayor Andrew Gillum. But their work on the ordinance was never publicly disclosed, and neither one of them ever registered with the city as lobbyists for their respective clients.

Florida: Report: Review shows Florida’s utility watchdog has become a lapdog
Miami Herald – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 10/2/2017

A watchdog group is calling for changes in the state’s Public Service Commission, citing a series of decisions involving Florida Power & Light (FPL). The result, said Integrity Florida, is that FPL and the state’s other large investor-owned utilities influence the governor and Legislature through lobbying and campaign contributions, and they have used that power to pursue favorable decisions by the commission, the group said in a report.

Maryland: Loosened Fundraising Rules Unleashing Big Cash for 2018 Maryland Elections
Baltimore Sun – Erin Cox | Published: 10/1/2017

The 2018 election cycle in Maryland, which includes races for governor, attorney general, General Assembly, and several county executives, is the first full cycle since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling lifted the cap on the total amount donors may give to candidates. That 2014 ruling and a 2010 high court decision on PACs, analysts say, could unleash campaign spending up and down the ballot unlike anything Maryland has seen. “It really opened the floodgates,: said Jared DeMarinis, director of candidacy and campaign finance at the State Board of Elections.

Missouri: GOP Mega Donor Should Face $320,000 Ethics Fine, Missouri Democrat Says
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 10/4/2017

State Rep. Mark Ellebracht is calling on the Missouri Ethics Commission to levy fines totaling $320,000 against a major Republican campaign donor. Ellebracht said businessperson David Humphreys employed a lobbyist for the past two years who was not registered. The lobbyist, Paul Mouton has admitted to the commission that he worked for Humphreys and discussed proposed legislation with state lawmakers and their staff during the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions. Mouton was fined $2,000 for not registering but will only have to pay $200 if he does not violate state lobbying laws within the next two years.

New York: More Corruption Trials? Possible Reprise Makes Albany Groan
New York Times – Jesse McKinley | Published: 10/4/2017

With the recent reversals of guilty verdicts on corruption charges of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, the former state Senate majority leader, it seems inevitable that Albany’s dirty laundry, and the actions of some of its powerful participants, will once again be hung out for examination. This time around, the courtroom rehashing of alleged misdeeds may occur during an election campaign, one in which Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be seeking a third term and all 213 Assembly and Senate seats will be up for grabs.

Washington: Armed with a Marimba, Lawmaker Puts on Concerts to Cover Legal Fees from Ethics Case
Tacoma News Tribune – Melissa Santos | Published: 9/28/2017

Washington Rep. Melanie Stambaugh is having marimba concerts at her business to pay for the $35,000 in legal costs she racked up during a recent ethics case over her social media posts. She was found to have committed 44 ethics violations for posting videos and photos produced by legislative staff to her Facebook page. Stambaugh said the concerts also include inspirational talks that focus in part on the confidence it took for her to stand up to the Legislative Ethics Board. It is possible the marimba concerts could cause her to run afoul of the ethics board once again.

Wisconsin: Kennedy’s Vote Is in Play on Voting Maps Warped by Politics
New York Times – Adam Liptak and Michael Shear | Published: 10/3/2017

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could reshape American democracy by considering whether extreme partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution. There was something like consensus that voting maps warped by politics are an unattractive feature of American democracy. But the justices appeared split about whether the court could find a standard for determining when the practice had crossed a constitutional line.

 

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.

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September 29, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 29, 2017

      National: GOP Governors Launch a ‘News’ Website with a Mission to Get Themselves Elected Business Insider – Bill Barrow (Associated Press) | Published: 9/19/2017 The Republican Governors Association (RGA) launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and […]

 

 

 

National:

GOP Governors Launch a ‘News’ Website with a Mission to Get Themselves Elected
Business Insider – Bill Barrow (Associated Press) | Published: 9/19/2017

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected. The RGA describes the website as routine political communication. Critics say it pushes the limits of honest campaign tactics in an era of increasingly partisan media and a proliferation of “fake news” sites.

Your Favorite Companies May Be Political Black Boxes
Center for Public Integrity – Lateshia Beachum | Published: 9/26/2017

A new study on corporate disclosure and accountability showed a slight dip in the number of companies that disclosed some or all their election-related spending, or banned such spending altogether. The study also revealed a trend toward more managerial and board oversight of political spending and more disclosure or prohibition of campaign donations. Scores were calculated based on 24 indicators that range from whether a company publicly discloses corporate contributions to political committees and organizations, including politically active nonprofit organizations that do not themselves disclose their donors, to whether it posts a detailed report of its corporate political spending on its website.

Federal:

At Least 6 White House Advisers Used Private Email Accounts
New York Times – Matt Apuzzo and Maggie Haberman | Published: 9/25/2017

At least six members of President Trump’s White House have used private email addresses while conducting government business. Current and former officials say former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former chief strategist Stephen Bannon, and current advisers Gary Cohn and Stephen Miller sent or received government-related emails on personal email accounts, in addition to two staffers who were previously reported. The news follows reports that senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has used a private email for White House business, and that Ivanka Trump used a personal email account to communicate with a member of the administration.

Ethics Office: Anonymous gifts to legal defense funds are not allowed
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 9/28/2017

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) clarified its policy on legal defense funds, stating that anonymous contributions should not be accepted. The announcement comes after a report that suggested the OGE was departing from internal policy regarding the donations, paving the way for federal officials to accept anonymous donations from otherwise prohibited groups, such as lobbyists, to offset their legal bills. The White House has said it would not allow an employee to receive anonymous donations should someone set up a legal defense funds.

Russian Operatives Used Facebook Ads to Exploit Divisions Over Black Political Activism and Muslims
Washington Post – Adam Entous, Craig Timberg, and Elizabeth Dwoskin | Published: 9/25/2017

The batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook is preparing to turn over to Congress shows a deep understanding of social divides in American society, with some ads promoting African-American rights groups including Black Lives Matter and others suggesting these same groups pose a rising political threat. The Russian campaign, taking advantage of Facebook’s ability to simultaneously send contrary messages to different groups of users based on their political and demographic characteristics. These targeted messages highlight the sophistication of an influence campaign slickly crafted to mimic and infiltrate U.S. political discourse while also seeking to heighten tensions between groups already wary of one another.

Skadden, Big New York Law Firm, Faces Questions on Work with Manafort
New York Times – Kenneth Vogel and Andrew Kramer | Published: 9/21/2017

The U.S. Justice Department asked a prestigious law firm for documents and information related to its work for deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, on whose behalf Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairperson, also worked. The New York Times reported that the Justice Department asked Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for information and documents relevant to its work on Yanukovych’s behalf. Tt was not clear whether the request was related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which has focused in recent months on Manafort.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona: 116 Arizona Lobbyists Could Face Attorney General Investigation
Arizona Republic – Alia Beard Rau | Published: 9/22/2017

The Arizona secretary of state’s office referred 116 lobbyists to the state attorney general after they did not file the 2017 second-quarter expenditure reports required under state law. The reports provide details about which public official the lobbyist spent money on, what was paid for, and which company benefited. The reports were due by July 31. If they do not comply, the lobbyists can face fines up to $1,000 each. Records indicate many of the lobbyists on the list are not active. Matt Roberts, a spokesperson for the secretary of state, said inactive lobbyists still must file reports if they were active during that reporting period.

California: Anaheim’s Lobbyist Sunshine Ordinance Will Be Largely Self-Enforced
Voice of OC – Thy Vo | Published: 9/20/2017

New restrictions on lobbyists now are in effect in Anaheim, although enforcement of the law will be largely self-reported. The city attorney will not be proactively questioning whether certain employees and contractors are in compliance with the law, said city spokesperson Mike Lyster. Instead, council members or city commissioners can request the city clerk to determine whether someone is a lobbyist and needs to register. Lobbyists are required to register within 15 days after any lobbying activity. The first quarterly report is not due until January 2018.

Illinois: Lobbying Is All in the Zalewski Family
Chicago City Wire – W.J. Kennedy | Published: 9/26/2017

In an era in which states are barring politicians from lobbying their former colleagues until after a waiting period, an investigation found three current elected officials in Illinois working as lobbyists. And it is legal. Chicago Alderman Michael Zalewski lobbies the Legislature with the Z Consulting Group. Zalewski’s son is a representative who by all appearances lobbies the city of Chicago through the law firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister. State Sen. Toi Hutchinson is registered in Cook County in her role as director of community relations and social responsibility for the law firm of Chapman and Cutler.

Maine: Lawmakers Make Case That Maine’s Initiative Process Is Being Gamed
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 9/25/2017

Lawmakers on the Government Oversight Committee made the case that Maine’s initiative process is being gamed, and pointed to a flow chart showing a dizzying array of out-of-state and overseas entities with ties to the casino referendum on the November ballot. The committee said it is still gathering facts and has not launched a formal investigation into the ballot question campaign, but lawmakers on the panel said they were concerned the casino ballot question and several others in recent years were not the work of Maine citizens, but stemmed from out-of-state interests looking to cash in on the state’s citizen initiative process.

Maryland: Maryland Lobbyist Pleads Guilty to Bribing Lawmaker to Help with Prince George’s Liquor Licenses
Washington Post – Drew Gerber | Published: 9/22/2017

A Maryland lobbyist has pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge. Matthew Gorman pleaded guilty to paying then-Prince George’s County Councilperson William Campos $2,000 in 2013 for writing a letter to the county’s liquor board recommending a business receive a license. Gorman faces up to 10 years in prison. Campos, a former state delegate, pleaded guilty to accepting $40,000 to $50,000 from people for official actions while he was on the council. Eight people have been charged in the probe, including former Del. Michael Vaughn.

Missouri: Ethics Panel Fines Adviser to Missouri Mega Donor at Center of Pay-to-Play Allegations
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 9/27/2017

The Missouri Ethics Commission and a political consultant agreed to a consent order that involved the man’s failure to register as a legislative lobbyist over the last two years. The consultant, Paul Mouton, agreed to pay a fee of $2,000, with all but $200 stayed if he follows other provisions of the order. The order instructs Mouton to register as a lobbyist and file necessary disclosure reports.

New Mexico: Did Gov. Susana Martinez Break SEC Rules in New Mexico Pension Deals?
International Business Times – David Sirota, Josh Keefe, and Andrew Perez | Published: 9/20/2017

With New Mexico reeling from an influence-peddling scandal involving state investments in 2010, voters elected a new governor promising a swift crackdown. But as Gov. Susana Martinez’s second term draws to a close, an investigation shows that when it comes to campaign cash from managers of state investments, Martinez turned a blind eye to the ethical standards she championed. During her tenure, New Mexico has been giving lucrative investment deals to financial firms whose executives have delivered big campaign donations to Martinez and to groups that have supported her election campaigns, a situation that may have violated the very “pay-to-play” rules that were passed in the wake of the previous scandals.

New York: Dean Skelos Has Conviction Overturned; Prosecutors Will Pursue Retrial
Albany Times Union – Staff | Published: 9/26/2017

A federal appeals court overturned the bribery and other convictions of former New York Sen. Dean Skelos, asserting jurors were wrongly instructed in the case based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that narrowed what constitutes public corruption. The appeals court also vacated the convictions of Skelos’s son, Adam. Dean Skelos, prosecutors said, targeted businesses that depended on state help either through legislation or contracts and forced them to pay his son hundreds of thousands of dollars for jobs where he did not actually have to work. Federal prosecutors have vowed to promptly pursue retrials.

Ohio: BlackRock Executive’s Kasich Donation May Cost $37 Million
Bloomberg.com – Miles Weiss | Published: 9/25/2017

A senior BlackRock executive donated to an unsuccessful U.S. presidential candidate last year, an action that may prohibit the world’s largest asset manager from collecting some fees from the state of Ohio. Mark Wiedman, a BlackRock senior managing director, gave $2,700 to the presidential campaign of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was seeking the Republican Party nomination. Federal securities rules prohibit companies or their executive officers from contributing to government officials who could influence the hiring of a fund manager or have authority to appoint a person who could do so and then providing asset management services to their governments for a fee. The ban is in effect for two years after the contribution is made. The state of Ohio uses BlackRock-managed funds.

 

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.

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September 22, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 22, 2017

      National: Request Denied: States try to block access to public records San Jose Mercury News – Andrew DeMillo and Ryan Foley (Associated Press) | Published: 9/17/2017 State lawmakers across the country introduced and debated dozens of bills during this year’s […]

 

 

 

National:

Request Denied: States try to block access to public records
San Jose Mercury News – Andrew DeMillo and Ryan Foley (Associated Press) | Published: 9/17/2017

State lawmakers across the country introduced and debated dozens of bills during this year’s legislative sessions that would close or limit public access to a wide range of government records and meetings. Most of those proposals did not become law, but freedom-of-information advocates in some states said they were struck by the number of bills they believed would harm the public interest, and they are bracing for more fights next year.

Federal:

Government Ethics Office Says It Will Stick with Ban on Anonymous Gifts
Politico – Darren Samuelsohn | Published: 9/15/2017

David Apol, the acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, said the agency is sticking with its long-standing stance prohibiting anonymous donations to White House legal defense funds, despite recently putting forward language that appeared to undercut that position. The OGE has been under fire in the wake of a report detailing a potentially critical change to the agency’s official guidance document that the OGE’s recently departed director said could give a green light to President Trump’s aides to accept anonymous donations to pay their attorney bills. But Apol said there has been no change, and he has been giving advice to outside groups that are coming forward to set up legal defense funds for Trump aides as the Russia probe intensifies that they should have their donors disclose their identities.

Trump Lawyers Clash Over How Much to Cooperate with Russia Inquiry
New York Times – Peter Baker and Kenneth Vogel | Published: 9/17/2017

President Trump’s lawyers are clashing over how much to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller. At the heart of the conflict is an issue that has challenged multiple presidents during inquiries: how to handle the demands of investigators without surrendering the institutional prerogatives of the office of the presidency. The debate in the West Wing has pitted Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, against Ty Cobb, a lawyer brought in to manage the response to the investigation. The friction escalated in recent days after Cobb was overheard by a reporter for The New York Times discussing the dispute during a lunchtime conversation at a popular Washington restaurant.

With a Picked Lock and a Threatened Indictment, Mueller’s Inquiry Sets a Tone
New York Times – Sharon LaFraniere, Matt Apuzzo, and Adam Goldman | Published: 9/18/2017

The raid on the home of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairperson, is an example of the aggressive tactics used by special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors in the four months since taking over the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election. Dispensing with the plodding pace typical of many white-collar investigations, Mueller’s team has used what some describe as shock-and-awe tactics to intimidate witnesses and potential targets of the inquiry.

From the States and Municipalities:

California
California Passes Bill to Track ‘Dark Money’ in Political Ads and Campaigns
StateScoop – Jason Shueh | Published: 9/18/2017

California lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 249, which its advocates say will spotlight “dark money” fueling political advertising. If signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the state’s swarms of online ads, mass emails, and other media will be required to reveal the names of previously hidden donors within advertisements. The bill is designed to further state transparency efforts by eliminating common campaign funding tactics that use the names of political committees and groups to camouflage corporations, wealthy individuals, and political organizations.

California
Why Didn’t School Board President Ref Rodriguez Just Write Himself a Big Check?
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser, Anna Phillips, and Howard Blume | Published: 9/17/2017

Los Angeles school board president Refugio Rodriguez, who won his school board seat in 2015, legally could have poured as much of his own money as he liked into his campaign. So why would he, as prosecutors claim, have arranged for others to donate and then use his funds to illegally pay them back? That question looms large as Rodriguez faces three felony charges in what investigators call a campaign money laundering scheme. Bob Stern, co-author of the California Political Reform Act, said he could not recall another case over the past 40 years of a sitting politician being accused of illegally paying back his own contributors. In campaigns, such violations are typically committed by donors or fundraisers, he said, not the politicians themselves.

Colorado
Big Bucks Flow to Colorado Lobbyist Offices Steps from The Capitol
KUNC – Sandra Fish | Published: 9/13/2017

The nearly 600 lobbyists and lobbying firms in Colorado reported earning a total of $30 million in fiscal year 2017. Nearly half of the total is concentrated among the top 20 firms and individuals. Lobbyists’ busiest time of the year are the four months of the legislative session. Income reported to the secretary of state’s office bears that out. Lobbyist Julie McKenna said the hours are long during the legislative session. The four lobbyists in her firm reported tracking more than 300 bills earlier this year.

Kentucky
Millions Go to Board Members of Lexington’s Farmland Conservation Program
Lexington Herald-Leader – Beth Musgrave | Published: 9/18/2017

Six current or former members of a board that oversees a Fayette County farmland preservation program have received millions of dollars from the program.  In total, past and current members of the Rural Land Management Board have received $6.2 million in payments for conservation easements on their farms as part of the Fayette County Purchase of Development Rights program. Farms that are owned or partially owned by three of those former or current board members received more than $1 million each from the program. None of the members were on the board at the time the program purchased conservation easements for their respective farms. But several have rotated on and off the board for years. They received payment for their conservation easements in between stints on the board.

Maryland
Council Candidate Wants to Tie Disaster Relief to Campaign Contributions
Bethesda Magazine – Andrew Metcalf | Published: 9/19/2017

A plan to direct campaign donations to charities could test Montgomery County’s new public financing law. At-large county council candidate Brandy Brooks will hold a fundraiser in which she has promising to donate half of the campaign contributions to help victims of natural disasters. The state election board’s guide for candidates notes they may use campaign funds to attend a charitable event to raise their profile and network with potential voters and donors. The guide, however, says giving campaign funds as charitable donations is not permitted primarily because donors give to a candidate to support their platform and “when campaigns are spent for a non-campaign related purpose, it frustrates the intent of the contributor.”

Michigan
Snyder Approves Unlimited Super PAC Cash
Detroit News – Michael Gerstein | Published: 9/20/2017

Less than 24 hours after the state Senate moved to send two campaign finance bills that expand on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation into law. Senate Bill 335 and Senate Bill 336 define and allow for independent expenditure committees like super PACs. Under the new law, candidates could solicit unlimited contributions to super PACs, which could then use the money to support the aspirations of the candidate. The super PACs could not coordinate directly with campaigns but they could share attorneys, consultants, and vendors with candidates they support.

New Mexico
Reform Laws Spurred by Treasurer Scandals Full of Loopholes
Santa Fe New Mexican – Andrew Oxford | Published: 9/16/2017

Federal investigators in 2005 accused then-state Treasurer Robert Vigil of demanding kickbacks from private financial advisers hired by the government to manage New Mexico’s investments. His predecessor, Michael Montoya, pleaded guilty to a similar extortion scheme, saying campaign debt drove him to solicit kickbacks from contractors. FBI agents quoted Montoya as saying kickbacks were merely “the way we do business in New Mexico.” Lawmakers approved reform measures that bar contractors from plying politicians with campaign donations or other gifts while vying for government business. And the changes required contractors to report donations they have made to public officials. But a decade later, those laws are full of loopholes.

New York
How Party Bosses, Not Voters, Pick Politicians in New York
New York Times – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 9/18/2017

For decades, legislative seats in New York have traded hands in what amounts to one of the last, most powerful vestiges of Tammany Hall-style politics in the state. Election laws grant politicians and local political power brokers vast sway in picking candidates when legislators leave office in the middle of their term – whether they retire early, pass away, depart for another job, or are arrested. The rules are a crucial part of what empowers party bosses in a state that regularly outpaces the nation in corruption.

New York
JCOPE Commissioners Again Rule Civil Liberties Group Must Disclose Donors
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/19/2017

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) decided the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) must disclose donors to its state lobbying efforts. JCOPE has ruled in the past that the NYCLU must reveal its donors, despite arguments from the group that such disclosure could potentially lead to reprisals against people who fund the organization. The NYCLU has received a number of threatening letters, but JCOPE has found there has not been a “substantial likelihood” of harm to donors whose names are listed on the agency’s website in lobbying disclosures.

Oregon
Nepotism Runs Rampant in Oregon Legislature. Here’s How
Portland Oregonian – Gordon Friedman | Published: 9/16/2017

Oregon is one of the few states that allows lawmakers to hire family members; one in four legislators currently pays a family member to be on their staff. Legislators defend the practice, noting it has been something of a time-honored tradition to hire family members. Yet the practice of lawmakers hiring their family members as staff can be problematic. Lawmakers have a fiduciary duty to be good stewards of taxpayer funds, and spending state money on family members can hurt public trust in government, said Hana Callaghan, who runs the government ethics program at Santa Clara University.

 

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.

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September 15, 2017 •

News You Can Use Digest – September 15, 2017

      National: How Anna Nicole Smith’s Billionaire In Laws Secretly Lobbied the Courts Bloomberg.com – Zachary Mider | Published: 9/13/2017 When the heirs of billionaire J. Howard Marshall II, famous for his May-December romance with Playboy centerfold Anna Nicole Smith, went […]

 

 

 

National:

How Anna Nicole Smith’s Billionaire In Laws Secretly Lobbied the Courts
Bloomberg.com – Zachary Mider | Published: 9/13/2017

When the heirs of billionaire J. Howard Marshall II, famous for his May-December romance with Playboy centerfold Anna Nicole Smith, went to court in a $75 million tax dispute, they got help from an unlikely ally: Barber-Scotia College, the nation’s first institution of higher learning for black women. Barber-Scotia’s name, along with those of four other historically black colleges and universities, was on a friend-of-the-court brief submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The brief was part of a campaign by the Marshall family, orchestrated by a Washington, D.C. consulting firm, to influence two of the nation’s highest courts. The campaign shows how it is possible for well-funded litigants to stack the deck by generating phony friends of the court, or by paying advocates who present themselves as independent but are really lobbyists in disguise.

On Facebook and Twitter, a Hunt for Russia’s Meddling Hand
New York Times – Scott Shane | Published: 9/7/2017

The Russian information attack on the election did not stop with the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails. Far less splashy, and far more difficult to trace, was Russia’s experimentation on Facebook and Twitter, the American companies that essentially invented the tools of social media and, in this case, did not stop them from being turned into engines of deception and propaganda. An investigation reveals some of the mechanisms by which suspected Russian operators used Twitter and Facebook to spread anti-Hillary Clinton messages and promote the hacked material they had leaked. Given the powerful role of social media in political contests, understanding the Russian efforts will be crucial in preventing or blunting similar, or more sophisticated, attacks in upcoming elections.

Federal:

Russian Network RT Must Register as Foreign Agent in US
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 9/12/2017

The company that runs the U.S. version of RT, the Russian state-owned outlet originally known as Russia Today, must register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent, signaling that all of their content would be labeled as propaganda from Moscow. Media organizations have been exempted from the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which is wide-ranging in its disclosure requirements and generally applies to political consultants and those working in lobbying or public relations. It would be a felony if RT is found to have willfully failed to register as a foreign agent, however.

From the States and Municipalities:

Colorado
Denver City Council Approves New Rules Requiring Reports of Dark-Money Spending in Elections
Denver Post – Jon Murray | Published: 9/11/2017

The Denver City Council approved a bill that will require the reporting of at least $1,000 in independent spending by individuals, companies, or other organizations to support candidates or ballot issues. Those independent expenditures include any activity aiming to aid or hurt a candidate, including “electioneering communications” such as mailers, broadcast ads, or other advertising. The initial report to the Denver Elections Division, disclosing all expenses and donors above $25, will be required within two days after cumulative spending reaches $1,000.

Illinois
Weighing Third Term, Emanuel Relies on Campaign Donors Who Get City Hall Benefits
Chicago Tribune – Jeff Coen and Bill Ruthhart | Published: 9/8/2017

As Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel ramps up his campaign fundraising toward a possible third term, he continues to rely on donors who have received City Hall benefits, ranging from contracts and zoning approvals to appointments and personal endorsements from the mayor. With the mayoral election still a year and a half away, Emanuel has collected $3.1 million in high-dollar contributions. And more than $2.1 million of it, nearly 70 percent, has come from 83 donors who have benefited from actions at City Hall.

Massachusetts
Pro-Charter School Group Pays State’s Largest Campaign Finance Penalty
Boston Globe – Michael Levenson | Published: 9/11/2017

A group that backed last year’s charter school ballot question in Massachusetts paid $426,466 as part of a campaign finance settlement. The payment by Families for Excellent Schools-Advocacy is the largest civil forfeiture in the history of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Investigators say the organization violated the law by raising money from individuals and then contributing that money, more than $15 million, to the Great Schools Massachusetts Ballot Question Committee in a manner intended to disguise the source of the money. The group agreed with the IRS to dissolve itself, and Families for Excellent Schools, its umbrella group, agreed not to fundraise or engage in any election-related activity in Massachusetts for four years.

Minnesota
Scott County Attorney Declines Charges in Dai Thao Bribery-Solicitation Case
St. Paul Pioneer Press – Frederick Melo | Published: 9/12/2017

St. Paul City Councilperson Dai Thao will not face criminal charges over an allegation he attempted to solicit a bribe. The Scott County attorney’s office declined to prosecute the claims made against Thao and his former campaign manager, Angela Marlow. The allegations stemmed from a meeting between Thao, lobbyist Sarah Clarke, and some of Clarke’s clients. Clarke said that Thao told the group during the meeting that he needs “resources to spread his message.” She said it seemed clear he was asking for a bribe.

New Mexico
New Campaign Spending Rules to Take Effect
Albuquerque Journal – Dan Boyd | Published: 9/8/2017

Nonprofit advocacy organizations that spend unlimited amount of money to influence elections in New Mexico will have to disclose the names of contributors under rules adopted by state elections officials. The new requirements are set to go into effect on October 10, in time for 2018 primary and general elections, for so-called dark money groups that spend at least $2,500 on a statewide election or ballot measure. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said vague and confusing rules are being cleaned up and the changes will “help shine a light on the dark money that has been plaguing our state’s campaigns.”

New York
Firm Uses Loophole to Secretly Donate $60G to de Blasio Campaign, Lobbying Records Show
New York Daily News – James Fanelli | Published: 9/9/2017

Constantinople & Vallone has a reputation as a powerful lobbying firm that gets its clients access to New York City Hall, but what is not so well known is it has helped steer $60,900 in campaign donations to Mayor Bill de Blasio. A loophole in the city’s campaign finance law has allowed the firm to stay under the radar as a fundraiser for the mayor. The only way to know Constantinople & Vallone has raised so much money for de Blasio is through obscure filings with the city clerk’s lobbying bureau.

Oregon
Legislators Consolidate Power, Cash, in Partially Invisible Cycle of Giving to Each Other
Salem Statesman-Journal – Cooper Green | Published: 9/9/2017

If a candidate passes contributions to another candidate, or to a re-election fund for fellow party members, the public can no longer see the money’s original donor. These transactions are known as pass-throughs. Transactions between Oregon legislators, or between lawmakers and re-election funds, are commonplace and have been for decades. An analysis shows legislative officeholders and candidates have utilized this system of pass-throughs more than 2,800 times in the last three election cycles alone, transferring $18.7 million dollars between themselves. Based on the total amount contributed to legislators during that time, this means more than a quarter of all money involved in legislative campaigns has seen more than one lawmaker as it moves through the system.

Pennsylvania
Elect Them, Then Lobby Them: Two firms blur the worlds of policy and politics in Harrisburg
Philadelphia Inquirer – Angela Couloumbis and Liz Navratil | Published: 9/11/2017

For years, lobbying in Pennsylvania was a secretive business, and more recently attracted scrutiny from federal investigators. A decade-old law strengthened registration and reporting requirements for lobbyists and their clients, but the state still lags behind others in transparency and accountability, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Among Harrisburg’s high-powered partnerships, only two have well-established campaign arms that, for the last decade, have dominated the market on both electing and lobbying Republicans who drive public policy.

Tennessee
Lobbyists Courted Lawmakers with Free Food, Baseball Tickets at Conferences
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 9/11/2017

Under state law, Tennessee lawmakers can accept gifts like dinner and sports tickets at out-of-state conferences, provided they are related to the conference itself. Lobbyists can even pay for events labeled “state night” for lawmakers. And little disclosure is required, unlike the rules in place for how lobbyists interact with lawmakers at the Capitol. The practice at out-of-state conferences is increasingly widespread, including at conferences this year in Boston and Denver, according to interviews with lobbyists, lawmakers, and legislative staff.

Virginia
Virginia Lawmakers Attend Fewest Lobbyist-Paid Entertainment Events Since McDonnell Case
The Virginian-Pilot – Will Houp | Published: 9/7/2017

Virginia lawmakers continue to shrink away from meals, galas, and other entertainment occasions paid for by lobbyists as they attended less than half such events in 2016 and 2017 as they did three years ago. Data from the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council shows a stark difference in what delegates and senators felt comfortable accepting before and after the corruption charges against former Gov. Bob McDonnell. At the same time, several law changes related to lobbyist entertainment have muddied the water in terms of comparing year to year.

Washington
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray Resigns After Fifth Child Sex-Abuse Allegation
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner, Daniel Beekman, and Lewis Kamb | Published: 9/12/2017

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, beset over the past five months by sex abuse allegations, resigned his office. His announcement came after The Seattle Times reported that a fifth man, one of his cousins, had accused Murray of molesting him decades ago. Though he has denied all the accusations against him, Murray had already decided not to seek re-election. City Council President Bruce Harrell will temporarily serve as mayor and will decide within five days whether to take on the role of acting mayor past the November 7 election. If he demurs, the council will pick another of its members to serve until the election results are certified.

 

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.

Continue Reading - 11 min read Close