October 25, 2010 •
New York Inspector General Finds Potential Ethics Violations in Video Lottery Terminal Bidding Process
New York State Inspector General Joseph Fisch has released a report that criticizes New York State leaders for failing to fulfill their public duty in the January 2010 selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) to operate video lottery terminals at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The 300-page report concludes that AEG should have been disqualified, and that the chaotic process resulting in AEG’s multi-billion dollar award was a “political free-for-all” marked by unfair advantages and more than $100,000 in campaign donations.
The report found that Governor Paterson, Senate Democratic Conference Leader Sampson, Senate President Pro Tempore Smith, and Assembly Speaker Silver each contributed to the multi-million dollar debacle. The report strongly recommends that the bidding process used to select AEG never be repeated and that New York State impose stringent procurement restrictions on all major contracts to ensure that they are competitive, transparent and fair.
The Inspector General’s Office is forwarding the report to United States Attorney and New York County District Attorney, for appropriate action and referring Senators Sampson and Smith to the Legislative Ethics Commission.
Map of New York by Huebi on Wikipedia.
October 22, 2010 •
A place where the public and government can solve problems together.
This is the phrase that has launched a new movement and Web site – Challenge.gov – encouraging the American people to take on challenges presented to them from some of the nation’s largest agencies, including NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the Social Security Administration.
Why create such a Web site?
“This is a fundamental shift in power,” Vivek Kundra, federal chief information officer, said at the Gov 2.0 Summit conference announcing Challenge.gov, along with Aneesh Chopra, White House chief technology officer. “This engages the American people to be co-creators to solve some of the toughest problems America faces.”
Ranging from challenges involving emerging designers and architects turning a mid-century federal office building into a model of environmental efficiency, to creating original music and/or music videos that celebrate healthy and inspirational living, people of all ages can participate and become developers in this “national science fair” for America.
One challenge proposed by the site is called “How do I become president?” with the solutions being judged on an 8-10 year-old basis. A sister site, “Kids.gov,” started this challenge because it was continually asked the question “How can I become the President when I grow up?” The winners of the challenge, set to be announced on November 29, 2010 will be featured on Kids.gov. Their best overall “infographic” will be printed as posters and distributed to schools and libraries across the country.
Not everyone has the opportunity or desire to work for the federal government or hold public office, but with this new Web site they can play a vital role in helping improve our country while at the same time putting some cash in their pocket. —– Chickasha Express Star – Sep 27, 2010
October 21, 2010 •
Montana Judge Rules Law Prohibiting Independent Corporate Contributions is Unconstitutional
District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena ruled Monday that the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibited corporations from making independent political expenditures, is unconstitutional. Bozeman attorney Margot Barg argued on behalf of the plaintiffs, a gun rights organization and a local painting company, that corporations are entitled to make the same sort of free political speech as individuals citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Judge Sherlock wrote that the Montana law, “insofar as it prevents corporations from making independent expenditures to support or oppose political candidates or political parties, is declared unconstitutional.” Restrictions on corporate contributions to political candidates are not affected by the decision. Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock plans to appeal the district court’s ruling.
October 20, 2010 •
City Council to Consider Pay to Play Restrictions
The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission voted in favor of a planned ballot measure to bar city contractors from making campaign contributions to candidates running for mayor and city council. Los Angeles City Council will decide by the end of November whether to place this law on the ballot for the March 8 municipal election.
Under the proposal, those who do not abide by the new restrictions risk being barred from winning a city contract for four years. This type of ban has been under consideration several times since 2005 but has stalled at various stages of the legislative process each time.
Photo of Los Angeles City Hall by Brion VIBBER on Wikipedia.
October 20, 2010 •
Bill Introduced to City Council
Baltimore City Council President Bernard Young introduced legislation to expand the city’s rules on lobbying. The Promoting Honesty in Lobbying bill requires individuals paid any dollar amount for lobbying to register as lobbyists. Currently, individuals are only required to register as lobbyists if they earn $2,500 or more.
Registration would also be required of individuals spending 20 percent or more of their time over a six-month period on lobbying. Lobbyists would have to report total expenditures for grassroots lobbying, including those for print, audio, visual, and electronic publications. Among other provisions of the bill is the prohibition of a lobbyist stating he or she can obtain the vote of a councilmember.
Photo by Nfutvol on Wikipedia.
October 19, 2010 •
New Law Required
The State Ethics Commission will not appeal South Carolina Citizens for Life, Inc. v Krawcheck, a federal court decision finding South Carolina’s statutory definition of committee unconstitutional. The commission has already voluntarily announced it will not enforce provisions of the law concerning committees making independent expenditures.
State Ethics Commission Executive Director Herb Hayden says groups can now both raise and spend unlimited amounts of money and likely will not have to report their donors. He and Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Wes Hayes say a new law is needed to govern committee contribution limits.
October 18, 2010 •
Commission to Review Ethics Rules
Potential loopholes in the recently passed Palm Beach County Ethics Ordinance have some lawmakers once again working on ethics legislation. The new ethics rules, which went into effect on May 1, 2010, require a financial benefit to result from prohibited conduct, but do not include other benefits derived which are not financial in nature.
A proposed revision is in the early stages of legislation. Since 2006, four county commissioners have resigned their positions to face criminal charges over their misuse of office. Despite the potential loopholes, commissioners still hope the ethics reforms which took effect earlier this year will result in ethical relief to the scandal-plagued county.
October 18, 2010 •
Agency reminds filers they must file 72-hour reports for late contributions
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) has reminded state and county candidates, state party committees, and ballot question committees they must now file 72-hour late contribution reports if they receive and deposit contributions of $500 or more shortly before a primary or general election. In the case of the upcoming November 2nd general election, the reporting period runs from October 16 to October 29.
The new change to state law specifically requires disclosure, within 72 hours, of contributions of $500 or more which are deposited within 18 days of an election. The new law does not, however, require 72-hour reports for large deposits made within three days before an election. For instance, reports would not have to be filed for for late contributions deposited from October 30 to November 1, the three days prior to Election Day on November 2nd.
October 18, 2010 •
New requirements for groups funding ads in California
The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) has promulgated a rule requiring groups paying for political advertisements expressly advocating for the election or defeat of a candidate or ballot measure to disclose who paid for the message, even in when the messages do not contain so-called magic words such as “vote for,” or “elect”. Those words have previously been the legal threshold for disclosure.
This rule will apply to messages appearing in the final 60 days before an election. The regulations will not take effect until after the November general election.
“The commission has adopted what is likely the first statewide rule of its type in the nation,” said FPPC Chair Dan Schnur. “By forcing the disclosure of those who truly attempt to influence the outcome of an election, we have put an end to the most egregious of campaign tactics.”
Here is the original press release: “FPPC Shines Light on “Thinly Veiled” Campaign Speech”
Photo by Zscout370 on Wikipedia.
October 14, 2010 •
If you want to stay up on the latest happenings in the world of social media, political campaigns, and government, follow techPresident!
With the 2008 presidential election, the relationship between social media and elections undoubtedly changed. Campaigns utilized Facebook and Twitter as a powerful campaign tool. But the change was also felt in the way the average person, through social media, was able to stay connected to the candidates and to generate their own political campaign content on YouTube, blogs, etc.
Recognizing the unfolding revolution, Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry founded a Web site in 2007 called techPresident, reporting on the 2008 presidential campaigns. Through charts, graphs, and blog posts, techPresident kept track of every promotion and attack ad that hit the internet. From Hillary Clinton’s “Let the Conversation Begin” promotion in January 2007, and ads attacking John McCain, to techPresident’s favorite videos of 2007 list showing the top “voter generated” videos in December 2007.
But the election came and went, so techPresident decided to change its focus to how the White House and the public interact on the web, plus going forward they are covering the use of social media in presidential, legislative, and state races.
The same team runs a sister Web site called the Personal Democracy Forum, which claims a broader focus:
Technology and the Internet are changing democracy in America. This site is one hub for the conversation already underway between political practitioners and technologists, as well as anyone invigorated by the potential of all this to open up the process and engage more people in all the things that we can and must do together as citizens. We value your input and ideas.
You can get involved on these sites, too! You can vote for your favorite campaign video, see which politician has the most Facebook supporters, check the job board for listings for a job with a campaign or PAC, follow the techPresident Tweet stream, or stay on top of campaign events on techPresident’s calendar.
Best of all, they want your input: “Got tips, leads, or suggestions for techPresident? By all means, send them in.”
October 13, 2010 •
Legislator’s Complaint Raises Concerns over New Hampshire Lobbyist Registration Requirement
A 2006 New Hampshire ethics reform law requiring any non-public official who meets with a lawmaker to discuss legislation to register as a lobbyist has recently come under fire. The law currently exempts lawyers who are full-time employees of a public body from the registration requirement. Opponents of the law argue small towns and school districts that cannot afford a full-time attorney are put at a disadvantage to larger governmental organizations in efforts to influence legislation.
Citing the law, New Hampshire Rep. Rick Watrous recently asked the attorney general’s office to investigate the actions of attorney John Teague. Teague serves as the Concord School District’s lawyer, but is not a full-time school district employee. Teague participated in a meeting with Senate President Sylvia Larsen, Sen. Betsi DeVries, and the Superintendent of the Concord School District to discuss a House bill dealing with the school district’s charter. The attorney general’s office found that Teague ran afoul of the law by meeting with lawmakers privately and issued a public warning and ordered Teague to register retroactively as a lobbyist and pay the $50 annual filing fee. The finding has raised concerns about the propriety and application of the current registration requirement, including calls for legislative reform of the statute.
Photo of New Hampshire State Capitol Building by Nikopoley on Wikipedia.
October 13, 2010 •
PACs will continue to be allowed to receive unlimited contributions for independent expenditures.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the city’s appeal of a lawsuit brought by the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce over the city’s campaign finance rules involving independent expenditures.
Long Beach appealed to the high court after the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court ruling stating the Chamber’s PAC may receive unlimited contributions to fund their independent campaign expenditures in city elections.
Photo of Long Beach by WPPilot on Wikipedia.
October 12, 2010 •
Order Issued Enjoining Enforcement of Hawaii Campaign Finance Law Specific to Plaintiffs
A federal judge has granted the request of two men seeking to be able to contribute in excess of the state’s limit of $1,000 to a noncandidate political action committee. U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright issued an order permitting the plaintiffs in the action to contribute $2,500 to the Aloha Family Alliance, a noncandidate political action committee which supports traditional marriage and opposes abortion and physician-assisted suicide, for the general election.
Hawaii law limits contributions to a noncandidate committee to $1,000 per election, with the primary and general election counting as two separate elections. Neither plaintiff in this action had made a contribution during the primary election. Further, the written order does not allow others exceed the $1,000 limit for the general election.
State Attorney General Mark Bennett has requested a stay of the order while the case is appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. This order only speaks to this particular facet of the lawsuit, not to the additional plaintiff complaints regarding disclaimers and attribution related to advertisements, political reporting requirements, and pay-to-play restrictions, which Judge Seabright will rule on at a later date.
October 11, 2010 •
Akron City Council has approved a resolution of support for issues 11 to 17 which will appear on the November 2 ballot.
If approved, Issue 14 will require the council to pass legislation within 90 days amending the city’s campaign finance regulations. The caps on individual contributions would increase from $100 to $200 per candidate per election for ward candidates and from $300 to $450 for candidates for mayor and council members-at-large.
Also, the council will be required to hold mandatory public hearings every two years to revisit the city’s contribution limits to consider adjustments for inflation and costs of living.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com