News You Can Use - April 20, 2018 - State and Federal Communications

April 20, 2018  •  

News You Can Use – April 20, 2018





Patrick Kennedy Profits from Opioid-Addiction Firms
Politico – Adam Cancryn | Published: 4/17/2018

Patrick Kennedy, who stepped down from Congress amid his battles with addiction and mental illness, is a high-profile mental health advocate who sat on President Trump’s opioid commission. At the same time, he has served as chief executive officer of the Kennedy Forum, which is funded in part by major drug makers and addiction-treatment companies. He received more than $1.1 million from the organization between 2014 and 2016. Kennedy also sits on the boards of eight corporations invested in Washington’s response to the opioid crisis, from which he collects director fees and holds an equity stake in the firms. The many entanglements make Kennedy a one-man nexus of government, private-sector, and patient-advocacy work. Despite his extensive advocacy work, Kennedy said he has not registered as a lobbyist because his activities do not meet the legal specifications of lobbying.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona: Woman at Center of Phoenix Lobbyist Forgery Scandal Convicted, Sentenced
Arizona Republic – Dustin Gardner and Rick O’Dell | Published: 4/13/2018

Beth Briggs, a legal assistant with the firm Burch & Cracchiolo, pleaded guilty to filing fraudulent lobbying documents with the city of Phoenix. She must pay a $1,000 fine and complete 200 hours of community service. Investigators said Briggs falsely backdated documents, forged a former attorney’s signature, and signed an affidavit falsely claiming she had mailed the forms. The forged documents made it appear as if Burch & Cracchiolo had complied with an ordinance that requires lobbyists at regular intervals to register, list their clients, and disclose contributions or gifts to elected officials. The firm, however, had not filed the required forms for about two years, even as one of its top attorneys lobbied the city.

Florida: Fernandez Gave Football Tickets to City Officials; Investigation Finds ‘No Rule Violation’
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 4/16/2018

Two high-ranking city officials accepted Florida State University football tickets in 2016 from former Tallahassee City Manager Rick Fernandez, who was ousted this year for accepting football tickets from a local lobbying firm under FBI scrutiny. The city, in an internal inquiry, determined the employees did not violate Florida law by accepting the tickets or not reporting them as gifts because they did not exceed a $100 threshold. However, the city found, had the tickets cost a penny more, they would have exceeded the statutory threshold.

Florida: Stymied in Effort to Fill Empty Seats, North Miami Beach Commission Can’t Take a Vote
Miami Herald – Kyra Gurney | Published: 4/18/2018

A week after Mayor George Vallejo resigned and pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws, North Miami Beach scrambled to fill a vacancy on the city commission so the elected body had enough members to function. Only four of the commission’s seven seats were filled and it needed at least five members present to take any action. The city secured a last-minute order from a judge allowing recently ousted Commissioner Frantz Pierre to return for an emergency meeting so the commission could appoint a new member. Then, Commissioner Anthony DeFillipo announced he could not participate in the meeting. With that, the commissioner marched out of the meeting, leaving the panel where it started, one vote shy of the number needed to fill a vacant seat.

Illinois: Cook County Tax Officials Take Excess Campaign Donations from Appeals Firms, Ethics Panel Says
Chicago Tribune – Ray Long and Hal Dardick | Published: 4/13/2018

Records show Cook County officials who decide the outcome of property tax appeals accepted more than $500,000 in campaign donations from law firms and other businesses that help challenge tax bills, far more than permitted under a county ethics ordinance. Assessor Joseph Berrios and Board of Review members Larry Rogers Jr., Dan Patlak, and Michael Cabonargi were told to return about $440,000 of about $600,000 given by the law firms or other companies involved in the property tax appeals business. Hoping to prevent “pay-to-play,” the county board set caps on contributions from people or businesses that have “sought official action by the county within the preceding four years.” Donations are limited to $750 in a non-election year and $1,500 in an election year.

Iowa: Regulator: Iowa official won’t have to ID outside businesses
WRAL – Ryan Foley (Associated Press) | Published: 4/18/2018

Secretary of State Paul Pate will not be required to identify his private businesses in a conflict-of-interest disclosure form because other state officials have kept similar information secret without consequence, said Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board Director Megan Tooker. Pate owns a strip mall and two rental storage businesses that he did not list on a recent ethics filing. As mandated by state law, the form asked Pate to identify “each business, occupation, or profession” in which he was engaged during 2017 and warned of criminal and civil penalties for failing to do so.

Kansas: Gov. Colyer Signs Sweeping Executive Branch Transparency Measure
Kansas City Star – Hunter Woodall | Published: 4/16/2018

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signed a bill that will require people trying to influence an executive branch official on contracts to register as a lobbyist. “Senate Bill 394 will equalize the treatment of lobbying within all branches of state government,” Colyer said in a statement. An investigation last year by The Kansas City Star found the state has one of the most secretive governments in the nation.

Kansas: Kobach Helped Lead Trump’s Election Panel. A Judge Just Found Him in Contempt in a Voter ID Case
Denver Post – Eli Rosenberg (Washington Post) | Published: 4/18/2018

One of President Trump’s leading voter-fraud investigators was ruled in contempt of court for flouting a judge’s orders to ensure voters in his home state were not misled ahead of the 2016 general election. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was vice chairperson of the election integrity commission the the Trump administration disbanded, was cited by U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson for a “history of noncompliance and disrespect” for the court’s decisions. In 2016, Kobach lost a challenge to the Kansas Documentary Proof of Citizenship law. He then failed to comply with the court’s directive that he inform affected voters they would be deemed registered and qualified to vote, according to the ruling .

Massachusetts: Thornton Law Firm Didn’t Break State Campaign Finance Laws, Prosecutor Says
Boston Globe – Andrea Estes | Published: 4/18/2018

A probe of the Thornton Law Firm found “no conclusive evidence of a crime,” despite an initial review from Massachusetts regulators saying there may have been campaign finance violations, Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. The Office of Campaign and Political Finance had asked Attorney General Maura Healey to investigate contributions from the firm’s partners and spouses. The agency raised questions over whether partners sought to disguise where the money came from and whether the contributions were with personal funds and were not paid or not reimbursed by the law firm. State law bans corporations from contributing to campaigns and prohibits a person from reimbursing someone else for a political donation.

Missouri: Hawley Says Probe into Greitens, Charity Indicates Potential Felony by Governor
Kansas City Star – Lindsay Wise (McClatchy), Jason Hancock, and Bryan Lowry | Published: 4/17/2018

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, already facing a felony charge related to an extramarital affair, could soon face another after the state’s attorney general cited evidence that suggests Greitens’ use of a charity donor list for political purposes may have broken state law. Attorney General Josh Hawley said an investigation by his office shows Greitens took computer data listing the top donors to The Mission Continues without the consent of the veterans’ charity he had founded and used it to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign. Hawley said he referred the matter to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who has jurisdiction to decide whether to charge Greitens with a crime. He also referred his findings to a special House committee that is considering whether to recommend impeachment proceedings against the governor.

Montana: Dark Money Group Pays $30K Fine for Breaking Montana Campaign Finance Law
Montana Current – John Adams (Montana Free Press) | Published: 4/14/2018

A political group has agreed to pay a $30,000 fine for violating Montana’s campaign finance laws in the 2012 elections. The Montana Growth Network claimed to be an incidental political committee that did not have the primary purpose of supporting or opposing candidates or ballot issues and therefore did not have to disclose its donors. The commissioner of political practices concluded the group should have registered as an independent political committee and reveal donors.

New York: Cuomo Touts Political Ad Transparency Law as Other Reforms
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 4/19/2018

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that prohibits foreign entities from creating independent expenditure committees or buying political ads, requires anyone who purchases an online political ad to register as an independent expenditure committee, and requires online ads to include information about who paid for them, as is currently required of traditional media platforms. The state Board of Elections will also now create a public archive of those online ads and retain them for five years. The bill was a component of Cuomo’s larger Democracy Agenda that otherwise fell by the wayside during budget negotiations and seem unlikely to pass in the remaining months of the legislative session.

New York: New York Attorney General Seeks Power to Bypass Presidential Pardons
New York Times – Danny Hakim and William Rashbaum | Published: 4/18/2018

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asked legislators to amend state law so prosecutors can charge individuals who have benefitted from a presidential pardon. Right now, New York law prevents people from being prosecuted more than once for crimes related to the same act, even if the original prosecution was in federal court. In explaining the need for the change, Schneiderman cited recent reports that President Trump may be considering pardons that could impede criminal investigations. Schneiderman argued that due to the current statute, a “strategically-timed pardon” could protect individuals who have violated New York laws.

Washington: Many of the State’s Powerful Lobbyists Work from One Olympia Neighborhood
The Olympian – Joseph O’Sullivan (Seattle Times) | Published: 4/16/2018

Nearly one-third of the 62 homes found immediately south of the Capitol in Olympia are owned or used by lobbyists, corporations, or unions, according to a review of public records. Those homes, some just across the street from the Capitol campus, are a physical manifestation of the close relationship between Washington’s nearly 800 registered lobbyists and the state’s elected officials. Last year, seven of the state’s 10 highest-earning lobbying firms had a presence in the neighborhood. Some lobbyists say they use their Olympia homes only for sleep or light work before and after the long days of the legislative session. With sessions in recent years lasting between two and seven months, the homes can remain vacant for long stretches in between.


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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