News You Can Use Digest - April 11, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

April 11, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – April 11, 2014




States Look Harder at Rules on Gifts to Lawmakers

Philadelphia Inquirer – Amy Worden | Published: 4/6/2014

News that four state lawmakers from Philadelphia were caught on tape allegedly taking cash or gifts from a lobbyist has stoked new calls for reform. Pennsylvania is not alone. Organizations that monitor ethics laws nationwide say the last decade has brought tighter state laws involving gift-giving, lobbying, and conflict-of-interest, some driven by similar scandals.


Big Donors Fear Shakedown after Decision

Politico – Anna Palmer and Tarini Parti | Published: 4/2/2014

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the limit on an individual’s overall campaign contributions infringed on First Amendment rights cleared the way for donors to give the maximum amount to as many candidates and political parties as they wish during a two-year election cycle. The decision means a common excuse for brushing off fundraising requests – that potential donors, many of them lobbyists,  have already “maxed out” their contributions under the cap – is now moot.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – Ariz. Legislators Don’t Disclose Gifts, Resist Change

Arizona Republic – Mary Jo Pitzl | Published: 4/8/2014

Disclosure is not a comfortable topic at the Arizona Capitol, where four years ago the Fiesta Bowl scandal erupted over 28 current and former lawmakers accepting lavish trips and college-football game tickets. Since then, despite proposals to clarify disclosure rules, nothing has changed. State law requires elected officials to disclose gifts they received that were worth $500 or more. But that is not strictly followed, according to an Arizona Republic review of the annual reports. At least nine lawmakers did not initially report trips they took in 2013.

California – Suspended Senators Leave Millions of Constituents Short on Representation

Sacramento Bee – Jeremy White | Published: 4/6/2014

The legal troubles roiling Sacramento have left millions of constituents without the elected representatives they sent to the Capitol to advocate and vote for their interests. Three senators fighting criminal cases were suspended from office. When lawmakers are stripped of their most basic and potent tool for shaping policy – a vote on legislation – the constituents are also, in a sense, disenfranchised.

Delaware – Lobbying Fee Proposed to Pay for Oversight

Wilmington News Journal – Jonathan Starkey | Published: 4/9/2014

Legislation will be introduced in Delaware that would require lobbyists to pay an annual registration fee to help fund the state Public Integrity Commission. The bill would require lobbyists to pay the fee for each client they represent. Another measure filed recently would impose a fee for lobbyists who file disclosure reports late.

Georgia – Ethics Chief in Georgia Wins Suit over Ouster

Athens Banner Herald – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 4/5/2014

A jury ruled former state ethics commission Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman was unfairly forced from that job as retribution for investigating Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign, and ordered the state to pay her $700,000. Kalberman’s lawyers tried to show the decision to cut her salary by $35,000 and to eliminate an aide’s job were a response to the pair’s desire to issue subpoenas for records in the investigation. Attorneys for the commission tried to establish the agency’s budget was in crisis and that was what motivated the cuts.

Indiana – Rep. Eric Turner, Facing Ethics Probe, Has Long and Deep Ties to Nursing Home Companies

Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook | Published: 4/4/2014

An Indiana House ethics committee is set to probe Rep. Eric Turner’s role in quashing legislation that would have halted new nursing home development and helped his son’s company. An Indianapolis Star review of Turner’s personal business interests found he has a stake in at least a half dozen companies that have been engaged in building, leasing, or investing in nursing home properties. The Star also found Turner did not list some of the companies on financial disclosure statements.

Iowa – Supreme Court Declines to Hear Iowa Campaign Finance Challenge

Reuters – Lawrence Hurley | Published: 4/7/2014

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to an Iowa law that prohibits campaign donations from corporations but allows them from unions. By opting not to hear the case, the justices left intact an Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from June 2013 that upheld the ban.

Minnesota – Minnesota’s Limits on Campaign Donations to Be Challenged

Minneapolis Star Tribune – Rachel Stassen-Berger | Published: 4/8/2014

For decades, Minnesota law has said campaigns can raise 20 percent of their cash from lobbyists, PACs, and donors who give large amounts. After candidates hit that limit, they only can accept lesser amounts from subsequent contributors. Opponents say the “first come, first served” law is an unconstitutional limit of free speech, and the libertarian Institute for Justice will file a lawsuit challenging the statute.

Ohio – Ohio House Approves Eliminating Rule on Corporate Political Spending after Lengthy Debate

Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer (Northeat Ohio Media Group) | Published: 4/9/2014

The Ohio House passed legislation that would abolish a state rule restricting corporate political spending. Under the rule, corporations have to identify themselves in political ads and disclose money they spend in support of candidates. It also bars political spending made independently of campaigns by foreign-owned corporations and companies that recently received government contracts. House bill 483 now goes to the Senate.

Pennsylvania – Pa. Senate Passes Bill to Ban Cash Gifts to Legislators

Philadelphia Inquirer – Amy Worden | Published: 4/9/2014

The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously approved a bill that bans cash gifts to lawmakers and other elected and appointed officials in state and local government. The Senate also approved unanimously passed an ethics rule change for the chamber that carries the same provisions on cash and cash-like gifts. The only difference between the two is the bill caries the weight of the law so violators could be prosecuted. The ethics rule does not; it calls for a civil penalty.

Pennsylvania – Sources: U.S. prosecutors made no judgment on sting case

Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 4/8/2014

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported federal officials never came to a final conclusion about the merits of a suspended legislative sting operation before Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane asked them to halt that review. Kane, after revelations she decided to abandon the case in which several officials were caught on tape accepting cash and other gifts from an informant posing as a lobbyist, had said her decision had been endorsed by federal law enforcement officials who she has not identified by name.

South Carolina – SC Governor, AG Candidates Collected Excess Campaign Cash

The State – Andrew Shain | Published: 4/5/2014

An analysis by The State showed candidates for governor and attorney general in 2010 received $336,345 in campaign contributions above South Carolina’s legal limits. While the excessive donations represent a fraction of the amounts raised by these candidates, the newspaper said its analysis of state Ethics Commission data points to how campaigns can fail to follow campaign finance rules without getting caught by regulators.

Virginia – Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe Wants Lobbyists to Report Gifts to Lawmakers’ Families

Columbus Republic – Alan Suderman (Associated Press) | Published: 4/8/2014

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe amended an ethics bill that passed the General Assembly in the wake of a gifts scandal that led to corruption charges against former Gov. Bob McDonnell. McAuliffe’s proposed changes would require lobbyists to report what they spend on gifts and entertainment for both lawmakers and their families. Lawmakers will have to approve the governor’s changes.

Wisconsin – GOP’s Mike Ellis Caught on Recording Talking of Illegal Fundraising

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley and Daniel Bice | Published: 4/10/2014

A secretly recorded video produced by a conservative activist shows state Senate President Mike Ellis talking about creating and raising money for a committee to run negative ads against his Democratic opponent, which would be illegal for a candidate to do in Wisconsin. Ellis issued a statement acknowledging the conversation but said he learned the next day the proposal was illegal and did not pursue it.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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