News You Can Use Digest - April 15, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

April 15, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – April 15, 2016



As Campaigns Seek Delegates, Ordinary Voters Feel Sidelined
New York Times – Jeremy Peters | Published: 4/9/2016

For decades, both major parties have used a somewhat convoluted process for picking their presidential nominees, one that involves ordinary voters in only an indirect way. As Americans flock this year to outsider candidates, the kind most hindered by these rules, they are suddenly waking up to this reality. And their confusion and anger are adding another volatile element to an election being waged over questions of fairness and equality. Like with any private members-only club – political parties are not official government entities – party leaders exercise considerable control over which candidate gets their endorsement and the privilege of using their political infrastructure, financial support, and voter base, without which winning in November is all but impossible.

Big Bucks Spent Honoring Lawmakers
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 4/14/2016

Although rules ban gifts to federal officials and place limits on campaign contributions, there is no cap on the amount of money that can be spent honoring lawmakers and top officials with plaques and events, nor are there limits on donations to charities and institutes that policymakers support. The so-called honorary expenses are central to the way Washington, D.C. works yet are rarely reported in the press. More than 240 of organizations shelled out $19.75 million on honorary expenses last year, according to disclosure records. The contributions were made to more than 100 different organizations, some of which have federal officials on their boards.

Inside a Consulting Giant’s Deep Roots in Clinton Land
Politico – Rachel Bade | Published: 4/13/2016

When Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, she sought out Declan Kelly to be her economic envoy to Northern Ireland. While serving as Clinton’s special envoy, reaching out to global corporations for those investments, he was also working for two of them as a private consultant. It was also during this time period that Kelly and Doug Band, a close aide to former President Bill Clinton, were preparing to launch a global consulting business. Teneo Holdings would go on to employ numerous Hillary Clinton associates, giving clients rare access to the couple and their network of world leaders. The fact that Kelly and Band were laying the groundwork for their enterprise while Kelly was working for the State Department represents a fresh illustration of the blurring of the lines between Hillary Clinton’s political network and her State Department that critics have long noted.

Puerto Rico’s Prosperous D.C. Power Couple
New York Times – Eric Lipton and Michael Corkery | Published: 4/12/2016

As Puerto Rico has spiraled toward possible bankruptcy, the island’s sole representative in Congress has seen his family wealth swell, thanks in part to Wall Street companies that have sought to capitalize on the island’s financial crisis and have hired his wife to advise them. The dual roles, those of a lawmaker and a spouse who are both involved in the financial affairs of their community, are hardly unusual in Washington, a city where power couples are increasingly common and, at times, celebrated. But legislation that Pedro Pierluisi, the resident commissioner to Congress from Puerto Rico, has introduced would benefit at least two of the companies that have hired his wife, María Elena Carrión, for financial advice.

Why Thousands of Americans Are Lining Up to Get Arrested in D.C. This Week
Rolling Stone – Ben Wofford | Published: 4/13/2016

More than 400 protesters participating in a recent sit-in on Capitol Hill were arrested and if organizers have their way, there will be more. Democracy Spring is mobilizing a week of sit-ins at the Capitol building – over 3,500 have pledged to be arrested – in what organizers hope will become a series of intensifying waves of protest meant to highlight the influence of money in politics. In an election cycle that has already seen Black Lives Matter and other protesters change the conversation among candidates, Democracy Spring is billing itself as 2016’s first full-stage activist production.

From the States and Municipalities:

Hawaii – A Cool Million Was Spent Lobbying Hawaii Lawmakers in Two Months
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nathan Eagle | Published: 4/7/2016

Nearly $1 million was spent lobbying Hawaii lawmakers during the first two months of the year, pushing the total expenditures to almost $14 million since 2013. Disclosure reports do not detail when a lobbyist had lunch with a legislator or had a private meeting to discuss a bill. The vast majority of lobbyists report spending no money. The filings do show what organizations have hired lobbyists, who they have hired, and how much they’re paying them. But even that information has its limits.

Indiana – Indy Council Approves Ethics Reforms
Indianapolis Star – Brian Eason | Published: 4/11/2016

The ethics code for the city of Indianapolis and Marion County was overhauled with new restrictions on lobbyists and tougher penalties for noncompliance. When the ethics ordinance was first approved in 2009, it set up a registry that required lobbyists to file annual disclosures. But in part because of lax reporting requirements, no enforcement actions have been taken and few gifts have been disclosed since it became effective. Now, lobbyists will have to report the value and recipient of all gifts worth $25 or more. Repeat violators would be subject to lifetime bans for themselves and the firms they represent.

Kentucky – Inside The Kentucky Firm at the Center of the FBI’s Corruption Probe
Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting – James McNair | Published: 4/14/2016

FBI agents in March raided MC Squared Consulting’s office in Lexington. Today, visitors are greeted by a locked door and a paper sign saying “Out of town today.” MC Squared provided services to candidates, like conducting polls, setting up focus groups, developing campaign strategy, and buying ads. Although its offices were searched and employees interviewed by the FBI, MC Squared has not been accused of wrongdoing. Only one person was criminally charged the day of the raid: Tim Longmeyer, Kentucky’s former Personnel Cabinet secretary. Longmeyer is accused of taking more than $200,000 in bribes from an unnamed consulting company in exchange for sending it more than $2 million worth of market research work. Officials would not say if MC Squared is the firm mentioned in the Longmeyer complaint. But more and more, MC Squared appears to be the unnamed company.

Massachusetts – State Panel OK’s GOP’s Use of Federal Funds for Baker War Chest
Boston Globe – Frank Phillips | Published: 4/8/2016

The Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) ruled the state Republican Party can give federally raised resources to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s campaign committee. OCPF Director Michael Sullivan said federal campaign finance laws trump state law. That means a political party is free to raise donations of up to $10,000 under federal guidelines, far above the state’s $1,000 annual limits, and then use those funds to support a state campaign committee. Typically, donations raised under federal guidelines have been used to support candidates for federal, not state, office. “It’s a loophole, but an avenue that can used by both parties; this has never been brought to our attention prior to this case,” Sullivan said.

Nebraska – Nebraska Senators Fail to Vote on Lobbyist Meal Ban
Grand Island Independent; Associated Press –   | Published: 4/13/2016

State senators engaged in a brief discussion about a resolution to end lunches paid for by lobbyists and served to senators in the Nebraska Capitol. But they moved on without taking a vote, to the chagrin of the sponsor, Sen. Ernie Chambers, who plans to reintroduce it next year as a bill instead of a legislative resolution. The resolution sought to stop lobbyists from buying catered meals for lawmakers during the final weeks of the legislative session. Served in the senators’ lounge behind the chamber, the lunches cost about $10,000 last year, according to the lobbyist who organizes them. State law caps gifts to senators or their family members at $50 in value, but places no limits on food and beverages.

New York – Donald Trump and New York Tabloids Resume Their Elaborate Dance
New York Times – Michael Grynbaum | Published: 4/11/2016

As the presidential spotlight swings to New York for the state’s primary contest, Donald Trump is reuniting with the press corps he knows best, a boisterous tabloid culture that spawned and nurtured the outsize Trump personality now known the world over. It is also the ink-stained caldron in which Trump, over decades, honed the method of media management – cajoling, combating, at times dissembling – that he has unleashed, to great effect, in this year’s national campaign. Some Americans have been caught off guard by Trump’s take-no-prisoners style, but New York’s media veterans detect the old Trump playbook at work.

New York – Federal Prosecutors Cast a Wider Net in New York City Hall Inquiry
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Al Baker | Published: 4/10/2016

A federal corruption investigation examining New York City police officials, a correction union leader, and businesspeople with fundraising ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio has expanded into a probe of the mayor’s campaign fundraising, people familiar with the matter said. One of the businesspeople held a fundraiser at his home for the Campaign for One New York, a nonprofit supporting the mayor’s agenda and run by his allies, and another bundled more than $40,000 in contributions to de Blasio’s 2013 campaign. Federal investigators are interested in whether major donors to the Campaign for One New York received special treatment from de Blasio’s administration, the sourced said. The investigators are looking at whether donations were made in exchange for some kind of official act.

Tennessee – Jeremy Durham’s Office Moved Across Street after AG Probe
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 4/8/2016

Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Durham is effectively being quarantined from lawmakers, lobbyists, and interns after the state’s attorney general determined he could pose a risk to “unsuspecting women” at the state Capitol complex. House Speaker Beth Harwell announced she is moving Durham’s office to the ground floor of a building across the street and his access to committee rooms and the House chamber will be limited to when meetings are taking place. The move comes amid an investigation into the Durham’s “pattern of conduct” toward women. Interviews with 34 current and former lawmakers, lobbyists, staffers, and interns included allegations that Durham made sexual comments and inappropriate physical contact with women working at Legislative Plaza, according to Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s memorandum to Harwell.

Washington – Legislature Gets a C- Grade from Lobbyists. That’s Actually an Improvement.
Tacoma News-Tribune – Melissa Santos | Published: 4/12/2016

According to the annual poll of lobbyists, the Washington Legislature’s overall performance in 2016 was slightly better than in any year since 2011. On a 4.0 scale, the Legislature this year earned a grade point average of 1.78, an improvement from 1.73 last year and the six-year low of 1.54 in 2013. Lobbyists docked the Legislature for its work on certain issues, especially K-12 education. Grades were lower than last year in five of eight subject areas, according to the report. Lobbyists were even more critical of Gov. Jay Inslee, giving him the lowest rating they have since he took office in 2013.

Jim SedorState 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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