News You Can Use Digest - April 22, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

April 22, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – April 22, 2016



Elizabeth Warren, Comic Book Hero? Senator Is Latest to Star
Albuquerque Journal – Steve LeBlanc (Associated Press) | Published: 4/18/2016

“Female Force: Elizabeth Warren” tells the true-life story of Warren’s rise from Oklahoma schoolgirl to U.S. senator and champion of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. The 22-page comic is the brainchild of publishers Storm Entertainment and is part of a larger series designed to celebrate the lives of notable women. Instead of leaping over tall buildings, Warren’s political superpowers are focused on something she sees as even more threatening: the Wall Street and Capitol Hill power brokers she holds responsible for hollowing out the middle class. The bulk of the book steers clear of ideological battles and instead zeroes in on Warren’s personal and professional struggles.

Voters Angry About Big Money in Politics Take Their Complaints to City Hall
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 4/18/2016

A backlash against wealthy interests in politics that has lifted the White House bids of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is reverberating beyond this year’s presidential race. The large sums swamping campaigns have prompted voters to appeal to City Halls and state Capitols, hoping to curb the influence of well-heeled donors in their communities. One of the biggest public protests drew thousands to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. But similar, if smaller, efforts have been playing out across the country. The growing number of local campaigns means politicians at every level of government are contending with voters who believe their voices are being drowned out by those with more resources.


PAC Donations from Elderly Donors Draw Scrutiny
USA Today – Fredreka Schouten and Christopher Schnaars | Published: 4/18/2016

VIGOP, an obscure fundraising committee from the Virgin Islands, is one of the top-spending PACs in a constellation of groups tied to Scott Mackenzie, a political treasurer. Mackenzie, whose spending practices have drawn scrutiny in recent years from watchdogs and candidates, has served as treasurer of more than 20 PACs at some point in this election cycle. Three of them, including VIGOP, have collected more than $1 million so far for the 2016 election. In each case, more than half their contributions larger than $200 came from retirees. At the same time, a large share of the donations these groups took in went to fund operating expenses instead of direct contributions to Republican candidates. FEC member Ann Ravel has sounded alarms about the rise of PACs she believes are engaged in “consumer deception” but says there is little in current federal law that gives the agency authority to act.

The New Gilded Age: Close to half of all super PAC money comes from 50 donors
Washington Post – Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy | Published: 4/15/2016

Close to half of the money raised by the groups by the end of February came from just 50 donors and their relatives, according to a Washington Post analysis. In all, donors this cycle have given more than $607 million to 2,300 super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. That means super PAC money is on track to surpass the $828 million the Center for Responsive Politics found was raised by such groups for the 2012 elections. The huge amounts reflect how super PACs are fundraising powerhouses just six years after they came on the scene. The concentration of fundraising power carries echoes of the end of the 19th century, when wealthy interests spent millions helping put William McKinley in the White House.

Trade Group for Lobbyists Closing Down
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 4/19/2016

The Association of Government Relations Professionals (AGRP), formerly the American League of Lobbyists, is shutting down. The closure reportedly stems from a contract dispute with Columbia Books, which runs the website and had been a sponsor for events organized by AGRP. Founded to raise the image of the lobbying profession, AGRP offered networking and courses through its Lobbying Certificate Program. Paul Miller, a lobbyist with Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies, said he has created a new organization called the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics in the wake of AGRP discontinuing its certificate program.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Redistricting Plan
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 4/20/2016

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the state legislative districts in Arizona drawn by an independent commission, rebuffing complaints the electoral maps diminished the clout of Republican voters. The justices said the commission that draws legislative boundaries did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s principle of “one person, one vote.” The case focused on state legislative districts drawn for the 2012 election based on 2010 census numbers. The challengers said the new districts favored Democrats over Republicans by packing GOP voters into certain districts in a way that would minimize their influence in neighboring districts while enhancing the sway of Democratic voters.

California – Are You an Independent Voter? You Aren’t If You Checked This Box
Los Angeles Times – John Myers, Christine Mai-Duc, and Ben Welsh | Published: 4/16/2016

The American Independent Party (AIP) is bigger than all of California’s other minor parties combined. The ultraconservative party’s platform opposes abortion rights and same sex marriage, and calls for building a fence along the entire U.S. border. But a Los Angeles Times investigation has found a majority of its members have registered with the party in error. Nearly three in four people did not realize they had joined the party, according to a survey of registered AIP voters. That mistake could prevent people from casting votes in the June 7 presidential primary. Voters from all walks of life were confused by the use of the word “independent” in the party’s name, according to the newspaper’s analysis.

California – Political Fine from 2012 Mayor’s Race Sets Record
San Diego Union-Tribune – Greg Moran | Published: 4/15/2016

A company that illegally funneled campaign contributions in San Diego’s 2012 mayoral race was fined $128,000 by the city Ethics Commission, the largest penalty ever levied by the agency for campaign finance violations. The investigation revealed the owner of Advantage Towing, Ayman Arekat, orchestrated a series of straw-donor contribution to three campaigns, then hid the source. Arekat, whose company dis business with the city, had employees make $500 contributions – at the time, the maximum allowed under the law – and then reimbursed them with checks drawn on the company’s account.

Florida – Florida Says Firm Didn’t Illegally Try to Influence Attorney General
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 4/20/2016

Bernard Nash, a partner in a former Washington, D.C. law firm who allegedly sought favorable attention from Florida’s attorney general on his clients’ behalf without being registered as a lobbyist, did not violate Florida lobbying law, the state ethics commission found. The investigation began in response to a series of articles that examined the increasing efforts by a wide range of corporations to influence state attorneys general. Lawyers who handle this kind of business rarely register as lobbyists, even though in many cases they also work on general policy matters, like urging state attorneys general to intervene with the federal government on environmental regulations their corporate clients oppose, The New York Times found.

Kentucky – Beshear Aide Tim Longmeyer Pleads Guilty to Bribery; Investigation Continues
Lexington Herald-Leader – John Cheves and Bill Estep | Published: 4/19/2016

A onetime high-ranking state official whose criminal charges were an embarrassment for former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge. Tim Longmeyer abruptly resigned as a deputy in the state attorney general’s office two days before a criminal complaint was announced in March. Longmeyer pleaded guilty to using his influence as the head of the state’s Personnel Cabinet under former Beshear to steer contracts to a public relations firm in 2014 and 2015. Longmeyer admitted to receiving more than $200,000 in kickbacks from the firm. He faces up to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors have not named the consulting firm, but said more people could be charged in the case.

Louisiana – Who’s Really Being Wined and Dined? Louisiana Legislators Trying to Clear up Vague Lobbyist Disclosure Laws
New Orleans Advocate – Elizabeth Crisp | Published: 4/17/2016

Louisiana’s lobbying disclosure laws leave large gaps that lawmakers are trying to fix this year. Several bills making their way through the Legislature this session are aimed at making disclosures more specific – from lobbyists’ reports to the financial disclosures that elected officials have to file. Rep. Chris Broadwater noted in a recent House committee meeting that he did not attend many of the events where his name is listed in lobbyist disclosure reports and he was not treated to nearly all the fancy steak dinners that were ascribed to him. “We work with some very good lobbyists, but I think there are some mistakes made,” Broadwater said.

Michigan – ‘More to Come,’ Attorney General Vows, as Officials Criminally Charged in Flint Water Crisis
Washington Post – Brady Dennis and Mark Berman | Published: 4/20/2016

The first criminal charges stemming from the Flint water crisis were filed as two state officials and a city employee were accused of covering up evidence of lead contamination. Two people at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality were charged with misleading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about whether Flint was using the treatment needed to control lead levels after the city switched its water supply in 2014. Michael Prysby, a district engineer, and Stephen Busch, a district supervisor, were also accused of impeding a Genesee County investigation. Michael Glasglow, the city’s utilities administrator, was charged with tampering with test results to make the lead contamination appear less severe. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette stressed that the charges mark the beginning of a broadening investigation.

Oregon – Political Consultants Must Disclose Clients under New Portland Rule
Portland Oregonian – Brad Schmidt | Published: 4/21/2016

New regulations that take effect on September 1 will require political consultants to register if they advise members of the Portland City Council or the city’s elected auditor. Elected officials also will be required to disclose the consultants who give them advice. But the rules do not prohibit consultants from lobbying the clients they help elect or keep in City Hall. Portland’s new rules will require consultants and lobbyists to disclose when political service begins. But there is not a requirement to reveal the topics or type of service provided.

Virginia – Va. Lawmakers Sustain Series of McAuliffe Vetoes
Richmond Times Dispatch; Staff –   | Published: 4/20/2016

State lawmakers rejected proposed changes by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to Virginia’s new ethics law, saying they were unnecessary. Lawmakers agreed to a $100 cap on gifts in last year’s session, but passed legislation this year that makes exceptions for certain kinds of gifts, including food and drinks under $20. The governor also wanted to prohibit lobbyists from bundling gifts together from multiple clients to avoid exceeding the $100 cap. McAuliffe will review whether to veto the legislation following the rejection of his amendments.

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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