News You Can Use Digest - April 25, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

April 25, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – April 25, 2014

 

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National:

General Dynamics to No Longer Contribute to Political Organizations

Washington Business Journal – Jill Aitoro | Published: 4/22/2014

General Dynamics announced it will no longer make contributions to political organizations or nonprofit groups that in turn give to campaigns. The decision comes in response to a shareholder proposal that requests that the company’s board of directors authorize an annual report disclosing lobbying policy and procedures, and membership in and payments to tax-exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation.

Political Attack Ads, Often Negative, Try Instead to Accentuate the Positive

New York Times – Ashley Parker | Published: 4/17/2014

Some of the best-known super PACs and outside political groups are making an effort to cast the candidates they support in an appealing way instead of solely attacking opponents. Already this year, 16 percent of Americans for Prosperity’s spots have been positive; in 2012, the group did not run a single one. The shift is the product of several factors, such as the renewed hope that positive commercials can break through the advertising clutter and the increasing prevalence of stock footage made public by campaigns that makes producing positive ads easier.

Federal:

Following Sebelius Phone Call, Foundation Donated $13M to Obamacare Outreach Group, Report Says

Washington Post – Jason Millman | Published: 4/21/2014

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last year approached five organizations seeking money or technical help for Enroll America, a nonprofit working to increase participation in the federal health law, according to a review by the Government Accountability Office. Republicans had criticized Sebelius for making a funding request to outside groups, while the Obama administration defended the action, contending Congress refused to provide enough funding for Affordable Care Act outreach.

Justice Stevens Suggests Solution for ‘Giant Step in the Wrong Direction’

New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 4/21/2014

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said the court had made a disastrous wrong turn in its recent string of campaign finance rulings. In an interview with The New York Times, Stevens talked about what he called a telling flaw in the opening sentence of the ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, and filled in some new details about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to the Citizens United decision.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – Ethics Panel Wants More Public Funding Available to Candidates

Los Angeles Times – Soumya Karlamangla | Published: 4/17/2014

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission recommended the city’s public campaign finance program increase the matching funds available to candidates. The commission also announced it would no longer enforce aggregate contribution limits on individuals giving to city and school board candidates as a result of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. City caps on what donors can give to individual candidates will remain in effect. Those range from $700 to $1,300 per election, depending on the office.

Connecticut – DGA Challenges Connecticut’s Campaign Finance Restrictions

Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 4/23/2014

The Democratic Governors’ Association sued the state of Connecticut, saying its laws on political spending are unconstitutionally broad and limit the ability of political groups to buy independent ads backing candidates. The lawsuit said the state unfairly treats independent money spent on ads and other political messages by the national group as contributions to particular candidates, and thus subject to campaign finance limits.

Missouri – Missouri Lawmakers Take Trips to Israel, California, New Orleans – On the Lobbyists’ Dime

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kevin McDermott | Published: 4/21/2014

Industry and special interest groups spent more than $200,000 in the last three years on trips for Missouri lawmakers, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Records show the travel-related spending in many cases included airline tickets, hotel rooms, meals, and convention fees. While lobbyist spending is legal in Missouri, critics say the practice can create conflicts-of-interest when legislators vote on important issues. Defenders of lobbyist spending say paying for trips that provide lawmakers with valuable information is not the same as plying legislators with perks.

New York – Judge Strikes Down NY Limits on Donations to ‘Super PACs’

Reuters – Joseph Ax | Published: 4/24/2014

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Crotty struck down New York’s limits on donations to independent PACs as unconstitutional. The judge said the statutes could not survive First Amendment scrutiny in light of recent landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have lessened restrictions on political donors. Under Crotty’s ruling, super PACs can now raise unlimited funds, though committees that coordinate with parties or candidates are still subject to limits.

North Carolina – Feds Eye Ex-Mayor Cannon’s Campaign in Charlotte Corruption Probe

Charlotte Observer – Fred Clasen-Kelly and Ames Alexander | Published: 4/12/2014

As the FBI builds its public corruption case against former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, investigators are taking a close look at campaign finance records he filed with the Mecklenburg County elections board. But a Charlotte Observer review of Cannon’s campaign records since 1999 found reports with misleading, inaccurate, and missing information that makes it difficult to tell where he got much of his money.

Ohio – Lobbyists Could Spend More on Ohio Lawmakers under Proposed Legislation Billed as Ethics Reform

Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jeremy Pelzer (Northeast Ohio Media Group) | Published: 4/23/2014

New legislation, if enacted, would make the most significant changes to Ohio’s ethics rules in two decades. Lobbyists would get to spend twice as much on lawmakers and disclose fewer expenses under the proposed bill. The measure, which Republican sponsors say they intend to introduce in May, also includes increased transparency and accountability measures, such as requiring random audits of public officials’ financial disclosure forms and posting all such forms online.

Pennsylvania – Pa. Legislative Sting’s First Suspects Were Caught, Not Targeted, Supporters of the Aborted Probe Say

Harrisburg Patriot-News – Charles Thomspon | Published: 4/16/2014

A legislative sting operation quashed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane was much broader than originally described, and the undercover informant who recorded many conversations reached out to a racially diverse group of Democratic and Republican state lawmakers, lobbyists, and city officials, according to sources. Kane has argued that one reason she decided not to pursue the investigation was that there was an appearance of racially-based targeting of potential suspects.

Tennessee – Candidate is Treasurer of PAC Raising Money for Him

The Tennessean – Michael Cass | Published: 4/20/2014

Donors invited to a recent fundraiser for state House candidate Troy Brewer were told they could avoid disclosure on campaign finance reports by writing their checks to Leaders of Tennessee, a PAC Brewer serves as treasurer. Giving to a specific candidate through a PAC to mask the source of the funds is illegal, subject to a fine of up to $10,000. “You can’t use an intermediary to get around disclosure,” said Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.

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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