News You Can Use Digest - April 4, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

April 4, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – April 4, 2014




New G.O.P. Bid to Limit Voting in Swing States

New York Times – Steven Yaccino and Lizette Alvarez | Published: 3/29/2014

Some swing states under Republican control are enacting new restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond recent voter identification requirements. The bills, laws, and administrative rules shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote.


Supreme Court Strikes Down Overall Political Donation Cap

New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 4/2/2014

The U.S. Supreme Court freed wealthy donors to give more money directly to congressional candidates. The conservative majority struck down aggregate limits that barred political donors from giving more than $123,000 in an election cycle to candidates running for seats in the House or Senate. The court said this limit violated the free-speech rights of the donors, and it was not needed to prevent corruption of the political process. The justices noted donors must still abide by rules that prevent them from giving more than $2,600 per election per candidate.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Wren Resigns

Montgomery Advertiser – Kala Kachmar and Brian Lyman | Published: 4/1/2014

Alabama Rep. Greg Wren resigned and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor ethics violation in a deal that will secure his cooperation with a corruption investigation at the Capitol. Court documents said Wren, an insurance agent by trade who served as chairperson of the Joint Legislative Medicaid Committee, tried to insert language in the state budget that would have given American Pharmacy Cooperative an edge in certain Medicaid contracts. At the same times, management with the cooperative helped Wren secure a contract with RxAlly for consulting worth $24,000.

California – Case against State Sen. Yee Raises Fundraising Questions

San Francisco Chronicle – Melody Gutierrez and Carla Marinucci | Published: 3/31/2014

Much of the money donated to California lawmakers comes from groups or individuals with pending business before the Legislature. The recent arrest of state Sen. Leland Yee prompted several lawmakers to suggest it is time to revisit campaign finance reform to fix inadequacies in the law or to, at the very least, stop politicians from using campaign donations to pay for their legal defense following criminal charges.

Connecticut – Co-Conspirators’ Guilty Pleas Make John Rowland a Target

Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 4/1/2014

A former congressional candidate and her husband pleaded guilty in a scheme to set up a phony contract to hide the role played in the campaign by former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, who resigned a decade ago in a corruption scandal. Prosecutors said Lisa Wilson-Foley, Brian Foley, and Rowland entered into an unlawful conspiracy in 2011 to make illegal contributions to Wilson-Foley. Rowland was paid about $35,000 for services to the campaign. The payments originated with Foley and constituted campaign contributions but were not reported to the FEC.

Delaware – Judge Grants Injunction Sought by Conservative Group Challenging Delaware Campaign Finance Law

Greenfield Daily Reporter – Randall Chase (Associated Press) | Published: 3/31/2014

A federal judge ruled in favor of Delaware Strong Families in its challenge to a 2012 state law requiring groups that spend $500 or more during an election period on third-party advertisements to disclose the source of donations. The judge issued a preliminary injunction that halts this reporting requirement.

District of Columbia – Councilwoman Bowser Defeats Incumbent Gray in D.C. Mayoral Primary

Washington Post – Mike DeBonis and Aaron Davis | Published: 4/1/2014

District of Columbia Councilperson Muriel Bowser won an upset victory in the Democratic primary for mayor in a race that turned on the integrity of the incumbent, Vincent Gray. Only three weeks before the election, Gray was comfortably ahead in the polls when a donor pleaded guilty to illegally pumping nearly $700,000 into Gray’s campaign four years ago. The donor said the mayor had participated in the plot. Gray denied knowledge of the under-the-table effort on his behalf, but overnight, a listless race became a referendum on the mayor’s credibility.

Georgia – Trial Begins in Lawsuit against Georgia Ethics Commission

Marietta Daily Journal – Christina Cassidy (Associated Press) | Published: 4/1/2014

A jury will decide whether they believe the claims brought by former state ethics commission Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman in a wrongful termination lawsuit, who says she was forced out her job in an effort to stifle an investigation of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, or side with state attorneys who argue she left after her salary was reduced by 30 percent for budgetary reasons in 2011 and it was unrelated to the governor’s ethics probe.

Illinois – NRA Lobbyist Breaks Hunting Law, Then Lobbies to Change It

Chicago Sun-Times – Dave McKinney | Published: 4/1/2014

Todd Vandermyde, the National Rifle Association’s Illinois lobbyist, was fined $120 last December for breaking a state hunting law. A month later, he worked with House Minority Leader Jim Durkin to rewrite the law he broke. “If I … changed the law because I got a ticket, people would be screaming bloody murder; I don’t think it’s any different when someone with the level of influence and access that he has does it, too,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy.

Kentucky – 2014 Changes Will Strengthen Kentucky Ethics Law

Russellville News-Democrat & Leader – George Troutman (Legislative Ethics Commission) | Published: 4/3/2014

Kentucky lawmakers gave final approval to House Bill 28, which makes significant changes to the lobbying statute, including a “no cup of coffee” rule, meaning lobbyists and their employers will be prohibited from buying a meal, or even a cup of coffee, for an individual legislator, candidate, or the spouse or child of a lawmaker or candidate. In this opinion piece, George Troutman of the Legislative Ethics Commission delineates the reforms, and the positive effects he believes will ensue if Gov. Steve Beshear signs the measure into law.

Missouri – Pledge Asks Missouri Lawmakers to Refuse Gifts from Lobbyists

Columbia Tribune – Rudi Keller | Published: 3/30/2014

Missouri Rep. John Wright is calling on lawmakers to sign a pledge promising not to accept gifts from lobbyists. Last year, lobbyists purchased almost $1 million worth of meals, trips, golf outings, and sports tickets for lawmakers, including tickets to the World Series and University of Missouri football and basketball games. “Most of the people here are good people, but a lot of bad habits have developed and there is a culture of lobbyist gifts and a culture of entitlement that needs to be completely reset,” said Wright.

Montana – Commissioner Says Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich Broke Campaign Laws

The Daily Journal – Matt Volz (Associated Press) | Published: 4/1/2014

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl concluded Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich violated the law by coordinating with Western Tradition Partnership and other entities to accept illegal corporate donations in his 2010 primary election campaign. Motl asked a state judge to weigh his findings and decide whether Wittich’s actions merit removal from office and from the 2014 election ballot.

New York – Capitol Corruption Panel’s Demise Angers Watchdogs

New York Times – Jesse McKinley and Thomas Kaplan | Published: 3/31/2014

Ethics provisions attached to the state budget signed into law by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo disbands the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, which was formed last July and given a broad mandate to restore public trust in government. Cuomo said the reforms he wanted would be accomplished by changes to campaign finance reporting requirements and bribery laws, and the public financing of elections in this year’s race for state comptroller.

Pennsylvania – Pa. House Leaders Impose Ban on Most Cash Gifts

Philadelphia Inquirer – Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 4/2/2014

Legislative leaders adopted a new ethics rule that prohibits members of the Pennsylvania House from accepting cash gifts, although money from specified close family members and non-lobbyist friends is allowed. A spokesperson for House Speaker Sam Smith said the policy change was made in response to reports in The Philadelphia Inquirer that four House members accepted payments from a lobbyist who was part of a sting operation.

Wisconsin – Lobbyist Bill Draws Sharp Reactions – Bill Leuders | Published: 4/1/2014

Senate Bill 655, which was signed into law recently by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, allows lobbyists to start making personal donations the day candidates can circulate petitions for office, which is April 15. Under the previous law, they could not make any contributions until June 1. The bill has been assailed for both its process and its substance. Meanwhile, some lament that this dissent led to it being watered down.

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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