News You Can Use Digest - April 8, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

April 8, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – April 8, 2016



Could Republican Convention Delegates Be Bought? Legally, Maybe
CNN – Tal Kopan and Gregory Krieg | Published: 4/4/2016

There are federal and state laws prohibiting bribery of elected officials, and restrictions on campaigns themselves, but there is not much on the books governing what private citizens serving as delegates at their parties’ conventions can take in exchange for their votes on a nominating ballot. In a fight between Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and perhaps an alternative not currently in the race, every delegate vote will matter in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Campaigns and candidates are not the only entities that have funds to spend on the process, and there are a variety of laws and regulations that could come into play for delegates at this year’s convention.

Republicans on FEC Suggest They May Scrutinize Mystery Corporate Donors
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 4/3/2016

The three Republican appointees on the FEC have indicated that campaign donors who give through private companies solely to shield their identities can be sanctioned, signaling the agency may scrutinize a rash of “pop-up” corporations giving large sums to super PACs. Their stance suggests the potential for movement by the polarized six-person panel, where a sense of stasis has been the norm. Democratic commissioners, however, reacted with skepticism, saying their GOP colleagues have until now delayed and actively blocked examination of such cases. But Lee Goodman, one of the Republican commissioners, said in an interview that contributors seeking to mask themselves through a privately held company or limited liability corporation should think twice.

Supreme Court Rejects Conservative Challenge to ‘One Person, One Vote’
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 4/4/2016

The U.S. Supreme Court endorsed the way Texas draws its legislative districts based on total population and not just eligible voters, the same method used by all 50 states, rejecting a conservative challenge in a case focusing on the legal principle of “one person, one vote.” The justices unanimously rebuffed the challenge spearheaded by a conservative legal activist that could have shifted influence in state legislative races away from urban areas that tend to be racially diverse and favor Democrats to rural ones predominantly with white voters who often back Republicans. The court did not rule on a separate question of whether it would be constitutional for states to use the voter-eligible population for reapportionment if they chose to do so.

Trump Effect Hits Dem Convention
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 4/5/2016

Businesses have long kept a big presence at the Democratic and Republican conventions, cutting checks for the festivities and sponsoring branded parties where their executives hobnob with the biggest names in the political world. But raising money for this year’s conventions is proving difficult, with many corporations wary of associating themselves with Donald Trump and his controversial campaign for the White House. Corporations are now considering sitting out the Democratic National Convention this summer for fear of looking partisan if they decide to skip the GOP’s event because of Trump.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Were the Gov. Robert Bentley Sex Scandal Tapes Legally Obtained? – Keith Faulk | Published: 4/5/2016

It is not clear exactly who, how, and where the recordings were made of a few racy phone conversations purportedly between Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and a woman on the other end believed to be his senior adviser Rebekah Mason. Apparently neither was the person who recorded the conversations. But if the conversations were recorded without the permission of either Bentley or the woman on the other end of the phone, the person who recorded it may run afoul of Alabama and/or federal eavesdropping laws, said Jenny Carroll, a professor at the University School of Law. She is interested in how it might play out in a court, before the Legislature, or the state Ethics Commission as to whether the tapes could be used. “It’s going to be very exciting,” Carroll said.

Arizona – AZ Governor Signs Bill Easing Dark Money Rules
Albuquerque Journal – Ryan Van Velzer (Associated Press) | Published: 4/1/2016

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill that makes numerous changes to the state’s campaign finance rules. One provision cedes regulation of “dark money” and other nonprofit groups to the IRS, essentially doubling the amount that secretive organizations can spend on ballot measures and allowing nonprofits to spend more money influencing elections without having to reveal donors. Also gone are limits on how much someone can spend hosting a fundraising event for one or more candidates. In addition, Senate Bill 1516 allows candidates who have amassed large donations to transfer some of that money to others running for office.

California – Documentaries Like ‘Blackfish’ Influence California’s Capitol
Sacramento Bee – Alexei Koseff | Published: 3/31/2016

For advocates in California, movies have become a popular way to generate public awareness, promote legislation, and reach those who have a say on issues. These events largely highlight traditionally liberal causes, but it is a nonpartisan strategy. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger once co-hosted a showing of “Waiting for Superman,” a film critical of public education. Jennifer Fearing, a lobbyist for animal rights groups, said it is a vital tool for nonprofits and other small organizations that have a less sophisticated presence in Sacramento. Documentaries send a message that something is “a mature problem that serious people are worried about and have put resources into,” while also providing an entertaining platform to educate the public and politicians, said Fearing.

Georgia – Friends in the Hall: How lobbyists use influence to help their clients
Atlanta Magazine – Max Blau | Published: 3/28/2016

Wayne Garner and Charlie Watts walked through the “revolving door” from legislating to lobbying and today are among nearly 1,000 badge-wearing lobbyists registered in Georgia. Their firm, Southeastern Resource Group, relies on their institutional knowledge, personal relationships with everyone from the state troopers guarding the Capitol doors to the governor, and a “good ol’ boy” sense of humor. Jokes aside, their expertise is valuable to clients, earning them up to $5,000 a month as contract lobbyists.

Kansas – The Conservative Gladiator from Kansas behind Restrictive Voting Laws
Washington Post – Sari Horwitz | Published: 4/6/2016

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has emerged as a major figure in a movement to add more requirements for Americans to vote or register to vote. Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act, sixteen states have made changes that will be in effect for the first time in a presidential election, many of them requiring photo identification at the polls. Kobach, a Republican, has gone a step further by pushing for states to demand proof of citizenship, such as a passport or a birth certificate, before allowing people to even register. “The reason we have to do this is there is a significant problem in Kansas and in the rest of the country of aliens getting on our voting rolls,” Kobach said. Election law experts say there is no evidence of significant voter fraud and Kobach is intentionally trying to make it more difficult for minority voters who tend to vote Democratic.

Kentucky – Judge Tosses Kentucky’s Ban on Corporate Campaign Donations
Lexington Herald-Leader; Associated Press –   | Published: 3/31/2016

U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove ruled the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance cannot enforce the state’s prohibition on corporate campaign donations, finding the disparate treatment of corporations and unincorporated organizations violates the Constitutional right to equal protection under the law. The ruling stems from the battle over “right-to-work” legislation in the state: the labor unions that oppose those measures are allowed to make political contributions, while a corporation that promotes them is not.

Mississippi – High Court Rejects Challenge to Miss. Campaign Finance Law
San Diego Union-Tribune; Associated Press –   | Published: 4/4/2016

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal challenging the constitutionality of a Mississippi campaign finance law that requires reporting by people or groups spending at least $200 to support or oppose a ballot measure. The justices left in place an appeals court ruling that upheld the law over claims it is too burdensome.

New Jersey – Why Are N.J. Public Contractors Who Took in $8.2B Donating Less to Candidates?
Newark Star-Ledger – Samantha Marcus (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 4/7/2016

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) said the state’s “pay-to-play” laws are chilling campaign contributions from public contractors. While they received nearly $8.2 billion in public contracts in 2015, a $1.2 billion hike over 2014, political donations from contractors fell 15 percent, from $9.8 million in 2014 to $8.3 million in 2015, according to an analysis of annual disclosure reports. “Many contractors are so afraid of violating the law that they have just stopped making political contributions entirely; many contractor donations are now going to PACs and independent groups, which are not subject to ‘pay-to-play,'” said ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle.

Pennsylvania – Lobbying for Philadelphia, and Well Paid for It
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jonathan Tamari and Claudia Vargas | Published: 4/4/2016

One is a longtime Philadelphia-area member of Congress who quit in 2002. Another worked for U.S. Rep. Robert Brady (R-Pa.). A third was a powerful state senator from Delaware County until he went to federal prison. Yet years after they left their public jobs, all remain on the taxpayers’ tab as private lobbyists, paid to promote Philadelphia’s interests in Washington, D.C. and Harrisburg. It is a common arrangement for cities, but one that troubles some watchdogs. A review of city records found Philadelphia taxpayers paid private lobbyists $482,924 last year. And despite already working for City Hall, some of the same firms also collected additional amounts from public entities such as Visit Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation.

Tennessee – Bible Could Soon Be Tennessee’s Official Book
New York Times – Katie Rogers | Published: 4/5/2016

Derided by critics as everything from unconstitutional to sacrilegious, Tennessee lawmakers nevertheless moved ahead with designating the Holy Bible as the state’s official book. Sponsors argue the bill seeks to honor the historical significance of the Bible in Tennessee’s history rather than serving as a government endorsement of religion. But opponents say the measure trivializes the Scripture by placing it alongside other state symbols like the official flower, tree, reptile, or folk dance. It remains unclear whether opponents of the bill will take the issue to court should Gov. Bill Haslam sign the legislation.

Virginia – Virginia Lawmakers Banish Pricey Gifts – But Not Fundraisers
ABC News – Alan Suderman (Associated Press) | Published: 4/6/2016

An analysis shows Virginia’s elected officials have hosted birthday parties, hunting and fishing trips, and golf tournaments in efforts to raise money. The fundraising occurred while lawmakers were putting new limits on gifts they could take from lobbyists and others after a scandal involving a former governor. Many lawmakers said they need to throw attention-getting fundraisers to attract lobbyists and donors, who are inundated with constant requests. Critics say the limits on gifts have done little to change the political culture. Instead of spoiling legislators with sports tickets and vacations, businesses are helping subsidize luxurious fundraisers, and filings provide scant details on the events.

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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