News You Can Use Digest - August 15, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

August 15, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – August 15, 2014



GOP Looks to Shake Loose More Wall Street Cash

Politico – Patrick Temple-West | Published: 8/13/2014

The Securities and Exchange Commission rule limiting some campaign contributions from investment firms violates free speech, two state Republican parties said in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the regulation. The rule bars an investment firm from managing a state’s assets for two years if the company, or certain of its executives, make more than a nominal donation to a state official with power over state contracts with investment advisors. The regulation forces investment advisers to make “an impermissible choice [between] exercising a First Amendment right and retaining the ability to engage in professional activities,” wrote the New York and Tennessee Republican parties.

Media Matters’ David Brock Expands Empire

Politico – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 8/14/2014

Democratic operative David Brock is now the chairperson of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Brock’s arrival is part of a broader shakeup at CREW, with Melanie Sloan, the executive director and longtime leader of the organization, announcing she will step down. Brock confirmed the basics of the shakeup in an interview. The reconfigured CREW will add a more politically oriented arm, expand its focus into state politics and donor targeting, and will operate in close coordination with Brock’s fleet of nonprofits and super PACs: Media Matters, American Bridge, and the American Independent Institute.

White House Eases Lobbyist Ban

The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 8/12/2014

The Obama administration rolled back part of its ban on lobbyists serving in government. Under a new rule, registered lobbyists whom Obama had previously barred from serving on government advisory boards may now participate if they are representing companies or groups and not acting on their own behalf. The change was published in the Federal Register and took effect immediately. It comes after an appeals court rejected the administration’s efforts to dismiss a lawsuit by six lobbyists who challenged the ban’s constitutionality after being excluded from a trade advisory committee. The lobbyists said their First Amendment rights to petition the government had been violated.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – How Public Financing Changed Politics in Arizona – Andrew Prokop | Published: 8/13/2014

Arizona voters in 1988 approved the public financing of campaigns. Under the Clean Elections Act, candidates for office are given public funds as long as they do not raise other money and abide by spending limits. Though reformers hoped this would help get money out of politics, some have argued clean elections model could actually lead to increased polarization and dysfunction. Michael Miller, a political science professor and author of the book Subsidizing Democracy, surveyed over 1,000 candidates for office in states with public financing systems about their experience. In an interview, Miller discusses Arizona’s law and his research.

Florida – Businessman Settles Ethics Complaint in Connection with Miami Beach Convention Center

Miami Herald – Joey Flechas | Published: 8/13/2014

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust said businessperson John Portman settled an ethics charge against him by agreeing to pay $2,000. Portman met with several Miami Beach commissioners from January 2013 to July 2013 to talk about a project to redo the Miami Beach Convention Center, but did not register as a lobbyist until July. He was part of a group of architects and developers, Portman CMC, who were in the race for the convention center deal. Portman’s attorney told the ethics panel that Portman did not intentionally violate the city’s lobbyist-registration law because, as the company’s owner and principal, he did not know he had to register.

Florida – Florida Legislators Approve New Redistricting Map but New Challenge Is Expected

Miami Herald – Mary Ellen Klas and Michael Van Sickler | Published: 8/11/2014

The Florida Legislature approved a new congressional map that slightly modifies seven districts in an effort by the Republican-controlled body to comply with a judge’s order to redraw the lines without taking into account partisan advantage. A hearing on the map and its potential impact on the 2014 election is set for August 20, less than a week before the scheduled primary elections. Democratic-aligned groups, who took the map to court, are expected to argue the new boundaries do not make any significant changes and the lines were once again drawn behind closed doors.

Georgia – State Ethics Commission Hires 2 New Staff Lawyers

The Daily Report – Kathleen Baydala Joyner | Published: 8/12/2014

Robert Lane and Bethany Whetzel joined the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission as staff attorneys. The two are tasked with analyzing complaints against elected officials. The pair join the agency in the wake of the commission settling several whistleblower lawsuits brought by former employees who claimed they were fired for investigating Gov. Nathan Deal.

Illinois – Former Red Light Camera CEO Indicted, Federal Probe Expands

Chicago Tribune – David Kidwell | Published: 8/13/2014

Former Redflex Traffic Systems Chief Executive Officer Karen Finley was indicted on corruption charges in a federal investigation of one of the nation’s largest red-light camera programs. Finley is accused of funneling nearly $600,000 in cash and other benefits to a now-retired Chicago official, John Bills, for his help in landing the firm $124 million in city contracts. Bills was charged in May with one count of bribery. In the new indictment, he faces additional charges, including extortion and filing false income tax returns. Also named the indictment is Martin O’Malley, a former Redflex company liaison. He faces a bribery charge for allegedly passing much of his $2 million Redflex compensation to Bills.

Maine – Federal Judge Hears Arguments on Maine Campaign Finance Donation Limits for Independents

Lewiston Sun Journal – Scott Thisle | Published: 8/12/2014

A federal judge heard arguments in a case challenging a Maine law that allows major-party candidates to accept $1,500 contributions from individuals for both the June primary and the general election, but does not restrict when that money must be spent. Independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler can collect a maximum of only $1,500, which his supporters claim in the lawsuit is unconstitutional. Jamie Kilbreth, the attorney representing Cutler’s supporters, said Maine’s law was clearly unfair. He also said it was in conflict with several U.S. Supreme Court and Circuit Court decisions in other states, including one from Colorado earlier this year.

North Carolina – McCrory Misstated Duke Energy Holdings, Sold Stock after Coal-Ash Spill

Raleigh News & Observer – J. Andrew Curless and Craig Jarvis | Published: 8/13/2014

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory filed a new ethics and economic disclosure that now makes clear he owned at least $10,000 of Duke Energy stock on the last day of 2013, reversing disclosure filings he made in April and May. The governor sold the stock after the Duke Energy plant in Eden spilled 39,000 tons of coal ash, into the Dan River. The crisis generated national news, put a spotlight on McCrory’s ties to Duke, where he worked for about 29 years, and prompted the governor and legislators to propose laws about cleaning up coal ash that Duke Energy says could cost the company as much as $10 billion over the next 30 years. A major reform bill has not passed the General Assembly.

Pennsylvania – Pa. Limits on PAC Donations Voided Due To Citizens United – Kelly Knaub | Published: 8/14/2014

U.S. District Court Judge William Caldwell struck down a Pennsylvania law that banned corporations and labor groups from donating more than $250 to expenditure-only political committees. Caldwell granted General Majority PAC’s bid to convert a preliminary injunction issued in March into a permanent one, agreeing with the group that the state law violated the First Amendment in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision.

Rhode Island – Fung Filmed Campaign Ad in Ohio

WJAR – Parker Gavigan | Published: 8/13/2014

A television ad for Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung says his state is “open for business” and showcases Fung in a diner. But the diner is in Ohio. The restaurant has been the setting for political commercials in the past, but the candidates are usually campaigning for office in Ohio or for president, said Michael Pappas of Tommy’s Diner in Columbus. “You’re trying to tout the fact that you believe in Rhode Island and business should come to Rhode Island but you travel all the way to Ohio to film your television commercial; so that just says to me, ‘What are you thinking?'” said Wendy Schiller, a professor at Brown University.

Rhode Island – Welcome to Rhode Island, America’s Least Polarized State

New York Times – Josh Barrow | Published: 8/13/2014

Political scientists Boris Shor and Nolan McCarty analyzed state legislative voting records from 1996 to 2013 and found Rhode Island had the least ideological difference between the typical Republican and Democratic lawmakers. It is common for Republican officials in heavily Democratic Northeastern states to be moderates. What makes Rhode Island stand out is the number of conservatives within its Democratic legislative supermajority. The median Democrat in Rhode Island was more conservative than in all but 13 state Legislatures.

Texas – Court: Texas PAC campaign waiting period unconstitutional

KROI – Brandon De Hoyos | Published: 8/13/2014

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a provision in the Texas Election Code that imposes a 60-day waiting period and 10-contributor requirement on PACs before they could spend more than $500. Groups defined by the Texas Ethics Commission as a “specific purpose” committee – organizations formed to support identified candidates – were not subject to a waiting period. The appeals court upheld a separate requirement that PACs must register before exceeding $500 in expenditures. The judges also rejected a narrow challenge to the state’s ban on corporate contributions.

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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