News You Can Use Digest - August 19, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

August 19, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – August 19, 2016

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National:

Will Donald Trump Hand State Capitols to Democrats?
The Atlantic – Russell Berman | Published: 8/12/2016

With Donald Trump’s falling poll numbers, some Democrats see an opportunity to not only put Hillary Clinton in the White House, but wrest control of the U.S. Senate and shrink the party’s gap in the House, if not flip it entirely. There could also be a Trump effect that could shape the political landscape further into the future: the elections for control of state Legislatures. With more states in play, Democrats are now aiming to flip at least 10 and as many as 13 legislative chambers. The stakes for control of state governments are all the higher because unlike Congress, Legislatures outside Washington, D.C. have been hotbeds of activity rather than gridlock.

Federal:

Obama Facing Pressure to Rip Up His Lobbyist Rules
Politico – Sarah Wheaton | Published: 8/12/2016

Some are calling on President Obama to revoke the executive order that restricts lobbyists from serving in the White House. “There are political optics reasons why there’s a lot of attractiveness to make the ethics bars really strict, but in governing, you’ve got to be careful that you’re not losing on actual talent,” said Max Stier, the head of a nonprofit that is working to facilitate an orderly transition of power after the election. But ending the order could be seen as an acknowledgment Obama failed to uphold one of the major pledges of his 2008 campaign, or the change he brought was not enduring. The debate also reveals a broader disagreement among watchdogs about how effective his administration has been at filling the government with knowledgeable public servants who deserve the voters’ trust.

The Psychiatric Question: Is it fair to analyze Donald Trump from afar?
New York Times – Benedict Carey | Published: 8/15/2016

The American Psychiatric Association in 1973 declared it unethical for any psychiatrist to diagnose a public figure’s condition “unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.” Now, Donald Trump’s incendiary, stream-of-consciousness pronouncements have strained that rule to the breaking point, exposing divisions in the field over whether such restraint is appropriate today. Supporters of the guideline have cited three main rationales for adhering to it: most diagnoses made from a distance turn out to be wrong; the labels themselves can cause real harm to the person and family members; and the practice undermines the field’s credibility. But the psychoanalyzing of public figures by commentators, columnists, and pop psychologists has a bipartisan history.

Trump Chair Routed Ukrainian Money to D.C. Lobbyists
Politico; Associated Press –   | Published: 8/17/2016

Donald Trump’s campaign chairperson, Paul Manafort, helped a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine secretly funnel more than $2 million to two lobbying organizations in Washington, D.C., the Associated Press reported. Citing unidentified sources with knowledge of the effort, the AP reported the payments were concealed in order to mask the party’s efforts to influence U.S. lawmakers. Lobbyists in the U.S. are required by law to register as foreign agents if they receive funding from other nations’ leaders. The New York Times has reported that Manafort’s name was found in a secret ledger in Ukraine, which listed more than $12 million in cash payments to the political operative, which he has since denied receiving.

Trump Shakes Up Campaign, Demotes Top Adviser
Washington Post – Robert Costa and Jose DelReal | Published: 8/17/2016

Donald Trump has shaken up his presidential campaign for the second time in two months, hiring a top executive from the conservative website Breitbart News and promoting a senior adviser in an effort to right his faltering campaign. Paul Manafort, the campaign chairperson, will retain his title. But the staffing change was seen by some as a demotion for Manafort. People briefed on the move said it reflected Trump’s realization that his campaign was at a crisis point. But it indicates that Trump, who has chafed at making the types of changes his current aides have asked for, even though he had acknowledged they would need to occur, has decided to embrace his aggressive style for the duration of the race.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Ethics Commission Schedules Special Meeting to Address Backlog
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 8/15/2016

Alabama Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton said the agency has a backlog of requests for advisory opinions and will hold a special meeting on September 1 to address them. Albritton said the meeting was not specifically about requests related to former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s trial. But he said the commission received a large number of opinion requests in July. Hubbard was convicted of 12 felony ethics violations in June. The commission normally meets every 60 days, and its next regular meeting will be in October. Albritton said he did not want those requesting opinions to have to wait until then.

District of Columbia – ‘Shadow Campaign’ Donor and Mastermind Sentenced to Three Months Behind Bars
Washington Post – Ann Marimow, Mike DeBonis, and Rachel Weiner | Published: 8/15/2016

A District of Columbia businessperson who poured millions of illegal dollars into city, state, and federal elections was sentenced to three months in jail. Jeffrey Thompson acknowledged setting up a slush fund to help Vincent Gray get elected mayor of Washington in 2010. He also gave more than $600,000 in illegal funds to help Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Prosecutors had asked for six months of home confinement, in part because of Thompson’s cooperation in the case. But U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said home confinement was “not sufficient” punishment. The judge also ordered Thompson serve 36 months’ probation and pay a $10,000 fine.

Missouri – Faith Leaders Go on Trial for Protesting Missouri Senate for Medicaid Expansion
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Celeste Bott | Published: 8/15/2016

Prosecutors are moving forward with a case against 23 clergy members arrested after participating in a Missouri Senate protest. Authorities charged the clergy with obstructing government operations and first-degree trespassing after they and a few hundred others in 2014 protested lawmakers’ refusal to accept federal dollars to expand the state’s Medicaid program. Protesters filled the Senate’s public galleries, and chanted and sang before police arrested the clergy members. Typically, charges for these kind of political demonstrations are dropped or not pursued by prosecutors, making this trial unusual.

New Jersey – ELEC Unable to Meet Because of Vacancies
NJTV News – Briana Vannozzi | Published: 8/17/2016

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) has been unable to meet for the past five months. Three out of the four seats are vacant, and because ELEC needs at least two members to hold a quorum, the sole member has been left waiting on the sidelines. It is up to the governor’s office, with the advice and consent of the state Senate, to make the appointments. Historically speaking, the makeup of the commission has been non-partisan with two Democrats and two Republicans. But with political gridlock in Trenton becoming the new norm, the process has stalled.

New York – For Cuomo, Passing Ethics Bill Was Urgent, Signing It Was Not
Gotham Gazette – David Howard King | Published: 8/12/2016

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to request the Legislature send him an ethics reform package he personally designed and pushed lawmakers to pass. Announced by Cuomo late in the legislative session, the actual bill was then a mystery for days before being introduced in the wee hours of the morning on the final day of the session. Thanks to the governor’s message, legislators were able to pass it within hours despite mostly not being familiar with the bill. While the governor has not even called the bill to his desk, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics approved a series of emergency regulations prompted by the bill that will go into effect 30 days after Cuomo does sign it.

Pennsylvania – Gifts to Seth Williams Create Conflicts
Philadelphia Inquirer – Tricia Nadolny, Aubrey Whelan, and Chris Brennan | Published: 8/18/2016

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams amended his annual financial disclosure reports to include $160,050 in gifts from 2010 to 2015 that he had failed to list. Among them are four family vacations at the Key West beach house of Philadelphia lawyer Richard Hoy. During the same period, Hoy represented scores of defendants facing charges brought by Williams’ office. Observers see it as one of several red flags scattered among the newly disclosed gifts. Williams received $800 in cash for Christmas from members of his security detail; $6,000 in tickets, trips, and gift cards from a defense attorney who later was elected judge with Williams’ backing; and sideline passes from the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that has seen former and current players investigated by Williams’ office.

Pennsylvania – Jury: A.G. Kane guilty of perjury, obstruction, all other charges
Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy, Angela Couloumbis, and Laura McCrystal | Published: 8/15/2016

A jury found Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane guilty on perjury and obstruction charges, leaving the state’s top prosecutor facing a potential prison term for what was called a case of political retribution at her trial. One day after the verdict, Kane announced her resignation. Prosecutors painted a picture of Kane trying to “go on the offensive” after a newspaper article criticized her for shutting down an undercover investigation into possible corruption by state representatives. Prosecutors say she believed former Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina was behind the story. Kane was accused of leaking secret grand jury documents to the news media in an effort to discredit Fina, and then lying to cover it up.

South Dakota – Charles Koch’s Network Launches New Fight to Keep Donors Secret
USA Today – Fredreka Schouten | Published: 8/16/2016

Americans for Prosperity, the largest activist group in the policy and political empire founded by Charles and David Koch, launched a coalition this year to fight South Dakota’s Initiated Measure 22, which calls for public disclosure of donors who fund advocacy efforts, the creation of a state ethics commission, and public financing of campaigns. It also limits lobbyists’ gifts to elected officials and lowers the amount of campaign contributions to candidates, parties, and political action committees. The South Dakota campaign marks the latest in a string of battles the Koch network has waged around the country to block efforts to disclose contributors’ identities.

Texas – Pool Offers Changes to Lobby Ordinance
Austin Monitor – Jo Clifton | Published: 8/17/2016

City Councilperson Leslie Pool revised her legislation that would reform Austin’s lobbying ordinance after her initial proposal met with resistance. The new ordinance requires registration only for lobbyists who earn at least $2,000 in compensation during a quarter and work at least 26 hours on lobbying during that quarter. The current ordinance requires a person to register if he or she earns just $200 a quarter, with no hourly requirements. The revised measure also would eliminate the term “incidental lobbying,” a phrase included in current city regulations. If the ordinance passes as Pool is proposing, lobbyists will also have to report their compensation within ranges, which is not required under current law. Pool is also seeking to do away with Austin’s antiquated reporting system.

Washington – Can State Lawmakers Use GoFundMe to Attend National Conventions – and Not Report Donors?
Tacoma News Tribune – Melissa Santos | Published: 8/16/2016

A few Washington lawmakers were chosen to attend the Democratic National Convention as delegates, and some solicited donations online to help cover their cost of attendance. Legislative attorneys issued informal advice that such donations do not violate state ethics rules and do not need to be reported. But members of the Legislative Ethics Board questioned that reasoning during a recent meeting, wondering whether contributions made through crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe provide a covert way for lobbyists to influence state lawmakers while evading normal reporting requirements. The board asked for a report on whether lawmakers must disclose who helps them attend national conventions.

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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