August 22, 2014 •
News You Can Use Digest – August 22, 2014
From the States and Municipalities:
Columbus Republic; Associated Press – | Published: 8/18/2014
The California Assembly approved a measure that would lower the gift limit to elected officials from $440 to $200 and prohibit them from accepting free entry to professional sports and entertainment events, golf tournaments, spa treatments, and amusement parks. Senate Bill 1443 would outlaw gifts from lobbyists. It now goes back to the Senate for approval of minor amendments.
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser | Published: 8/16/2014
With fewer than a fourth of voters showing up for recent local elections, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission voted to recommend that the city council consider a cash-prize drawing as an incentive to vote. Federal law prohibits payment for voting, but Ethics Commission member Jessica Levinson, who is also a law school professor, says that statute would not apply to elections without federal races on the ballot. California law prohibits money or gifts for votes for a particular candidate or measure, or payment to stay away from the polls altogether.
Denver Post – Joey Bunch | Published: 8/14/2014
Citizens United filed a lawsuit against Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler in federal court. The Virginia-based conservative group is finishing a movie called “Rocky Mountain Heist,” about those who have influenced Colorado’s political swing to the left over the past decade, calling out advocacy groups and politicians, likely including Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, who are in tough races this fall. In June, Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert ruled the group would need to disclose the movie’s financiers under state campaign laws. The organization contended it deserved the same free-speech protections as traditional media.
Miami Herald – David Ovalle and Jay Weaver | Published: 8/14/2014
Suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi was acquitted in a federal corruption case in which he was accused of accepting bribes from undercover FBI agents. Pizzi was accused of accepting $6,750 in payments between 2011 and 2013 in exchange for his help in obtaining federal grant money for both Miami Lakes and the nearby town of Medley, where he was the city attorney. The agents, pretending to be businesspeople, told Pizzi they intended to keep the hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money for themselves. Pizzi’s lawyers portrayed him as honest and the victim of entrapment by overzealous FBI agents looking to make a high-profile arrest.
Indianapolis Star – Ryan Sabalow | Published: 8/16/2014
Indiana’s ethics laws require that former state employees take at least a year off before working as a lobbyist or going to work for companies they once regulated. But an exception to the law allows public employees to circumvent the “revolving-door” rules. That exception: ask your former boss to grant you a waiver. The waiver is binding and does not require the approval of the state’s Ethics Commission. Other states such as Washington and Connecticut, which have earned top rankings by good-government groups for their “revolving-door” restrictions, do not allow waiting periods to be waived.
Massachusetts – Galvin to Launch Inquiry into Lobbyist
Boston Globe – David Scharfenberg | Published: 8/21/2014
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin launched an inquiry into the activities of lobbyist John Brennan, who is a former state lawmaker. Attorney General Martha Coakley alleges the Brennan Group collected $370,000 in improper lobbying fees from the Franciscan Hospital for Children through a contingency fee. State law bars contingency agreements. In an agreement with Coakley’s office, the Brennan Group made no admission of guilt but agreed to repay Franciscan $100,000 of the disputed lobbying fees. “The agreement raises more questions than it answers,” said Galvin.
Santa Fe New Mexican – Steve Terrell | Published: 8/14/2014
New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran reversed her office’s initial finding that donations received by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King violated the state’s campaign contribution limits. Facing a state Supreme Court hearing on the matter, Duran wrote in a letter to King that she no longer considered the donations in question to be impermissible. She said the decision was made after she weighed the arguments of King, the state’s attorney general.
Capital New York – Sally Goldenberg | Published: 8/20/2014
A bill that would mandate more information about independent expenditures be made public is expected to pass the New York City Council and be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio. The legislation requires independent expenditures to list their top three donors on campaign literature they mail to voters. The information would also have to be presented on advertisements. It would not apply to those who give less than $5,000 in independent spending because they are not required to report their donors to the Campaign Finance Board.
KGOU; eCapitol – | Published: 8/20/2014
Under a proposed rule, the Oklahoma Ethics Commission would be able to charge registration fees to lobbyists, principals, PACs, and candidate committees. The commission would be required to publish the fees annually on July 1 of each year beginning in 2015. The proposed amendment will be the subject of a public hearing, and a possible vote during the commission’s September meeting.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Chris Hepp | Published: 8/20/2014
The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Philadelphia police officers should be allowed to donate money to their union’s PAC. The ruling strikes down a ban enacted in 1919. The appeals court said the city had failed to show the prohibition, which applies to no other city employees, was effective in stemming political influence and corruption within the department, which was its original intent.
Charleston Post & Courier – Cynthia Roldan, Jeremy Borden, and Schuler Knopf | Published: 8/16/2014
A grand jury investigation of South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell has ended without charges and state Attorney General Alan Wilson has recused himself from the case, with the matter now in the hands a local prosecutor, according to Harrell’s office. A complaint alleged Harrell had improperly used campaign funds and had used his influence to obtain a state permit for his pharmaceutical business. Harrell has denied any impropriety.
New York Times – Manny Fernandez | Published: 8/15/2014
A grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts, saying he abused his office and used a veto threat to coerce Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign. The grand jury considered an ethics complaint that alleged Perry abused his veto power when he cut funding for the state’s anti-corruption unit, which is part of the Travis County district attorney’s office. The indictment comes as Perry, who is stepping down at the end of his term after 14 years in office, attempts to rehabilitate his political image as he considers another presidential campaign.
Columbus Republic – Rachel La Corte (Associated Press) | Published: 8/19/2014
Members of the Washington Legislature could get no more than 12 free meals a year from lobbyists under a plan tentatively approved by the Legislative Ethics Board. The board voted to define, for the first time, what current law means when it prohibits public officials from accepting free meals on more than “infrequent occasions.” The rule would not take effect until a final vote later this year on the overall proposal surrounding rules concerning meals.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 8/15/2014
Wisconsin Assembly leaders are recruiting lobbyists to help with door-to-door campaigns aimed at boosting the party’s majority in the chamber. The effort is called “Leggiepalooza,” a take-off on the Lollapalooza music festivals. Some lobbyists said they were uncomfortable with being asked to help with door knocking because they feared they could have a harder time passing bills if they did not participate. Others said they saw no problem with it.
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