August 23, 2013 •
News You Can Use Digest – August 23, 2013
Campaign Finance Advocates Sue IRS
The Hill – Bernie Becker | Published: 8/21/2013
U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and watchdog groups filed a lawsuit challenging the IRS’ interpretation of a law that governs whether groups qualify for tax-exempt status as so-called social welfare organizations. The suit addresses one of the main concerns that surfaced with the recent IRS targeting controversy: differences between federal law and IRS rules on eligibility for 501(c)(4) candidates.
U.S. Lawmakers Travel the World on Lobbyists’ Tab
Reuters – Richard Cowen | Published: 8/19/2013
Lately, the number of privately financed trips for federal lawmakers offered by corporate interests, lobbyists, universities, and foreign governments have been rising. Trips this year total 1,363, at a cost to the hosts of $3.2 million. Congress clamped down on such travel in 2007 after disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s influence-peddling scandal.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arkansas – After Ethics Fine, Paul Bookout Resigns from Legislature
Arkansas Business Journal; Associated Press – | Published: 8/21/2013
Sen. Paul Bookout resigned his seat in the Arkansas Legislature on the same day a special prosecutor was assigned to investigate his campaign finances. His resignation came days after the state Ethics Commission fined and reprimanded the veteran lawmaker for converting thousands of dollars in political contributions to his personal use.
California – Filner Could Be Out by Friday
San Diego Union Tribune – Craig Gustafson and Mark Walker | Published: 8/21/2013
A tentative deal has been reached in the sexual harassment lawsuit against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner that is likely to oust him from office. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith announced the plan after three days of settlement talks, but said he could not divulge any details until the proposed resolution is approved by the city council, which could happen on August 23. Filner has been under siege for weeks amid allegations he repeatedly sexually harassed women.
California – Hansen Revealed as Arena Petition Backer
Sacramento Bee – Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak | Published: 8/17/2013
Weeks after billionaire Chris Hansen lost a bid to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, he made an undisclosed donation to a group trying to defeat plans to build a new facility for the National Basketball Association team in California. The Fair Political Practices Commission said the money was used to gather signatures for a ballot initiative designed to put to a citywide vote the council’s planned $258 million subsidy for a downtown arena.
Maine – For Maine Governor, Issue Is What They Said He Said
New York Times – Katharine Seelye and Jess Bidgood | Published: 8/20/2013
Maine Gov. Paul LePage denied he said President Barak Obama “hates white people.” Two Republican lawmakers said they heard the governor make the comment during a state Republican Party fundraiser. The problem for LePage, as even some of his allies acknowledge, is whether or not he made this particular comment, he has made so many other blunt assertions that while one more may not matter, the accumulation of such comments could.
Massachusetts – In Mass., Political Lobbying a $100M-a-Year Industry
Lowell Sun – Steve LeBlanc (Associated Press) | Published: 8/19/2013
In 2005, there were just over 800 lobbyists registered in Massachusetts. By 2012, that number had soared to more than 1,600. In part, the increase is due to a change in the definition of a lobbyist. The broadened definition, prompted by a 2009 ethics law, forced many individuals who had avoided the label to officially register.
New York – Nonprofits Are Balking at Law on Disclosing Political Donors
New York Times – Thomas Kaplan | Published: 8/20/2013
New York has emerged as a central battleground for efforts to mandate greater disclosure. Two years after a law was enacted that required tax-exempt groups lobbying state government to reveal where they got their money, a growing number of nonprofit organizations are seeking exemptions, arguing their donors could be endangered if their names were released to the public.
New York – Utility Officials Fined on Freebies
Albany Times Union – James Odato | Published: 8/15/2013
A year after national grid paid the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) $1.67 million to settle charges of providing illegal gifts to state regulators, the utility has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle the same charges with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). The PSC fined National Grid for violating the public service law; JCOPE penalized the utility for violating state lobbying law.
Ohio – Ohio Ethics Chief: Kasich made clean company break
Miami Herald – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 8/15/2013
Ohio Ethics Commission Chairperson Merom Brachman said there is no need for an ethics probe of Gov. John Kasich’s relationship to a company that received hundreds of thousands of dollars in state development tax credits. Brachman, noting the commission is “anxious to not become a political theater,” said data provided by the governor shows conclusively there is no conflict-of-interest to investigate.
Pennsylvania – State Officials’ Free Gala Tickets Lead To Discrepancies in Ethics Reports
WITF – Mary Wilson | Published: 8/19/2013
The way Gov. Tom Corbett and a few state lawmakers treated free tickets to a Philadelphia soiree shows a wide variety of interpretations of Pennsylvania’s ethics law. Last year, the Barnes Foundation threw a gala celebrating its new museum and gave some legislators and members of the administration free entry. For other patrons, tickets were $5,000 each. State law requires gifts of such a value to be publicly disclosed.
South Carolina – Haley’s Attorneys Tried to Get Ethics Charges Dropped
The State – Adam Beam | Published: 8/15/2013
Emails between the South Carolina Ethics Commission and Gov. Nikki Haley’s attorney show she agreed to pay a fine and end allegations over campaign donors’ missing addresses only after irritated commissioners nearly took an agreement off the table and called a public hearing. Haley agreed to pay $3,500, reimburse the ethics agency $2,000, and forward money from eight donors, totaling nearly $4,200, to the Children’s Trust Fund.
Tennessee – Democrats Missing from Panels to Rule on Ethics Complaints against Haslam
Knoxville News Sentinel – Tom Humphrey | Published: 8/17/2013
A former state Democratic Party chairperson filed complaints with the Tennessee Ethics Commission and the Registry of Election Finance, contending Gov. Bill Haslam violated the law by not disclosing his personal payments to lobbyist and political operative Tom Ingram. The commission and registry currently have Republican majority membership because of unfilled vacancies in one case, because Haslam has left a seat designated for a Democrat empty since March.
Virginia – Attorneys for McDonnells to Meet with Prosecutors as Key Phase Opens in Gifts Probe
Washington Post – Rosalind Helderman and Carol Leonnig | Published: 8/19/2013
Attorneys for Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife met with federal prosecutors over the gifts scandal that has dominated state politics. The meetings open a critical phase of the investigation, timed to help prosecutors decide over the next few weeks whether to file charges, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation.
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