News You Can Use Digest - August 28, 2015 - State and Federal Communications

August 28, 2015  •  

News You Can Use Digest – August 28, 2015



After Allegations That It Lobbied with Federal Money to Block Competition, Lockheed Martin Agrees to Pay Almost $5 Million
Washington Post – Lisa Rein | Published: 8/24/2015

The managers of one of the nation’s premiere federal laboratories in New Mexico agreed to pay nearly $4.8 million to settle allegations of improperly attempting to influence members of Congress and others to extend the lab’s $2.4 billion management contract. Over five years starting in 2009, top executives for Lockheed Martin, who were being paid by the federal government to run Sandia National Laboratories, ran a fierce campaign to lobby members of Congress and senior administration officials for a seven-year extension of their contract, according to the settlement the Justice Department. It is not surprising that a politically connected defense contractor would lobby hard to keep a lucrative slice of federal business. But this case went further. It was taxpayers, not Lockheed’s corporate lobbying arm, who paid for the lobbying.

Meet the Liberals Who Love Trump
Politico – Ben Wofford | Published: 8/26/2015

The left is generally no fan of Donald Trump, but there is a contingent of liberals who take a different view. One is Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, arguably the country’s leading proponent of campaign finance reform, who said Trump has done so much to jazz up an otherwise eye-glazing issue that he would consider running on the same ticket as a third-party candidate. As pundits search for the source of Trump’s resilient appeal, reformers say they have long known the answer: the constant emphasis on how his wealth immunizes him from insider influence. “He’s made the same points the reformers have made: that this is a ‘pay-to-play’ system, that people put their money in and expect to get results,” said former FEC Chairperson Trevor Potter.

The Net Worth of Presidential Candidates
USA Today – Thomas Frohlich, Michael Sauter, and Sam Stebbins (24/7 Wall St.) | Published: 8/26/2015

Presidential candidates can expect very little privacy in their personal life, and with their finances. While candidates are not required to make their tax returns public, the practice has become common since the 1970s. Based on tax returns and other financial disclosures, the current candidates’ assets range from Scott Walker, who is worth as little as $36,000, to Donald Trump, who has an estimated net worth of $2.9 billion. The net worth of a presidential candidate does not necessarily determine the financial strength of the campaign. Some candidates’ campaign funds are far greater than their net worth, while others are far lower.

What the ‘Deez Nuts’ Candidacy Says about the State of US Democracy
Christian Science Monitor – Sara Aridi | Published: 8/20/2015

The presidential candidate Deez Nuts was surging in a recent poll, albeit unscientific, in North Carolina. Deez Nuts was also the number one trending topic on Twitter. In registering with the FEC, Deez Nuts listed an address in rural Wallingford, Iowa. Mark Olson said Deez Nuts was his son Brady, who is a sophomore in high school. Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling, said he added Deez Nuts to statewide survey three weeks ago because “the name makes people laugh, and it’s a long presidential election.” But Jensen also drew a serious conclusion from the Deez Nuts surge. “I would say Mr. Nuts is the most ludicrous and unqualified third-party candidate you could have, but he’s still polling at seven, eight, nine percent,” Jensen said. “Right now the voters don’t like either of the people leading in the two main parties, and that creates an appetite for a third-party candidate.”

Would More Lobbying Improve America?
Politico – Kevin Hartnett | Published: 8/24/2015

Tom Holyoke, a political scientist at Fresno State University, has been studying the internal dynamics of lobbying for years and has come to believe the country would be better off if lobbyists did more effective work for their clients. The problem, he writes in a new book, is not that corporations do not get enough representation – it is that lobbyists are crafty, and do not work for their clients as much as they claim. Instead, they tell their clients what they want to hear, while chiefly acting to stay tight with their contacts in Congress. “It becomes more important to lobbyists to maintain these relationships than to accurately represent the wishes and concerns of people they’re supposed to be representing,” said Holyoke.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – L.A. Wants More Details about Business Groups That Donate to City Campaigns
Los Angeles Times – Emily Alpert Reyes | Published: 8/27/2015

Members of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission said they wanted staffers to come up with ways to require corporations, limited liability companies, and other “non-individual” campaign donors to publicly disclose more information about who controls them. The concern, said commission President Jessica Levinson, is that “it is really difficult to follow the money.” The push for more information comes after The Los Angeles Times reported on how challenging it is to track who is behind contributions made by such groups. The newspaper found several instances in which different companies with the same chief executive, address, or both donated to a candidate, but publicly available records left it unclear whether the companies were commonly owned.

Colorado – Colorado Energy Companies Spend Top Dollar on Lobbyists; What Do They Get in Return?
Colorado Springs Gazette – Megan Schrader | Published: 8/24/2015

Stat laws in Colorado has restricted the amount of entertaining lobbyists can do. Amendment 41, a 2006 ballot initiative, strictly banned lobbyists from spending anything on lawmakers. For everyone else who is not a registered lobbyist, the limit is currently $59 per-person, per-year, with a handful of exceptions. “In Colorado the legislative process is a very clean, ethical process,” said former House Speaker Chuck Berry. But Berry said the role of lobbyists has changed dramatically since he was in office from 1985 to 1998. He said term limits have led to void of institutional knowledge and makes both lobbyists and bureaucrats more powerful.

Illinois – Ex-Redflex Exec Pleads Guilty to Helping Orchestrate $2M Bribery Scheme
Chicago Tribune – Jason Meisner and David Kidwell | Published: 8/20/2015

Karen Finley, the former chief executive of a red-light camera company, pleaded guilty in a scheme that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to secure contracts in Chicago worth $124 million. Finley pleaded guilty to similar charges in a federal case in Ohio. In the Chicago case, Finley acknowledged she arranged for cash and benefits to go to a city transportation official, John Bills, and his friend; the benefits included golf trip and hiring the official’s friend as a Redflex contractor. Bills, who retired in 2012, has pleaded not guilty to extortion, bribery, and other charges.

Maine – Group Turns over Donor List from Gay Marriage Fight in Maine
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – David Sharp (Associated Press) | Published: 8/24/2015

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) filed details of its financial activities related to a 2009 effort to repeal Maine’s same-sex marriage law following a lengthy legal battle. Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine ethics commission, said the list had been filed at the agency’s website and NOM indicated it will not further fight the matter through the courts. The commission had ruled NOM violated the state’s campaign finance law and ordered the conservative group to pay a $50,250 penalty and release its donors. Although NOM paid the penalty, it continued to resist disclosure. But NOM lost that fight when the Supreme Judicial Court ordered it to hand over the list of donors.

Missouri – Missouri Lags behind Neighbors on Ethics Laws
Springfield News-Leader – John Swedien | Published: 8/23/2015

Missouri has no limits on campaign donations, no restrictions on the gifts legislators can accept from lobbyists, and no rule preventing lawmakers from immediately becoming lobbyists after leaving office. This stands in contrast to Missouri’s eight neighboring states; all limit at least one of those activities. Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Tennessee restrict all three. Illinois, Iowa and Kansas each limit two of the activities, and Nebraska caps lobbyists’ gifts.

Ohio – Former Ohio Deputy Treasurer Extradited from Pakistan to Serve 15 Years for Bribery, Money Laundering
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Jane Morice (Northeast Ohio Media Group) | Published: 8/26/2015

Former Ohio Deputy Treasurer Amer Ahmad has been extradited from Pakistan to serve a 15-year prison sentence for a kickback scheme. He pleaded guilty in 2013 to bribery and conspiracy charges, though he fled to Pakistan to avoid punishment. Ahmad admitted he funneled business to Douglas Hampton, a securities broker, in exchange for bribes. Ahmad was able to conceal the bribery payments by passing them through accounts of a landscaping business he owned. Over the two-year period, Hampton paid Ahmad more than $500,000. In return, Hampton received about $3.2 million in commissions for more than 350 securities trades on behalf of the treasurer’s office.

Oregon – Mystery Money: Oregon lets officials keep income details in shadows
Portland Oregon – Denis Theriault | Published: 8/22/2015

Voters might have known years sooner how much Cylvia Hayes was paid to push a private agenda while she was Oregon’s first lady if John Kitzhaber had been governor of California or 16 other states. Ethics filings in those states require officials to disclose where they and those in their households get their money, and roughly how much. But Kitzhaber had no obligation to report Hayes’ income from private clean-energy clients, income she accepted while also advising the state on energy issues. Oregon’s rules for income disclosure have not changed much since 1974. The rules allow officials from the statehouse down to local school boards hold back key information.

Tennessee – Lawmakers Spent 30K of Campaign Funds on Pro Sports Tickets
The Tennessean – Dave Boucher | Published: 8/22/2015

A recent analysis of state campaign finance records show at least seven Tennessee lawmakers collectively spent more than $30,000 in campaign money on tickets to professional sporting events since 2003. Although state law bans the use of campaign funds for tickets to sporting events, concerts, or other similar activities, there is an exemption that allows essentially all ticket purchases to go unchecked. Buying such tickets with campaign funds is largely banned for federal candidates, but the campaign finance laws in Tennessee and a slew of other states either allow or do not clearly ban such purchases.

Texas – Pool Proposes Changes to Rules for Lobbyists
Austin Monitor – Jo Clifton | Published: 8/26/2015

The Austin City Council is weighing reforms to the city’s lobbying law. The law currently requires lobbyists to register and disclose who their clients are. But the code is murky in its definition of who must register, and those who register do not always comply with all the reporting requirements. Under the proposed reforms, the registration fee would increase to $350; lobbyists for nonprofits would only have to pay $50 a year. The city auditor would be charged with reviewing lobbying registration for compliance, and violators could face individual fines for failing to register or disclose information. A person could be barred from lobbying after multiple violations.

Utah – It’s American Legion Versus Lobbyists in Fight for Space at Capitol
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 8/24/2015

The American Legion has enjoyed free office space in the basement of the Utah Capitol since World War I. But the Capitol Preservation Board voted recently to try to get the organization to move so it can rent more space to lobbyists. The clash arose when the Capitol Hill Association of lobbyists sought to expand its current 1,800 square feet of space, located across the hall from the American Legion. Jodi Hart, the association’s president, told the board her group “has run out of space” for its current 35-member lobbying groups, who pay $4,500 per organization to join, and about $1,000 per person in annual dues, and has a waiting list of six organizations that want to join. The association proposed expanding into storage space next to its suite to add a few more conference rooms.

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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