News You Can Use Digest - August 31, 2018 - State and Federal Communications

August 31, 2018  •  

News You Can Use Digest – August 31, 2018





Democratic Embrace of Diverse Candidates Collides with Barbed Politics of Trump Era
WRAL – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 8/29/2018

The diverse cast of Democratic candidates this year is setting up a striking contrast for voters at a time when some in the Republican Party, taking their cues from President Trump, are embracing messages with explicit appeals to racial anxieties and resentment. The result is making racial and ethnic issues and conflicts central in the November elections in a way that is far more explicit than the recent past. Racial discord has never been far from the surface of American politics. But any effort by Republicans in recent years to tread lightly around racially sensitive issues has been tossed aside by Trump, who has created a permission structure for other politicians to mimic his behavior, political strategists said.

Women in Politics Often Must Run a Gantlet of Vile Intimidation
WRAL – Maggie Astor (New York Times) | Published: 8/23/2018

A record number of women ran or are running in 2018 for the Senate, House, and governorships. Many more are running for state Legislatures and local offices. In the process, they are finding that harassment and threats, already common for women, can be amplified in political races – especially if the candidate is a member of a minority group. No independent organization appears to formally track incidents of harassment, and the Democratic and Republican National Committees did not respond to inquiries asking whether they did. But several groups that work with candidates said they routinely provided personal safety training.


Candidates Say ‘I Approve This Message’ Because of John McCain
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 8/25/2018

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act survived a well-funded legal challenge in 2003 only to suffer subsequent and major rollbacks in court and at the FEC. While the long effort to enact the law made U.S. Sen. John McCain a pariah in some GOP circles, it remains a significant legacy of the self-declared maverick lawmaker and 2008 Republican presidential nominee. In addition to banning large corporate donations to the party committees, the law also required candidates to say they approved their campaign ads.

Microsoft Hopes to Protect Candidates Without Violating Campaign Contribution Law
Seattle Times – Tim O’Brien (Associated Press) | Published: 8/23/2018

Microsoft requested an FEC advisory opinion to make sure the company’s new free package of online security protections for “election-sensitive” customers does not count as an in-kind campaign contribution. Corporations are typically barred from donating to federal candidates and political committees under federal law. Microsoft said it is offering its AccountGuard service on a nonpartisan basis to federal, state, and local candidates, party committees, and certain nonprofit groups. The company told the commission it might also work with other tech firms on coordinated election security efforts, though no agreements have been made.

When Is an Offense Impeachable? Look to the Framers for the Answer
MSN – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 8/22/2018

The campaign finance violation President Trump’s former lawyer accused him of – arranging to pay hush money to influence an election – may be the sort of offense the drafters of the Constitution meant to cover in granting Congress the power to impeach and remove a president. Misconduct before assuming office is not typically a fit subject for impeachment, legal scholars said. But there is one important exception. “The main and possibly only form of pre-Inauguration Day conduct that would properly qualify as an impeachable offense is conduct relating directly to the acquisition of the presidential office,” said Joshua Matz, an author of “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.”

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama: Ethics Law Changes Mulled by Revision Commission
Montgomery Advertiser – Brian Lyman | Published: 8/28/2018

The ruling that upheld former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s conviction on 11 of 12 corruption charges underscored the need to tighten the language in Alabama’s ethics law, state Attorney General Steve Marshall said. The Alabama Code of Ethics Clarification and Reform Commission met to discuss the outlines of changes to the law, including the definition of a principal, which is defined as a company or person that hires a lobbyist; what lobbyists and elected officials can and cannot give; and the punishments for violating the law. Seven of the counts against Hubbard were for receiving money or favors from principals. The appeals court did not find fault with his convictions but said there could be “a serious constitutional issue” in other cases without more clarity in the law.

California: Booze Fuels Business – and Bad Behavior – at California Capitol
Sacramento Bee – Alexei Koseff and Taryn Luna | Published: 8/29/2018

Mixing work with alcohol has been a fundamental part of the culture in Sacramento for decades. But the blurred lines between business hours and playtime have given way to bouts of excess, from drunk driving to sexual misconduct to addiction. Fundraisers are a daily occurrence at the downtown bars and restaurants around the Capitol; there were 19 evening functions over the course of three days recently, according to the Capitol Morning Report, including a “margarita mixer” and a “tequila tasting.” Lawmakers note they are largely stuck away from home for three or four nights a week with not much else to do. Many lobbyists believe these receptions are where the real work gets done.

Colorado: Campaign Financing in Denver Could Look Different Come 2020 – It’s Up to Voters Now
Denverite – Estaben Hernandez | Published: 8/27/2018

The Denver City Council approved a campaign finance reform measure for the November ballot. The proposal would establish a public financing system, with eligible candidates receiving a nine-to-one match of donations up to $50. It would lower donation limits for individuals to candidates seeking city offices, and prohibit direct campaign contributions from corporations, limited liability companies, and labor groups.

Georgia: Georgia County Rejects Plan to Close 7 Polling Places in Majority-Black Area
New York Times – Richard Fausset | Published: 8/23/2018

Election officials in a majority black Georgia county voted to scrap a widely condemned proposal to eliminate most of their polling places in the runup to the November election. An independent consultant recommended the consolidation said the seven polling places in question do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The polling places in question had all been used for the primary election in May and the primary runoff election in July, and critics said officials should have been aware of the compliance issues. Civil Rights and Voting groups applauded the decision but said the episode demonstrates the need to restore Voting Rights Act protections that were tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

Maine: Ethics Commission Says Slashing Casino Campaign Fine Was in State’s Best Interests
Lewiston Sun Journal – Scott Thistle (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 8/30/2018

Maine’s ethics commission voted to settle penalties for campaign finance violations with two backers of a failed 2017 casino referendum, making them pay $100,000 of the $500,000 in fines the state assessed last year. The referendum would have given rights to the casino to a company run by developer Shawn Scott, but the commission levied penalties for late financial filings against four committees run by his sister, Lisa Scott of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The commission said her offshore residence would make it hard to recoup the full $500,000. Under the agreement, Lisa Scott’s committees will have to pay $50,000, and Cheryl Timberlake, a lobbyist who served as treasurer for one of the committees, will have to pay the rest.

Missouri: Buying Influence: Do dark money, lobbyist gifts affect Missouri legislators’ policy?
Kansas City Star – Alison Kite and Jason Hancock | Published: 8/27/2018

Whether lobbyists should be able to provide Missouri lawmakers with expensive gifts and meals is being debated in Jefferson City. Asked what they wanted to know about political corruption and transparency in Missouri, Kansas City Star readers wanted to know whether gifts and campaign contributions, including those made by “dark-money” organizations, could influence legislators to the detriment of the state. The newspaper’s panel of dozens of leaders from across Missouri expressed concern about the potential for lobbyist gifts to influence legislators, but some argued they were not significant enough to affect policy solutions.

North Carolina: CEOs Gave Heavily During Legislative Session, Exposing Loophole in NC’s Fundraising Ban
WRAL – Travis Fain and Tyler Dukes | Published: 8/29/2018

North Carolina law lets top corporate executives donate to campaigns during General Assembly sessions even as it bans contributions from the companies themselves year-round and forbids anyone who contracts directly with a lobbyist from giving during a session. During this year’s six-week regular session, more than $1.1 million flowed into state legislators’ campaign accounts. The total increases if the week before the session is counted, which is traditionally a time for fundraisers, as PACs with lobbyists deliver checks just under the wire. Marshall Hurley, a former general counsel for the state Republican Party, said even the concept of an in-session ban is problematic. “All it’s really done is change the date of the check – does that really alter behavior?” Hurley said.

North Carolina: Judges’ Ruling on Election Map Plunges North Carolina Politics into Disarray
WRAL – David Zucchino and Richard Fausset (New York Times) | Published: 8/28/2018

A three-judge panel struck down North Carolina’s congressional redistricting map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Among the court’s proposed remedies are redrawing the districts before November and holding a general election without a primary election, or redrawing the districts, holding a primary election in November and holding a general election sometime before Congress is seated in January 2019. The court also said it might allow the General Assembly another chance at redrawing the districts. The state’s political experts and power brokers had already been expecting a political brawl this year. With the rule book now in tatters, they essentially threw up their hands. “We’re wandering in the political pines, searching for directions,” said Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College.

Ohio: FBI Investigation: Ex-Ohio Speaker Cliff Rosenberger suspected of bribery, extortion
Cincinnati Enquirer – Jessie Balmert and James Pitcher | Published: 8/27/2018

Documents show former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger is under federal investigation for possible extortion and bribery. While it was known since he resigned in April that the FBI was investigating Rosenberger’s overseas trips with lobbyists for the payday-lending industry, the release of search warrants and other documents painted a clearer picture of what investigators are targeting. Officials were looking for “communications or information concerning: payday lending legislation; evidence of payments, kickbacks, bribes, or other benefits (such as payment of travel-related expenses),” according to the records provided by the Ohio House. A federal grand jury has been meeting in Cincinnati to review the matter.

Texas: Ethics Commission Finds Lobbyist Innocent
El Paso Inc. – David Crowder | Published: 8/27/2018

When he received a letter from a lobbyist containing an apology and offer of five baseball tickets, El Paso Rep. Henry Rivera said the first thing that came to his mind was: “He is trying to bribe me.” Rivera filed a police report and ethics complaint accusing Jeremy Jordan of violating the city’s ethics code, lobbyist regulations, and possibly state law against attempted bribery over the letter. The El Paso Ethics Review Commission chastised Jordan but found him innocent of the ethics code violation that Rivera lodged against him in May.

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