News You Can Use Digest - August 5, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

August 5, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – August 5, 2016



Left Turns to Ballot Measures to Enact Political Change
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 8/2/2016

Liberals are turning to ballot measures to pursue other progressive goals that would be impossible to advance in Republican-controlled state Legislatures. Even in states where Democrats have political power, such as in California, activists have turned to ballot measures to speed their agenda. The rush of liberal ballot issues is something of a reversal from the last several decades, when conservatives used the initiative process to pass limits on taxes, implement term limits for state legislators, roll back regulations, and push contentious social issues.

The States Where Third-Party Candidates Perform Best
The Atlantic – Russell Berman and Andrew McGill | Published: 8/2/2016

It seems that voters might be more likely to support third-party candidates when they feel their vote would not actually impact the election. Researchers collected state vote totals for every presidential election since 1980, comparing how the closeness of a state’s vote correlated to the relative popularity of outside candidates. The correlation between support for the long shots and a state’s ideological one-sidedness was stronger in elections after 2000, when many Democrats blamed Floridians who voted for Ralph Nader for throwing the presidency from Al Gore to George W. Bush. This correlation disappears when the third-party candidate is a recognizable or compelling figure.

Women Are Finally Breaking into the Top Tier of Political Donors
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 8/2/2016

Slowly, more female donors are breaking into the top echelon of political donors, a domain traditionally dominated by male millionaires and billionaires. The biggest female donors of 2016 gave nearly $63 million to super PACs through the end of June. That puts them on track to surpass major female contributors in the 2012 elections. The boost reflects what donors and fundraisers in both parties say they see happening behind the scenes: while still outstripped by men, more wealthy women are seizing on the opportunities to finance super PACs and other big-money groups that opened up in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision. Their stepped-up participation is driven by an improved economic status and an increasing recognition that they need to play in the political arena to have an effect.


Court: Super PACs can be named after candidates
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 8/2/2016

A federal appeals court effectively loosened the already lax regulations governing the relationship between campaigns and outside groups. A panel of judges of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled the FEC had violated the First Amendment in restricting super PACs from naming themselves, or their fundraising initiatives, after the candidates they support. “The title is a critical way for committees to attract support and spread their message because it tells users that the website or Facebook page is about the candidate,” wrote Judge Thomas Griffith. The court said the FEC could address its concerns by forcing Super PACs to publish “a large disclaimer at the top of [its] websites and social media pages.”

GOP Reaches ‘New Level of Panic’ over Trump’s Candidacy
Washington Post – Philip Rucker, Dan Balz, and Matea Gold | Published: 8/3/2016

Donald Trump is facing a whirlwind of criticism from Republican leaders as he fends off reports of a staff shake up, an intervention, and even rumblings he could be urged to step aside as the party’s nominee. Trump allies publicly urged the candidate to reboot, furious that he has allowed his confrontation with the Muslim parents of slain soldier Humayun Khan to continue for nearly a week. They also are angry with Trump because of his refusal to endorse two of the GOP’s top elected officials, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain, ahead of their coming primary elections. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, one of Trump’s most loyal defenders, warned that his friend was in danger of throwing away the election and helping to make Clinton president.

Lobbyists Woo Potential Freshmen Long Before Election Day
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 8/2/2016

Lobbyists do not wait until after Election Day to begin courting next year’s freshman class in Congress. Influencers are already reaching out to prospective senators and House members, hosting fundraisers and meet-and-greets at which they can provide connections and help swell candidates’ campaign coffers. The relationships do not guarantee access once the lawmaker takes office. But they have provided outlets for lobbyists to offer advice on potential staff hires or help newly settled lawmakers and aides find their way around Washington, D.C.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – S.F. Ballot Measure Takes Aim at Lobbyists’ Fundraising
San Francisco Public Press – Noah Arroyo | Published: 8/1/2016

The San Francisco Ethics Commission has voted to put a measure on the November ballot that supporters say would restrict certain lobbyist behaviors that create – or appear to engender – a quid-pro-quo relationship between them, their clients, and the elected or appointed officials they seek to influence. If voters pass the measure this fall, beginning in 2018, lobbyists represent private interests would have to notify City Hall ahead of time when they planned to lobby specific agencies. And during elections, lobbyists could no longer give personal donations to candidates running for office in those agencies, or deliver bundle contributions on behalf of their clients or anyone else. The proposition would also ban all lobbyists from giving gifts to city and county officials or their family members.

Connecticut – Budget Director: Governor can cut watchdog agencies’ funding
Washington Times – Susan Haigh (Associated Press) | Published: 8/3/2016

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes contends Connecticut Gov. Dannell Malloy has the legal authority to withhold funding from the state’s watchdog agencies, despite 2004 legislation prohibiting governors from reducing the annual budgets of the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Office of State Ethics, and the Freedom of Information Commission. Carol Carson, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said the leaders of the three groups plan to seek an advisory opinion from state Attorney General George Jepsen on whether Malloy has the ability to make the reductions. “You can only cut so much and then you start to say, ‘We can’t do our mission,'” Carson said. “Further cuts will really damage our ability to do our basic core functions.”

Florida – Petition Drive Could Change How Miami-Dade Political Campaigns Are Financed
Miami Herald – David Smiley | Published: 8/2/2016

Activists submitted more than 125,000 signed petitions to potentially force a vote in November on a referendum that would limit contributions to candidates for county commission, mayor, and school board to $250 per person or corporation. Major county vendors and their lobbyists and principals would be barred from donating to candidates. And a system that affords candidates matching public contributions for donations of up to $100 by county residents would potentially enable candidates to multiply those donations six-fold. If enough signatures are verified, county commissioners will have to decide in the coming weeks whether to adopt proposed campaign finance legislation themselves or put the issue before voters.

Kansas – Kansas Republicans Reject Gov. Sam Brownback’s Conservatives in Primary
New York Times – Mitch Smith | Published: 8/3/2016

Moderate Republican candidates ousted at least 11 conservative state lawmakers allied with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in primary elections across the state. The results were widely seen as a repudiation of a second-term governor whose popularity has plummeted amid sustained budget gaps and ensuing sharp cuts in state spending. And they likely mean the staunchly conservative state Legislature will move back toward the center in 2017. In addition, Republicans in one congressional district voted out U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a farmer who had become a tea party favorite in Washington but had annoyed party stalwarts.

Massachusetts – Mass. Insiders Turn to Lobbying Careers
Boston Globe – Mark Arsenault and Andrew Ryan | Published: 7/31/2016

Many times, consultants who help candidates win elections in Massachusetts then go on to represent corporate clients with interests before the new officeholder – even, in some cases, as they continue to advise the officials they helped elect. The relationships can be hard to scrutinize at the state level, where whole swaths of government are exempt from the public records law. Whether consultants are selling their access to officials or not, “there is almost always an appearance of conflict of interest in these situations,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts.

North Carolina – 4th U.S. Circuit Judges Overturn North Carolina’s Voter ID Law
Charlotte Observer – Anne Blythe (Raleigh News & Observer) | Published: 7/29/2016

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina’s voter identification law. The panel agreed with allegations that the state’s law selectively chose voter-ID requirements, reduced the number of early-voting days, and changed registration procedures in ways meant to harm blacks, who overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party. The ruling tossed out the state’s requirement that voters present photo identification at the polls and restored voters’ ability to register on Election Day, to register before reaching the 18-year-old voting age, and to cast early ballots, provisions the law had fully or partly eliminated. The court also held that the ballots of people who had mistakenly voted at the wrong polling stations should be deemed valid.

Ohio – Ethics Commission Tells Columbus Leaders to Pay Up for Buckeye Junket
Columbus Dispatch – Lucas Sullivan | Published: 8/1/2016

The Ohio Ethics Commission ordered four current and former members of the Columbus City Council to pay the market value for a trip they took to an Ohio State football game. The council members took the trip with lobbyist John Raphael. Mayor Andrew Ginther, Councilperson Shannon Hardin, Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Eileey Paley, and former council member Michele Mills were told to pay nearly $700 for the trip, not just the $250 they each spent to attend the Big Ten Championship game in 2014. Raphael was sentenced to 15 months in prison in a separate case after he pleaded guilty to extorting money from Columbus’ red-light-camera vendor for campaign contributions to city officials.

Virginia – Lobbyists Spend Less on High-End Eats, Lawmakers Spend More
Albany Times Union – Alan Suderman (Associated Press) | Published: 8/2/2016

Revelations that former Gov. Robert McDonnell and his family accepted more than $175,000 worth of gifts and loans from a businessperson led Virginia lawmakers to put limits on the largess they could legally receive in 2014. Lobbyists remain big spenders, shelling out more than $543,000 on their efforts to convince state officials to favor their clients in the six months that ended April 30, which includes the entertaining that traditionally accompanies General Assembly sessions. But lobbyists seem to be taking legislators out to somewhat cheaper restaurants, while lawmakers are more frequently covering the cost of eating out with their campaign accounts. The reforms requiring more disclosure of gifts say lobbyists must identify officials attending their events if the average cost exceeds $50.

Wisconsin – Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Voter ID, Early Voting Laws
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley and Jason Stein | Published: 7/30/2016

A federal judge threw out as unconstitutional a host of Wisconsin election laws passed in recent years, saying they unfairly benefited Republicans who had enacted them and made it more difficult for Democrats to vote. U.S. District Court Judge James Peterson’s ruling keeps in place the state’s voter identification law, unlike recent rulings in North Carolina and Texas, but he ordered broad changes. The sweeping ruling will not affect Wisconsin’s August 9 primary, but will take effect for the November presidential election unless overturned on appeal.

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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