December 2, 2016 •
News You Can Use Digest – December 2, 2016
Donald Trump’s Early Backers in State Government May See Rewards
New York Times – Monica Davey | Published: 11/23/2016
In every race for the White House, there are early and fierce endorsers of the winning candidate who are then viewed, post-election, as having greater influence. Some are courted for cabinet spots, but more seek the president’s ear on state policies, federal funds, and infrastructure projects. Rarely, though, are the lines as stark as in this election, largely because some Republican leaders took the unusual step of not endorsing Donald Trump – early or ever. And what this means now for the ones who did is far from clear.
How Stable Are Democracies? ‘Warning Signs Are Flashing Red’
New York Times – Amanda Taub | Published: 11/29/2016
Political scientists have a theory called “democratic consolidation,” which holds that once countries develop democratic institutions, a robust civil society, and a certain level of wealth, their democracy is secure. Yascha Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging that assumption. His research suggests that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline.
News Outlets Rethink Usage of the Term ‘Alt-Right’
New York Times – Sydney Ember | Published: 11/28/2016
With the election of Donald Trump – and his subsequent appointment of Stephen Bannon, a former chairperson of the right-wing website Breitbart News, as his chief White House strategist – the term alt-right has emerged as a linguistic flash point. Generally deployed by news organizations to describe a far-right, white nationalist movement known for its aggressive online expression, the term has attracted widespread criticism among those, particularly on the left, who say it euphemizes and legitimizes the ideologies of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and white supremacy.
Trump Announces He Will Leave Business ‘in Total’ – Leaving Open How He Will Avoid Conflicts of Interest
Washington Post – Drew Harwell | Published: 11/30/2016
Donald Trump said he would take steps to separate himself from his global business empire in the hopes of preventing the appearance of a conflict-of-interest as he becomes president. But Trump’s announcement, delivered in a series of early-morning posts on Twitter, drew an immediate rebuke from legal and ethics experts, who said the posts suggest Trump is not planning to take sufficient steps to eliminate the conflicts. It remains unclear what the president-elect’s plan will look like, but simply removing Trump from operational, day-to-day control of business decisions still could allow him to benefit financially from payments made to his companies by foreign governments, which may be prohibited by the so-called emoluments clause of the Constitution.
Trump to Accept Inauguration Funds from Corporations and Big Donors
New York Times – Nicholas Fandos | Published: 11/23/2016
President-elect Donald Trump is hoping to raise $65 million to $75 million to fund the activities planned for his inauguration. Trump plans to ban money from registered lobbyists, whom he barred from working for his administration. But the restrictions will be lighter on corporations and individuals, the groups that have traditionally provided a vast majority of funding for the festivities surrounding the transfer of power. Trump will seek corporate contributions of up to $1 million and even allow donations from PACs on a case-by-case basis. The restrictions, which members of the inaugural committee cautioned have yet to be finalized, represent a continued march back from standards set in 2009 by Barack Obama.
Trump’s Twitter Addiction Could Reshape the Presidency
Politico – Eli Stokols | Published: 11/29/2016
President-elect Donald Trump has recently proposed a reversal in American diplomatic relations with Cuba, boasted about negotiations with a major manufacturer, trumpeted false claims about millions of illegal votes, and hinted that he might upend current free speech laws by banning flag burning. All in 140 characters or less. As news organizations grapple with covering a commander in chief unlike any other, Trump’s Twitter account – a bully pulpit, propaganda weapon, and attention magnet all rolled into one – has as quickly emerged as a journalistic challenge and a source of lively debate.
From the States and Municipalities:
District of Columbia – D.C. Council to Debate Emergency Legislation on Campaign Finance Reform
Washington Post – Jasper Scherer | Published: 11/23/2016
District of Columbia Councilperson Kenyan McDuffie said he will introduce emergency legislation to bar contributions to PACs during non-election years in an effort to close what some view as a major campaign finance loophole before the start of 2017. McDuffie chairs the council’s Judiciary Committee, which is considering five related campaign finance reform bills, some of which include a closure of the loophole. Those bills are unlikely to pass before the legislative period closes at the end of the year, but McDuffie’s emergency bill would bypass many of the steps ordinarily required.
Maine – Maine Lawmakers Say Trips at Taxpayer Expense Are Vital
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 11/27/2016
Five Maine lawmakers traveled to northern Labrador to learn more about a growing hydropower industry that some hope could lower electricity costs in Maine. Reps. Mark Dion and Ken Fredette said the nearly $1,500 cost to taxpayers was justified by what they and their colleagues learned. Both said that getting into the field and away from the meeting rooms in Augusta was important in helping policymakers understand how their state might benefit from shifting regional energy markets. The trip is one highlight in dozens of taxpayer-funded excursions reviewed as part of a Freedom of Access Act request for records of out-of-state travel by lawmakers in 2015 and 2016. The Maine Sunday Telegram sought the expense records after Democratic state senators accused two of their Republican colleagues of “double dipping” on expense reimbursements, including for out-of-state travel.
Minnesota – Obscure Party Funds Become Minnesota Campaign Cash Magnets
Minnesota Public Radio – Brian Bakst | Published: 11/30/2016
While Minnesota law limits how much individual candidates can take from lobbyists and PACs, the rules are looser for local party units. Interest groups have channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican and Democratic causes the past few years by moving the money through the local political units of some of the state’s most powerful lawmakers. The money flies mostly under the public radar but buys lobbyists visibility and possibly influence with the Capitol’s power brokers.
Missouri – Could 2017 Be The Year That Ethics Reform Takes Hold in Missouri?
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 11/28/2016
Jefferson City’s reputation has been fueled in part by the fact that Missouri is the only state with no limits on both campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts. As a result, huge donations to campaigns have become commonplace, and elected officials accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts every year. Reform efforts stalled during the 2016 legislative session. But disappointment has given way to optimism over the results of the recent election. Missourians approved a constitutional amendment reinstating contribution limits, and elected candidates for governor and attorney general who made corruption the centerpiece of their campaigns. Voters gave lawmakers a mandate to finally pass meaningful ethics reform, said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Bob Onder.
New York – Emails Released by Mayor de Blasio’s Office Detail Reliance on Outside ‘Agents’
New York Times – J. David Goodman | Published: 11/23/2016
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration released a third batch of its correspondence with outside advisers that it has designated as “agents of the city.” The emails date to the first days of de Blasio’s tenure, from early 2014 through April 2015. Watchdog groups have raised concerns that the advisers act as a “shadow government” and present concerns about conflicts-of-interest because they also represent companies that do business with the city.
North Carolina – In North Carolina, No End in Sight to Governor’s Race
New York Times – Richard Fausset | Published: 11/29/2016
The North Carolina governor’s race remains an unresolved, contested muddle. The challenger, Roy Cooper, has declared victory. But incumbent Pat McCrory, trailing by thousands of votes in the as-yet-unfinished tally, has refused to concede, as he and his allies charge the election was marred by numerous irregularities. The imbroglio is so complicated that a spokesperson for the State Board of Elections could not say when it might be resolved. It comes amid a broader wave of skepticism about the integrity of the basic mechanics of the American electoral process, including the recount of the presidential results in three states. The move enraged President-elect Donald Trump, who said on Twitter that “millions” of people had illegally voted for Hillary Clinton, a widely derided claim for which he offered no evidence.
South Dakota – Daugaard Favors Repeal of New Ethics Law
Rapid City Journal – James Nord (Associated Press) | Published: 11/23/2016
Over two dozen Republican lawmakers and others are going to court to block a government ethics overhaul approved by South Dakota voters on November 8. Their lawsuit filed in state court challenges the constitutionality of the ballot measure that took effect recently. Foes of the measure argue provisions including an ethics commission and limitations on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers run afoul of the state or federal constitutions, or both. Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he does not plan to include millions of dollars of funding in his December budget proposal for a public campaign finance system established under the new law.
Virginia – Special Interests Spend Millions to Pay Virginia Legislators’ Bills
The Daily Press – Dave Ress | Published: 11/27/2016
Virginia law does not place limits on who can give to political campaigns or on how much can be donated. Similarly, state law sets no rules for where or how candidates may spend campaign funds. That means money contributed to campaigns can, and often does, pay for expenses that have nothing to do with running for office. Large sums flow in – and keep rising, year after year, even though many legislators do not actually face opponents and only a handful represent districts where opponents can mount a serious challenge.
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