December 30, 2016 •
News You Can Use Digest – December 30, 2016
When One Party Has the Governor’s Mansion and the Other Has the Statehouse
New York Times – Trip Gabriel | Published: 12/26/2016
Governors outgunned by veto-proof majorities in their Legislatures have successfully used the bully pulpit of their office, going over the heads of part-time lawmakers to directly appeal to citizens. Other times, governors have profited from a basic law of politics: they are usually more popular than legislative bodies, whose job favorability is little higher than that of perpetrators of Ponzi schemes. And governors in control of the bureaucracy of the executive branch have found that, like President Obama in the face of congressional obstruction, they can pull the levers of executive action to advance an agenda.
Wielding Claims of ‘Fake News,’ Conservatives Take Aim at Mainstream Media
New York Times – Jeremy Peters | Published: 12/25/2016
Until now, the term “fake news” had been understood to refer to fabricated news accounts that are meant to spread virally online. But conservative cable and radio personalities, top Republicans, and President-elect Donald Trump, incredulous about suggestions that fake stories may have helped swing the election, have appropriated the term and turned it against any news they see as hostile to their agenda. In defining “fake news” so broadly and seeking to dilute its meaning, they are capitalizing on the declining credibility of all purveyors of information. And conservatives, seeing an opening to undermine the mainstream media, a longtime foe, are more than happy to dig the hole deeper.
Donald Trump Plans to Shut Down His Charitable Foundation, Which Has Been Under Scrutiny for Months
Washington Post – Mark Berman and David Fahrenthold | Published: 12/24/2016
President-elect Donald Trump announced he intends to dissolve his charitable foundation, his latest move aimed at settling ethical conflicts that have already dogged the incoming administration. The Donald J. Trump Foundation has come under scrutiny this year after a series of news reports detailing its practices, including cases in which Trump apparently used the charity’s money to settle lawsuits involving his for-profit businesses. New York’s attorney general has been investigating the charity after some of these reports, and a spokesperson for that office said the foundation could not officially shut down until that probe is over.
Inside the Trump Organization, the Company That Has Run Trump’s Big World
New York Times – Megan Twohey, Russ Buettner, and Steve Eder | Published: 12/25/2016
With entanglements around the world, many packaged in a network of licensing agreements and limited liability companies, the Trump Organization poses a raft of potential conflicts for a president-elect who has long exerted tight control over his business. Donald Trump, owner of all but the smallest sliver of the privately held company, has said while the law does not require it, he is formulating plans to remove himself from the company’s operations. But amid rising pressure, Trump and his advisers have been debating further steps. Yet an examination of the company underscores the challenges of taking Donald Trump out of the picture. His company is a distinctly family business fortified with longtime loyalists that operates less on standardized procedures and more on a culture of its leader.
Navy Repeatedly Dismissed Evidence That ‘Fat Leonard’ Was Cheating the 7th Fleet
Washington Post – Craig Whitlock | Published: 12/27/2016
The Navy allowed the worst corruption scandal in its history to fester for several years by dismissing evidence that a Singapore-based contractor, Leonard Francis, was cheating the service out of millions of dollars and bribing officers with alcohol, prostitutes, and lavish dinners. Staffers at U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters were so worried about the potential for trouble that they drafted a new ethics policy to discourage Navy personnel from accepting favors from Francis. But their effort was blocked for more than two years by admirals who were friendly with the contractor. It took officials years to gather enough evidence to charge Francis and arrest him. He has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy of $35 million.
U.S. Punishes Russia for Election Hacking, Ejecting Operatives
New York Times – David Sanger | Published: 12/29/2016
The Obama administration announced new measures in retaliation for what officials have characterized as Russian interference in American elections, ordering the removal of 35 Russian government officials from the U.S. and sanctioning agencies and individuals tied to the hacks. The announcement culminates a debate over whether and how to respond to Russia’s unprecedented election-year provocations, ranging from the hacks of the Democratic National Committee to the targeting of state electoral systems. President-elect Donald Trump suggested the U.S. should drop its effort to retaliate against Russia, and cast doubt on intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia was behind the hacks.
From the States and Municipalities:
How to Influence the California Legislature? New Spending Details Revealed
Sacramento Bee – Taryn Luna and Jim Miller | Published: 12/28/2016
The third quarter of 2016, which included the end of the legislative session, was so important that companies, unions, trade associations, and other groups paid $84.4 million to lobby California officials on bills and regulations during the three-month period. Much as campaigns for candidates seek to win over voters, the disclosure filings underline the extent to which special-interest groups employ some of the same resources to make their cases to lawmakers and state officials. They also for the first time provide details about which political consultants, public-relations experts, advertising firms, and other non-lobbyist advocates are being paid to influence policy.
Santa Clara County Bosses Let Workers Take Toys Meant for Needy Kids
San Jose Mercury News – Ramona Girwagis | Published: 12/23/2016
Expensive toys intended as Christmas presents for poor children were handed out instead to dozens of Santa Clara County employees, and the county executive’s office says they do not need to return them. County employees walking to their cars from work saw the items being unloaded from trucks at the Santa Clara County building as part of a toy drive. County Executive Jeff Smith insisted that county employees who took the toys understood they needed to donate them to a nonprofit or church. But he could provide no documentation that workers were told to donate them. Smith acknowledged the county has no way of knowing whether the employees donated the gifts or kept them for themselves. “Had we realized that this was going on we probably would have organized it differently,” said Steve Preminger, a special assistant to Smith.
Shining a Light on Lobbyists, New Efforts to Curb Their Influence
Tallahassee Democrat – James Call | Published: 12/18/2016
It is a new era in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee, and the winners of the November election are imposing new realities on how lobbyists can operate. New lobbyist-disclosure requirements approved by the Florida House aim to reveal how paid advocates and lawmakers interact behind the scenes. The rules place the lobbying corps in a delicate situation. They clearly target their product – influence – yet opposition would alienate House Speaker Richard Corcoran, the official with the ability to see that their bill, amendment, or request never gets heard. Lobbyists said they are figuring out how to navigate the new working conditions.
With Greitens’ Blessing, Lawmakers Aim for Lobbyist-Gift Ban
Springfield News-Leader – Summer Ballentine (Associated Press) | Published: 12/25/2016
Maybe this year, with support from Gov.-elect Eric Greitens, Missouri lawmakers will be able to keep lobbyists from giving officeholders expensive dinners or concert tickets. If lawmakers fail to deliver in the 2017 session, it would break a campaign promise from Greitens, who largely focused on how he would tackle corruption in the Capitol, which in recent years has been marred by ethics scandals, and said such a ban is his first goal. It is also among the top priorities for House Speaker Todd Richardson, who said he was personally disappointed when an ethics bills did not pass last session.
De Blasio Signs Measures Limiting Political Contributions
Newsday – Matthew Chayes | Published: 12/22/2016
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed campaign finance reform legislation recently. Included in the bills are limits on contributions by donors with business before the city to elected officials’ political nonprofits, ostensibly aimed at a group like the mayor’s now-defunct Campaign for One New York. Other legislation eliminates public matching funds for contributions bundled by people doing business with the city, limits amounts donated for transition and inauguration activities, and changes eligibility requirements for certain activities like debates.
JCOPE Settles with Firms Caught Up in Skelos, Silver Cases
Albany Times Union – Casey Seiler | Published: 12/28/2016
The New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics reached settlements over lobbying violations with companies involved in the corruption cases of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Glenwood Management will pay a $200,000 fine and Administrators for the Professions will pay $70,000. Glenwood failed to disclose meetings and other lobbying activities before Skelos, and recommended to a company that it hire his son as a consultant. Glenwood also retained a law firm knowing a portion of the fees it paid would be shared with Silver. Administrators for the Professions admitted in the course of lobbying Skelos, it employed his son in an arrangement designed to curry favor with the senator.
NYCLU, ACLU Sue New York Over Ethics Law
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 12/22/2016
A civil liberties group has joined in the call for a federal judge to strike down new donor-disclosure provisions in New York that allegedly stray from their anticorruption goals, hurting the protected speech rights of both nonprofits and donors. The new law mandates the public disclosure of all donors and contributions to a 501(c)(3) in excess of $2,500 whenever that organization makes an “in-kind donation” of over $2,500 to certain 501(c)(4)s engaged in lobbying activity. For 501(c)4 disclosure, the law lowers the threshold from $50,000 to $15,000 in annual lobbying spending. Unless the lawsuits succeed in getting an injunction, the first lobbying reports with the new disclosure requirements are due at the end of January.
An Oklahoma Newspaper Endorsed Clinton. It Hasn’t Been Forgiven.
New York Times – Manny Fernandez | Published: 12/26/2016
The Enid News & Eagle, a red newspaper in a red county in what is arguably the reddest of states went blue this campaign season and endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. The editorial board wrote that Donald Trump lacked “the skills, experience or temperament to hold office.” It was the first Democratic endorsement for president in the modern history of the newspaper, which was founded in 1893. Enid was stunned, and this slow-paced agricultural town of 52,000 near the Kansas state line has not been the same since. Around the country, as newspapers big and small are struggling to keep subscribers, a handful of papers with conservative editorial boards made news by either endorsing Clinton or urging readers to back anybody but Trump.
Possibility of More S.C. Lawmakers Charged with Corruption Looms
Aiken Standard – Seanna Adcox (Associated Press) | Published: 12/24/2016
Following the 30-count indictment of a former state House majority leader, questions over who else may face corruption charges will loom over South Carolina’s 2017 legislative session. The misconduct and ethics charges against Rep. Jim Merrill, the first since former Speaker Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty and resigned more than two years ago, ended all speculation that lawmakers could breathe easy. And prosecutor David Pascoe made clear he is not done. “This is still an ongoing investigation,” Pascoe said in a recent statement.
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