December 9, 2016 •
News You Can Use Digest – December 9, 2016
Gun Control Advocates Find a Deep-Pocketed Ally in Big Law
New York Times – Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Ben Protess | Published: 12/7/2016
On the defensive, gun control advocates are now quietly developing a plan to chip away at the gun lobby’s growing clout: team up with corporate law firms. Together, the firms are committing tens of millions of dollars in free legal services from top corporate lawyers who typically bill clients $1,000 an hour or more. Although law firms often donate time to individual causes, and some firms have worked on gun control on a piecemeal basis, the number and the prominence of the firms involved in the new coalition are unheard-of for modern-day big law. Rather than fighting the political headwinds, the coalition is focusing on courts and state regulatory agencies, among the few places where they might still gain some traction.
Ontario Overhauls Campaign Finance Rules with Sweeping Reforms
Toronto Globe and Mail – Adrian Morrow | Published: 12/1/2016
Legislation that alters the political fundraising landscape in Ontario was approved recently. The new law takes effect on January 1, 2017. It will prohibit all provincial politicians, candidates, and senior political staff from attending fundraising events, ban corporations and unions from giving, and cap donations from individuals at $3,600 per political party annually, among other provisions. The reforms were introduced following revelations that corporate leaders and lobbyists seeking government contracts or favorable policy decisions had spent up to $10,000 to buy exclusive face-time with Premier Kathleen Wynne and members of her cabinet over cocktails and dinner.
Business Since Birth: Trump’s children and the tangle that awaits
New York Times – Matt Flegenheimer, Rachel Abrams, Barry Meier, and Hiroko Tabuchi | Published: 12/4/2016
Since his election, Donald Trump has chafed at the suggestion that keeping his business in the family could create problems, despite several episodes during his transition that seemed to mix business and diplomacy. While he has insisted he faces no legal requirement to turn over the company, the Trump Organization said it is preparing an “immediate transfer of management” to Trump’s three eldest children, along with a team of executives. An examination of the professional histories of the three children shows how deeply the family, business, and politics are interwoven, raising doubts about how a meaningful wall can ever be erected between the president-elect and his heirs.
Justices Wrestle with Role of Race in Redistricting
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 12/5/2016
Race and politics divided the U.S. Supreme Court along ideological lines in two cases that could affect the way state Legislatures draw election districts in the future. The court’s more liberal justices criticized maps drawn after the 2010 Census by Republican Legislatures in North Carolina and Virginia for focusing predominantly on the percentage of African Americans in various districts. The more conservative justices mostly defended the maps, either because race did not dictate the contours of the districts or because the motivator was political advantage, something the high court has not ruled against. Several justices expressed frustration that unless they define clearly what is allowed and what is not, they could be left with what Justice Stephen Breyer called “a set of standards that district courts can’t apply, which will try to separate sheep from goats.”
Trump Adviser Has Pushed Clinton Conspiracy Theories
Politico – Bryan Bender and Andrew Hanna | Published: 12/5/2016
Before the election, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who is Donald Trump’s choice for national security adviser, tweeted a fake news story that claimed police and prosecutors had found evidence linking Hillary Clinton and much of her senior campaign staff to money laundering, perjury, and other felonies. Flynn’s tweet is attracting renewed attention after a man fired a rifle inside a Washington, D.C. restaurant that was the subject of false stories tying it and the Clinton campaign to a child sex trafficking ring. Some say Flynn’s fondness for spreading fake news casts doubt on his fitness to serve as national security adviser, suggesting he either cannot spot a blatant falsehood or is just ideologically bent to believe the worst of his perceived enemies.
Trump Sold All Shares in Companies in June, Spokesman Says
Washington Post – Drew Harwell and Rodsalind Helderman | Published: 12/6/2016
Donald Trump sold all his stock back in June, a transition team spokesperson said, showing the president-elect has begun to address concerns about complicated entanglements between his business and new government life. Questions about Trump’s stock holdings came back into view after he criticized the costs of Boeing to build a new Air Force One. Trump’s portfolio included shares in a number of banks, oil giants, and other companies with business pending before the U.S. government and whose value could rise due to Trump’s decisions in office. Those stock holdings, ethics advisers said, offered a potentially troublesome facet of Trump’s private finances that could entangle his public decision-making.
From the States and Municipalities:
Ethics Commission Pulls Opinion Over Nonprofit Concerns
Montgomery Advertiser – Brian Lyman | Published: 12/7/2016
The Alabama Ethics Commission withdrew an opinion that said the state ethics law’s definition of a principal – an individual or organization that hires a lobbyist – included not only a firm that hired the lobbyist but anyone in the organization with authority, including executives, officers, and members of boards of directors. Lobbyists and principals cannot provide legislators with things of value. The jury that convicted former House Speaker Mike Hubbard on corruption charges accepted a broad definition of principal favored by prosecutors. That stirred unease in the business community and among nonprofits. Representatives of nonprofits who spoke at a recent commission hearing said many of their chief donors had cut off funds over concerns about the principal definition.
EBay Faces Fines from State Ethics Watchdog after Failing to Disclose Sacramento Lobbying on Time
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 12/6/2016
The California Fair Political Practices Commission proposed a $6,500 fine for eBay after the company missed deadlines for filing lobbying spending reports and failed to properly disclose campaign contributions. The commission will vote on December 15 whether to approve the deal. EBay representatives told investigators the failure to file the reports on time was “inadvertent” and caused by a transfer of responsibility for filing during a “corporate transition.” The firm also was late in filing statements required of major donors that disclose their contributions.
Amendment 71 Made It Harder to Get Initiatives on the Ballot – What Happens Now?
Denver Post – Brian Eason | Published: 12/5/2016
Anyone able to raise enough money and signatures can propose an amendment to the Colorado Constitution through a ballot initiative, sidestepping the legislative process. But Amendment 71, approved by voters November 8, made that harder to do, so much harder, critics say, that amending the constitution is no longer an option for all but the most well-funded organizations. Statutory ballot measures that fall short of amending the constitution are still on the table, but there are downsides to that approach too.
Corcoran Offers Lobbyist ‘Training’ to Adjust to New Legislative Limitations
Sunshine State News – Allison Nielson | Published: 12/1/2016
The Florida House passed a sweeping set of rule changes during its organization session, with several of those changes directly affecting lobbyists. To help lobbyists transition to the new guidelines, the House will be holding training sessions on December 13 and December 14 in Tallahassee. The lobbyist training will cover disclosure requirements for lobbyists, as well as other rules.
Businesses Seek to Overturn Massachusetts Ban on Political Contributions
MassLive.com – Shira Schoenberg | Published: 12/7/2016
Under Massachusetts campaign finance law, businesses are not allowed to contribute to candidates. Individuals can donate up to $1,000 per year and unions can give up to $15,000. Republican lawmakers have tried, unsuccessfully, to bring the amount unions can donate down to $1,000. The law has typically benefited Democrats, who get the bulk of union campaign contributions. Attorneys for two businesses recently tried to convince a Superior Court judge to allow businesses to make the same political donations as labor unions.
Lawsuit Seeks to Stop Campaign Contribution Limits Approved by Missouri Voters Last Month
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 12/7/2016
A lawsuit filed in federal court challenges the voter-approved referendum that reinstated campaign contribution limits in Missouri. The same group that unsuccessfully sought to block the ballot measure before the November election argues the change in the state constitution unfairly limits some businesses and associations from giving money to campaigns. In particular, the change would stop the Association of Missouri Electrical Cooperatives from donating to campaigns and PACs, violating the free speech rights of its members, the lawsuit notes. The legal action comes one day before the new limits are set to take effect.
Anthony Weiner Fined $65,000 for Campaign Finance Violations
New York Times – J. David Goodman | Published: 12/1/2016
The New York City Campaign Finance Board ordered Anthony Weiner’s campaign to repay more than $195,000 in public matching funds he received as part of his failed 2013 mayoral bid. The board also ordered the campaign to pay a $64,956 fine for spending irregularities, including personal expenses not allowed under the current law. The campaign committed multiple infractions, the board found, including accepting 21 contributions that exceeded the legal limit, accepting contributions in excess of the limit for donors who have business with the city, and failing to demonstrate how some expenses were made in furtherance of the campaign. New revelations of sexually explicit text messages and photographs, sent to women after he had left Congress, came to light and derailed Weiner’s bid for mayor.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) Concedes Closely Contested Governor’s Race
Washington Post – Amber Phillips | Published: 12/5/2016
Ending an acrimonious stalemate that dragged on for nearly a month, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory conceded in his bid for re-election, clearing the way for the ascension of his challenger, Roy Cooper, and giving the national Democratic Party a rare cause for celebration. Cooper, the current state attorney general, declared victory on election night, but McCrory’s allies lodged election challenges in dozens of counties. Most of the challenges proved to be of little consequence, however. As partial results of a recount of more than 90,000 votes that Republicans had demanded in Durham County showed no significant change in the results, McCrory had little choice but to admit defeat.
EPA, Tribe: State commission not venue for complaint
The Olympian – Don Jenkins (Capital Press) | Published: 12/7/2016
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a Puget Sound tribe say the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) should step away from an investigation into whether the What’s Upstream advocacy campaign violated state law. The EPA said a federal audit will answer whether What’s Upstream organizers misspent public funds. The tribe said the PDC has no jurisdiction over how a tribe spends money. Save Family Farming alleges What’s Upstream lead organizer Larry Wasserman, the tribe’s environmental policy director, failed to register his group as a political committee or grassroots lobbying organization. The complaint also named EPA Northwest Administrator Dennis McLerran and Seattle lobbying firm Strategies 360.
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