News You Can Use Digest - December 5, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

December 5, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – December 5, 2014



An Upbeat End to a Turbulent Year for Conservative State Legislature Group
Washington Post – Tom Hamburger | Published: 12/3/2014

Early in 2014, ALEC lost some of its most esteemed corporate partners – including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook – who decided not to renew their memberships following complaints that the organization questioned climate science. But then came Election Day in November, which delivered massive gains for state lawmakers backed by the group and left a record number of state legislative chambers in Republican hands. Thus ALEC is ending the year with upticks in the number of corporate members and in interest from legislators.

How Do Countries Rank on Corruption?
Los Angeles Times – Alexandra Zavis | Published: 12/2/2014

A report from Transparency International shows how levels of corruption vary around the world. The group ranked 175 countries on factors such as the prevalence of bribery, how countries prosecute corruption, and how governments respond to their population’s needs, such as guaranteeing basic human rights. North American and European countries were relatively less corrupt than countries in South America, Central Africa, and Asia. Somalia and North Korea ranked as the most corrupt countries in the world. Denmark and New Zealand were the least corrupt. The U.S. came in 17th place.


15 Places in DC Where Lobbyists Talk Turkey
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 11/28/2014

There are more than 11,000 lobbyists in Washington, D.C. and an ever-growing assortment of places for wining and dining, from the smoke-filled rooms for which the city is famous to trendy cocktail lounges and four-star restaurants. There are some venues, however, that have emerged as staples for K Street business. While each of the roughly two-dozen lobbyists that responded to The Hill’s inquiry for their favorite places to dine, drink, and do business, Washington boasts 15 places where lobbyists are almost definitely expected to be found.

Federal Judge Tosses out FEC Donor Disclosure Rule, Calling it Too Narrow
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 11/25/2014

A federal judge again tossed out an FEC rule that allowed nonprofit organizations running so-called issue ads to keep their donors secret, in a setback for groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the rule is “arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law.” The case hinges on a 2007-era regulation stating organizations that run issue ads close to Election Day only have to reveal donors who give for the explicit purpose of financing those spots. Under the rule, few groups running such ads have reported their contributors.

Know Before You Go: An ethics overview for Capitol Hill holiday parties
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 12/1/2014

The same congressional ethics regulations that ban lobbyists from treating lawmakers and staff to most lunches, dinners, or other gifts also govern the December social circuit in Washington. The “reception exemption” is the top carve out to the rules that most K Street party planners employ. “If it looks like a reception, then it’s OK; members and staff are allowed to attend a reception that’s purely social and a holiday celebration,” said William Minor, a lawyer at DLA Piper who specializes in ethics and lobbying laws. But beware anything that looks like a meal, or even opulent tiny bites such as caviar or truffles.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – L.A. Voters Won’t Be Offered Cash Prizes in March City Election
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser | Published: 12/2/2014

The idea of luring Los Angeles voters to the polls with cash prizes will not be used during next year’s March or May elections. The city Ethics Commission had suggested holding a lottery to improve voter turnout, which was 23 percent for last year’s mayoral run-off. Voters would be eligible for prizes of $25,000 or $50,000. Opponents said that was bribery and would do little to make sure voters were well-informed on issues and candidates.

Florida – Former Attorney General’s Contact with Pam Bondi’s Office Raises Questions
Miami Herald – Michael Van Sickler (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 12/1/2014

Bill McCollum is not just Pam Bondi’s predecessor as Florida attorney general; he also leads the Republican State Leadership Committee, which has championed Bondi’s advancement. During the 19 months that McCollum served as vice chairperson of the group, it contributed $650,000 to Bondi’s re-election campaign, more than 10 percent of what she raised, and chipped in another $16,000 in gifts so she could attend conferences with other Republican attorneys general. Now specializing in public policy and regulation at Dentons, an international law firm, McCollum contacted Bondi’s office on behalf of his clients, but did not register himself or list his clients with the state, which is a requirement for anyone who lobbies the executive branch.

Maryland – New Maryland Rules Would Curb Some Uses of Campaign Funds
Baltimore Sun – Michael Dresser | Published: 11/29/2014

New rules proposed by the State Board of Elections would bar candidates in Maryland from using their campaign funds to pay for such things as foreign travel, tuition, or mounting a legal defense to charges unrelated to the campaign. In addition to the prohibition on some uses of campaign funds, the board is proposing explicit rules on what actions violate the state’s longtime ban on legislators and statewide elected officials raising money during the legislative session. Among the practices banned is one in which officials send out a notice during the 90-day session to “save the date,” code in political circles for announcing a fundraiser.

Missouri – Missouri Lawmakers Face Renewed Calls to Change Loose Ethics Laws
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 11/26/2014

Some Missouri lawmakers say support is building to tighten state ethics laws that are among the loosest in the nation, but they warn that any reform probably would not include campaign contribution limits. The state allows legislators to accept unlimited gifts from lobbyists, collect political donations of any size, and lets lawmakers become lobbyists the moment they leave office. For years, some lawmakers have sought to change that, and each time those efforts have run into a wall of legislative opposition. Some think the 2015 legislative session could be different, with several longtime opponents of ethics reform out of office and legislative leaders voicing support for tackling the issue.

North Carolina – Redrawn Political Lines Create Sparse Choice for Voters
Ashville Citizen-Times – Mark Barrett | Published: 12/2/2014

Results of this year’s general election have once again fueled concerns about North Carolina’s redistricting process, one in which the General Assembly draws lines for U.S. House and legislative districts once a decade. Exactly half of all 120 state Houses races in November featured only one candidate. In the Senate, 19 of 50 races had just the one candidate. Only 30 to 40 of the remaining seats in the two chambers were truly “in play,” meaning either candidate had a realistic chance of winning, according to experts. Critics say the lack of competition means officeholders cater to the extreme wings of their parties, the party in power gets a disproportionate share of the seats, and voters are less likely to take an interest in public affairs.

Virginia – Ethics Commission Recommends More Caps on Free Meals, Trips for Virginia Lawmakers
The Tribune – Alan Suderman (Associated Press) | Published: 12/1/2014

A panel examining Virginia’s ethics laws recommending that state lawmakers not be able accept meals, trips, and entertainment worth more than $250 from lobbyists and others. The Commission on Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government included the recommendation in an interim report submitted to Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The commission had outlined its recommendations at a meeting in November, but now it has formally presented them to McAuliffe. The governor is expected to use the report to form the basis of ethics legislation he will propose for the General Assembly session that begins in January.

Washington – Ethics Panel Eyes Lawmakers’ Meals
The Columbian; Staff –   | Published: 12/2/2014

The Legislative Ethics Board has limited the number of free meals that Washington lawmakers could accept to 12 meals a year, and legislators currently have to report meals costing more than $50. At a recent meeting, the board approved a motion requesting that lawmakers publicly report free meals, no matter the dollar value. The Legislature must approve the reporting requirement.

West Virginia – Report Suggests Davis Conflict in Nursing Home Case
Charleston Gazette – Kate White | Published: 12/2/2014

An ABC News report said an attorney helped raise thousands of dollars for West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis’ 2012 re-election campaign and later purchased a private jet from Davis’ husband for more than $1 million. The attorney, Michael Fuller, would later argue a high-profile nursing home case in front of Davis. Although the justices reduced a $90 million verdict against a nursing home to about $40 million, Fuller’s law firm received more than $17 million. Davis has said she is against changing the rules justices use to determine whether they should step down from certain cases.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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