News You Can Use Digest - February 1, 2019 - State and Federal Communications

February 1, 2019  •  

News You Can Use Digest – February 1, 2019



All Red or All Blue, State Legislatures Run to Partisan Sides
MSN – Timothy Williams (New York Times) | Published: 1/28/2019

Republicans continue to hold majorities in most of the nation’s state capitals, as they have in recent years, but Democrats now control six new legislative chambers. Along the way, though, Minnesota became the only remaining state in the nation where control of a Legislature is divided. Even in an era of single-party dominance in state Legislatures, it is the first time in more than a century that only one state has split control of its legislative chambers and is one more indication of the depth of the nation’s divided political sensibilities.


K Street Women Seek Closer Ties to Female Lawmakers
Roll Call – Kate Ackley | Published: 1/30/2019

A collection of female lobbyists and organizations is launching a new effort, called 131 & Counting, to welcome the unprecedented number of women now serving in the U.S. House and Senate, build connections with them, and encourage more women to run for office. Miranda Franco, a senior policy adviser with Holland & Knight who came up with the idea, envisions future events that might include panels and roundtables about women in business, the gender wage gap, and other policy matters. Though 131 & Counting is not a fundraising effort, it will connect the female lawmakers with a likely collection of potential campaign donors. Not only did a record number of women run for office last cycle but more women than ever before donated to congressional candidates.

Lawmakers Push Crackdown on Foreign Lobbyists
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 1/29/2019

Foreign lobbying has been in the national spotlight since special counsel Robert Mueller obtained guilty pleas under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) from two of Donald Trump’s campaign officials, Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, over their lobbying work in Ukraine. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle find FARA outdated, weak, and filled with loopholes. They have tried to change the law in the past, but those efforts have fallen short. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley introduced the Disclosing Foreign Influence Act in 2017 and he said recently that he wants to try again to pass the bill, which will be reintroduced this Congress.

From the States and Municipalities:

Florida: Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel Resigns After Halloween Blackface Photos Emerge
Tallahassee Democrat – Jeffrey Schweers | Published: 1/24/2019

Newly appointed Florida Secretary of State Michael Ertel resigned from office after photographs of him posing as a female Hurricane Katrina victim in blackface were obtained by The Tallahassee Democrat. The newspaper reported that the photos were taken in 2005, shortly after Ertel had become supervisor of elections in Seminole County, and depict him in blackface, wearing a New Orleans Saints bandanna around his head and a shirt with the words “Katrina Victim” written on it. Ertel would not comment on the record about the circumstances surrounding the photo.  “There’s nothing I can say,” Ertel said.

Illinois: FBI Secretly Recorded Mike Madigan at His Law Office Pitching Firm’s Services
Chicago Sun-Times – John Seidel, Tina Sfondeles, and Fran Spielman | Published: 1/29/2019

The FBI secretly recorded Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan trying to get business for his private law firm from a developer brought to him by Chicago Ald. Danny Solis, who was weighing the developer’s request to build a hotel in Chicago, according to a federal court affidavit. It makes clear for the first time that the federal investigation that has snared Ald. Edward Burke extends beyond City Hall and into the statehouse, examining politicians’ longstanding practice of merging personal and political business. It has been reported that Solis secretly recorded conversations he had with Burke, who recently was charged with attempted extortion.

Kentucky: A Onetime Rising Democratic Star Faces Questions About Voter Privacy
ProPublica – Daniel Desrochers (Lexington Herald-Leader) and Jessica Huseman | Published: 1/28/2019

In an appearance on MSNBC in July 2017, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes expressed her opposition to giving voter data to President Trump’s voter fraud commission, which had requested it from election officials in all 50 states. The privacy risks were simply too high, she said. But beginning months before she made that statement, Grimes’ own staff had been looking up hundreds of voters in the very same registration system. An investigation shows the searches were extensive and targeted prominent state politicians, including gubernatorial candidate Rocky Adkins, who could have been Grimes’ opponent in the Democratic primary.

Missouri: St. Louis County’s Campaign Contribution Limit Is in Effect. Probably. Maybe. Who Knows.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jeremy Kohler | Published: 1/24/2019

St. Louis County voters in November overwhelmingly passed a charter amendment that limits campaign contributions to $2,600 per individual per election. But on December 2, Prosecuting Attorney-elect Wesley Bell accepted a contribution for $3,500; the next day he accepted one for $10,000. It remains unclear whether Bell’s campaign ran afoul of the amendment. The Missouri Constitution says county charter amendments become a part of the charter “at the time and under the conditions fixed in the amendment.” The county’s charter amendment did not have an effective date, and no one in the county government can say when, or even if, it did take effect.

New Mexico: Lobbyist Loophole Fix Heads to Gov. as Lobbyists Spend Nearly $90K
New Mexixo In Depth – Marjorie Childress | Published: 1/30/2019

New Mexico lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would close a loophole that allowed lobbyists to buy politicians meals and drinks of up to $100 without reporting it to state regulators. Senate Bill 191 fixes a mistake made by legislators in 2016 when they inadvertently got rid of a. If Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs Senate Bill 191, which she has indicated she will, all expenditures will have to be reported in the future, including the total of individual expenses under $100. Current law requires lobbyists to report expenses above $100 individually.

Oklahoma: Groups on Right, Left Oppose Proposed Grassroots Lobbying Rules
Oklahoma Watch – Paul Monies | Published: 1/24/2019

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission had been considering disclosure requirements for advocates who buy ads supporting or opposing legislation. But commissioners let the proposed indirect lobbying rule die without a vote after an outcry against it. Most of those against the proposal called it an infringement on free speech. Leaders of nonprofits involved in politics complained the disclosure requirements would drive away donors who want to remain anonymous. More than 3,200 people signed a petition against the proposal.

Oregon: Oregon Supreme Court Could Beat Gov. Brown to Campaign Finance Change
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk Vanderhart | Published: 1/24/2019

Gov. Kate Brown says changes to Oregon’s campaign finance system are a priority in this year’s legislative session, but it is possible some of those changes will occur before she gets her chance. In a rare move, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed to fast-track a case that proponents hope will let the state limit campaign contributions. The move means the matter will skip over the Oregon Court of Appeals, where cases can languish for years and will be heard by the justices later this year. At issue is a set of campaign finance changes enacted by Multnomah County voters three years ago. The new rules placed a $500 ceiling on the checks that individual donors or PACs could give to candidates for county office, and they required disclosures of top donors for political advertisements, among other provisions.

Pennsylvania: Feds Indict Powerful Philly Union Boss, City Councilman, Others
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Maryclaire Dale (Associated Press) | Published: 1/30/2019

A powerful union boss with a tight grip on construction jobs in the Philadelphia region and outsized influence in city and state politics has been indicted in alleged schemes to embezzle more than $600,000 and have a councilperson on the union payroll do his bidding at City Hall. Johnny “Doc” Dougherty has steered tens of millions of dollars to political candidates in Pennsylvania during his tenure running the electricians union. According to the 116-count indictment, Dougherty pressed Comcast to steer $2 million worth of electrical work to a friend as the company negotiated the renewal of the city’s 15-year cable lease and had city Councilperson Bobby Henon investigate a towing company that seized Dougherty’s car., among other charges.

South Dakota: Lobbyist Can Return House Floor After Judge Issues Restraining Order
Rapid City Journal – Chris Huber | Published: 1/27/2019

The lobbyist who was banned from the South Dakota House floor can once again conduct business there after a federal judge granted her a temporary restraining order. Yvonne Taylor, executive director of the South Dakota Municipal League, alleged in a lawsuit that Speaker Steve Haugaard barred her from the House floor after she wrote a magazine column saying the number of “wackies” in the Legislature was increasing.  U.S. District Court Judge Roberto Lange said both sides are working toward a settlement, but he granted to the temporary order to “avert immediate or irreparable injury” to Taylor while those discussions occur.

Texas: Dallas Lawyer’s Young Children Are Listed as Big Donors for 3 City Council Members
Dallas News – Corbett Smith | Published: 1/30/2019

Four young children are among Dallas’s biggest political donors. Over the past two years, the children of James Stanton, a former judge in Dallas County, donated a total of $11,000 to three city council members. Those contributions appear to skirt the city’s campaign finance rules, which set a $1,000 individual limit per election cycle for city council races. Charles Sartain, an attorney who specializes in election law, said Stanton’s donations are similar to when a boss distributes money he or she wants doled out for political contributions.

Texas: In the Texas House, They’re Seen as Lobbyists. In the Senate, They Sit at the Press Table.
Texas Tribune – Emma Platoff | Published: 1/28/2019

Empower Texans has worked to replace moderate Republicans with hardline conservatives. The organization and its PAC – which blur the lines between newsroom, lobbying firm, and PAC – have aimed to upend the political scene, with primary challenges and by-the-minute scorecards of lawmakers’ votes. This year, two employees of the Empower Texans’ reporting arm, Texas Scorecard, sit for the first time at the press table on the Senate floor. Aside from lawmakers, staff, and special guests, only journalists are allowed on the floor of the chamber. The media credentials are an opportunity for a group that tries to influence the process. And Empower Texans’ influence is notable. Last election cycle, the group’s PAC spent millions of dollars, a hefty amount going to the Senate and to its leader, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Utah: Who Funds Utah Legislators’ Campaigns? Special Interests Provide 82% of Money, While Voters in Lawmakers’ Own Districts Gave Only 6%.
Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 1/27/2019

Incoming Utah legislators collected only six percent of their campaign donations during the 2018 election year from voters who live in their districts. The lion’s share of contributions, 82 percent, came from special-interest groups or out-of-state donors, according to an analysis by The Salt Lake Tribune. As the Legislature convenes, the statistics again raise questions about how much influence wealthy donors and organized interests wield compared with run-of-the-mill Utah voters. Chase Thomas, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Utah, says he doubts big-donor groups buy any votes, but their money may improve their access to lawmakers to make their case for or against legislation.

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