News You Can Use Digest - February 2, 2018 - State and Federal Communications

February 2, 2018  •  

News You Can Use Digest – February 2, 2018





Just How Bad is Partisan Gerrymandering? Ask the Mapmakers.
New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 1/29/2018

Eric Hawkins, an analyst for the political consulting firm NCEC Services, is part of a cottage industry of statisticians, computer jockeys, and political sages whose business is to turn demographic data into electoral maps. His firm works exclusively with Democrats; others – like Geographic Strategies, run by the former Republican Party redistricting expert Thomas Hofeller – are loyal to Republicans. If most mapmakers are partisan, their work goes well beyond back-room politics. A good map meets constitutional requirements, such as allotting an equal number of people to every district, and respecting racial and ethnic populations. For their part, mapmakers point out their job is to implement political will, not to determine it.


CDC Director Resigns Because of Conflicts Over Financial Interests
Washington Post – Lena Sun | Published: 1/31/2018

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned, one day after reports that she traded tobacco stocks while heading the agency. Fitzgerald has said she divested from many stock holdings. But she and her husband were legally obligated to maintain other investments in cancer detection and health information technology, according to her ethics agreement, requiring Fitzgerald to pledge to avoid government business that might affect those interests. In Congress, some lawmakers had become increasingly concerned over Fitzgerald’s ability to do her job effectively.

Trump Groups Raised Millions, Then Paid It Out to Loyalists and a Trump Hotel
Las Vegas Sun – Kenneth Vogel and Rachel Shorey (New York Times) | Published: 1/25/2018

President Trump’s close political advisers are making millions of dollars working for several different entities gearing up for Trump’s re-election campaign, raising questions about whether they are following campaign finance laws designed to keep campaigns from coordinating with big-money outside groups. Campaign finance reports shed light on a network of groups that were formed to support Trump, but have spent less than other groups bolstering his agenda, while steering money to the president’s businesses and his most ardent surrogates.

Why the Russia Probe Demolished One Lobbying Firm but Spared Another
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 2/1/2018

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chief, once arranged the hiring of the lobbying firms Podesta Group and Mercury to work on behalf of a nonprofit that was ostensibly independent but which prosecutors say was “under the ultimate direction” of the president of Ukraine. Manfaort has been indicted on charges that include violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The Podesta Group collapsed within weeks of Manafort’s indictment, but Mercury just had its best year ever. There is no single explanation for why one firm imploded while the other appears to be relatively unscathed, but it is evident the Podesta Group was under pressures that Mercury did not face.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Patricia Todd Says Campaign Subpoena Was ‘Last Straw’ in Decision to Not Seek Re-election – Roy Johnson | Published: 1/30/2018

Alabama Rep. Patricia Todd says the state’s ethics laws regarding interactions between lawmakers and non-profits made it difficult, if not impossible, for her to get a job in her profession as an advocate in the non-profit sector. But after Todd announced she will not run for re-election, she received an offer from the Consumer Financial Education Foundation of America which she accepted. Todd said potential employers were skittish about regulations that consider anyone whose job entails speaking with a legislator as a lobbyist, and rules around interactions between lawmakers and lobbyists are strict.

Florida – Proposed Change to Sexual Harassment Bill Adds Sex to Lobbying Gift Ban
Florida Politics – Ana Ceballos | Published: 1/29/2018

Sexual favors between Florida legislators and lobbyists could be illegal under a proposed amendment to a bill. Sen. Lauren Book wants to incorporate any type of sexual conduct, whether engaging in it or directing others to do it, into the state’s gift ban. The change would apply to any public official, including an “employee of an agency or local government attorney.” It would also require anyone who files a public disclosure of their financial interests to certify they have reviewed the new gift ban policy.

Illinois – IG Office: Sex harassment legislation needs teeth for lobbyists
State Journal-Register – Maximilian Kwiatkowski | Published: 1/30/2018

Sexual harassment legislation passed last year is weak when it comes to requiring lobbyists to cooperate with investigations, according to two representatives of the Illinois secretary of state’s inspector general’s office. Deputy Inspector General Randy Blue said the laws do not contain strong enough penalties or ways to enforce the rules on lobbyists working in the Capitol. Prior to the legislation, the secretary of state’s jurisdiction involving lobbyists was solely with their registration and expenditure reports. Now, it oversees sexual harassment allegations, too.

Kansas – Kansas Intern Confidentiality Rule: What happens in a lawmaker’s office stays there
Kansas City Star – Lindsay Wise (McClatchy) and Hunter Woodall | Published: 1/29/2018

The Kansas Legislature requires interns to sign agreements to keep anything that takes place or is said in a lawmaker’s office confidential, or the interns could be fired. Employment law experts who reviewed the agreement say it is written so broadly it could deter interns from reporting harassment or illegal activity, and might violate the First Amendment. Legislative leaders say the agreement is intended to remind interns that private political discussions should stay private, although they acknowledge the intention is not clear.

New York – 2 Donors Plead Guilty, but the Mayor Is Not Charged. Why?
New York Times – William Rashbaum and William Neuman | Published: 1/26/2018

A major donor to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio testified he made donations to an elected official that sources identify as the mayor to win favorable treatment from City Hall. Harendra Singh made the “pay-to-play” assertion during a plea proceeding in October 2016, but his statement remained hidden from public view until now. The mayor’s ties to Singh and several other campaign donors for whom he did favors were investigated by federal prosecutors. They decided not to bring charges against de Blasio or his aides, but in doing so, they issued a cutting statement raising questions about the mayor’s ethics and making it clear he had done favors for donors.

North Carolina – In Power Struggle with GOP Lawmakers, Cooper Wins Election Board Revamp Lawsuit
Raleigh News and Observer – Anne Blythe | Published: 1/26/2018

The North Carolina Supreme Court limited the Republican-dominated Legislature’s efforts to minimize Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s ability to pursue his goals, declaring unconstitutional a law devising a state elections board that hinted at deadlock. The justices ruled Cooper could not be forced to pick a politically divided, eight-member elections board from names the two major political parties selected. The law prevented the governor from removing members with whom he disagreed unless there was wrongdoing. The law makes Cooper unable to fulfill his duties to ensure election laws are followed because half of the board will be people who will probably oppose the governor’s policy preferences, the majority opinion said.

South Dakota – Ex-SD Lawmaker Returns Lobbyist Credentials Amid Concerns
Rapid City Journal – Bob Mercer | Published: 1/29/2018

Former South Dakota Sen. Corey Brown said he has given back the lobbyist badge he received to represent Sanford Health at the 2018 legislative session amid a concern he might be breaking a state law. The Legislature decided last year that many former state government officials must wait two years before starting work as private lobbyists in South Dakota. Brown retired from the Legislature at the end of 2016. He began work January 8 for Sanford Health as senior legislative specialist for South Dakota. “The confusion comes because there are different interpretations of the law,” Brown said.

Tennessee – Nashville Mayor Megan Barry Admits to Extramarital Relationship with Top Police Security Officer
The Tennessean – Joey Garrison, Nate Rau, and Dave Boucher | Published: 1/31/2018

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry apologized for having an affair with the head of her security detail, Sgt. Robert Forrest Jr. of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. The affair has drawn scrutiny to the overtime that Forrest accrued while managing her detail. Forrest accompanied Barry on trips to Paris, Athens, Washington, New York, and other cities in the past year. He racked up around $33,000 in expenses for the trips and more than $50,000 in overtime in 2017 on top of an $84,500 salary. Nine of the trips were only Barry and Forrest, including a trip to Greece in September.

Wisconsin – Wisconsin Ethics Commission Hits Pause Button after Senate Rejects Director
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 1/25/2018

Wisconsin Ethics Commission Administrator Brian Bell returned to his old job at the state Department of Safety and Professional Services as a policy analyst, two days after Senate Republicans refused to confirm his appointment to the commission. Ethics Commission Chairperson David Halbrooks said he hoped to eventually bring back Bell as its director but wanted to wait to see what happens on the legal and legislative front in the coming weeks.


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