News You Can Use Digest - February 27, 2015 - State and Federal Communications

February 27, 2015  •  

News You Can Use Digest – February 27, 2015



Report: Illinois Rep. Schock billed private planes, concerts
Tacoma News Tribune – Jack Gillum and Stephen Braun (Associated Press) | Published: 2/23/2015

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) paid tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to donors for private flights and spent campaign money on several concerts and festivals. An Associated Press report said Schock spent at least $40,000 of taxpayer money for flights on private planes owned by donors, which could be a violation of House rules, as it is illegal for candidates and lawmakers to use noncommercial aircrafts for official or campaign business. Allegations of improper spending have been trickling out against Schock since a Washington Post reporter in February stumbled upon a redesign of his congressional office. The office was painted and redesigned to resemble the ornate dining room featured on the television show “Downton Abbey.”

The Inside Story Of How Citizens United Has Changed Washington Lawmaking
Huffington Post – Paul Blumenthal and Ryan Grim | Published: 2/26/2015

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision is reshaping how, how much, and to whom money flows in Washington. How the flood of money released by the ruling has changed elections has been the subject of much discussion, but the decision’s role in allowing that same money to infuse the legislative process has largely gone unreported. According to a review of documents, as well as interviews with lobbyists and policymakers, independent spending has become increasingly intertwined with lobbying and legislation, the precise appearance of corruption campaign finance laws were meant to curb.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Alabama Ethics Commission Names New Director after Six-Month Search – Erin Edgemon | Published: 2/24/2015

The Alabama Ethics Commission selected Tom Albritton as its new director. Albritton replaces Jim Sumner, who retired last October after 17 years at the helm. The commission received 27 applications for the post, and interviewed six of them.

California – California Ethics Panel Rejects Exceptions to Lobbyist Fundraising Rules
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 2/19/2015

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) approved new regulations banning political fundraisers in the homes of lobbyists. The panel rejected a proposal to allow fundraisers in lobbyists’ homes as long as the candidate pays for the use of the home. Legislation on the issue was passed after the FPPC imposed a record $133,500 fine last year against lobbyist Kevin Sloat and his firm for violating campaign contribution rules by providing alcohol and cigars at lavish fundraisers held at his home for lawmakers’ campaigns.

District of Columbia – For Marion Barry’s Son, Filling Dad’s Shoes Is a Surprisingly Uphill Battle
Washington Post – Mike DeBonis | Published: 2/21/2015

Ward 8 voters in the District of Columbia will again get to choose the name Marion Barry on April 28, when the only son of the late, legendary former mayor will try to replace his father on the city council. Victory, however, is far from assured for a son who wrestles with some of the same demons as the father: drugs, the law, the wrong kind of media attention. And the reservoir of goodwill, political favors, and campaign support from which the elder Barry drew to overcome his own troubles does not run so deep for his son.

Hawaii – Hawaii Monitor: Is a weak lobbying law getting weaker?
Honolulu Civil Beat – Ian Lind | Published: 2/25/2015

At a recent meeting of the Hawaii Ethics Commission, Executive Director Les Kondo briefed commissioners on his plan to revisit and potentially reverse a 2007 policy requiring so-called goodwill lobbying to be disclosed. Kondo said he now believes the specific language of the statute is not broad enough to demand disclosure of social gatherings, whether one-on-one dinners between legislators and lobbyists, or receptions bringing dozens of lawmakers together to drink and dine with special interest groups, where specific legislation is not discussed.

Illinois – Rahm Emanuel Forced Into Runoff in Bid for Second Term as Chicago Mayor
New York Times – Monica Davey | Published: 2/24/2015

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to capture a majority of the vote in his bid for a second term, an embarrassment for the former White House chief of staff who now faces an April 7 runoff against Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia. The result exposed possible vulnerability for an incumbent who has widespread support from business leaders, national name recognition, and millions of dollars in campaign funds.

Kansas – Conservatives Are Changing Kansas Law in Ways That Enshrine Their Power, Weaken Opponents
Kansas City Star – Brad Cooper | Published: 2/24/2015

Conservatives’ virtually unchallenged control of the Kansas Capitol opens the way for new policies that could undercut the influence of their traditional opposition for years to come. Those efforts figure to weaken the lobbying efforts by cities, hamstring the power of teachers unions, limit how academics can speak out on public controversies, and mold a more conservative judiciary. “The reason why conservatives gained control of the House, the Senate and the governor’s office is because the people wanted us to,” said state Rep. Scott Schwab. But aggressive action on several fronts has triggered criticism – some of it coming from fellow Republicans – the conservative majority might strip away basic fairness from the state’s political dynamics, especially with bills seen as targeting professors and the media.

Louisiana – Ethics Board Decision Protects Political Ads Funding Sources
New Orleans Advocate – Marsha Shuler | Published: 2/22/2015

The Louisiana Board of Ethics said groups funding political ads do not have to disclose those expenditures unless they advocate voting for or against a particular candidate. They also would not have to disclose the source of the money received for a particular ad based on the advisory opinion. The board’s opinion aligns with recent court rulings but did not sit well with some members who favor disclosure of the outside election spending and its source.

Massachusetts – Group Suing OCPF over Union Contributions – Gintautas Dumcius (State House News Service) | Published: 2/23/2015

A conservative group sued the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance on behalf of two local businesses, arguing the commonwealth has banned companies from making political donations while allowing unions to contribute up to $15,000. The lawsuit by the Goldwater Institute says “businesses and unions are functionally equivalent organizations,” and alleges violations of free speech and equal protection under the U.S. and state constitutions.

Nevada – As Revealed in Ethics Disclosures, Nevada Government is an Insiders’ Game
Las Vegas Sun – Kyle Roerink | Published: 2/17/2015

Many elected officials have professional relationships that extend outside the Legislature, creating a web that reveals the close-knit nature of Nevada politics. Those who submitted disclosures have not been accused of any conflict-of-interest. But critics maintain the relationships speak of a system where cronyism is common.

New York – Daniel Donovan, Garner Case Prosecutor, Defends Record as He Runs for Congress
New York Times – Alexander Burns | Published: 2/24/2015

Daniel Donovan, the Staten Island district attorney, handled the investigation into the police chokehold death of Eric Garner, an inquiry that touched off demonstrations across New York City and beyond when a grand jury declined to deliver an indictment. Now Donovan is considered the likely successor to former U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, a fellow Republican who vacated his seat in January after he pleaded guilty to tax evasion. But while Grimm came to be defined by his acknowledged criminal actions, Donovan has come to be identified by the Garner grand jury’s inaction.

North Carolina – Charlotte City Council Tightens Ethics Rules
Charlotte Observer – Ely Portillo | Published: 2/23/2015

The Charlotte City Council adopted a new ethics policy in response to the Patrick Cannon corruption scandal last year that put the former mayor in federal prison. It forbids elected officials from accepting gifts or meals. Exceptions include tickets to events where the city has a business reason for being represented. Officials could also accept food and drink at such events. Nominal gifts under $50, mementos related to civil events, and gifts from friends and family are also exceptions under the ordinance. The policy does not address lobbying disclosure, which some council members had called for.

Utah – Lobbyist Badges May Be Short-Lived on the Hill
Salt Lake Tribune – Robert Gehrke | Published: 2/20/2015

Utah Sen. Curt Bramble is seeking to repeal the requirement that lobbyists wear special badges. The problem, he says, is while it covers contract lobbyists or advocates working for particular companies, there are many who fall into a gray area, such as citizen activists, nonprofit entities, government employees, and others who are not required to wear the badges. With the lack of clarity, Bramble said, it makes sense to repeal the requirement, which lobbyists had complained about in the first place.

Virginia – Former Va. First Lady Sentenced to 366 Days in Corruption Case
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind Helderman, and Rachel Weiner | Published: 2/20/2015

Former Virginia first lady Maureen McDonnell was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for her role in a bribery scheme that ended her husband’s political career. Ex-Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison. A jury found the McDonnells guilty of taking more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from businessperson Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company’s nutritional supplements. Maureen McDonnell is likely the first modern-day spouse of a governor convicted on felony charges arising from her occupancy in an executive mansion.

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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