News You Can Use Digest - February 28, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

February 28, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – February 28, 2014







In Some States, gaming Industry Consultants Double as Gambling Regulators

Las Vegas Review-Journal – Hannah Dreier (Associated Press) | Published: 2/23/2014

As more cities and states embrace legalized gambling across the country, private companies are being hired to write regulations and vet casinos, even as the same firms work the other side of the fence, helping casinos enter new markets and sometimes lobbying for their interests. Letting consulting companies with deep ties to the gambling industry decide how casinos are run is a significant departure from how established gambling states, including Nevada and New Jersey, do things.


Where Have All the Lobbyists Gone?

The Nation – Lee Fang | Published: 2/19/2014

January records show spending on federal lobbyists decreased for the third consecutive year, and the number of registered lobbyists dropped to the lowest level since 2002. Despite word if its demise, some experts believe lobbying is not becoming extinct; it is only going underground. The combination of a loophole-ridden law, meager enforcement efforts, and a sophisticated strategy permitting third parties to develop faux-grassroots campaigns, as well as White House executive orders that dissuaded lobbyists from registering, all combined to collapse the system designed to track federal lobbying.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – California State Sen. Ron Calderon Indicted on Corruption Charges

Fresno Bee – Laurel Rosenhall (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 2/21/2014

California Sen. Ron Calderon was charged with accepting $100,000 in bribes, lavish trips, and no-show jobs for his children in exchange for pushing legislation to benefit a hospital engaged in billing fraud and participating in a film industry tax scheme that actually was an FBI sting. Calderon’s brother, Tom, a former state lawmaker-turned-lobbyist, was charged with money-laundering for funneling bribes through a tax-exempt group he controlled.

California – Lobbyist Kevin Sloat’s Penalty Falls Short, Ex-Employee’s Lawyer Says

Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy and Paige St. John | Published: 2/20/2014

The California Fair Political Practices Commission signed off on a $133,500 fine for lobbyist Kevin Sloat, who made improper campaign contributions to elected officials. The attorney whose lawsuit triggered the investigation, criticized the commission for not addressing other allegations. The suit said Sloat and his firm arranged free golf games for lawmakers at a course run by a client, helped legislators get sports and concert tickets, and assisted one state Assembly member in buying art at a deep discount.

Connecticut – Federal Grand Jury Probes GOP Contracts

Connecticut Post – Ken Dixon and Neil Vigdor | Published: 2/21/2014

Lawmakers say they believe federal authorities are trying to determine whether any Connecticut House Republicans were pressured to use a particular company for their political campaign mailings. Federal subpoenas show the FBI wants to see contracts and correspondence between the House Republicans and two direct mail companies that have been used by the caucus members and the caucus’ PACs.

Georgia – Ethics: The ghost of Legislatures past

Georgia Public Broadcasting – Jeanne Bonner | Published: 2/20/2014

Georgia lawmakers attended a joint question and answer session to straighten out growing confusion about how to abide by the law that lobbyists’ spending on individual legislators to $75 per expenditure. Critics and supporters alike say it contains exceptions that may undermine the intent to rein in lobbyists’ power. The state ethics commission probably will not issue guidelines on complying with the law until this summer.

Hawaii – Lobbyists Would Have to Disclose More Details on Political Spending

Honolulu Civil Beat – Nathan Eagle | Published: 2/25/2014

Hawaii lawmakers are advancing legislation this session that would require lobbyists to account for the money they are spending by breaking it into categories that show how much goes toward food, entertainment, gifts, loans, and other areas. A separate bill aims to make lobbying disclosure reports available in a timelier manner, particularly after a special legislative session.

Minnesota – Bill Seeks to Undo Senjem’s Loosening of Gift Ban

Rochester Post-Bulletin – Heather Carlson | Published: 2/25/2014

During the last legislative sessionin Minnesota, a campaign finance bill was successfully amended to allow lawmakers and legislative employees to attend receptions thrown by lobbyists without having to pay for food and drinks. It does require that all 201 lawmakers be invited and given at least five days’ notice. Now, state Rep. Ryan Winkler has sponsored a bill to reinstate a ban on the practice.

Missouri – Ethics Bills Draw Little Praise from Missouri Lawmakers They Would Regulate

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Virginia Young | Published: 2/26/2014

Members of the Missouri House General Laws Committee agreed the state needs to update its ethics laws, but were divided on how to do it and how far an overhaul should go. The committee considered several proposals, including ones that would require limits on campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts.

New Jersey – Bergen County Freeholders Tighten Limits on Political Donations by No-Bid Contractors

Bergen Record – John Ensslin | Published: 2/20/2014

Bergen County freeholders approved a “pay-to-play” bill that will drastically lower the amount of money contractors can donate to county political parties. The freeholders passed a resolution that will lower the allowed contribution from no-bid county contractors from $5,200 to $2,000. The move represents a reversal of a 2013 measure that softened restrictions during a critical election year for both parties and led to criticism from watchdog groups.

Oregon – Oregon Secretary of State’s Website is Back Up and Running

Salem Statesman Journal – Hannah Hoffman | Published: 2/24/2014

Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown announced her department’s online systems – the Central Business Registry and ORESTAR, the state’s online campaign finance reporting system – are back up and running after being shut down for nearly three weeks following a security breach. Brown said a grace period has been established for political campaigns filing overdue reports, with fines for late transactions being waived.

Pennsylvania – Council Committee OKs Private Gifts of Up to $99 in Value to City Workers

Philadelphia Inquirer – Bob Warner | Published: 2/24/2014

A Philadelphia City Council committee gave initial approval to specific limits on the value of gifts that city workers can accept. The city’s five-decades-old gift law had never sets limits on the value of gifts that city workers, including elected officials, can receive. The ordinance would allow city employees to annually accept noncash gifts worth up to $99, even from people with official business before them.

Utah – Utah Legislature: Vote up or down – conflict or not

Salt Lake Tribune – Lee Davidson | Published: 2/24/2014

Utah and Oregon are the only two states where lawmakers cannot abstain and are required to vote even if they have a major conflict-of-interest on a bill. Utah Rep. Jim Nielson has introduced legislation to allow lawmakers to abstain or vote “present.” But he does not expect it to go far. In part, that is because leaders see conflicts as natural in a citizen Legislature, and they worry that creating more pressure to declare them and skip votes could get out of hand. Ethics reformers say a better system is needed.

Virginia – House Passes Ethics Bill with ‘Turkey Dinner Amendment’

The Daily Progress – Marcus Schmidt (Richmond Times Dispatch) | Published: 2/26/2014

The Virginia House passed a Senate ethics reform package. Senate Bill 649, which is almost identical to a proposal a House committee hammered out over several weeks, puts a $250 cap on gifts from lobbyists and anyone with business before the state, and it creates an ethics advisory council that will oversee and update Virginia’s financial disclosure system. Del. C. Todd Gilbert said he expects both bills to be dealt with in conference committee before one broad proposal heads to Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Washington – State Legislators’ Financial Disclosures Fall Short

Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 2/22/2014

Although Washington frequently gets high marks from national open-government groups, some experts say one area where the state is lagging is in the personal financial disclosure by public officials. There are other flaws in the state’s disclosure system that leave holes in the public’s understanding of the financial affairs of their elected officials. As a result, some lawmakers file erroneous or confusing reports that go uncorrected unless spotted by political opponents, journalists, or activists.

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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