February 3, 2017 •
News You Can Use Digest – February 3, 2017
Fatigued by the News? Experts Suggest How to Adjust Your Media Diet
New York Times – Christopher Mele | Published: 2/1/2017
Some say it feels as if we are living inside a blizzard of news, with information constantly bombarding us. The result is a fatigue about the headlines – lately about politics – that has prompted some people to withdraw from the news, or curb their consumption of it. Experts said they had not seen data to conclude that consumers had changed their habits to protect their mental health, but added that the news ecosystem had changed drastically over the past five years, accelerating the sense of information overload. “Journalists … should be more involved in managing the insane flow of information and misinformation; it would be better if we had an approach that said, ‘Calm down,'” said media professor Dan Gillmor.
Resistance from Within: Federal workers push back against Trump
Washington Post – Juliet Eilperin, Lisa Rein, and Marc Fisher | Published: 1/31/2017
The signs of popular dissent from President Trump’s opening volley of actions have been plain to see on the nation’s streets, at airports in the aftermath of his refugee and visa ban, and in the outrage on social media. But there is another level of resistance to the new president that is less visible and potentially more troublesome to the administration: a growing wave of opposition from the federal workers charged with implementing any new president’s agenda. Federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives. Some federal employees have set up social media accounts to anonymously leak word of changes that Trump appointees are trying to make. And a few government workers are pushing back more openly.
Trump Ethics Rules Curtail Lobbyists, While Also Loosening Some Obama Restrictions
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 1/28/2017
President Trump signed an executive order that strengthens certain restrictions on lobbying that had been adopted under President Obama, while weakening others. Executive branch employees, including those in the White House, will now be barred for five years after they leave government from lobbying the federal agency where they worked. Under Obama, they had to wait until the end of the administration, meaning a shorter ban for some departing officials. Former executive branch officials will now also be permanently banned from serving as foreign lobbyists.
Trump’s Campaign Paid His Businesses Millions Over Course of Campaign
Politico – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 2/1/2017
President Trump’s campaign spent a total of $12.7 million at businesses run by him and his family members over the course of the 2016 presidential election. The largest sums went to Trump’s airline, TAG Air, which received $8.7 million as Trump used his own jet to fly around the country. Another $2 million went to Trump Tower, the skyscraper that housed his campaign headquarters. The spending at Trump properties, which continued after he won the election, underscores how much he was willing to mingle his political and business operations, from buying meals at his own Trump Grill to renting space at his own golf clubs.
White House Says LGBT Protections for Federal Workers Will Remain
Washington Post – Juliet Eilperin and Sandhya Somashekhar | Published: 1/30/2017
An executive order protecting federal employees from anti-LGBTQ discrimination that was first signed in 2014 by President Barack Obama will continue under President Donald Trump, the White House said. Obama’s order expanded protections in federal hiring, which already barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, to also include gender identity. And it required all companies doing business with the federal government to have explicit policies barring discrimination against gay and transgender workers. It applies to 24,000 companies that collectively employed about 28 million workers, representing about a fifth of the U.S. workforce.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alaska – Is It Time for a Lobbyist Union? Juneau Representative Proposes 2.5 Percent Industry Tax
Alaska Dispatch News – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 1/31/2017
Alaska Rep. Sam Kito introduced an income tax bill recently, but only for lobbyists. House Bill 91 would levy a two-and-one-half percent income tax on the annual earnings of legislative lobbyists. The measure would replace the state’s current $250 registration fee. Kito said the money raised from the tax will support the Alaska Public Offices Commission, which oversees the activity of candidates and lobbyists. He said the Legislature’s Division of Legal Services has not raised any concerns about directing the income tax at a specific group of Alaskans. The bill also calls for a $100 registration fee from anyone running for political office.
Arizona – How The Wrong Letterhead Exposed Phoenix’s Toothless Lobbying Rules
Arizona Republic – Rob O’Dell and Dustin Gardner | Published: 1/31/2017
A Phoenix law firm did not properly register as a lobbyist with the city for two years, and recently filed falsely dated documents that made it appear the firm had followed the law, according to City Attorney Brad Holm. Even though Holm determined Burch & Cracchiolo was not properly registered, he said the city cannot not take action against anyone who violates the lobbyist registration ordinance. Holm said that is because much of the lobbyist ordinance lacks an “enforcement mechanism,” a conclusion reached by the city’s law department recently.
California – Spending on Lobbying in California Tops $309 Million, the Second-Highest Amount Ever Recorded in the State
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 2/1/2017
Interest groups spent $309 million on lobbying government officials in California last year, with the oil industry, environmental organizations, labor unions, and the health industry pouring the greatest amounts into legislative and regulatory battles. It is the second time in the state’s history that more than $300 million has been spent in a year, just short of the record $314 million paid out for lobbying in 2015. Seeing such large amounts spent by wealthy interests is a concern, public advocates say, because it reflects an effort to exert heavy influence on government officials that average citizens may not be able to match.
Slots Ballot Question Backers Fines $125,000 for Campaign Finance
Boston Globe – Michael Levenson | Published: 1/27/2017
Developer Eugene McCain led the public charge to push Ballot Question 1, which would have allowed the construction of Massachusetts’ second slots parlor on property he owns near the Suffolk Downs race track in Revere. But the measure was defeated in November, and now McCain’s political committee has agreed to pay $125,000 to state campaign finance regulators for hiding the identity of the ballot measure’s backers.
Michigan – Dozens of Former State Employees Now Work for Contractors
Lansing State Journal – Justin Hinkley | Published: 1/27/2017
A Lansing State Journal investigation identified 87 former state employees in Michigan who are now working for major state contractors, consultants, or vendors, nearly half of whom started working for the contractor immediately after leaving state government. Six of those employees are now working for contractors they oversaw while employed by the state government. The investigation found no examples of quid-pro-quos, such as state employees favoring contractors to get a job. But monitoring for such problems is difficult because no one in Michigan regularly tracks where the nearly 49,000 state employees go when they leave the government workforce. Michigan is one of only nine states that do not put limits on where civil servants can work after they leave state employment.
Montana – Motl Can Remain Until Replacement Is Confirmed
Great Falls Tribune – Matt Volz (Associated Press) | Published: 2/1/2017
The Montana Supreme Court ruled that Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl’s term has expired, but he can remain in office until a successor is found. The ruling comes in a lawsuit that claimed Motl is entitled to a full six-year term ending in 2019, and not the January 1 expiration date set by Gov. Steve Bullock and confirmed by the Montana Senate. Republican legislative leaders have been seeking Motl’s removal from the office amid the dispute, and at one point tried to cut off the commissioner’s pay. Two people have submitted applications to replace Motl: his chief legal counsel, Jamie MacNaughton, and former Billings City Commissioner Michael Larson.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers Pay Their Businesses with Campaign Funds – It’s Legal, But Is It Ethical?
Portland Oregonian – Gordon Friedman | Published: 1/27/2017
At least 11 Oregon lawmakers have tapped campaign funds to pay their business or nonprofit in the last decade. The cash expenditures, made by Democrats and Republicans in the state House and Senate, range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. All said their payments fell within the bounds of the state’s campaign finance statute. Oregon law allows candidates to buy goods and services at “fair market value” from their own businesses with campaign funds, said state Elections Director Steve Trout. Candidates are only barred from using campaign funds to buy intangibles, like “political consultancy or advising,” he said. But it appears two lawmakers may have done just that.
South Dakota – South Dakota Senate Sends Ethics Law Repeal to Governor
ABC News – James Nord (Associated Press) | Published: 2/1/2017
South Dakota lawmakers passed a bill that repeals Initiated Measure 22, a voter approved plan that instituted a public campaign finance system, created a state ethics commission, and tightened campaign finance and lobbying laws. Republican lawmakers contend those provisions are unconstitutional. They challenged the overhaul in state court, which put the initiative on hold while the case moves forward. An emergency provision means the bill would take effect immediately and could not be referred back it to the ballot. Lawmakers have filed proposals that would supplant provisions of the initiative, including similar restrictions on lobbyist gifts and more limited watchdog commissions.
Tennessee – In Tennessee, Lobbyists’ Employers Face Few Disclosure Rules
The Tennessean – Dave Boucher | Published: 1/28/2017
Tennessee law allows companies and organizations to report how much they paid lobbyists and how much they spent on other related expenditures as a range, not specific amounts. State law also does not require those companies to provide additional details about what money is spent on or who they were trying to influence. Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance Executive Director Drew Rawlins said companies do not need to provide any receipts or detailed accounting information on their semi-annual reports. While laws regulating lobbyists in other states vary, most require far more information from those employing lobbyists.
West Virginia – Potential Conflicts Also Issue for New WV Commerce Secretary
Charleston Gazette – Andrew Brown | Published: 1/31/2017
Woody Thrasher, West Virginia’s new secretary of the Department of Commerce, owns one of the largest engineering firms in the state and he still has to figure out what to do with his businesses now that he has joined state government. This is the first time Thrasher is serving in public office, but it is not the first time his private firm and other companies have interacted with the Department of Commerce and the state’s executive branch. Thrasher said he is removing himself from the day-to-day operations of his businesses but suggests he is not giving up his ownership.
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