News You Can Use Digest - February 7, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

February 7, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – February 7, 2014







Small Super PACs Playing Outsize Role in Senate Races

National Journal – Scott Bland and Alex Roarty | Published: 2/3/2014

Small, state-based outside groups that are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money have proliferated in the early going of the 2014 midterm races and are threatening to have a bigger impact than those based in Washington, D.C., such as American Crossroads. These new groups are based in states where U.S. senators are battling for re-election, and dedicate themselves exclusively to that race.


Campaign Websites in 2014 Aren’t Always What They Seem

Time Magazine – Denver Nicks | Published: 2/5/2014

A new Republican fundraising tactic reminiscent of telemarketing scams has some asking where the line is between clever campaigning and fraud. The GOP is raising money for congressional races by putting up websites that pretend to represent Democratic candidates and accept contributions that will go toward defeating the very same Democrats.

Law Doesn’t End Revolving Door on Capitol Hill

New York Times – Eric Lipton and Ben Protess | Published: 2/1/2014

Federal ethics rules are intended to limit lobbying by former senior officials within one year after they leave the government. Yet even after the ethics rules were revised in 2007 following a lobbying scandal, more than 1,650 congressional aides have registered to lobby within a year of leaving Capitol Hill, according to an analysis by The New York Times. At least half of those departing aides, the analysis shows, faced no restrictions at all.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Alabama Senate Disagrees to Agree? Partisan Fight Ends with Unanimous Vote for Tougher Ethics Bill – Mike Cason | Published: 2/4/2014

The Alabama Senate passed legislation to tighten restrictions on former public officials who become lobbyists. Senate Bill 36 would prohibit state contractors from giving campaign contributions to state officials, and would expand the definition of lobbying, among other provisions. The bill now goes to the House.

Alabama – Resort’s Offer to Heroic Birmingham-Area Teachers Sparks Debate over Ethics – Michelle Matthews | Published: 1/30/2014

David Clark, a condominium manager, wants to offer two-night condo stays to thank Birmingham-area teachers who stayed overnight with children who were stranded after a recent winter storm, but questions arose as to whether the giveaway would violate Alabama’s ethics law, which stipulates that teacher gifts must have a value of $25 or less, and that gifts may not exceed a total of $50 for a full calendar year.

California – Why Is It So Hard To Catch Illegal Campaign Contributions?

KPBS – Brad Racino | Published: 2/3/2014

Campaign fundraisers and strategists, as well as government employees and independent researchers, said the overwhelming number of donations that can pour into a campaign makes the process almost impossible to monitor. There is a lack of regulatory manpower needed to sift through myriad contributions to locate any abnormalities. So far, there have been more than 10,000 campaign contributions made during San Diego’s 2013 mayoral special election.

Florida – Convicted Sweetwater Mayor’s Lobbyist-Friend Gets 1-Year Sentence

Miami Herald – Jay Weaver | Published: 2/6/2014

Lobbyist Jorge Forte, a onetime chief of staff for former Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Maroño, was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading guilty to a fraud conspiracy and agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. Maroño and Forte were arrested after an undercover FBI operation revealed they were pocketing thousands of dollars in kickbacks while seeking federal grants. Maroño, who did not cooperate in the investigation, was sentenced to 40 months in prison.

Hawaii – Critics Say Hawaii Political Money Hard to Trace

Columbus Republic; Associated Press –   | Published: 1/30/2014

Lobbyists in Hawaii are supposed disclose how much money they spend to influence lawmakers, but critics say the state disclosure system is among the weakest in the nation and prevents a timely and complete tally. Sen. Les Ihara introduced legislation to close loopholes that allowed more than 90 percent of nearly 200 registered lobbyists to report zero expenses over three reporting periods last year.

Louisiana – Louisiana Politicians Spent Millions on Meals, Golf, Tickets, Other Perks, Review Shows

New Orleans Times Picayune – Manuel Torres | Published: 1/30/2014

Running for office in Louisiana spawns campaign accounts that numerous officials are using to pay for meals and drinks, golf rounds and club dues, gifts to unnamed recipients, and other perks, reported The New Orleans Times Picayune. Critics say without stricter rules, campaign funds are being used as private expense accounts, turning contributions into little more than gifts to candidates.

Missouri – Dooley Suggested County Workers Donate 1% of Their Pay to Campaign, His Office Confirms

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kevin McDermott | Published: 2/4/2014

At an after-work meeting, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley told some 50 county workers, all political appointees, that donating one percent of their salaries to his re-election campaign is traditionally what people in those jobs do in election years. KMOX reported that sources indicated no effort was made to tell employees that donating to the re-election effort was voluntary. The sources described the effect of the speech as “intimidating” with the audience caught in moments of awkward silence.

Nevada – An Awkward Position for Nevada’s Ethics Commission Director

Reno Gazette Journal – Anjeanette Damon | Published: 2/1/2014

Nevada Ethics Commission Executive Director Caren Cafferata-Jenkins is running a for Washoe Family Court judge. From the outside, it looks like an awkward position to be in; one of the state’s few public ethics watchdogs is jumping into the political game herself. Cafferata-Jenkins said she cannot afford to give up her job to run for office. “How can we expect good candidates to be unemployed for 10 months in order to have a chance at public office?” said Cafferata-Jenkins.

Oregon – Trader Joe’s Developer Hosts Event at El Gaucho; PDC Executive Director Attends

Portland Oregonian – Brad Schmidt | Published: 2/3/2014

Before Portland’s urban renewal agency approved a deal to develop a Trader Joe’s in the city, Development Commission Executive Director Patrick Quinton attended an event sponsored by a company the city later engaged to purchase the property for the store. Quinton did not disclose the food or drink he consumed. Portland’s lobbying regulations for top executives and elected officials require the disclosure of food, gifts, or entertainment worth more than $25 by someone lobbying the city.

Vermont – Drafting Error Opens Campaign Finance Law Up to Amendment

Bennington Banner – Anne Galloway ( | Published: 2/6/2014

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a campaign finance reform bill into law on January 23. But there was a drafting error – the effective dates were incorrect – and the House Government Operations must address the problem with a technical corrections bill that will be up for action in the coming days. Rep. Cynthia Browning wants to use this opportunity to propose an amendment that would reinstate lower donation and contribution limits in line with the original bills passed by the House and Senate.

Virginia – At Executive Mansion, McAuliffe Puts Out the Welcome Mat

Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 2/5/2014

In need of Republican friends to get his agenda through a divided Virginia General Assembly, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has restocked the executive mansion bar and thrown open the doors for nightly receptions. McAuliffe’s open invitation is part of a broader effort to win over Republicans who knew the former Democratic National Committee chairperson only through attack ads and media accounts.

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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