January 10, 2014 •
News You Can Use Digest – January 10, 2014
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 1/6/2014
An analysis of tax returns and other documents shows the network of politically active nonprofits backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch and fellow donors in the 2012 elections raised at least $407 million. Its funders remain largely unknown; the coalition was carefully constructed with extensive legal barriers to shield its donors.
Wall Street Journal – Thomas Catan | Published: 1/5/2014
Lawyers are scouring the tax code for financial vehicles that would allow donors to continue to spend money on elections while remaining anonymous. The search for new ways to collect and distribute campaign cash comes because the IRS proposed rules to restrict political activity by social-welfare groups. Their use in campaigns has soared in the last two years, in part because they can accept contributions of unlimited size and do not have to disclose the names of their donors.
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 1/3/2014
Former U.S. Rep. Steven LaTourette has emerged as one of the leaders of the Republican establishment’s battle against the tea party. While he says he is protecting the GOP from extremists, some maintain LaTourette is profiting from his continued presence in the Washington spotlight. His activities have raised questions about whether, in his dual roles, LaTourette violated the federal statute that prohibits lawmakers from lobbying on Capitol Hill for a year after leaving office.
From the States and Municipalities:
Washington Post – Reid Wilson | Published: 1/8/2014
Taking the lead of outside political groups who benefit from laws that allow them to receive unlimited political contributions, the Colorado Republican Party is trying to form its own special spending arm. In a petition filed with Secretary of State Scott Gessler, the state GOP asks permission to create an independent expenditure unit to raise and spend money on campaigns. The party is asking Gessler to allow them to accept unlimited contributions, just as super PACs and other outside groups are allowed to do.
Washington Post – Jenna Johnson and John Wagner | Published: 1/7/2014
When Maryland’s legislative session convened on January 8, so did a ban on collecting campaign donations for lawmakers and statewide elected officials. Although each January is marked by a last-minute cash grab, this year is different. All statewide posts and all 188 seats in the General Assembly will be on the ballot in November, and the primary election has been moved up to June from September, shortening the fundraising window and intensifying the pleas.
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 1/4/2014
Missouri lawmakers returned to the Capitol recently, 12 years after term limits kicked in and six years since caps on political donations officially ended. The combination of those two factors, critics argue, has tipped the legislative scale, with all the experience – and the money – to the lobbying side. Interviews with lawmakers, lobbyists, and political observers reveal a legislative process where outright corruption is rare, but money talks.
Las Vegas Sun – Sandra Chereb (Associated Press) | Published: 1/3/2014
A judge granted Harvey Whittemore’s motion to postpone prison. Whittemore was sentenced to two years in prison for violating campaign finance laws by using family and friends as “straw donors” to pump more than $130,000 into the campaign of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Whittemore’s lawyers asked the judge to delay the sentence, arguing the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending ruling in a case challenging individual campaign limits could ultimately have bearing on his appeal.
New York Times – Marc Santora and William Rashbaum | Published: 1/9/2014
Gov. Chris Christie fired a top aide at the center of a brewing scandal that officials in his administration orchestrated lane closures on the George Washington Bridge to settle a political score. The governor told a news conference he was stunned by revelations that senior staff members were behind the massive traffic jams in Ft. Lee, designed to punish the town’s mayor, who did not endorse Christie for re-election. The office of the U.S. attorney in New Jersey said it had launched an investigation.
Albany Times Union – Jordan Carleo-Evangelist | Published: 1/5/2014
The decision on whether New York adopts some kind of public campaign finance system will fall largely to the power brokers in the state Legislature, a body so riven with scandal in recent years that some public finance advocates see movement on the question as all but inevitable in the coming months. The push for public financing was at once a centerpiece and the most divisive recommendation in the preliminary report by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption Moreland Commission.
Washington Post – Rachel Weiner | Published: 1/7/2014
Virginia House leaders have spent the past few months hammering out a bipartisan ethics reform proposal, focused on a few key areas. The plan includes a $250 cap on “tangible” gifts from lobbyists and individuals with business before the state. It also would increase financial disclosure reporting requirements from once to twice per year for lobbyists and lawmakers.
Washington – Lobbyist Freebies on Legislative Agenda
The Olympian – Brad Shannon | Published: 1/6/2014
Lawmakers say the divided Washington Legislature might act on the issue of lobbyists buying meals for politicians when they convene for the session that starts on January 13. One bill would give the state Public Disclosure Commission new technology so electronically filed lobbyist reports can be searched and cross-referenced. House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan has complained that lobbyists often report spending for meals for lawmakers at levels much higher than the actual value.
Casper Star Tribune – Kyle Roerink | Published: 1/3/2014
A conservative Wyoming-based group hopes to take its fight against the FEC to the U.S. Supreme Court. Free Speech is trying to avoid forming a PAC, and disclosing the names of its donors and being limited in how it can solicit funds and spend money. By requiring groups to register, Free Speech claims the FEC imposes a burden on First Amendment rights.
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