January 15, 2016 •
News You Can Use Digest – January 15, 2016
Groups Decrying ‘Dark Money’ Use Shadowy Money Themselves
Center for Public Integrity – Liz Essley Whyte | Published: 1/14/2016
A number of groups that advocate against anonymous donations in politics are themselves responsible for putting money into elections that cannot be traced, often hidden under layers of opaque networks. The organizations either gave to ballot measure campaigns, paid for messages about candidates, or gave to PACs. But many of the groups identified by the Center for Public Integrity said they already exceed what the law requires by disclosing at least some of their donors. Some relied on an argument that opponents of disclosure raise regularly: their donors could face hostility or mistreatment if the public knew the donors’ identities.
State Legislatures Tweak Lobbying Rules as Influence Industry Targets Their Capitols
Washington Post – Catherine Ho | Published: 1/7/2016
Legislatures around the country are enacting new rules to regulate lobbying. Many focus on disclosure as states seek to better define who lobbyists are and what they are allowed to do. The new rules are not expected to dramatically change the lobbying landscape in any of the states, but they do signify a movement by governments to tweak, improve, and clarify rules for lobbyists at a time that many hotly contested lobbying fights, such as those over gun laws, are progressing more quickly in state capitals than they are in Congress.
Carson Campaign in Turmoil as Finance Chair Quits
Politico – Kyle Cheney | Published: 1/14/2016
Ben Carson’s presidential campaign was shaken by another high-profile resignation, with finance Chairperson Dean Parker leaving amid scrutiny over his grip on the campaign’s fundraising operation and the perception he has benefited improperly from campaign spending. From chartered flights to investments in ineffective paper mailers in early voting states, decisions made by staff have raised questions in recent months about whether the campaign is spending its money wisely. The resignation comes after it was reported that Parker was paying himself a salary of $20,000 per month, which is unusually high for such a position.
From the States and Municipalities:
Florida – Miami Beach Commissioners Unanimously Pass Stricter Campaign Finance Laws
Miami Herald – Joey Flechas | Published: 1/13/2016
Miami Beach commissioners approved more stringent campaign finance laws after last year’s controversy about the role of special-interest money in local politics. Commissioners and candidates will no longer be able to solicit PAC contributions from lobbyists and vendors who have city contracts. The law also prohibits indirect solicitations, such as a third party asking lobbyists and vendors on behalf of candidates and elected officials.
Florida – Perry Violated Ethics Laws in Lobbying Scott on Medicaid Dental Provider
PoliticoFlorida – Marc Caputo | Published: 1/14/2016
Though Florida law says “a person may not lobby an agency [of state government] until such person has registered as a lobbyist,” Rick Perry did not do that when he met with Gov. Rick Scott, a top staffer, and the head of the Agency for Health Care Administration. The meeting was left off of Scott’s official daily schedule, which was updated hours later after a reporter inquired about it. It took Perry a few more hours to register as a lobbyist for MCNA Dental as questions were raised about whether he was following the law. The meeting was set up by Southern Strategy Group, a lobbying firm that represents MCNA Dental, to discuss legislation that would eliminate dental services from the list of health care services that managed care plans are required to offer beneficiaries.
Maine – Maine Governor Blames Media for Racially Charged Language Dust-Up
CNN – Gregory Krieg | Published: 1/8/2016
Maine Gov. Paul LePage apologized for his remark about out-of-state drug dealers impregnating “young white” girls, calling it a slip of the tongue and saying he did not mean to inject race into discussion of Maine’s heroin epidemic. LePage blamed reporters for unfairly focusing on the slip-up in which he described the drug dealers as “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” and added, “Half the time they impregnate a young white girl before they leave.”
Massachusetts – Dispute Over State Senator’s Dirty Laundry Raises Questions
Boston Globe – Andrea Estes | Published: 1/12/2016
The former owner of Woodlawn Cleaners said Massachusetts Sen. Brian Joyce received tens of thousands of dollars in free dry cleaning services over the course of a decade. Jerry Richman said he offered to clean Joyce’s clothes for free when Joyce was running for state Senate in 1997, but there was no formal or written agreement. Joyce’s attorneys say the free dry cleaning was in exchange for legal services provided by the Joyce over the years. Ethics experts said public officials in Massachusetts should not accept any services worth more than $50. Even if he traded legal services for the dry cleaning, he would have to keep records to show he did not receive a net benefit of $50 or more. Joyce has acknowledged there is no written record of the dry-cleaning-for-legal services arrangement and he cannot remember when it began.
Massachusetts – Walsh Reverses Course, to Back Lobbying Rules
Boston Globe – Andrew Ryan and Mark Arsenault | Published: 1/9/2016
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said he will propose regulations for municipal lobbyists that could for the first time require public disclosure of their efforts to influence development, contracts, and permits. Walsh’s announcement comes after The Boston Globe reported how a childhood friend and former law partner of the city’s top lawyer leveraged his personal relationships for introductions and access to key administration officials. Walsh said the reform will be modeled on state lobbying laws, which require lobbyists to disclose their clients, the matters on which they are lobbying, and their compensation.
Missouri – House Approves Ethics Package Including Rowden Proposal Limiting Lobbying
Columbia Tribune – Rudi Keller | Published: 1/14/2016
The Missouri House passed four ethics bills despite objections that the bills were too weak and too narrowly drafted. The package limits officials’ ability to lobby after leaving office, ban work as a political consultant while in office, and require more frequent reporting of personal finance and out-of-state trips. Under one bill, lawmakers and statewide officials elected this year and appointed officials confirmed by the Senate would have to wait one year after leaving office before working as a lobbyist. Officials who leave office before the end of their term would have to wait until the end of the term before the one-year waiting period begins. Another bill would require a report within one month when an official accepts a trip paid by a third party.
Montana – New Campaign Finance Rules Take Effect in Montana
Billings Gazette; Associated Press – | Published: 1/8/2016
New campaign finance rules took effect in Montana recently. The regulations for a law passed last year aim to make campaigns more transparent after the Citizens United decision that allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. That ruling has given rise to independent expenditures made by social welfare groups that do not report their donors or spending. Now, groups registered as social welfare or issue advocacy organizations will have to make those disclosures if they produce advertisements or other electioneering communications that mention an election or a candidate, or use a candidate’s image.
New York – New York’s Ethics Rule Could Infringe on Free Speech, Experts Say
Crain’s New York Business – Rosa Goldensohn | Published: 1/13/2016
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics updated an advisory opinion to say that communication between public relations consultants and the press on public policy should count as lobbying. If a consultant has input into the content of such a message and helps to deliver it, that consultant would apparently be a lobbyist under the new rules. The advisory opinion also includes provisions that would require consultants who connect clients with lawmakers to register as lobbyists.
Pennsylvania – City Campaign Finance Limits Increased
Philadelphia Inquirer – Claudia Vargas | Published: 1/11/2016
The Philadelphia Board of Ethics announced that campaign contribution limits have increased for the next four years. Candidates for city office may now accept up to $3,000 from an individual contributor per calendar year, up from the previous $2,900 limit. They may also accept up to $11,900 from groups or businesses, up from the prior $11,500 cap.
Pennsylvania – Struggling Philadelphia Inquirer Is Donated to Nonprofit in Groundbreaking Deal
Washington Post – Fred Barbash | Published: 1/12/2016
H.F. Lenfest, the owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com, announced he had donated the publications to a newly formed nonprofit journalism institute. The publications will continue to run independently. The new ownership structure comes as daily newspapers contend with falling circulation and dwindling advertising dollars, and many have sought new business models and new revenue sources to combat the decline. “My goal is to ensure that the journalism traditionally provided by the printed newspapers is given a new life and prolonged, while new media formats for its distribution are being developed,” said Lenfest.
West Virginia – Proposed Changes to State Ethics Act Divide Lawmakers
Charleston Gazette – Phil Kabler | Published: 1/11/2016
West Virginia lawmakers on the joint House and Senate Judiciary Committee were divided on two ethics reform bills. That included proposed legislation that would ban registered lobbyists from contributing to campaigns for statewide elected officials or for legislators, with some lawmakers concerned about loopholes in the proposal. Several noted the bill would ban lobbyists and their spouses from making campaign contributions, but does not prohibit the lobbyists’ employers from contributing, or bar lobbyists from hosting fundraisers.
Wisconsin – Elections Board Says Parties Must Report Corporate Donations
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 1/12/2016
The Government Accountability Board (GAB) shifted from its stance that Wisconsin’s new campaign finance laws do not require political parties and legislative campaign committees to disclose contributions from corporations. The board unanimously adopted a motion requiring the parties and committees to report such contributions as well as how they spend the money. GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said board staff incorrectly told people the law did not mandate such disclosures. A section of the new law allows corporations to donate up to $12,000 to political parties and campaign committees controlled by legislative leaders. The parties and the committees are limited to spending that money on administrative expenses. They cannot spend the money on expressly advocating for a candidate or pass it on to a candidate.
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