News You Can Use Digest - January 17, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

January 17, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – January 17, 2014






A National Strategy Funds State Political Monopolies

New York Times – Nicholas Confessore | Published: 1/12/2014

A sophisticated political apparatus was designed by Republicans to channel political money from around the country into states where conditions were ripe for a GOP takeover. In 2010, the effort achieved striking success, moving a dozen states to sole Republican control. In 2012, a resurgent Democratic version began to catch up, spearheading Democratic takeovers in Minnesota and Colorado. Their combined work has helped remake the nation’s political landscape.


How Lobbyists Still Fly Through Loophole

National Journal – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 1/9/2014

A National Journal investigation found that despite efforts to clip the wings of congressional travel planned and paid for by special interests, lawmakers are again taking flight. The reality is that lobbyists who cannot legally buy a lawmaker a sandwich can still escort members on trips all around the world.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – Arizona Lobbyist Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor

San Francisco Chrionicle – Jacques Billeaud (Associated Press) | Published: 1/13/2014

Two years ago, the Arizona attorney general’s office and FBI raided the Phoenix office of lobbyist Gary Husk as part of a sweeping investigation into a campaign finance scandal involving the Fiesta Bowl. Husk recently pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge and will pay $30,000 to offset part of the cost of the criminal investigation. The state will drop 15 felony charges against him and his firm in the plea deal.

Arkansas – Embattled Ark. Lt. Gov. Ran for Office as Outsider

San Francisco Chronicle – Andrew DeMillo (Associated Press) | Published: 1/10/2014

Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who was facing the threat of impeachment in the aftermath of a settlement with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, said he would resign on February 1. Although Darr had resisted bipartisan demands for his resignation, he agreed to quit as lawmakers openly discussed removing him from office. State investigators determined Darr had repeatedly broken the law by using campaign money for personal reasons, accepting improper contributions, and maintaining faulty records.

Delaware – Veasey Report Underscores ‘Pay to Play’ as Real Fear for Residents

Wilmington News Journal – Maureen Milford | Published: 1/15/2014

For some in Delaware, a special prosecutor’s depiction of Delaware’s “pay-to-play” culture has only further diminished their trust in government. While E. Norman Veasey outlined many cases of the corrupt culture, no public official will be prosecuted, either because the statute of limitations had expired on the offense or the investigators could not find credible evidence to prove the violation beyond a reasonable doubt.

Massachusetts – Ethics Rules Bar Wellesley Firefighters from Cruise

Boston Globe – Jaclyn Reiss | Published: 1/15/2014

Four Boston area firefighters that talk show host Ellen DeGeneres rewarded with Caribbean cruise tickets for rescuing a dog from an icy river had to return them because of conflicts with Massachusetts ethics law. State law prohibits municipal officials from accepting gifts worth $50 or more because of something they have done in their official job capacity, including payment of travel expenses, which the cruise would probably have fallen under.

Missouri – Approaches Vary for Strengthening Missouri’s Ethics Laws

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Virginia Young | Published: 1/14/2014

Missouri lawmakers have filed at least 10 bills so far to address various ethics issues. The most comprehensive approach was announced by Secretary of State Jason Kander. House Bill 1340 would reinstate campaign contribution limits, ban lobbyist gifts, require legislators to wait three years before becoming lobbyists, and give the state Ethics Commission more power and resources to enforce the law.

Nevada – Political Groups in Nevada Continue Stubborn Fight against Disclosing Donors

Las Vegas Sun – Andrew Doughman | Published: 1/14/2014

Groups unaffiliated with any candidate will likely spend millions of dollars to bankroll advertisements aimed at Nevada voters, and it is unclear what, if anything, these groups need to say about who is paying for the ads. Judges in several cases are considering whether groups sending political messages must disclose their donors in the state.

Pennsylvania – Cash Gifts Banned in New Philadelphia Board of Ethics Proposal

WHYY – Dave Davies | Published: 1/15/2014

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics has now crafted a proposed standard for gifts that bars a city employee from taking anything worth more than $50 from someone whose interests the employee could affect, and prohibits cash gifts entirely. City law bars employees from accepting gifts “of substantial economic value” from people whose interests they could affect and for months, the board has worked to clarify just what that means.

Texas – Statewide Hopeful Sid Miller Shifted Stocks from Campaign Account to Personal Use to Pay off Loans

Dallas Morning News – David Barer | Published: 1/12/2014

The Texas Ethics Commission is investigating a complaint alleging state Rep. Sid Miller, who is running for agriculture commissioner, improperly loaned his campaign candidate  $10,000 at a 10 percent interest rate in order to personally collect more than $31,000 years later. It appears the ethics agency is also looking into his former campaign’s investment of close to $100,000 in the stock market, which he then transferred to himself after his failed 2012 re-election bid.

Vermont – Vt. Senate Approves Political Money Bill

WCAX; Associated Press –   | Published: 1/16/2014

The Vermont Legislature passed Senate Bill 82, which sets new limits on campaign contributions to candidates, political committees, and parties. The legislation now goes to Gov. Peter Shumlin for his approval.

Virginia – McAuliffe Imposes Far-Reaching Gift Limit on Himself and His Staff

Washington Post – Rachel Weiner | Published: 1/11/2014

Hours after his inauguration, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order that establishes a gift limit of $100 for all administration officials and their families, including the governor himself. Gifts from lobbyists are banned altogether, although anything under $25 is not classified as a gift. The order also creates a three-person ethics commission, including $100,000 in start-up funds, with the authority to monitor compliance and recommend discipline for violators.

Washington – Food Industry Lobby Challenges State Disclosure Law as Unconstitutional

Seattle Post-Intelligencer – Joel Connelly | Published: 1/13/2014

The Grocery Manufacturers Association filed a legal challenge to Washington’s campaign finance disclosure laws. The state has argued GMA ran a money-laundering operation in the 2013 campaign, shielding identities of food manufacturers pouring more than $10 million into the campaign against Initiative 522. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of requiring GMA to register a political committee before requesting and receiving contributions to oppose the ballot measure.

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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