News You Can Use Digest - January 3, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

January 3, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – January 3, 2014






Social Conservatives Make Big Money Plans

Politico – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 1/2/2014

The religious right’s wealthiest backers and top operatives plan to elevate the place of social issues like abortion and gay marriage in conservative politics. They have been largely relegated to the sidelines as the business wing of the Republican Party establishment wages a bitter and expensive struggle against the tea party for the soul of the GOP.


Lines Blur When Lobbyists Invest in Industries They Represent

Wall Street Journal – Brody Mullins, James Grimaldi, and Rebecca Ballhaus | Published: 12/26/2013

Through continual contact with public officials, lobbyists often glean intimate knowledge of pending policy changes and political activities that affect the fortunes of companies or industries they represent. Many also hold investments that overlap with their responsibilities, according to a review of public records. It showed about one in five lobbyists whose holdings could be identified had invested in their clients or companies in the industries they are concerned with.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arkansas – Ark. Lt. Gov. Rebuffs Calls to Resign amid Scandal

San Francisco Chronicle – Chuck Bartels (Associated Press) | Published: 12/31/2013

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who said he would settle with his state Ethics Commission amid findings that he repeatedly broke campaign finance laws, defied mounting calls for his resignation, including one from Gov. Mike Beebe, and said he intended to remain in office. Darr has agreed to pay $11,000 in fines to settle the complaints.

California – Ex-Employee Accuses Lobbying Firm of Directing Illegal Contributions

Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy and Paige St. John | Published: 12/26/2013

A lawsuit filed by former Sloat Higgins Jensen & Associates employee Rhonda Smira alleges owner Kevin Sloat and his firm directed illegal campaign contributions and unreported gifts to dozens of California lawmakers. Smira said she was ordered not to provide receipts for the gifts; that way, recipients could avoid disclosing the transactions on reports required by the state. The lawsuit says Sloat told her: “If I don’t report and there is no written record, and they don’t report it, then it didn’t happen.”

Georgia – Georgia Officials Take Lobbyist Gifts before New Rules

Augusta Chronicle – Ray Henry (Associated Press) | Published: 12/30/2013

Lobbyists splurged on gifts to Georgia lawmakers before restrictions took effect on January 1. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the new rules on May 6. While the state’s political leaders supported an end to unlimited lobbyist spending, the old system remained legal until New Year’s Day. Several politicians accepted gifts during this delay that would be illegal, or at least questionable, once the new restrictions start. Some questions about the law remain unresolved until the ethics commission creates rules interpreting the new law, a process that could take months.

Massachusetts – Teachers Union Revealed as Funder behind Pro-Walsh PAC

Boston Globe – Wesley Lowery | Published: 12/28/2013

The American Federation of Teachers was behind the last-minute, $480,000 advertising push on behalf of Boston Mayor-elect Martin Walsh, even though it was billed as the work of a start-up PAC dubbed One Boston. No information was disclosed at the time about One Boston’s ideological loyalties or donors, angering watchdog groups who had already been critical of the unprecedented amount of outside money that was flowing into the race, which ultimately became the state’s most expensive municipal contest ever.

Michigan – Gov. Snyder Signs Law to Double Michigan Campaign Contribution Limits, Codify ‘Issue Ad’ Rules – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 12/27/2013

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill doubling the state’s campaign contribution limits. The law includes a provision designed to thwart efforts by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to reveal who pays for issue ads that have become increasingly influential in campaigns. Snyder said the law also increases transparency by requiring candidates to file additional campaign finance reports with the state during years in which they are not up for election.

Minnesota – Minnesota Political Spending Concentrated in Few Hands

Minneapolis Star Tribune – Rachel Stassen-Berger and Glen Howatt | Published: 12/30/2013

The Minneapolis Star Tribune found just three dozen individuals or entities have contributed more than $27 million to PACs and independent expenditure committees over the past three election cycles. The analysis shows the donations heavily favored Democrats. Minnesota Republicans acknowledged Democrats have benefited from superior organization, a more energized base, and campaign finance rules that make it easier for unions to donate.

Missouri – Missouri Lawmaker Wants Political Consultants to Stay Out of Policymaking

Kansas City Star – Dave Helling | Published: 12/24/2013

Missouri Sen. John Lamping filed an ethics reform bill that would prohibit consultants from working as lobbyists, and lobbyists from working as consultants. Lamping said operatives who help elect candidates should not be able to turn around and work for special-interest clients to influence those lawmakers, as is now routinely the case.

New York – Bratton Gives Revolving Door One More Spin

New York Times – J. David Goodman | Published: 12/23/2013

A “revolving door” between government service and the corporate world has long been a feature of politics, and police officials often pursue second careers after hanging up their uniforms. But few have done so with William Bratton’s scope. His return to New York City for a second tour as police commissioner may create an awkward situation. Bratton sits on the boards of two companies who hope to do business with the city, and is a senior adviser to a third.

North Carolina – New NC Law Increases Donation Limits, Curtails Some Disclosure in 2014

Raleigh News & Observer – John Frank | Published: 12/26/2013

North Carolina joined at least eight others states pushing for increases in campaign contribution limits this year. Starting January 1, state candidates and PACs can take maximum contributions of $5,000 per election. The top donation to judicial candidates will leap to the same level from the current $1,000 cap. The new law also weakens rules about what outside groups, such as nonprofits, issue advocacy organizations, and super PACs, must disclose.

South Carolina – S.C. Ethics Commission Owed $2.5 Million in Fines

Charleston Post & Courier – Seanna Adcox (Associated Press) | Published: 1/1/2014

Candidates, lobbyists, and committees owe nearly $2.5 million in fines to the South Carolina Ethics Commission. Under state law, individuals are fined $100 for filing either campaign disclosure or economic interest forms five days late. Once a notice goes out, fines amass daily, up to $5,000 per form. Collecting can be difficult, especially from unsuccessful candidates.

Texas – Texas Republicans Lose 3 Major Donors in 2013

Houston Chronicle – Chris Tomlinson (Associated Press) | Published: 12/30/2013

The deaths this year of three major Republican campaign donors could signal a generational change for party kingmakers. Harold Simmons, Bob Perry, and Leo Linbeck, Jr. gave to Republican candidates and organizations across the country, but their influence was greatest in Texas, which has no limit on personal campaign contributions.

Virginia – Ethics Reform Seems Uncertain in General Assembly

The Daily Press – Dave Ress | Published: 12/29/2013

After a year that saw Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli embarrassed by reports of tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts they accepted from a business executive, ethics is again a talking point in Richmond. Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe plans to issue an executive order banning gifts of more than $100 to executive branch officials, but there is no consensus on whether the Legislature will enact reforms.

Wisconsin – With Audit on the Horizon, the Elections Board Spends another Year in the Crosshairs

Wisconsin State Journal – Mary Spicuzza | Published: 12/29/2013

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB), which is made up of six former judges, and its staff are preparing to celebrate their sixth anniversary. But the board is also awaiting the results of an audit ordered by state lawmakers, many of whom have been vocal critics of the agency. “The GAB is a national model, and it would be a tragedy and a travesty if it were eliminated,” said Daniel Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State University.

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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