January 31, 2014 •
News You Can Use Digest – January 31, 2014
Washington Post – Krissah Thompson and Richard Leiby | Published: 1/28/2014
The latest scandal on the political scene is the indictment of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and his wife, charged with trading on his office to provide assistance to a local businessperson in exchange for gifts and loans. Do such charges harden the resolve of political couples, who by definition are accustomed to facing adversaries, or does it tear the relationship apart?
New York Times – Sarah Wheaton and Marc Santora | Published: 1/29/2014
U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) apologized after he physically threatened a reporter in the Capitol after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. In a video of the incident, Grimm can be heard telling Michael Scotto, a reporter for NY1, “I’ll break you in half.” Moments earlier, Grimm had walked away from an interview when Scotto began asking him questions about allegations of campaign finance violations. According to a transcript, Grimm also threatened to throw Scotto off a balcony.
National Journal – Billy House | Published: 1/21/2014
Critics say a law designed to prevent conflicts-of-interest and shed light on lawmakers who negotiate for post-Capitol Hill work while still in office has failed, worn thin by a series of administrative rulings and narrow interpretations. Because the law has yielded almost none of the public information it was designed to provide, it remains largely unknown whom lawmakers negotiate with, and whether their official duties present any conflicts with those employers.
From the States and Municipalities:
San Francisco Chronicle; Associated Press – | Published: 1/24/2014
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a Colorado law imposing disparate campaign contribution limits for major-party vs. minor-party, unaffiliated, or write-in candidates violates the U.S. Constitution. The law allows Republicans and Democrats to collect an extra $200 per donor because they sometimes have intra-party primaries. But the law allows them to spend all their money on the general election if they wish. The court said that discriminates against donors to minor-party candidates.
Connecticut – Legislators Again Look to Lobbyists for Money
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 1/28/2014
Connecticut lawmakers are soliciting campaign donations from lobbyists before the legislative session begins, when it becomes illegal for lobbyists to contribute for the duration of the session. This year, the lawyer for the Association of Connecticut Lobbyists is advising members of the group to refuse the legislators’ appeals in one lucrative area: buying advertisements for up to $250 each in so-called ad books that are printed for lawmakers’ fundraising receptions and used as programs for each event.
Lisa Dentler, the lead assistant to Georgia ethics commission Executive Secretary Holly LaBerge, has resigned and the agency’s staff attorney remains on administrative leave. LaBerge wrote in an email to commissioners that the departure “leaves the agency in a dire situation as she has been doing the work of two positions.” LaBerge has said six employees have either quit or been fired since she took over in September 2011.
KBSU – Emilie Ritter Saunders | Published: 1/30/2014
Lobbyists in Idaho have spent more than $1 million over the last two years advocating for their clients at the Legislature. The law requires lobbyists to report the recipient of their generosity only when the value of the gift is more than $105. Even with that glimmer of disclosure, it is hard to find out which lawmaker accepted a gift above the threshold because Idaho does not have a searchable electronic database.
Louisiana – Nagin’s Trial a Coda to an Odd Political Career
Baton Rouge Advocate – Gordon Russell | Published: 1/26/2014
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is now on trial, facing charges he accepted bribes and free trips among other things from contractors in exchange for helping them secure millions of dollars in city work. The charges are the product of a City Hall corruption investigation that already has resulted in several convictions or guilty pleas by former associates of Nagin.
Massachusetts – Court to Hear Supermarket Politics Challenge
For decades, supermarkets have been a favorite place for candidates in Massachusetts to shake hands, collect signatures, and offer a quick rundown of their views on the issues of the day. But not all supermarket chains are in favor of the tradition. The state’s highest court is being asked to decide whether a supermarket’s decision to turn away a political candidate violated his constitutional rights.
Michigan – Ethics Proposal Nixed in Warren
Macomb Daily – Norb Franz | Published: 1/28/2014
The Warren City Council rejected a proposed ethics law that would prohibit fraternization, including intimate relationships, between city bosses and subordinates. The nearly year-old measure was revived in the wake of clandestine video that surfaced of Mayor James Fouts with mayoral assistant Amanda Mika, including images of the duo holding hands. The video has triggered a firestorm because the mayor granted Mika a $5,000 pay raise in December.
Billings Gazette – Mike Dennison | Published: 1/26/2014
The aggressive stance of Montana’s commissioner of political practices, Jonathan Motl, against what he sees as illegal campaign activity by so-called dark money groups and their favored candidates is raising eyebrows among supporters and critics alike, the latter of whom are calling Motl everything from a “partisan hack” to a misguided crusader on a “witch hunt.”
Las Vegas Sun – Andrew Doughmsn | Published: 1/26/2014
A few elected officials in Nevada who accepted gifts sometimes worth thousands of dollars declined to report them as required by state law. They dispute whether they legally need to file disclosers, in part because there is no explicit definition of a “gift” in state law. Secretary of State Ross Miller said there are likely numerous elected officials who are receiving reportable gifts and not listing them on disclosure forms. But “there’s no way for us to know” for sure, said Miller.
New York – Donor Secrecy Remains Big Issue
Albany Times Union – Rick Karlin | Published: 1/28/2014
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics declined to shield the financial reports of four advocacy groups that say public disclosure of their financial backers is likely to result in threats or even harm. The commission requires reports from state lobbyists, though it can withhold records of contributors to lobbying groups that show their donors would likely face danger if reported.
Pennsylvania – City Council Mulls Ban on Cash Gifts to Phila. Officials
Philadelphia Inquirer – Claudia Vargas | Published: 1/30/2014
A bill introduced in the Philadelphia City Council would ban all city employees and officials from receiving cash gifts. The proposed ordinance would also cap the total value of gifts received in a calendar year at $99. The bill is a result of discussions among various ethics officials and outside watchdog groups over how to interpret a vague section in the city code that deals with gifts.
New York Times – Manny Fernandez and Laurie Goodstein | Published: 1/29/2014
Since questions were raided about whether she had fudged some items in her biography, Texas Sen. Wendy Davis, who is running for governor, has been under attack for omitting the fact that her second husband helped pay for her Harvard Law School education and her two children mostly stayed in Texas while she was there. The controversy has prompted a debate over culturally charged questions about a woman’s balance of work, ambition, and parenthood.
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