January 9, 2015 •
News You Can Use Digest – January 9, 2015
Governors’ Inaugurals Fueled by Political Donors
Raleigh News & Observer – Paul Weber (Associated Press) | Published: 1/3/2015
Eleven new governors are taking office in January, and nearly two dozen others are renewing their oaths for second, third, or – in the case of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad – sixth terms. Many will celebrate with bands and blowout balls, with much of the bill footed by the same supporters who bankrolled their victorious campaigns. In many states, corporate money that was banned before Election Day is allowed to cover the tab for inaugural parties. Critics see the events as another means for corporations and wealthy individuals to curry political favor with the state’s highest office, and in many cases without the transparency required by usual campaign finance laws.
Jeb Bush Education Foundation Played Leading Role in Mixing Politics, Policy
Washington Post – Lindsey Layton | Published: 1/6/2015
Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education has played a leading role in many states since its creation in 2008, following his two terms as governor of Florida. It has forged an unusual role mixing politics and policy – drafting legislation and paying travel expenses for state officials, lobbying lawmakers, and connecting public officials with industry executives seeking government contracts. The foundation, from which Bush resigned as chairperson as part of his preparations for a possible White House bid, has been criticized as a backdoor vehicle for major corporations to urge state officials to adopt policies that would enrich the companies.
All Cooled Off: As Congress convenes, former colleagues will soon be calling from K Street
Center for Responsive Politics – Staff | Published: 1/5/2015
A key provision of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act reined in lobbying by members of Congress, their top staffers, and other key government officials who move from their federal posts directly into the influence industry. The idea was to limit their ability to benefit immediately on their insider knowledge by lobbying their former colleagues. The restrictions, which vary depending on an individual’s government position, are lifted after a set period of time. But of the 104 former members and staff whose waiting period ends during the first session of the 114th Congress, 29 are already in government relations, “public affairs,” or serve as counsel at a firm that lobbies. And 13 of those are even registered as lobbyists, working to shape policy in Congress or the executive branch on behalf of paying clients.
Judge Candidates’ Free-Speech Rights at Issue before the Supreme Court
Washington Post – Rober Barnes | Published: 1/4/2015
Voters failed to find Lanell Williams-Yulee’s candidacy for Hillsborough County judge compelling, but the U.S. Supreme Court has a greater interest. The justices will consider whether the action that resulted in a rebuke by the Florida Bar Association and a fine of more than $1,800 – violating Florida’s restriction against directly soliciting contributions to judge campaigns – is instead an unreasonable constraint on Williams-Yulee’s right to free speech. Thirty states prohibit judicial candidates from directly asking for campaign contributions, in most cases leaving that work to a committee the candidate establishes. The Florida Supreme Court, found the restriction is constitutional.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona – Glendale Officials Take Free Tickets to Concerts, Sports
Arizona Republic – Pete Corbett | Published: 1/7/2015
City administrators, Glendale City Council members, and their guests received 90 free tickets for seats in a suite at 13 concerts at the city-owned Gila River Arena the past two years, including shows by Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, and the Who. Some watchdogs said the practice raises ethical, and possibly legal, issues for city officials. “We’re all cognizant at how the public looks at this, how this looks for us to get free tickets in a taxpayer-funded facility,” said former Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack.
Maine – LD 1750: A study in how special interests get their way in the Maine Legislature
St. John Valley Times – Naomi Schalit (Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting) | Published: 1/6/2015
During the summer of 2013, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection made things harder for wind developers by putting more requirements into permit applications. The wind lobby saw the new requirements as illegal and obstructionist, and they believed the red tape would slow down or even halt the expansion plans of their multi-million-dollar industry. They needed help and by the summer of 2014, they knew where to go: to their friend and supporter Justin Alfond, the president of the state Senate. Critics say the story of how the wind industry’s problem was taken up by Alfond and his staff demonstrates a deep level of coordination between special interests and legislative leaders that often leaves citizens on the sidelines of the democratic process.
Maryland – Official Says He Was Wrong to Ask That His Name Not Be Used
New York Times – Associated Press | Published: 1/7/2015
Frederick County Council member Kirby Delauter apologized for threatening to sue a local newspaper if it used his name without permission, an ultimatum that earned him a two-day skewering in the blogosphere. Delauter said he had acted abruptly and out of frustration. Delauter supporter Tom Caulfield, owner of Chubby’s BBQ, said Delauter is a selfless public servant under constant attack by liberals and The Frederick News-Post. He likened him to Howard Beale, the angry television anchorman in the 1976 film, “Network,” who shouted, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Former county board member Kai Hagen said the scorn heaped on Delauter online was well-deserved. “His behavior is crude. He is completely, it seems, incapable of empathy and sympathy and understanding,” said Hagen.
Massachusetts – Inaugural’s Top Donors Mingle with Key Officials
Boston Globe – Stephanie Ebbert | Published: 1/8/2015
The night before he was to be sworn in as governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker invited the top private sponsors of his inaugural celebration to a dinner at Alden Castle, where they could meet his incoming Cabinet members. About 100 people were invited to join the governor-elect at the “candlelight dinner.” State employees and Cabinet secretaries are not allowed to be named in fundraising material or featured at fundraising events. Baker senior adviser Jim Conroy distinguished the inaugural-eve gathering from campaign events, saying the presence of incoming Cabinet members was not advertised to donors. He said those who gave $25,000 received two tickets.
Missouri – Publisher’s Parties Highlight Reporting Issues in Missouri Ethics Laws
Columbia Daily Tribune – Rudi Keller | Published: 1/4/2015
The offices of the Missouri Times was the venue last year for legislators and their staffs to enjoy parties with lobbyist-paid liquor and snacks that went largely unreported to the state Ethics Commission. Publisher Scott Faughn called each party an “unveiling,” honoring a particular lawmaker. He text-messaged invitations with the names of sponsoring lobbyists or organizations. Faughn recalled that as many as six were held. A review of reports from individual lobbyists and the registered representatives of organizations named in text messages showed only one was reported. Faughn said he checked with the commission and believes lobbyists are not required to report the money spent for refreshments at the parties.
New Jersey – Christie’s Ties to Cowboys Owner Raise Ethics Questions
USA Today – Bob Jordan (Asbury Park Press) | Published: 1/6/2014
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has now attended three games at the invitation of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who picked up the tab for the tickets and travel. Video of a clumsy hug between Christie and Jones in the owner’s luxury box during a key moment of a playoff game has gone viral. It also has focused fresh attention on the relationship between the potential Republican presidential hopeful and Jones. Christie in 2013 vouched for a Jones group in bidding for a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey contract worth millions of dollars.
South Carolina – McMaster Facing State Ethics Charges
The State – Andrew Shain | Published: 1/6/2015
South Carolina Lt. Gov.-Elect Henry McMaster faces 51 counts of campaign finance violations dating to his 2010 campaign for governor. A closed-door hearing in the case has been scheduled for March 18. McMaster, the state’s former attorney general, lost the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2010 to Gov. Nikki Haley. After the loss, McMaster continued to accept donations in excess of maximum contribution limits, alleges the complaint. “His campaign created a phantom general election in which he was not participating and solicited additional donations for that election in an effort to circumvent the law,” says the complaint.
Virginia – Bob McDonnell, Ex-Governor of Virginia, Sentenced to 2 Years for Corruption
New York Times – Jennifer Steinhauer | Published: 1/6/2015
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison for public corruption. He was accused of selling the influence of his office to the chief executive of a dietary supplements company. A jury found McDonnell and his wife were guilty of accepting more than $165,000 in loans and gifts, including a Rolex watch, in exchange for promoting a nutritional supplement marketed by Star Scientific. McDonnell, who was once considered a possible contender for the White House, initially faced the prospect of up to 20 years in prison, but the judge lowered that range to six-and-a-half to eight years. McDonnell’s lawyers, citing what they described as years of good work and commitment to public service, had argued a sentence of community service should suffice.
Wisconsin – Republicans Eye Rewrite of Campaign Finance Laws, Other Election Changes
Chippewa Herald – Matthew DeFour | Published: 1/4/2015
Republicans are poised to make the most sweeping revisions to Wisconsin’s campaign finance law in decades. Many of those changes are already in effect after a series of federal court decisions made many current laws unenforceable. But a more comprehensive rewrite is in the works, and the overhaul is getting a thumbs up from the Government Accountability Board, a frequent target of GOP ire that is itself in line for a possible makeover. Among other things, lawmakers are considering increasing campaign contribution limits and clarifying the coordination restrictions at the heart of a recent investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign.
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