News You Can Use Digest - July 1, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

July 1, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 1, 2016



Report: It’s harder to know who’s paying for political ads
Star Tribune – Geoff Mulvilhill (Associated Press) | Published: 6/27/2016

A report by New York University’s Brennan Center finds the use of so-called dark money in several states has increased faster than in national elections. Across six states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, and Massachusetts – dark money expenditures rose by 38 percent between 2006 and 2014, outstripping the 34 percent rate of increase found in federal elections. And that does not include other categories of nontransparent outside money. The report defines “gray money” as expenditures by entities that do disclose their contributors, but who also list dark money organizations as donors, making it difficult or impossible to locate the original source of the money.

Two Transgender Candidates – Both Named Misty – Just Made History by Winning Primaries
Washington Post – Amber Phillips | Published: 6/29/2016

Primary voters in Utah and Colorado selected transgender women to run for spots in Congress next fall, a first in major-party American political history. Misty Snow will run against U.S. Sen. Mike Lee in Utah this November, while Misty Plowright will challenge U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in Colorado. Neither Snow nor Plowright sought to make their gender identities a campaign issue, instead focusing on progressive issues like getting money out of politics. Their wins come as transgender rights have been thrust into the national spotlight after contentious debates in states like North Carolina. “This is even more breathtaking considering the political climate today, the uphill curve to educate people about who transgender people are,” said Bob Witeck, a Washington, D.C.-based LGBT advocate.


Bernie Sanders Campaign Showed How to Turn Viral Moments into Money
New York Times – Nick Corasaniti | Published: 6/24/2016

Like most modern campaigns, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and his team relied on widely used digital fundraising tactics, like sending email solicitations and advertising online. They raised more than $61 million and acquired more than three million email addresses directly from digital ads. But the campaign was also able to harness social media networks – which, until recently, most candidates had used primarily for messaging purposes – and turn them into fundraising engines, allowing Sanders’ team to raise money almost exclusively online. The campaign raised roughly $216 million of its nearly $230 million total online.

Donald Trump and R.N.C. Crack Down on Rebelling Delegates
New York Times – Jeremy Peters | Published: 6/26/2016

Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC) are moving quickly and aggressively to head off the fledgling effort to stage a revolt at their July convention in Cleveland, hoping to spare the party an embarrassing spectacle that could deeply wound the presumptive nominee. They are employing hard-nosed tactics, warning delegates that attempting to undermine Trump’s claim to the nomination violates party rules, and threatening to deny speaking slots to Republicans they deem disloyal for not backing him. The RNC and the campaign are also installing loyal party stalwarts in key party positions to help ensure they maintain control of the convention if rogue delegates attempt a disruption. And they are trying to discredit Republicans who are advocating an interpretation of party rules that would allow delegates to vote for anyone they want on the first ballot.

Trump Fundraising Emails Overseas Prompt Complaints Here and Abroad
Washington Post – Sean Sullivan and Max Bearak | Published: 6/29/2016

Donald Trump’s campaign sent a wave of fundraising emails in recent days to lawmakers in the United Kingdom, Iceland, Australia, and elsewhere. The solicitations prompted watchdog groups to file two separate complaints with the FEC alleging the campaign was violating federal law by soliciting funds from foreign nationals. The episode is only the latest fundraising stumble by Trump’s presidential campaign, which has been scrambling to put together a financial operation to take on the well-funded campaign of likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Whether the snags prove to be growing pains for a campaign that until recently eschewed traditional fundraising or a sign of more serious stumbles to come is a key question facing Trump and the Republican Party as the general election comes into focus.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – At the Corner of Power and Poverty
CALmatters – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 6/28/2016

The Capitol in Sacramento serves as a magnet for money and power. Nearby shops sell fine cigars and custom suits. A bar serves $16 martinis. But the streets that surround the building also are home to some of the city’s most destitute residents, many suffering from mental illness or drug addiction in addition to extreme poverty. It is not uncommon to see them rifling through trash cans, shouting incoherently, or sleeping barefoot in the shade on the Capitol’s manicured grounds. Bridging these two worlds is Debbie Bartley, who stands across the street selling Homeward, a newspaper produced by homeless people. She chats with the political staffers and lobbyists who give her a few dollars as they pass by. Then she buys food for people who sleep on these streets.

California – Sweeping Public Utilities Commission Changes Announced
Sacramento Bee – Jeremy White | Published: 6/27/2016

A deal between Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers will bring major changes to the California Public Utilities Commission. When commissioners engage in ex-parte conversations around rate-setting rules, they would need to disclose them online under the agreement. The state attorney general could bring enforcement actions against people who violate the rules. The deal also clarifies that people who lobby the PUC would need to register as lobbyists. Through March of this year, more than 50 utilities and other lobbyist employers reported more than $6.3 million in PUC-connected lobbying activities.

Connecticut – Cigna-Anthem Merger: Gov. Malloy’s Insurance Regulator Told Ethics Officials She Was Not Involved in Cigna Issues, even as Her Agency Was
International Business Times – David Sirota | Published: 6/27/2016

Connecticut ethics officials are now investigating whether it is legally permissible for the state’s insurance commissioner to oversee the government’s review of her former company’s proposed merger. In regulators’ probe of conflict-of-interest issues in the Cigna-Anthem transaction, one question they may ask is whether the commissioner in question, former Cigna lobbyist Katharine Wade, deliberately misled them. Emails show that in February, Wade told ethics officials she had no Cigna business before her, even though her agency was then leading the national multistate review of the company’s merger plan, and even though Wade had repeatedly met with the company’s representatives. Wade’s letter to ethics officials did tell them that her staff was reviewing the merger, but did not disclose any information about her own contacts with the companies and their lobbyists.

Delaware – Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Delaware Election Law
Wilmington News Journal – Jessica Masulli Reyes | Published: 6/28/2016

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a conservative group’s challenge to Delaware’s campaign finance law. The justices left in place a lower court ruling allowing the 2012 law to be enforced. It requires third-party groups and individuals to disclose their donors to the state elections commissioner if they publish advertisements or other communications, including Internet postings, that refer to a candidate in the 60 days before an election. Previously, only groups that directly advocated for or against a candidate were required to disclose their donors.

Kentucky – Bevin Asserts Control of All Ethics Board Appointments
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 6/28/2016

Kentucky’s attorney general and state auditor will no longer be able to nominate members of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission under a new executive order from Gov. Matt Bevin. The governor appoints the members of the commission, which investigates allegations of state ethics code violations in the state’s executive branch. But in 2008, then-Gov. Steve Beshear issued an executive order requiring the governor to appoint two members of the commission that had been recommended by the attorney general and the state auditor. Bevin repealed that order, effectively allowing him to control all of the appointments to the board assigned to hold his administration accountable. Bevin spokesperson Jessica Ditto said the order simply returns the appointment process to the system state lawmakers intended.

New York – Bill Would Expand Disclosure for Donors to Lobbying Groups
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 6/29/2016

Under a 2011 law, charitable tax-exempt nonprofits in New York are not required to report their donors, even if the organizations have financially supported lobbying efforts meant to influence state government. Based on comments from state lobbying officials, a bill that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign appears to require any charitable organization making a contribution over $2,500 to a substantial New York lobbying campaign to publicly disclose every one of its donors, even those unrelated to the lobbying effort. That would include both donations of staff and other resources for a charity to a lobbying nonprofit, or a monetary contribution.

Ohio – As Activists Prepare to Protest the RNC, the FBI Comes Knocking
Los Angeles Times – Matt Pearce | Published: 6/27/2016

In July, Donald Trump will come to Cleveland to claim the Republican presidential nomination. Given how turbulent some protests outside Trump rallies have been, and that the convention comes just weeks after the worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history, finding the right balance between security and First Amendment rights will be a challenge. Shivers have gone through the Cleveland activist community since law enforcement officials began knocking on their doors as tens of thousands of visitors prepare to come to town. The FBI office in Cleveland said the visits were part of their plans with state and local law enforcement to prepare for the convention by “working collaboratively with members of the community.”

Virginia – Supreme Court Vacates Ex-Virginia Governor’s Graft Conviction
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 6/27/2016

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously vacated the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell. He was charged with using his office to help Jonnie Williams Sr., who had provided McDonnell and his wife with gifts worth more than $175,000 when McDonnell was governor. The gifts themselves were legal; the question was whether they were part of a corrupt bargain in which McDonnell reciprocated by using the power of his office to help Williams. The Supreme Court ruled prosecutors defined too broadly the kind of conduct that qualifies as an “official act.” Chief Justice John Roberts said the law cannot punish politicians for giving their constituents access to public officials who are willing to listen, but do not actually exercise government power.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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