July 10, 2015 •
News You Can Use Digest – July 10, 2015
Is This Cold, Rural State Home to the Nation’s Healthiest Democracy?
Washington Post – Niraj Chokshi | Published: 7/7/2015
After taking 22 factors into account – including broad access to voting, equal representation in state government, and a limited concentration of influence over the political system – Maine’s democracy ranks healthiest in the nation, according to the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Alabama’s was weakest, though all states are far from perfect. “One of the messages throughout this report is that every state has room to improve,” said Lauren Harmon, the report’s author. The study noted that restricting influence over the political system is a particularly weak area. A dozen states have no limits on campaign contributions. Just 15 states offer public campaign financing, while 37 require some waiting period between leaving office and taking a lobbying job.
The Most Liberal and Conservative CEOs
Yahoo Finance – Rick Newman | Published: 7/8/2015
Many chief executive officers of major corporations donate money across the political spectrum for pragmatic business reasons rather than personal ideological ones. Crowdpac analyzed campaign contributions from CEOs of the 100 largest public U.S. companies to find out just how liberal or conservative these executives really are.
Washington Gridlock Drives Lobby Shops to Focus on State Policy Battles
Washington Post – Catherine Ho | Published: 7/7/2015
As getting anything done in Washington, D.C. has become increasingly difficult, K Street-based lobbying firms are trying their luck representing clients seeking changes on a state rather than federal level. The idea of pivoting to capture state-level work is not new. But some lobbyists say it is taking on increased importance now that policy fights over some of the biggest issues are moving more quickly at the local level.
Court Upholds Ban on Contractor Political Contributions
New York Times; Associated Press – | Published: 7/7/2015
A federal court upheld a longstanding prohibition on contractors making political contributions, handing a rare win to proponents of stronger campaign finance restrictions. The ban applies to individuals, corporations, and firms that are negotiating or working under federal contracts. While doing do, they cannot give money to federal candidates, parties, or committees. Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said recent corruption scandals involving members of Congress point to the continuing danger of “quid pro quo” corruption. He agreed with the FEC that the law protects the integrity of merit-based government contracting.
GOP Leaders Fear Damage to Party’s Image as Donald Trump Doubles Down
Washington Post – Karen Tumulty, Philip Rucker, and Robert Costa | Published: 7/8/2015
Republican National Committee Chairperson Reince Priebus, faced with growing pressure from inside the party to quiet Donald Trump, called the provocative presidential candidate recently and asked him to speak in more measured tones. Days of round-the-clock cable news coverage of Trump’s incendiary claims about criminals coming across the border from Mexico forced Priebus to show alarmed Republicans that he was taking action. But the call also highlighted the limits of what could be done to rein in Trump.
Here Are the Secret Ways Super PACs and Campaigns Can Work Together
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 7/6/2015
For the first time, nearly every top presidential hopeful has a personalized super PAC that can raise unlimited sums and is run by close associates or former aides. The widespread cooperation, which many campaign finance experts say stretches the legal boundaries, indicates that candidates and their advisers have little fear they will face serious scrutiny from law enforcement, despite the Justice Department’s successful prosecution this year of a campaign operative for illegal coordination. One main reason is that under FEC rules, there is no wall dividing candidates and independent groups. In practice, it is more like a one-way mirror, with a telephone on each side for occasional calls.
I.R.S. Expected to Stand Aside as Nonprofits Increase Role in 2016 Race
New York Times – Eric Lichtblau | Published: 7/5/2015
Regulators at the IRS appear certain to delay trying to curb campaign finance abuses at nonprofits until after the 2016 election. Agency officials concede the rules for nonprofit groups are vague and difficult to enforce. Audits for excessive campaign work are extremely rare, even for groups spending huge chunks of their budgets to support candidates. The IRS remains wounded by the scandal that began two years ago over its scrutiny of nonprofits tied to the tea party and other political causes, both conservative and liberal. “It’s anything goes for the next couple of years …,” said Paul Streckfus, a former nonprofit specialist at the IRS.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – Aide to California Senate Leader Accepted Pot Gifts from Marijuana Lobbyist
BuzzFeed News – Amanda Lewis | Published: 7/8/2015
Ethics experts said a California Democratic Party staffer did not violate disclosure laws by accepting edible marijuana and an e-cigarette filled with hash oil from a lobbyist for the marijuana industry. The aide, Josh Drayton, works for the party’s Senate Democrats on political campaigns. BuzzFeed News reported that after accepting the gifts, Drayton said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon needed to learn more about marijuana. Lawmakers and employees of the Senate are subject to gift reporting and limits. Drayton, however, is exempt because he is not employed by the Senate but by the party, said Gary Winuk, a former enforcement chief at the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Hawaii – How Hawaii Lawmakers Spend Up to $13,000 a Year – Each
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nathan Eagle | Published: 7/8/2015
Many Hawaii lawmakers have been less than thrilled with state Ethics Commission Executive Director Les Kondo’s strict opinions on what gifts they are allowed to accept from lobbyists, or what events they can attend with complimentary tickets. Legislative allowances have been another sore point. But a review of nearly $4 million in state lawmakers’ expenses over the past four years shows they are changing their habits based on the commission’s advice even if they do not like it, including not billing taxpayers for their dry cleaning or charitable donations.
Missouri – More Questions than Answers in Intern Investigation at Mo. Capitol
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Alex Stuckey | Published: 7/6/2015
In March, two interns abruptly left Missouri Sen. Paul LeVota’s office. But since then, the University of Central Missouri launched a Title IX investigation and the Senate began its own investigation and hired an attorney to assist with a “workplace harassment complaint.” Meanwhile, it appears unlikely the university, or even the Senate, could inflict punishment if wrongdoing has taken place. History has shown that harassment in the Capitol is rarely reported and difficult to prove.
New Hampshire – New Hampshire Voters Bemoan Size of G.O.P. Field
New York Times – Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman | Published: 7/4/2015
The likely field of 16 Republican candidates is stirring frustration in New Hampshire, particularly among voters who say they feel more overwhelmed, even ambivalent, than ever before about their long-cherished responsibilities in holding the nation’s first primary. Some voters said they were already dreading the weeks of political fliers stuffed in their mailboxes, of campaign volunteers at their doors during the day, and of television ads and automated phone calls all through the night. Others said they already had candidate fatigue.
Oklahoma – Ethics Commission to Crack Down on Late Campaign Filers
Tulsa World – Curtis Killman | Published: 7/3/2015
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission approved a series of new and increased fees designed to help the agency go after late filers. The new fees, coupled with a boost in state funding, should provide enough revenue to permit the agency to hire two new staff members dedicated to compliance, said commission Executive Director Lee Slater. The new staff will assist with the collection of late filing fees assessed to candidate committees, PACs, and other entities charged with disclosing campaign finance activities.
Oklahoma – House Freshmen, Senate Leadership Accept Thousands in Lobbyist Meals, Gifts
Oklahoma Watchdogs – Arthur Kane | Published: 7/8/2015
Lobbyists in Oklahoma lobbyists spent more than $300,000 this year on meals, gifts, and receptions for state lawmakers. Lobbyists spent the most on mass events for large groups of legislators. Those parties and caucus meals cost nearly $170,000. Rep. Casey Murdock received nearly $2,900 in meals and gifts, the most of any member of the Legislature. Murdock said being courted by lobbyists is not as glamorous as some may assume. “I’m looking forward to next year when I won’t be a freshman and won’t have to go to many dinners,” Murdock said. “It gets old. Often you’re not the least bit interested in what they’re selling and you’re going through the motions.”
South Carolina – South Carolina House Votes to Remove Confederate Flag from Statehouse Grounds
Washington Post – Elahe Izade and Abby Phillip | Published: 7/9/2015
The Confederate battle flag that has flown at the South Carolina Statehouse for more than 50 years will soon be gone after lawmakers capped a tension-filled session and voted to remove it from the Capitol grounds. The final vote in the House of Representatives was well above the two-thirds majority that was required to move the bill toward the desk of Gov. Nikki Haley, who called for the flag to come down after the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Photographs emerged of the now-indicted shooter, an avowed white supremacist, posing with the emblem. Advocates for the flag’s removal say it represents a racist legacy and a dark chapter in the nation’s history, while defenders insist it symbolizes Southern heritage and honors fallen soldiers.
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