News You Can Use Digest - July 15, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

July 15, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 15, 2016



Gay Political Power Reaching Record as U.S. Attitudes Shift – Jeff Green | Published: 7/11/2016

Opponents are planning a campaign to roll back the new rights on same-sex marriage and military service won by gay Americans this year. That offensive, in state Legislatures and Washington, D.C., has raised the stakes in the 2016 election for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, which is trying to leverage its unprecedented political power to elect lawmakers who would extend federal protections at work and home to gay citizens, just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected race, religion, and gender. It is difficult to put a specific dollar amount on LGBT money in politics. But there is no question the spending is much more visible than it was two decades ago, said Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andrew Tobias.

How Private Equity Found Power and Profit in State Capitols
New York Times – Ben Protess, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, and Rachel Abrams | Published: 7/14/2016

Since the 2008 financial crisis, private equity firms have expanded their influence, assuming a pervasive, if clandestine, role in American life, an investigation found. Sophisticated political maneuvering – including winning government contracts, shaping public policy, and deploying former public officials to press their case – is central to this growth. Yet even as private equity wields influence in states and in Washington, D. C., it faces little public awareness of its activities. Private equity firms often do not directly engage with lawmakers and regulators – the companies they control do. And because private equity’s interests are so diverse, the industry interacts with governments not only through lobbying, but also as contractors and partners on public projects.


Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Struggle to Be Unifying Voice for Nation
New York Times – Patrick Healy | Published: 7/9/2016

Traumatic events have at times become opportunities for presidential candidates to step up and grow in the eyes of the American public, such as when Bill Clinton went to Los Angeles in 1992 in the aftermath of the riots there, or when Barack Obama pushed for aggressive, bipartisan action from the federal government to stem the banking crisis and protect taxpayers. No moment in the 2016 presidential campaign has cried out more for a unifying candidate than the police shootings of two black men and the ensuing national uproar, followed by the sniper ambush that killed five police officers in Dallas. And no other moment has revealed more starkly how hard it is for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to become that candidate. Never have two presidential nominees been as unpopular as Trump and Clinton, and they are not fully trusted by their own parties nor showing significant crossover appeal in the polls.

Koch-Backed ‘Dark Money’ Groups Fined for Failing to Disclose Donors
Center for Public Integrity – John Dunbar | Published: 7/13/2016

The FEC fined three nonprofit groups formerly connected with the political network of Charles and David Koch a total of $233,000, a rare intervention by the agency into the world of outside spending. Each of the groups ran political advertisements to support U.S. House candidates during the 2010 election. The FEC’s investigation provides a look into the interlocking networks of political nonprofits on the right, through which vast sums of money flow each election cycle with little disclosure. Such groups are not required to report their donors and typically trade large amounts of cash during each election cycle, making it difficult to judge which dollar from which donor is used for any particular activity.

US Rep. Corrine Brown Indicted After Fraud Investigation
ABC News – Jason Dearen and Curt Anderson (Associated Press) | Published: 7/8/2016

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida and her chief of staff, Elias Simmons, were charged with 24 counts of fraud and other crimes that prosecutors said allowed them to use an education nonprofit as a “personal slush fund.” The indictment alleges Brown and Simmons used the One Door for Education-Amy Anderson Scholarship Fund to solicit $800,000 in charitable donations between 2012 and 2016. The money was used for Brown’s personal benefit, among other things, including “tens of thousands of dollars in cash deposits” sent to her personal bank accounts, according to prosecutors. Carla Wiley, former head of the Virginia-based One Door for Education, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud earlier this year and was cooperating with investigators.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Mike Hubbard Sentenced to Four Years in Prison
Tuscaloosa News – Kim Chandler (Associated Press) | Published: 7/8/2016

Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard was sentenced to four years in prison for violating the state’s ethics law. He also faces $210,000 in fines. A jury convicted him of using his office to secure consulting contracts and investments from lobbyists or those who employ them. He was also found guilty of using staff members to do work for his private clients, voting for a budget that would have benefitted a client, and lobbying Gov. Robert Bentley on behalf of a client. At trial, Hubbard’s defense team argued that many of the charges he faced fell under an exemption in the law that allows public officials to exchange things of value with those they have long-standing friendships with.

California – Lyft Agrees to $6,000 FPPC Fine for Not Reporting Lobbying Costs
Sacramento Bee – Taryn Luna | Published: 7/11/2016

The ride-hailing firm Lyft agreed to pay $6,000 in fines for repeatedly being late in disclosing its use of lobbyists to influence California officials. An investigation by Fair Political Practices Commission staff alleged Lyft failed to file in a timely manner five lobbyist employer reports. During the 2013–2014 legislative session, Lyft spent more than $271,000 on lobbying related to four transportation-regulating bills. One report was filed 530 days late, although Lyft did not conduct any lobbying during the quarter. Other reports, during which there was activity, were filed from 11 to 165 days late. “According to Lyft, the late filing was an oversight caused by Lyft’s reliance on its lobbying firms to file its reports and its lack of experience as a lobbyist employer,” the staff report said.

Louisiana – Good Idea Gone Awry? How Term Limits Impact Sessions of Louisiana Legislature
New Orleans Advocate – Mark Ballard | Published: 7/9/2016

Term limits in Louisiana, which require state representatives and senators to step down after 12 years to make way for new lawmakers, were billed by supporters as a way to create a Legislature that would be more responsive to voters and allow for thinking “outside the box” to solve persistent governmental problems. But term limits also sapped legislators of historical knowledge, hardened political positions, and undermined the relationships that are essential ingredients to actually operating the machinery of government, some lawmakers, lobbyists, and political operatives say.

Missouri – Andy Blunt Came to Washington – Was It Lobbying?
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Chuck Raasch | Published: 7/7/2016

When it was announced last year that Andy Blunt would manage the re-election campaign of his father, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Democrats accused the younger Blunt of a conflict-of-interest. In December, Andy Blunt said that “I lobby in the state of Missouri, not the United States Congress, and there is a clear distinction.” But in April, Andy Blunt helped lead a delegation of Missouri cable television executives in meetings with members of the Missouri congressional delegation or their staffs. The younger Blount said he did not consider the meetings to be lobbying. Rather, he said, they were part of an annual “meet-and-greet” trip to Washington. The revelations rekindle questions about where Andy Blunt’s lobbying for clients ends and his advocacy for his father’s re-election campaign begins.

New York – Fight Over Emails Yields New Details on Role of Outside ‘Agents’ for de Blasio
New York Times – J. David Goodman | Published: 7/7/2016

After the rocky conclusion to his first year in office, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sought counsel at the start of 2015 from his most trusted advisers. The mayor’s office and a few outside consultants discussed internal opinion surveys and formulated strategy on some of de Blasio’s most pressing concerns. These internal discussions about public matters are now part of a court battle as lawyers for a nonprofit aligned with the mayor are fighting to keep those emails confidential, resisting subpoenas for that information by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The legal strategy appeared to clarify what had been one of the more puzzling moments of the de Blasio era: the description of five outside consultants as “agents of the city.”

Ohio – Dallas Shooting and Open-Carry Laws Loom Over Cleveland Convention Plans
New York Times – Yamiche Alcindor | Published: 7/11/2016

The recent violence in Dallas is intensifying worries in Cleveland about visitors and protesters taking firearms downtown during the Republican National Convention, where thousands of people plan to demonstrate. Ohio’s open-carry laws mean that those who legally own guns can take them into the two-square-mile area where many of the events and protests connected to the convention will be held. Cleveland’s police chief said that after the Dallas shootings, the city would be changing its security plans but did not go into detail. Meanwhile, some are planning to take their own security forces to Cleveland.

Pennsylvania – Consulting Business Owned by Mike Fleck Fined $11,850 by State
Allentown Morning Call – Emily Opilo | Published: 7/11/2016

Hamilton Development Partners, a former Allentown business at the center of an FBI investigation in the city, was cited by the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission. The firm failed to file a quarterly expense report with the Department of State for the third quarter of 2015 as required by the state lobbying law. It owes an $11,850 fine – $50 per day for each of the 237 days that the report has been considered late. The firm has been ordered to file an expense report in the next 30 days or face “appropriate enforcement action.” Failure to report under the law is considered a misdemeanor punishable with an up to five-year ban on lobbying in Pennsylvania.

Tennessee – Jeremy Durham Had Sexual ‘Interactions’ with 22 Women, Report Says
The Tennessean – Dave Bouchard and Joel Ebert | Published: 7/13/2016

State Rep. Jeremy Durham engaged in inappropriate conduct with women that constitutes disorderly behavior and warrants expulsion, said a report from the Tennessee attorney general, but a special legislative committee is leaving up to voters to decide whether the embattled lawmaker will continue serving in the Legislature. The investigation found Durham had sexually engaged with current and former female legislative staff, interns, lobbyists, and others between 2012, when he first took office, and the 2016 legislative session. The main findings of the attorney general’s report mirror the office released in April, when it found Durham had engaged in inappropriate physical contact and potentially posed a “continuing risk to unsuspecting women.” That determination led to Durham’s office being moved out of Legislative Plaza and his access to staff limited.

Washington – Supporters of Campaign Finance Measure Submit Signatures
Yakima Herald – Rachel LaCorte (Associated Press) | Published: 7/8/2016

More than 326,000 signatures have been turned in to the Washington secretary of state’s office in support of a proposed ballot measure that would make a series of campaign finance changes. Initiative 1464 seeks to do several things, including creating a voucher system that would give voters three $50 “democracy credits” that they can use in state races every two years. It would also impose tougher disclosure requirements on political advertisements and limit the amount of money that contractors and lobbyists can give to candidates. The ballot measure also would impose a three-year waiting period before former elected officials and senior staff can lobby their previous employers and colleagues. An initiative requires at least 246,372 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified.

Wisconsin – Ex-AG Lautenschlager Named to Lead New Ethics Commission
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 7/11/2016

Former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager was selected as chairperson of the state’s new Ethics Commission, and the job of administrator was given to a former analyst of the nonpartisan board the panel was created to replace. Lautenschlager had to pay a fine to the previous ethics agency following her arrest for drunken driving in 2004. Brian Bell accepted the offer to be the administrator of the commission. He is a budget and policy analyst for the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. He also previously worked for the Government Accountability Board as an ethics and accountability specialist.

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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