News You Can Use Digest - July 17, 2015 - State and Federal Communications

July 17, 2015  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 17, 2015



A Year after Rocky Merger, Patton Boggs Aims to Re-Establish K Street Dominance
Washington Post – Catherine Ho | Published: 7/13/2015

For decades, the name Patton Boggs was synonymous with K Street lobbying shops. But in 2014, the once dominant firm was acquired by Squire Sanders. Now, after a year of challenges – including the death of the firm’s renowned leader, Thomas Boggs, Jr., who helped define the modern-day lobbying industry – Patton Boggs is looking to re-establish itself with new leadership. That rebuilding is being led by Senate veterans Trent Lott and John Breaux.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – Director Concerned over Ethics Pick
San Diego Union-Tribune – Greg Moran | Published: 7/15/2015

Attorney Robert Ottilie was nominated for a seat on the San Diego Ethics Commission. In response, longtime commission Executive Director Stacey Fulhorst said she would resign her post if Ottilie is selected, adding that staff members and possibly other commissioners would also leave. She said Ottilie, who has represented city council members and campaign committees in front of the commission, is a “uniquely disruptive individual” whose presence on the panel would undercut its mission of enforcing campaign finance and ethics rules.

Colorado – Colorado Lobbying Income Likely to Set a Record This Year
Colorado Watchdog – Arthur Kane | Published: 7/15/2015

Lobbyists in Colorado are likely to make as much as $40 million in 2015, which would be a new record. Lobbyists have gone from making about $5.5 million in 1995 to nearly eight times as much with some years showing double-digit increases over the previous year, show disclosure filings. Colorado State University political science professor John Straayer said the state used to have individual lobbyists, but recently they have formed into organized corporations that provide lobbying, political fundraising, public relations, and other services. “They’re full-service operations,” said Straayer.

Colorado – The Colorado Soap Opera That Could Be a Major 2016 Headache for the GOP
Washington Post – Ben Terris | Published: 7/15/2015

In Colorado, allegations of an extramarital affair involving state Republican Party Chairperson Steve House have elevated a seemingly mundane political power struggle into a statewide soap opera that has left the GOP in disarray, a situation that could have national implications as one of the most unpredictable swing states prepares for the 2016 presidential race. If House, who denied the affair allegations, has been bruised, so too has state Attorney General Julie Coffman. The wife of U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), she had been widely viewed as a likely contender for governor in 2018. Now commentators across Colorado are wondering aloud if the attorney general committed blackmail.

Georgia – Gift Rules for State Employees Mostly Ignored, Observers Say
Savannah Morning News – Walter Jones (Morris News Service) | Published: 7/11/2015

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order the day he was sworn into office prohibiting state employees or their families from accepting anything of value worth more than $25 from lobbyists or vendors. Existing state law requires anyone doing business with city, county, or state government that spends more than $250 in a year on gifts to file an annual report. Of the thousands of companies providing services to government agencies, only about two-dozen filed a gift report for 2014 activity. Some say the information reported by the few companies that do file raises questions about the exploitation of the law.

Louisiana – Ethics Report on New Orleans: Lots of progress since Katrina, but long way to go
New Orleans Times-Picayune – Richard Rainey | Published: 7/9/2015

Recovery from Hurricane spurred New Orleans to establish the Office of Inspector General, the Office of the Independent Police Monitor, and the Ethics Review Board, each watchdogs focused on rooting out corruption, wasteful spending, and generally bad behavior among the city’s elected officials and public employees. New Orleans voters approved their creation in 1995, but it took disaster in 2005 to spark some follow-through. But for one longtime ethics reform champion, that spark has not ignited enough improvement. David Marcello, executive director of the Public Law Center at Tulane University, praised the work of the inspector general and the police monitor, but came down hard on the ethics board in a new report.

New York – Bipartisan Group Sues to Close New York’s Corporate Donation Loophole
New York Times – Jesse McKinley | Published: 7/14/2015

A coalition of good-government advocates and state lawmakers has filed a lawsuit challenging New York’s so-called LLC loophole, which allows political donors to flout contribution limits by opening multiple limited liability companies. The lawsuit challenges the state Board of Elections deadlock in April when it was petitioned to reconsider how LLCs are viewed by the board, which counts each LLC as an individual. That allows each LLC to give up to $60,800 to a statewide candidate per election cycle. Critics contend the loophole allows donors, like real estate developers, to use multiple LLCs to make huge contributions to candidates.

North Carolina – Elections Board Finds No Violations in Sweepstakes Campaign Donations
Raleigh News & Observer – Craig Jarvis | Published: 7/15/2015

An investigation into more than $270,000 in questionable donations to the campaigns of top North Carolina officials from Chase Burns, an Internet sweepstakes magnate, has found no violations of state campaign finance law. Burns and his wife were among the top donors to North Carolina candidates in 2012, as the industry was lobbying lawmakers to overturn the state’s ban on the games. A watchdog group filed a complaint alleging Burns violated state laws against using corporate money for donations. Members of the elections board expressed frustration with ambiguities in North Carolina’s campaign finance laws.

North Carolina – NC Election Board Member’s Firm Worked for Target of Probe
WRAL – Michael Biesecker and Mitch Weiss (Associated Press) | Published: 7/10/2015

Paul Foley, a member of the North Carolina Board of Elections, demanded regular updates about an investigation into donations to the campaigns of Gov. Pat McCrory and dozens of other elected officials. Foley failed to disclose that his law firm had represented the target of the investigation, sweepstakes executive Chase Burns. Despite a law that demands officials remove themselves from proceedings if they have a financial relationship with a participant, Foley did not step aside for nearly a year-and-a-half, until State Elections Director Kim Strach learned of nearly $1.3 million in prior payments from Burns’ company to Foley’s law firm.

Oklahoma – Oklahoma Lobbying Disclosures Lag Behind Other States
Oklahoma Watchdog – Arthur Kane | Published: 7/9/2015

Important information about lobbying activity is not required in Oklahoma when most other states have adopted rules or laws mandating the disclosures. Unlike most states, Oklahoma does not require lobbyists to disclose what legislation they are supporting or opposing. The rules also do not require lobbyists to report how much they received from the organizations and businesses that hired them, a practice required by at least 14 other states.

Pennsylvania – Ex-Mayor of Pennsylvania’s Capital Charged with Corruption
Albany Times Union – Marc Levy and Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 7/15/2015

Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed, who ended his 28-year tenure in 2010 with the city near financial ruin, was arrested and faces 499 criminal counts for theft, bribery, evidence tampering, and other charges. Reed and unnamed associates issued municipal bonds for legitimate purposes but allegedly used some of the proceeds to buy a bizarre list of artifacts for what Reed claimed was a plan to open a museum. The purchases included a life-size sarcophagus, a suit of armor, a “vampire hunter’s set,” and a $14,900 playbill from Ford’s Theatre on the night of the Lincoln assassination. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said investigators are looking into allegations of misconduct by others, and she expects more charges to be filed.

Virginia – Plastic Tumblers, a Night at Dad’s House Top Gifts in Post-McDonnell Richmond
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 7/13/2015

After Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell was convicted on corruption charges, political gift-giving in the state has become such a modest and open affair that Matthew Ogburn would not spend the night in his boyhood bedroom without erring on the side of caution by making a public disclosure. Ogburn is a legislative assistant to a state senator and the son of David Ogburn, Jr., a Verizon lobbyist who lives in the Richmond suburbs. Lobbyists do not have to disclose gifts they make to their dependent children, but since Matthew Ogburn is 24 and living on his own, his father reports every time he comes for a visit.

Washington – Taxpayer Financed Campaign Proposal, with ‘Democracy Vouchers,’ Wins a Place Seattle’s Fall Ballot
Seattle Post-Intelligencer – Joel Connelly | Published: 7/13/2015

An initiative that qualified for the ballot would impose a property tax levy that would pay for publicly financed elections in Seattle. Initiative 122 would ban contributions from corporations with medium-sized and large city contracts, as well as corporations that spend money lobbying the city. It would also lower the donation limit for city races, and boost fines and penalties for election law violations.

Wisconsin – Vos: Time to ‘double down’ on GAB reform in wake of reported IRS links
Wisconsin Watchdog – M.D. Kittle | Published: 7/10/2015

Key legislative Republicans renewed their call to reform the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) after The Wall Street Journal reported the agency and the IRS may have shared information about the state’s so-called John Doe investigation, the secret probe that targeted dozens of conservative groups and the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker. The newspaper ran an editorial noting GAB Director Kevin Kennedy has had a professional relationship for 20 years with Lois Lerner, the former IRS official who was involved in reviewing the tax exempt status of conservative political organizations. Kennedy knows Lerner from their involvement over the years with the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws.

Wisconsin – Wisconsin Supreme Court Ends John Doe Probe into Scott Walker’s Campaign
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 7/16/2015

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a criminal investigation into coordination between conservative groups and Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 campaign cannot continue. The decision ends the specter of an inquiry as Walker pursues the Republican nomination for president. The investigation began after the governor survived a recall election brought by voters who opposed limits he made to collective bargaining rights and union power. The probe looked at whether Walker’s advisers directed interactions with at least a dozen outside conservative groups, and whether that violated disclosure rules and donation limits.

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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