July 18, 2014 •
News You Can Use Digest – July 18, 2014
Pew Center on the States – Jodi Enda, Katarina Eva Masta, and Jan Lauren Boyles | Published: 7/10/2014
After more than a decade of scaling back, newspapers still send more reporters to cover state Capitols than any other medium. But the print journalists who remain now work shoulder to shoulder with students and reporters from non-traditional outlets, shows a new survey. The rise of those non-traditional outlets may be the most significant development in statehouse press coverage in the last five years, although no historical data is available to chart their rise. They include publications that tailor to insider audiences, nonprofit news organizations, and ideologically driven news sites.
The Center for Public Integrity – Julie Patel | Published: 7/15/2014
The scandal over the IRS targeting conservative groups, combined with Congress systematically stripping the agency of resources and clout over decades, has led to an exempt organizations division that has all but quit regulating politically active nonprofits in any consistent, demonstrable way, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation. The IRS came to a near standstill on deciding whether it should grant “social welfare” nonprofit status to conservative and liberal groups. An exempt organizations division staffer said the IRS knew many of these groups were highly political, but “we stalled so we wouldn’t have to say no.”
From the States and Municipalities:
Alaska Dispatch – Richard Mauer (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 7/11/2014
The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) determined there was no merit to a complaint filed by former middle school math teacher and legislative candidate David Nees that said parents who volunteered to spend the last month of the legislative session in Juneau seeking money for schools should have registered as paid lobbyists. APOC ruled that even if his allegations were true, there would be no violation of the law because the parents were unpaid and their lobbying trips unsubsidized by others.
inewssource.org – Joe Yerardi | Published: 7/11/2014
The San Diego Ethics Commission voted to forward a proposal to city council that would have the practical effect of ending independent committees taking campaign videos published on candidates’ web sites, downloading them, and paying television stations to run them as advertisements. Specifically, the rule would expand the definition of ‘contribution” to include the republication and dissemination of many candidates’ campaign-created materials. Independent committees are usually prohibited from making contributions of any kind to candidates for city office. So replicating candidates’ videos would constitute an illegal non-monetary contribution to a campaign.
Connecticut – Banned Donors Skirt Law Designed To Prevent Pay-To-Play
Hartford Courant – Dave Altimari and Matthew Kauffman | Published: 7/13/2014
Corporations are donating to the federal fundraising accounts of Connecticut’s political parties to navigate around laws banning employees of some companies from giving to candidates for state office. The State Elections Enforcement Commission earlier this year warned federal laws do not “create a loophole” allowing prohibited donors to support state campaigns. The Legislature in 2005 enacted limits on political contributions by state contractors after a kickback scandal that ultimately led to federal prison terms for former Gov. John Rowland and others.
Greenfield Daily Reporter – Christina Cassidy (Associated Press) | Published: 7/14/2014
Holly LaBerge, executive secretary of Georgia’s ethics commission, said top aides to Gov. Nathan Deal once threatened to thwart efforts to expand the agency’s authority unless she made campaign finance complaints against the governor “go away.” The governor and his staff have repeatedly denied any interference with the case, which was settled for $3,350 in fines. LaBerge’s attorney said she was speaking out under the state’s whistleblower law and wanted to make sure she would not be retaliated against. In a television interview, LaBerge said she was tired of being accused of carrying out favors on Deal’s behalf.
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook, Ryan Sabalow, and Eric Weddle | Published: 7/10/2014
Like many states, Indiana has laws intended to prevent long-recognized ethical problems. State officials are restricted from using government resources for political purposes, must disclose certain financial interests, and are supposed to wait at least a year before taking a job with a company they regulate or whose contracts they administer. But in Indiana, there are lots of exceptions to those rules, which were on display in recent cases involving former Superintendent of Schools Tony Bennet, top transportation official Tony Wodruff, and state Rep. Eric Turner.
Kentucky – Meet the Nation’s Most Honest Politician
CNN – Wade Payson-Denney | Published: 7/16/2014
Gil Fulbright is a fake political candidate, appearing in a brutally honest viral video. Actor Frank Ridley plays the character of a money-hungry politician, who lets the public know in his ad that the issues do not matter, as long as he can get re-elected. The faux campaign is raising real money, even though Fulbright’s name will not appear on any ballot. Represent.Us is sending this character to campaign events in Kentucky to bring a message to the public – limit the influence of money in politics.
CapitalGazette.cm; Associated Press – | Published: 7/14/2014
Jared DeMarinis, the director of candidacy and campaign finance for the Maryland Board of Elections, is the person that candidates call when they receive notification the state is assessing them for failing to file timely campaign finance reports. Because the reports are filed electronically, about the only thing DeMarinis has not heard is that the dog ate the report. By far, the most popular excuse is that the campaigns did not understand the software they are required to use.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 7/15/2014
In the Pennsylvania Capitol, roughly two dozen portraits of legislative leaders hang in a place of honor near the rotunda. As of this week, some of them come with a footnote. Plaques were placed beneath the portraits of three former House speakers and a former Senate president pro tempore listing when the lawmakers left office –and when they were sentenced to prison.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Claudia Vargas | Published: 7/16/2014
Looking ahead to the 2015 mayoral campaign, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics met to work out a series of proposed changes to the city’s campaign finance regulations. Given the rise in independent campaign contributions and coordinated expenditures nationwide, the board’s director of enforcement, Michael Cooke, said the panel should add specific language to the existing regulations to make clear what counts as a contribution and for what purposes. A public hearing on the proposed amendments will be held on September 7.
South Carolina – South Carolina’s State Ethics Commission Restricts Media Policy
Charleston Post & Gazette – Jeremy Borden | Published: 7/16/2014
South Carolina Ethics Commission Chairperson James Burns said until the agency has an official policy for dealing with the media, all comments made to news media should come from Director Herb Hayden. Deputy Director Cathy Hazelwood has acted as the primary spokesperson for the commission, and has often been forthright on issues before the agency. Media attorney Jay Bender said the move to change the policy without a motion, discussion, or vote was against the state’s open records laws. “…If we had more people in government like Cathy Hazelwood, we’d have a better government,” said Bender.
Tennessee – Carr Gave Loan to Company of Political Supporter
The Daily Journal – Chas Sisk (The Tennessean) | Published: 7/15/2014
Tennessee Rep. Joe Carr loaned Life Watch Pharmacy $200,000 last year from his campaign fund. The company is led by conservative fundraiser Andrew Miller, who gave Carr $2,600 for his primary and general election campaigns. Miller also has been the largest donor to the Real Conservatives National Committee, giving $22,500 to the super PAC. Carr has been waging a tea party battle to defeat U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander.
Deseret News – Pat Reavy and Dennis Romboy | Published: 7/15/2014
Former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff were arrested and now face multiple felony counts, including accepting bribes and destroying evidence. The two are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts and campaign contributions from individuals facing legal action in return for favorable treatment from the attorney general’s office.
Center for Media and Democracy – Brendan Fischer | Published: 7/15/2014
New documents indicate that weeks after the first subpoenas were issued in Wisconsin’s “John Doe” criminal campaign finance probe in October 2013, state Senate Republicans began working to change the law to legalize the activities under investigation. Republicans surprised many when they tried to rush Senate Bill 654 through the Legislature to explicitly carve-out an exception to the state’s campaign finance statutes for issue ads, the election messages that stop short of telling viewers to vote for or against a candidate.
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