July 24, 2015 •
News You Can Use Digest – July 24, 2015
‘Influencers’ Poll Gives Grades to Lobby Groups
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 7/22/2015
The consulting firm APCO Worldwide interviewed 301 people from the public and private sectors, including lobbyists and top aides on Capitol Hill, to find out which trade groups are the most effective at influencing decision-makers. Of the 50 associations evaluated by participants, PhRMA came out on top of seven of the 15 categories – including lobbying, coalition building, social media, having a unified voice, and possessing the ability to work within the legislative, executive, and regulatory arenas. Overall, the financial services industry ranked number one out of the eight sectors listed as part of the survey. “Having a unified voice as an industry and having a positive perception in the media are now considered more important to a trade association’s effectiveness than lobbying or member mobilization,” said Bill Dalbec of APCO.
Rick Perry Finance Chairman Does Super PAC Two-Step
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 7/22/2015
Rick Perry’s presidential campaign raised $1.14 million between the former Texas governor’s announcement on June 4 and the end of that month, about one-tenth of what Jeb Bush reported raising in about half that time. But the underwhelming fundraising total is not threatening Kelcy Warren’s job as Perry’s presidential campaign chairperson. Warren is helping the candidate in a major way and is navigating a legal minefield to do it. The billionaire gave $6 million to a coalition of super PACs that are supporting Perry’s bid. Warren’s contribution illustrates how closely some presidential campaigns and advisers are working with the theoretically independent groups that exist to promote their candidate of choice.
Seeing Crowd, G.O.P. Donors Holding Back
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore and Sarah Cohen | Published: 7/18/2015
Only about a fifth of the 1,000 or so fundraisers and their spouses who rallied around Mitt Romney in 2012 have given money to any of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates. Those who remain uncommitted – hundreds of volunteer bundlers who could collect contributions from their friends and business associates – represent a huge pool of untapped campaign cash, potentially hundreds of millions of dollars that could remake the primary campaign. Some of the bundlers and donors said they had held back, in part, because the field was the strongest they had seen in years, with several viable contenders representing the party’s different generational and ideological segments.
Who Advises Candidate Trump? (Hint: His Name Is Donald)
New York Times – Maggie Haberman and Michael Barbaro | Published: 7/20/2015
At a candidate forum in Iowa, Donald Trump said U.S. Sen. John McCain “is not a war hero” because he was captured. It was an improvised fit of pique, denounced by his rivals, which exposed the biggest vulnerability of Trump’s campaign for president: it is built entirely around the instincts and grievances of its unpredictable candidate, and does not rely on a conventional political operation that protects presidential hopefuls from themselves. Even as Trump insisted no one was troubled by his comments, his small group of aides emailed one another about how to respond to the growing criticism. If nothing else, the incident reaffirmed that Trump is running a presidential campaign on his own unique terms.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – Cleaning Up Politics or ‘Vindictive’ Nosy Neighbor? Shirley Grindle Is Making Last Stand as a Watchdog
Orange County Register – Martin Wisckol | Published: 7/19/2015
There are plenty of people who wish 80-year-old Shirley Grindle, Orange County’s best-known government watchdog, would just go away. “The community would be better off if Shirley Grindle focused her attention on 53 cats,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. But Grindle is gearing up for one final battle, a 2016 ballot measure establishing an ethics commission that would keep officials looking over their shoulders long after she is gone.
California – Lobbyist Fee Set to Increase
San Diego Union-Tribune – David Garrick | Published: 7/17/2015
The annual lobbyist registration fee in San Diego would climb from $40 to $150 under a proposal approved by a city council committee. Annual registration fees paid by clients who hire lobbyists would double, from $15 to $30. City Clerk Elizabeth Maland said the increase is warranted based on the time and effort her office spends tracking and analyzing the work of lobbyists, which includes traditional lobbying, campaign activity, and fundraising efforts. The hike, which would take effect in January, still must be approved by the full council, probably in September.
Delaware – Delaware Wins Appeal, Can Enforce Law on Election Ads
Reuters – Jonathan Stempel | Published: 7/16/2015
A Delaware law requiring advocacy groups to disclose the donors behind political advertisements was deemed constitutional by a panel of three judges of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Delaware Strong Families contended that forcing it to comply with the law would improperly damage the organization’s right to free speech. The act requires third-party groups and individuals to disclose their donors if they publish advertisements or other communications that refer to a candidate in an upcoming election. Previously, only groups that directly advocated for or against a candidate were required to disclose their donors.
Illinois – Court Overturns Some Blagojevich Senate-Seat Convictions
ABC News – Michael Tarm (Associated Press) | Published: 7/21/2015
An appeals court overturned four of Rod Blagojevich’s corruption convictions, a ruling that may not result in less prison time for the former Illinois governor. He was convicted in 2011 on 18 counts, including trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat of President Barack Obama, and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Judges with the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned four of those convictions, saying Blagojevich’s attempt to appoint Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat in exchange for a position on Obama’s cabinet was “a common exercise in logrolling.” The judges said trading one official act for another is unlike trading official acts for a private benefit and cannot be considered bribery or extortion.
Kansas – Brownback Campaign Sought Cash from Westar Official amid Ongoing Rate Case
Topeka Capital-Journal – Jonathan Shorman | Published: 7/20/2015
Documents show a campaign operative for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback contacted Mark Schreiber, a government affairs vice president at Westar Energy, seeking help retiring debt left over from the governor’s re-election campaign last year. The contact with Schreiber took place amid the company’s request to the Kansas Corporation Commission for hike rates to pay for environmental upgrades, repairs at the company’s nuclear plant, and efforts to reduce storm-related outages.
Missouri – Missouri Capitol Intern Says She Declined Sexual Advances
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Alex Stuckey | Published: 7/23/2015
A Missouri Senate report details an intern’s claims that state Sen. Paul LeVota harassed her, asked her explicitly for sex, and retaliated when she refused. LeVota denied the account and said he never acted inappropriately with her or other interns. The investigation came after two University of Central Missouri students abruptly left an internship with LeVota partway through the last legislative session, which ended in May. That same day, former House Speaker John Diehl resigned after admitting to exchanging sexually suggestive text messages with a Capitol intern.
New York – Dean Skelos and His Son Face New Bribery Charges
New York Times – Susanne Craig | Published: 7/21/2015
Former New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, were arrested in May on charges the Republican lawmaker performed legislative favors for companies with business before the state in an attempt to enrich his son. A superseding indictment adds two new charges of extortion and solicitation of bribes related to Adam Skelos’ employment by a medical malpractice insurance company, allegedly at the request of his father. The new indictment says Adam Skelos allegedly threatened to “smash in” the head of a supervisor who failed to grasp that he was a no-show employee.
New York – New York Ethics Panel Chief Taking State Tax Job
Albany Times Union – Casey Seiler | Published: 7/21/2015
New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics Executive Director Letizia Tagliafierro is resigning to take a new job as deputy commissioner at the state Department of Taxation and Finance, where she will lead the criminal investigations division. The ethics commission, scheduled to meet August 4, are expected to mount a national search for a new executive director. The change comes as the commission prepares to take on expanded duties as a result of the ethics changes included in this spring’s state budget agreement. Under the new rules, groups spending over $5,000 lobbying municipalities with populations of more than 5,000 must register that activity; the cutoff had been populations of 50,000 or more.
New York – Thomas Libous, New York State Senator, Is Convicted of Lying to F.B.I.
New York Times – Thomas Kaplan | Published: 7/22/2015
Thomas Libous, deputy majority leader of the New York Senate, was convicted of lying to federal agents, becoming the latest lawmaker to lose his seat amid a criminal investigation. The conviction triggers his automatic expulsion from the Legislature, where he has served since 1989. He was charged last year with lying to FBI agents who came to his Albany office to ask about his alleged efforts to get his son a job at a politically connected law firm. The trial offered a glimpse of the close dealings between legislators and the lobbyists seeking to influence them.
Vermont – Shumlin Backs Independent Ethics Commission
VTDigger.org – Erin Mansfield | Published: 7/23/2015
Amid conflict-of-interest allegations among Vermont public officials, Gov. Peter Shumlin said he supports the creation of a state ethics commission. Secretary of State Jim Condos is already drafting legislation that would create an independent panel to oversee the executive and legislative branches. “This is not about any individual person; this was always a bigger picture item about how we could improve the trust that Vermonters deserve to have about their government,” said Condos.
Washington – Seattle’s Richest, Whitest Areas Dominate Campaign Giving, Say Reform
Seattle Times – Daniel Beekman | Published: 7/21/2015
The Sightline Institute mapped contributions to candidates for mayor, city council, and city attorney in Seattle for the 2013 election and found a small number of donors from certain neighborhoods dominate the giving. Roughly half the money came from 1,683 donors, or 0.3 percent of the city’s adults. The institute is supporting Honest Elections Seattle, an initiative that that will be on the November ballot. It would lower the contribution limit, ban donations to candidates from entities with city contracts of $250,000 or more and from people spending at least $5,000 to lobby the city. The measure would also establish a public campaign finance system for Seattle.
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