News You Can Use Digest - July 25, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

July 25, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 25, 2014



How to Disclose Your Lobbying While Keeping the Public in the Dark

National Journal – Ben Geman | Published: 7/22/2014

Some companies’ and advocacy groups’ quarterly lobbying disclosure forms provide highly specific lists of bills and topics they are working on. But other lobbying reports deploy language so vague that they reveal almost no information at all, undermining the efficacy of federal laws aimed at keeping the public abreast of how insiders are lobbying their elected officials. The rules require quarterly reports that list both broad categories, such as energy or trade, and “specific lobbying issues” within those categories. It is the line in the reports asking for specifics – Line 16 – that is often left very vague.

Leadership War Stymies Senate Mission

Washington Post – Paul Kane | Published: 7/20/2014

The U.S. Senate has approved so few bills this year, and so little else has gotten done, that many senators say they are spending most of their time on insignificant and unrewarding work. Senators say that they increasingly feel like pawns caught between Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose deep personal and political antagonisms have almost immobilized the chamber. The two men so distrust each other, and each is so determined to deny the other even the smallest political success, that their approach to running the Senate has been reduced to a campaign of mutually assured dysfunction.

Senator’s Thesis Turns Out to Be Remix of Others’ Works, Uncited

New York Times – Jonathan Martin | Published: 7/23/2014

U.S. Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.), a decorated veteran of the Iraq war, has made his military service a main selling point on the campaign trail. Still wearing his hair close-cropped, he says his time in uniform informs his views on a range of issues. But one of the highest-profile credentials of Walsh’s 33-year military career appears to have been improperly attained. An examination of the final paper required for his master’s degree from the Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – Political Shakeup Looms in California

Politico – Alexander Burns | Published: 7/20/2014

For decades, Democrats and Republicans in California have experienced statewide politics as an interminable waiting game, thanks to a gang of 70- and 80-somethings from the San Francisco Bay Area who have dominated government for a generation. Rising stars in both parties have come and gone, but the state’s chief power players have remained the same. Yet the buildup of talent on the Democratic bench means it is only a matter of time before the state witnesses a genuine free-for-all among younger officeholders.

Delaware – Delaware Governor Signs Campaign Finance Reform Bills into Law – Shana O’Malley | Published: 7/22/2014

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed a package of campaign finance and ethics reform bills. Among the measures, Senate Bill 186 requires LLCs and corporations that donate more than $100 to disclose the name and address of one “responsible party” who exercises control over the entity. House Bill 306 will establish a fee for lobbyists who fail to file their quarterly expense reports in a timely manner.

Illinois – New Rauner Attack Ad Relies on Made-Up Headlines

Chicago Tribune – Rick Pearson | Published: 7/24/2014

Bruce Rauner’s latest attack ad against Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn relies, in part, on independent news stories but features headlines that Rauner’s campaign made up and doctored to make them sound more critical. The ad overlays what the Rauner campaign calls “headlines” over television screens. Some of the headlines are correct. But in two cases, the ad makes up headlines that did not appear with the source cited, and in at least three other cases, headlines were shortened to buttress the campaign’s attack on Quinn.

Massachusetts – Super PAC Disclosure Bill Clears Massachusetts Senate, Protects Higher Union Limit – Colleen Quinn (State House News Service) | Published: 7/23/2014

The Massachusetts Senate approved legislation designed to tighten reporting requirements for independent political expenditures, including those made by super PACs. Under Senate Bill 2264, corporations, labor unions, and political committees would be required to file a campaign finance report within seven days of making an independent expenditure, or within 24 hours if the expenditure is made within 10 days of an election. The Senate bill, like a version of the measure approved by the House, also doubles the amount an individual could donate to a candidate in a calendar year from $500 to $1,000. Lawmakers will now try to agree on a compromise bill.

New Hampshire – Can N.H.’s New Campaign Finance Rules Hold up in Court?

New Hampshire Public Radio – Brian Wallstin | Published: 7/21/2014

A bill awaiting New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan’s signature requires 501(c)4s and other politically active nonprofits to register with the secretary of state’s office and report its receipts and expenditures. As reforms go, Senate Bill 120 is relatively modest: it only applies to nonprofits that spend more than $5,000 a year, and it does not ask them to disclose the identity of individual donors. But the new rules, which could affect the role tax-exempt groups play in the 2014 elections, are almost certain to trigger a political tug of war that could wind up in court.

New York – Cuomo’s Office Hobbled State Ethics Inquiries

New York Times – Susanne Craig, William Rashbaum, and Thomas Kaplan | Published: 7/23/2014

The commission set up by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to root out public corruption was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from Cuomo’s office. An examination by The New York Times found the governor’s office deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him. Cuomo abruptly disbanded the commission halfway through what he had indicated would be an 18-month life. Federal prosecutors are now investigating the roles of Cuomo and his aides in the panel’s shutdown and are pursuing its unfinished business.

New York – JCOPE Donor-Disclosure Exemption Rejections Are Overturned

Albany Times Union – Casey Seiler | Published: 7/18/2014

A judicial hearing officer reversed the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) and held that the New York Civil Liberties Union and three other advocacy groups do not have to reveal their financial backers because doing so could put their supporters at risk. The hearing officer, former Judge George Pratt, said the JCOPE majority opinion was “clearly erroneous” and each of the groups had provided sufficient evidence to warrant an exemption from an ethics rule requiring organizations to disclose their funding sources.

Pennsylvania – Former Traffic Court judges Cleared on Main Charge

Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck | Published: 7/23/2014

Four ousted traffic court judges in Philadelphia have been convicted of lying to authorities but cleared of most charges in a sweeping ticket-fixing case. A fifth judge and a businessperson were acquitted. An indictment last year portrayed the now-abolished court as a pit of patronage and corruption. Nearly the entire bench was charged with fixing tickets, sometimes in exchange for gifts or favors. The traffic judges were not lawyers but earned about $90,000 annually. Defense lawyers argued that giving insiders “consideration” was long a tradition at traffic court, and not deemed illegal.

Texas – Activist Fined $10,000 for Not Registering as Lobbyist

Houston Chronicle – David Saleh Rauf (San Antonio Express-News) | Published: 7/21/2014

The Texas Ethics Commission ordered conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan to pay the maximum fine for not registering as a lobbyist. Sullivan, president of Empower Texans, has been the subject of an extended investigation by the commission stemming from complaints that he failed to register as a lobbyist while working to influence the fate of legislation and the election of a House speaker. Sullivan will appeal the ruling to a state District Court, and argue the commission’s lobbyist registration law is unconstitutional and its enforcement infringes on the First Amendment.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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