July 29, 2016 •
News You Can Use Digest – July 29, 2016
A Worry if Clinton Wins: An idle ex-president in the White House
New York Times – Patrick Healy | Published: 7/26/2016
It is not clear how Bill Clinton would function as America’s first gentleman. Advisers to Hillary Clinton said she has not yet decided if she will offer her husband a formal role if elected but noted he will cease working for the Clinton Foundation, would not be a regular at Cabinet meetings, and will do what is asked of him. Beyond that, however, details are scant. The steps that Clinton aides are planning to shape his new life do little to address a potentially thornier problem: historically, when Bill Clinton does not have a job to do, he gets into trouble.
Democrats Discreetly Turn Attention to Presidential Prospects of the Future
New York Times – Michael Shear | Published: 7/26/2016
On the main stage at the Wells Fargo Center and along the sidelines of the Democratic National Convention, more than a dozen senators, mayors, governors, cabinet members, and state lawmakers are carefully peeking past this year’s presidential election to 2020 or 2024 as they work ballrooms full of delegates, donors, and activists who would be critical to the pursuit of a national campaign. Compared with Republicans, Democrats have seen fewer of their young members rise to top positions in Washington, D.C., which can be a springboard to the White House.
DNC Turmoil Confirms Warnings: Hackers are targeting campaigns
Politico – Eric Geller | Published: 7/24/2016
The downfall of Democratic National Committee Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz marks a groundbreaking moment that cybersecurity experts have long seen coming: hackers are making a significant impact on a major U.S. political campaign. Cybersecurity experts have warned for years that campaigns and political parties are woefully weak in securing their data, despite the wealth of sensitive information they carry in their computer networks and email accounts. It is an ideal scenario for all kinds of cyber wrongdoers – foreign adversaries trying to swing elections, intelligence agencies seeking information on future officials, hacktivist groups looking to grab attention, and black market hackers trying to make a quick buck.
Donald Trump Calls on Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Missing Emails
New York Times – Ashley Parker and David Sanger | Published: 7/27/2016
Donald Trump dared a foreign government to commit espionage on the U.S. to hurt his rival, smashing yet another taboo in American political discourse and behavior. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’ll be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said, referring to deleted emails from the private account Hillary Clinton used as secretary of State. “I think you’ll probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” The comments immediately drew widespread attention because they lend the impression that Trump is actively encouraging another country to commit a cybercrime against the U.S. to directly affect the presidential election. If the emails are hacked and Trump wins, it also could make him appear beholden to foreign interests.
For Special Interests, the Real Party Is Outside the Convention
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine and Dave Levinthal | Published: 7/22/2016
A Rick Springfield concert at the Republican National Convention was billed as “a tribute to the House Republican Whip Team” and was to benefit charity, even though there was no admission fee. During the convention, dozens of organizations sponsored such events, all with an interest in gaining access to lawmakers and power brokers. The gatherings are almost all crafted to fit into exemptions in gift and ethics rules that allow members of Congress to come to “widely attended events” or charitable fundraisers. “These exemptions very quickly become major loopholes to allow lobbyists and others to put on events for officeholders and allow officeholders to go to them for free,” said Lawrence Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center.
In Hacked D.N.C. Emails, a Glimpse of How Big Money Works
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore and Steve Eder | Published: 7/25/2016
The leaked documents from the Democratic National Committee included thousands of emails exchanged by party officials and fundraisers, revealing in rarely seen detail the elaborate, ingratiating, and often bluntly transactional exchanges necessary to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from the party’s wealthy donors. The emails capture a world where seating charts are arranged with dollar totals in mind, where a White House celebration of gay pride is a thinly disguised occasion for rewarding wealthy donors, and where physical proximity to the president is the most precious of currencies.
IRS Gives Opposite Rulings to Convention Committees
Bloomberg BNA – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 7/25/2016
When Cleveland’s host committee for the Republican National Convention applied for charitable tax-exempt status nearly two years ago, approval by the IRS came in just 12 days. Philadelphia’s host committee for the Democratic National Convention was not so lucky. While neither the committee nor the IRS will discuss details, it is clear that approval of the Philadelphia committee’s request for the same charitable tax-exempt status did not come quickly and ultimately was denied. The Philadelphia host committee reportedly is trying to work around fundraising problems caused by IRS disapproval of its exempt status. The full impact of the IRS ruling is not yet clear, partly because the host committee is asking a state court to keep information about its donors under wraps until a federal disclosure report must be filed with the FEC two months after the convention ends.
Lobbyists Celebrate Democratic Party’s New Embrace at Convention
Time – Jay Newton-Small | Published: 7/26/2016
Heather Podesta wore a scarlet letter “L” to the last two Democratic National Conventions, a not so subtle protest over Barack Obama’s ban on lobbyists like her donating money to his cause. Podesta’s scarlet letter is gone this week because Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee have lifted the ban. Podesta is just one of a legion of lobbyists coming out of the proverbial closet this convention, free to raise money, support candidates, and be proud of it for the first time in nearly a decade. Campaign finance reformers have watched the change happen with dismay.
Report: FEC leaders, managers share blame for horrid morale
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 7/26/2016
The office of the FEC’s inspector general for months has conducted employee surveys and interviews in hopes of answering a nagging question: why, specifically, is agency morale so consistently poor? Investigators place the most blame on the six commissioners: three Democratic appointees and three Republican appointees who have regularly criticized one another and frequently deadlocked on high-profile political issues before them. The report came about in response to separate study that ranked FEC staff morale second to last among 41 small federal agencies studied.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alaska – Oil Lobbyist Treated Legislator to Meal after Oil Tax Vote
Alaska Dispatch News – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 7/25/2016
Alaska Rep. Mike Hawker accepted a $78 dinner from an oil company lobbyist the same day Hawker went to Juneau for his first vote in two months, casting the deciding vote on an oil tax bill criticized as being too industry friendly. The meal was purchased by ConocoPhillips lobbyist Michael Hurley on June 6, the same day House Bill 247 was approved 21-to-19. Hawker’s presence was essential because the Alaska Constitution requires 21 votes for passage of a bill. Hawker is suffering from terminal cancer and had not attended a floor session since early April.
California – California Treasurer Cracks Down on Pay to Play
The Bond Buyer – Kyle Glazier | Published: 7/27/2016
California Treasurer John Chiang announced that municipal finance firms seeking state business will be required to certify they will make no contributions to local bond election campaigns. State officials are concerned with “pay-to-play” tactics in which bond counsel, underwriters, and financial advisors are offering to fund or provide campaign services in exchange for contracts to issue the bonds once they are approved by voters. The new policy applies to firms and their employees, and includes both cash and-in kind contributions made either directly or through third parties. Firms that fail to make the pledge will be removed from the state’s official list of acceptable vendors and barred from participating in state-issued bonds.
California – California Wants People to Prove They Are Not Lobbyists
KPCC – Alison Noon (Associated Press) | Published: 7/21/2016
The California Fair Political Practices Commission approved a regulatory change aimed at encouraging so-called shadow lobbyists to disclose their efforts to influence legislation. Lobbyists are required to register with the state if the amount they make for communicating with government officials reaches $2,000 in any given month. The rule change permits investigators to demand evidence about lobbyists’ compensation and financial gain related to contact with government officials. It suggests that suspected unregistered lobbyists testify or provide bills, receipts, or other records to establish their compensation was not used to get access to lawmakers or dine and entertain them.
Texas – City Wins Lawsuit Despite Appearance of Loss
Austin Monitor – Jo Clifton | Published: 7/22/2016
A federal judge ruled a blackout period banning candidates in Austin from fundraising outside of the six months before Election Day is unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel also overturned the dissolution requirements governing candidates’ left-over campaign money. The decision upheld the $350 individual cap on donations as well as the aggregate limit on contributions from persons who live outside the city.
Virginia – As Pick for No. 2, Tim Kaine Sees Gifts Come Under Scrutiny
New York Times – Eric Lipton and Steve Eder | Published: 7/24/2016
With U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine’s selection as Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential running mate, the gifts he received in the four years he served as Virginia’s chief executive and his time as lieutenant governor before that are certain to be cited by his Republican critics as a sign that Kaine is not as squeaky clean as he portrays himself. An examination by The New York Times of archival email traffics from Kaine’s tenure as governor shows he received gifts, in some cases, around the same time he and his staff were considering official government requests from these donors.
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