News You Can Use Digest - July 3, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

July 3, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 3, 2014



As Numbers Grow, Single Women Emerge as Political Powerhouse

New York Times – Jackie Calms | Published: 7/2/2014

Recent elections suggest unmarried women have emerges as a voting bloc that is reshaping the electorate to the Democratic Party’s advantage. In order to prevent Republicans from capturing a U.S. Senate majority in November, Democrats and allied groups are making an aggressive push to woo single women. They seized on the ruling by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority – five men – that family-owned corporations do not have to provide birth control in their insurance coverage, to buttress their arguments that Democrats better represent women’s interests.

How Cozy Can Candidates Be With Political Groups?

The Center for Public Integrity – Rachel Baye | Published: 7/1/2014

Laws vary widely when it comes to how close candidates can be with political backers – what is allowed in one state may be illegal in another. In Florida and Michigan, for example, candidates and supposedly independent groups seemingly work hand in hand, while Connecticut and Minnesota recently affirmed such groups must keep their distance. Meanwhile, federal office seekers operate under an entirely different set of rules on coordination that even regulators cannot agree on.

Terre Haute’s Jim Bopp Jr. a Conservative Titan

Raleigh News & Observer – Mark Bennett (Terre Haute Tribune Star) | Published: 6/29/2014

Attorney Jim Bopp has won nine of 13 cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. He initiated the Citizens United case, which overturned restrictions on spending by corporations and labor unions to support or defeat candidates. Bopp has crisscrossed the nation for more than 30 years, working on more than 150 cases in state and federal courts, knocking down laws he believes inhibit the expression of free speech in campaigns. “In the often arcane world of campaign finance law, he’s a veritable rock star,” said Dave Levinthal, who investigates the influence of money in politics for the Center for Public Integrity.


Congress Quietly Deletes a Key Disclosure of Free Trips Lawmakers Take

National Journal – Shane Goldmacher | Published: 6/30/2014

U.S. House members are longer required to list on their annual financial disclosure reports some privately sponsored trips they take. The change was not publicly announced but was described in an instruction book available to members of Congress on how to fill out the forms. Legislators will still have to provide details about their travel on the House clerk’s website, which is less commonly monitored by reporters, watchdog groups, and others than the financial disclosure reports.

LobbyIt: Aiming to be everyman’s lobbyist

Washingtoon Post – Catherine Ho | Published: 6/30/2014

Four years ago, Paul Kanitra opened LobbyIt, a firm in Washington whose business model was nicknamed by some as “McLobbying.” The firm represents mostly small businesses and little-know associations. LobbyIt does not use retainers – which on K Street is typically $15,000 per month. Instead, it uses set pricing levels of $995, $1,995, $2,995, or $4,999 a month. Kanitra describes the firm’s target audience not as the in-house government affairs manager at a Fortune 500 company, but as “the executive director of a small association in Idaho who hasn’t been in D.C. since their eighth-grade class trip.”

From the States and Municipalities:

California – Complaints of Nepotism Dog California Senate

Sacramento Bee – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 6/29/2014

Concerns about personnel practices and allegations of nepotism are swirling in Sacramento as an investigation proceeds into claims that friends and family of key administrators get special access to taxpayer-funded jobs. Hiring family members is not forbidden in the California General Assembly, and the Legislature is not subject to the same rules that govern hiring in other parts of state government.

Connecticut – Diageo, Pfizer Pay to Settle 2012 DNC Ethics Violation

Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 6/30/2014

Diageo North America and Pfizer agreed to each pay a $5,000 penalty to the Connecticut Office of State Ethics for failing to report spending on receptions each company held during the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Multiple Connecticut state employees, public officials, and/or members of a public official’s family or staff attended each event. Neither Diageo nor Pfizer, both registered as principals in Connecticut, reported the expenses on their lobbyist financial reports.

Kentucky – Legislative Caucuses Rely on PACs, Reports Show

Louisville Courier-Journal – Tom Loftus | Published: 6/30/2014

Each of the General Assembly’s four political caucuses reported their contributions and expenses over the past 18 months to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance recently. A review of those reports show how heavily dependent the caucuses are on the special interests that lobby lawmakers. Of the nearly $1,036,000 raised by the caucuses over the period, about $394,000 – roughly 38 percent – was contributed by PACs affiliated with corporations and trade associations.

Missouri – Freebies Flow at Missouri Capitol; Pols Accept More than $600K from Lobbyists

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Walter Moskop | Published: 7/2/2014

Lobbyists in Missouri spent $680,000 on gifts for public officials during the 2014 legislative session, with nearly all of it going to state lawmakers. It is not clear which lawmakers were the recipients of the vast majority of lobbyist spending. More than $500,000 in gifts went to legislative committees or the entire General Assembly, mostly in the form of receptions and meals. By listing a committee or legislative body as the recipient of the gift, lobbyists do not have to provide names of specific lawmakers.

New York – G.O.P. Power Broker in Albany Is Charged With Lying to F.B.I.

New York Times – Thomas Kaplan and William Rashbaum | Published: 7/1/2014

New York Sen. Thomas Libous is facing charges he lied to the FBI about using his elected position to arrange a law firm job and an inflated salary for his son. An indictment alleges Libous claimed he did not know how his son, Matthew, got the job. It also says Sen. Libous told the FBI he was unaware a lobbying firm was paying part of his son’s salary. It has been previously alleged that Thomas Libous arranged his son’s job and salary in exchange for steering business to the law firm.

Ohio – Ben Suarez Acquitted On All Charges except One – Witness-Tampering/Obstruction of Justice for Letter to SCI Controller

Cleveland Plain Dealer – James McCarty | Published: 6/30/2014

Businessperson Benjamin Suarez was found not guilty of illegally funneling $200,000 to the campaigns of U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. The jury found him guilty of one felony count for tampering with a witness. Prosecutors said Suarez’s family members, employees, and their spouses contributed money to the re-election campaign of Renacci and Mandel’s failed U.S. Senate bid. The donors were then reimbursed with company money. The contributions coincided with acts Mandel and Renacci took on behalf of Suarez’s company, which was facing a lawsuit in California. Defense lawyers maintained Suarez did not willfully break the law.

Rhode Island – Fox Had Loan from Registered Lobbyist for Years

WPRI – Michelle Smith (Associated Press) | Published: 6/27/2014

Documents show former Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox had a personal loan from a registered lobbyist for several years. State Ethics Commission filings show the loan of an undisclosed amount over $1,000 was from lobbyist Ray Rickman. Jason Gramitt, an attorney for the Ethics Commission, said state law does not prohibit a lawmaker from taking a loan from a lobbyist, but it does create a business association. Fox’s activities have been under scrutiny since March, when the FBI, IRS, and other authorities raided his statehouse office and home. He resigned his leadership position the next day.

Vermont – Court: Super PAC not independent enough

Politico – Byron Tau | Published: 7/2/2014

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled a state-level super PAC in Vermont was not “functionally distinct” enough from a sister committee that gives money to candidates and political parties. As a result, the judges found the supposedly separate group might not have been acting independently and can be subject to Vermont’s contribution limits. Campaign finance reformers say the court has taken an important step in actually examining claims about whether an organization is independent, rather than accepting the group’s word on the matter.

Wisconsin – No Conclusion in Inquiry into Scott Walker’s Campaign Fundraising

New York Times – Monica Davey | Published: 6/26/2014

A prosecutor cautioned he has not made a final determination about whether Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his campaign illegally coordinated fundraising among conservative groups during recall elections in 2011 and 2012. An attorney representing special prosecutor Francis Schmitz warned the media and public against jumping to conclusions of guilt based on documents within a once-secret John Doe probe that emerged in a federal lawsuit.

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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