July 3, 2015 •
News You Can Use Digest – July 3, 2015
As Donald Trump Surges in Polls, Democrats Cheer
Washington Post – Philip Rucker | Published: 7/1/2015
With the Republican Party on a mission to woo Latino voters, one of its presidential candidates has been enmeshed for two weeks in a feud over his inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists,” Donald Trump said in his campaign announcement speech. The comments, and many more since, have prompted an uproar among Latino groups and a series of nasty break-ups between Trump and various corporate partners. His outlandish rhetoric and skill at occupying the national spotlight is also proving to be dangerously toxic for the GOP brand, which remains in the rehabilitation stage after losing the 2012 presidential race.
Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Follow the Money
Politico – Tarini Parti and Jonathan Topaz | Published: 6/28/2015
Working almost exclusively from his website, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has raised about $8 million so far for his presidential campaign with an average donation of around $40. But Sanders, who has been rising fast in recent early-state polls, is missing an opportunity to capitalize on his momentum with a progressive base that has been without a standard-bearer since U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren declined to run. “I frankly don’t get the restraint ….,” said Harvard University professor Lawrence Lessig, adding that some think Sanders is ruining his presidential chances by not having a super PAC. Sanders faces the daunting task of finding a way to stay competitive in the Democratic primaries against one of the most potent pair of fundraisers in party history, Bill and Hillary Clinton, who are expected to count their receipts on Hillary’s behalf in the billions of dollars.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona – Justices Rule 5-4 That Independent Panels Can Draw Election District Lines
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 6/29/2015
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s congressional map, declaring the use of an independent redistricting commission that drew House district lines in the 2012 cycle did not violate the Constitution. About a dozen states have experimented with redistricting commissions that have varying degrees of independence from the state Legislatures, which ordinarily draw election maps. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected the Arizona Legislature’s contention that it alone has power over redistricting. She said the decision by voters to turn reapportionment over to an independent commission “was in full harmony with the Constitution’s conception of the people as the font of governmental power.”
California – Ex-State Sen. Leland Yee Pleads Guilty to Racketeering in Corruption Case
Los Angeles Times – Lee Romney | Published: 7/1/2015
Former California Sen. Leland Yee pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge in an organized crime and public corruption case. He could face a maximum of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in October. The FBI arrested Yee and 19 others in 2014 during a series of raids targeting a Bay Area organized crime ring. Yee was accused of soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for providing help from Sacramento. The FBI also alleged that Yee, who was running for secretary of state at the time, conspired to connect an undercover agent with an international arms dealer in exchange for campaign contributions.
Florida – How Marco Rubio Turned Political Star Power into a Soaring Personal Income
Washington Post – Tom Hamburger and Sean Sullivan | Published: 6/29/2015
During his nine years in Tallahassee, as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio rose in prominence and ascended to the state House speakership, he became increasingly well-compensated as he walked a narrow line between his work as a lawmaker and an employee of outside firms with interests before the state government. An analysis shows about 80 percent of his total income during his House tenure came from Florida law firms that lobby state and local governments. Rubio’s annual income grew from about $72,000 when he was elected to the state House in 2000 to $414,000 in 2008, when his two-year speakership ended.
Maine – Combative Maine Governor Becomes a Party of One
New York Times – Katherine Seelye | Published: 6/28/2015
In the last few weeks, Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s belligerence has surprised even his critics, and prompted some to raise the specter of impeachment. In a standoff that began with differences over tax policy, LePage has alienated just about the entire Legislature, including his fellow Republicans and onetime allies.
New York – Ex-N.Y. State Senator Gets Seven Years in Prison for Bribery
Albany Times Union – Tom Hays (Associated Press) | Published: 7/1/2015
Former New York Sen. Malcolm Smith will spend seven years in prison for a scheme to bribe his way onto the ballot for the 2013 New York City mayoral election. Smith wanted to be mayor but sought to avoid a Democratic primary. He instead decided to obtain the backing of GOP leaders in three boroughs so he could run as a Republican. Prosecutors said he authorized bribes totaling about $200,000. The five other politicians who were arrested with Smith were convicted or pleaded guilty.
New York – IG: State vendor lavished OMIG director with gifts, booze
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 6/25/2015
A new report accused Joseph Flora, the former director of the New York Office of Medical Inspector General (OMIG), of improperly accepting gifts – including meals, alcohol, and a $130,000-a-year job offer – from a company that has a multimillion-dollar contract with the state. Health Management Systems (HMS) has had multiple contracts with OMIG since 2006. Flora was forced to retire from his state job in 2014 after a probe of his ties to the company. Separately, as a client of a registered lobbyist throughout the entire time period, HMS was subject to certain prohibitions on giving gifts to public officials. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics announced it had reached a settlement under which HMS would pay a $75,000 penalty.
Ohio – Lobbyist a Constant in Columbus’ Politics
Columbus Dispatch – Mark Ferenchik and Lucas Sullivan | Published: 6/28/2015
Lobbyist John Raphael has been a presence in Columbus, Ohio for almost 40 years. He has been an aide to a state senator and a member of the Columbus City Council, helped run a restaurant that was frequented by politicians, and currently represents eight clients at City Hall. And now he is at the center of a political and legal firestorm. In a plea agreement, former Redflex Chief Executive Officer Karen Finley said she passed money through Raphael and the Ohio Democratic Party to elected officials in Columbus to obtain contracts for red-light cameras. Council President Andrew Ginther, running this year to succeed Mayor Michael Coleman, has been subpoenaed in the matter, as has Coleman.
Oregon – How Much Pot Can Lawmakers Receive as a Gift? Oregon Democrat Has Some Advice
Portland Oregonian – Denis Theriault | Published: 6/30/2015
The Oregon Government Ethics Commission’s handbook for elected officials spells out a lot of rules in its section on gifts, especially when the people giving the gift have a financial interest in that official’s work. But none of those rules cover marijuana, which is legal in Oregon but not nationally. Rep. Ann Liniger offered some advice in an email to colleagues, recommending they know the value of the quantity of marijuana they are offered so as not to violate the $50 limit on gifts. But Lininger also sought to clarify her advice when asked about it by reporters. “My recommendation is that elected officials not accept gifts of cannabis,” said Linder.
Oregon – Kate Brown Signs Final Ethics Reforms, Mentions ‘Chaos and Confusion’ of Kitzhaber’s Last Days
Portland Oregonian – Denis Theriault | Published: 7/1/2015
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the last of three ethics-related bills she requested after Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned amid an influence-peddling scandal. House Bill 2019 expands the Oregon Government Ethics Commission from seven members to nine, while speeding up its timelines for investigating complaints and giving legislative leaders a larger role in appointing its members. House Bill 2020 clarifies that the governor’s partner is a public officials who must join file conflict-of-interest forms. It also raises bans the governor and first partner, and all other statewide elected officials, from accepting speaking fees.
Pennsylvania – Lack of Funding for State Ethics Commission Invites Corruption, Experts Worry
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – Kari Andren | Published: 6/27/2015
The number of staff members at the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission now stands at 17, down 30 percent from the 24 who once worked there. The commission’s funding topped 2009 levels for the first time this year at just more than $2 million. But this year’s $222,000 increase went to the bare essentials: upgrading outdated computers and software and hiring one investigator, the first hire in six years. Executive Director Rob Caruso said with its funding and staffing levels, the commission cannot fully investigate all of the 400 to 500 sworn complaints filed each year. One expert said Pennsylvania’s lack of funding for its watchdog office invites corruption.
Texas – John Wiley Price Associates Enter Guilty Pleas, Agree to Testify
Dallas Morning News – Kevin Krause and Ed Timms | Published: 6/30/2015
Two people have pleaded guilty in a federal corruption probe of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is accused of accepting nearly $1 million in bribes. Christian Lloyd Campbell was a consultant for Price. Campbell pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. Price, who awaits trial on conspiracy and fraud-related counts, allegedly accepted bribes to leak confidential information to help Campbell’s clients win contracts. Gallery owner Karen Manning pleaded guilty to subscribing to a fraudulent income tax return. Prosecutors say Manning sold African art for Price in a scheme to hide his illicit profits.
Virginia – With McAuliffe in Office, Old Friends Find New Opportunities
Lexington Herald-Leader – Alan Suderman (Associated Press) | Published: 6/26/2015
After Gov. Terry McAuliffe took office in early 2014, some of his friends – who had never lobbied in Virginia before – started registering as lobbyists with several companies interested in contracting with the state. Among the companies are technology and health care businesses, including some Medicaid-related firms. McAuliffe has made expanding Medicaid a top priority for his administration. He has so far been blocked by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
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