News You Can Use Digest - June 12, 2015 - State and Federal Communications

June 12, 2015  •  

News You Can Use Digest – June 12, 2015



Eyeing 2016, G.O.P Embraces Digital Strategies, but Doubts Persist
New York Times – Ashley Parker | Published: 6/10/2015

With the 2016 campaign already underway, Republicans are eager to show they have learned the lessons of past election cycles and are placing a premium on hiring top people to handle digital strategy and tactics. This type of work – often described in political circles as digital, data, and analytics – encompasses many areas, from building email systems for small-dollar fundraising to generating buzz on social media to analyzing data to help direct ads at specific groups of voters. But their immediate problem is slightly more low-tech: the basics of supply and demand. “Shopping around for a digital data firm was already difficult, and when you’re one of 20 possible candidates in a party that has yet to establish its own expertise in this area, it’s even harder,” said Sasha Issenberg, the author of “The Victory lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.”


Kevin McCarthy’s Flair for Fundraising Fuels His Swift Rise to Power in House
Los Angeles Times – Noah Bierman and Evan Halper | Published: 6/5/2015

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the new House majority leader, commands a multimillion-dollar political operation featuring lavish meals, opulent getaways with lobbyists, and privately chartered aircraft. In the two years leading up to last fall’s election, McCarthy, through his re-election campaign and leadership PAC, spent $140,000 on steakhouses alone. He paid $426,000 to companies that charter private jets, covering 46 trips. And he raised at least $10.5 million for his own and party political committees. That spending and fundraising have fueled one of the fastest rises to power in congressional history.

Senator Would Limit Lobbyist Money That Fueled Liberal Allies
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine and Michael Beckel | Published: 6/4/2015

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced the Lobbying and Campaign Finance Reform Act, a bill that would, among other things, change the way registered lobbyists can support campaigns and also tweak the requirements for who must register as a lobbyist. This latter change would be accomplished by nixing the 20 percent rule, which says that only people who spend more than 20 percent of their time on lobbying activities must register as lobbyists. This has allowed many lobbyists to avoid registration, which can obscure lobbying activity from the public. The bill would also ban registered lobbyists from bundling campaign contributions and keep members of Congress from asking lobbyists for financial support while Congress is in session. Bennet introduced the same bill in 2014, but it never got out of committee.

Shaun McCutcheon Blew Up Campaign-Finance Law and Became a GOP Hero. Then He Set His Sights on Paris Hilton.
Washingtonian Magazine – Luke Mullins | Published: 6/7/2015

A few years ago, Scott McCutcheon was running his own engineering firm near Birmingham, Alabama, and leading a fairly anonymous life. He had, however, begun writing checks to benefit Republican candidates across the country. Before long, his ambitions for a more conservative America collided with the complex world of campaign finance, including the law that capped how much money an individual can donate. The Supreme Court in McCutcheon v. FEC ruled the limits were unconstitutional restrictions on free speech. McCutcheon now travels the country telling his story and has been on television programs such as Meet the Press. And his victory has gotten him invited to a lot of parties, hobnobbing with Republican politicians, as well as celebrities like Paris Hilton.

Two FEC Officials Implore Agency to Curb 2016 Election Abuse
USA Today – Fredreka Schouten | Published: 6/8/2015

FEC Chairperson Ann Ravel and Commissioner Ellen Weintraub are filing a formal petition, urging their own agency to write rules to clamp down on political spending and unmask the anonymous money in elections. FEC petitions of this kind typically are made by outsiders – organizations or individuals trying to spur the nation’s election regulators take up some matter. Ravel said no sitting commissioner has ever filed such a petition in the agency’s 40-year history. The six-member commission is locked in partisan gridlock, however, often deadlocking on major cases. The action will not force the FEC to start writing rules, but such petitions typically trigger an opportunity for public comment.

Why So Many Women Are Raising Money for Hillary Clinton
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 6/7/2015

Energized by the prospect of helping Hillary Clinton make history, many women are activating their personal networks for the first time to pool contributions for her presidential campaign, helping Clinton tap into new sources of cash as she assembles what is expected to be a more-than-$1­ billion operation. Their efforts come ahead of the public launch of a formal program by the campaign to organize female fundraisers. Analea Patterson, a lawyer in Sacramento, said she decided to take on the project after her eight-year-old daughter asked her why there has never been a female president. “I didn’t have a good answer – I have two daughters, and I want them to grow up in a world where they don’t see barriers for women,” said Patterson.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Legislation Puts More Enforcement in Campaign Finance Reporting Laws
Decatur Daily – Mary Sell | Published: 6/9/2015

Senate Bill 241, which was sent to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley for his signature, amends current law to clarify when campaign contributions are received and expenditures are made. Under the legislation, a donation must be reported either within 10 days after a check is received or at the time of deposit, whichever is earlier. Expenditures are made the day they are authorized. The bill also gives the state Ethics Commission the power to interpret and enforce campaign finance laws, issue advisory opinions, issue penalties for inaccurate reports, and hear appeals of penalties levied by the secretary of state or local probate office.

California – Businesses with Stake in California Politics Utilize Capitol Grounds
Sacramento Bee – Jeremy White | Published: 6/7/2015

Advocacy outside the Capitol building is part of the daily rhythm of California politics. On any given day, interest groups organize rallies on the steps or lawn to promote or condemn bills, often with legislators urging participants on. By contrast, corporate-sponsored events are often free of any explicit legislative focus. But the vents do offer increased visibility and exposure to policymakers and their staff. Any such occasion serves a dual purpose, said political consultant Steven Maviglio. “It’s always the carrot-and-stick approach: the lobbyists do the heavy lifting inside the building, and the soft and cuddly stuff is on the outside,” Maviglio said.

Hawaii – Contractor Campaign Contributions Raise Concerns of Corruption
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 6/10/2015

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Hawaii law that bans government contractors from donating to candidates. But the state cannot block individuals from contributing to campaigns, even if they own a company that has ongoing contracts with state and local governments. The same rule applies to top executives, employees, and family members of government contractors. Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Kristin Izumi-Nitao said such contributions are lawful as long as they are within legal limits and the money does not come directly from the company’s treasury, such as through a reimbursement or end-of-year bonus. “That’s why you see a lot of these business owners giving from their own pocket,” Izumi-Nitao said.

Hawaii – Ethics Director Survives Political Challenge
Honolulu Civil Beat – Ian Lind | Published: 6/10/2015

The Hawaii Ethics Commission took no action against Les Kondo, the panel’s executive director, after completing an evaluation of his job performance stemming from recent criticism that his office has overstepped its bounds in enforcing ethics rules. After three-and-a-half hours behind closed doors in executive session, the commission emerged to announce it had completed its evaluation and that further reviews would be conducted in the future as situations arise.

Massachusetts – Baker, State GOP’s Use of Federal Funds Questioned
Boston Globe – Frank Phillips | Published: 5/8/2015

Since Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker took office in January, his campaign committee has used the state Republican Party’s staff and its headquarters to solicit, collect, and organize donations at events to bulk up his depleted political account, according to several party officials and others involved in the fundraising for the governor. This is despite a 1998 Massachusetts law banning the use of federal funds for state political activities. Watchdogs say the practice of using federal funds is contrary to the statute’s purpose of ensuring only money raised and disclosed according to state laws is used to influence state elections.

New York – Carl Heastie’s Campaign Spending Blurs Line between Political and Personal
New York Times – Russ Buettner | Published: 6/8/2015

New York Assemblyperson Carl Heastie’s campaign spending received little attention during his first 14 years in office. But in February, he became speaker, one of the most powerful positions in state government. Heastie pledged to enact ethics reform, but a review of his campaign disclosure records suggests he has frequently used political donations to burnish his lifestyle. In addition to keeping his car in good repair, his campaign money has been used to cover expensive restaurant and nightclub bills, evenings in a karaoke bar with his staff, and tickets to football games. State law prohibits the use of campaign funds for personal purposes. A Heastie spokesperson said the speaker had always followed the applicable laws and all of the spending in question was for legitimate political purposes.

Pennsylvania – Fourth Defendant in Sting Case Pleads Guilty
Philadelphia Inquirer – Angela Couloumbis and Craig McCoy | Published: 6/8/2015

Pennsylvania Rep. Michelle Brownlee pleaded guilty to accepting money from an undercover informant who videotaped the conversations in a bribery-related probe. Brownlee, of Philadelphia, became the fourth official to admit to taking money or gifts in return for official acts in the investigation. She pleaded guilty to a conflict-of-interest charge, was sentenced to 18 months of probation, and agreed to resign her House seat. Brownlee admitted to accepting $2,000 wrapped in a napkin while providing the informant posing as a lobbyist special access to her office.

Rhode Island – Ex-RI House Speaker Fox Gets 3 Years in Prison
Providence Journal – Katie Mulvaney | Published: 6/11/2015

Former Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox was sentenced to three years in federal prison on charges of bribery, wire fraud, and filing a false tax return. The judge also ordered him to pay $109,000 in restitution. Fox was accused of taking $52,000 bribe to help grant a liquor license to Shark Sushi Bar and Grill while he a member of the Providence Board of Licenses. He was also accused of using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses such as his mortgage, car loan payments, and American Express payments for purchases at stores such as Tiffany’s and Urban Outfitters.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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