News You Can Use Digest - June 17, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

June 17, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – June 17, 2016



A New Phase for Trump’s Media War
The Hill – Niall Stanage | Published: 6/15/2016

Media coverage of Donald Trump is shifting in a more negative direction as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee opens another front in his war with the Fourth Estate. The Trump campaign revoked press credentials for The Washington Post, initially objecting to a headline regarding remarks he made about President Obama and the mass shooting in Orlando. But coverage from The Post, as well as The New York Times, on Trump’s speech on the massacre included some phrases that are sure to stoke his ire once again. To Trump’s critics, that language is a sign that news media are making an appropriate and long-awaited effort to hold Trump to account. His supporters, however, will no doubt see it as the injection of liberal opinion into news stories.

After Orlando, a Political Divide on Gay Rights Still Stands
New York Times – Jeremy Peters and Lizette Alvarez | Published: 6/15/2016

The deep divide over gay rights remains one of the most contentious in American politics. And the murder of 49 people in an Orlando gay club has, in many cases, only exacerbated the anger from Democrats and supporters of gay causes, who are insisting that no amount of consoling words or reassuring Twitter posts change the fact that Republicans continue to pursue policies that would limit legal protections for gays and lesbians.  Some say identity politics have overtaken the tragedy in Orlando, with its combustible mix of issues that have long divided Americans: guns, gays, God, and immigration.

On Donald Trump, Republicans Keep Distance in Different Ways
New York Times – Jennifer Steinhauer | Published: 6/15/2016

For Republican lawmakers, there is no avoiding reporters in the Capitol, and no escaping controversy brought on by the party’s presumptive presidential nominee. Some, like the #NeverTrump crowd that includes U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, have it easy. It is no surprise where they stand on Donald Trump, and they consistently criticize him. But not everyone has it so simple.

Russian Government Hackers Penetrated DNC, Stole Opposition Research on Trump
Washington Post – Ellen Nakashima | Published: 6/14/2016

The Democratic National Committee’s computer systems were compromised by hackers linked to the Russian government, in one of the largest known breaches of an American political organization. A security firm hired by the Democratic Party found two known entities with ties to the Russian government had separately hacked the party’s information-technology infrastructure. It was reported that the party’s entire file of opposition research against Donald Trump had been copied. Presidential campaigns can be intelligence gold mines for foreign adversaries. There is immense interest in how future candidates would treat foreign countries, address trade, build their transition teams, and appoint to cabinet level positions.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Michael Hubbard, Alabama House Speaker, Is Convicted on 12 Felony Ethics Charges
New York Times – Alan Blinder | Published: 6/10/2016

A jury found Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard guilty on 12 of 23 counts of public corruption, agreeing with prosecutors that he used the influence and prestige of his political offices to benefit his companies and clients. The verdict automatically removes Hubbard from the Legislature and the speaker’s office. Prosecutors accused Hubbard of using his position as speaker and as former chairperson of the state Republican Party to try to obtain $2.3 million in work and investments. The charges included that he directed campaign work to his printing company; solicited investments and help to find employment from lobbyists and company executives; and used the power of his office to benefit his clients through legislative action or lobbying the governor’s office.

California – Former State Sen. Ron Calderon’s Guilty Plea in Corruption Case Marks Blow to Political Dynasty
Los Angeles Times – Joel Rubin and Patrick McGreevy | Published: 6/13/2016

Former California Sen. Ronald Calderon, accused of taking bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as Hollywood filmmakers, agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud. His brother, ex-Assemblyperson Thomas Calderon, pleaded guilty to a money laundering charge in connection with the case. The Calderon brothers were members of a political dynasty going back several decades in the state before they were ensnared in the federal probe. Ronald Calderon had the undercover agent hire his daughter, make a $5,000 payment toward his son’s tuition, and give $25,000 to a nonprofit group the brothers used to pay themselves. In exchange, Calderon agreed to vote for film tax legislation and hire the undercover agent’s purported girlfriend for his staff.

Connecticut – Agency Approves Settlement That Would End Probe of Democrats’ Spending On Malloy Re-Election
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 6/15/2016

The Connecticut Democratic Party and State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) are settling a case involving Gov. Dannel Malloy’s 2014 re-election campaign. The party agreed to make a $325,000 payment to end the dispute over whether it illegally spent money from a federal account on mailers to benefit Malloy, who was participating in the state’s public campaign financing program. The federal account can accept political contributions from state contractors, unlike the party’s state fund. The SEEC will drop a pending lawsuit seeking a court order that the Democratic Party comply with an investigatory subpoena.

Hawaii – Honolulu Ethics Director Quits Over Direction Commission Is Headed
Honolulu Civil Beat – Chad Blair | Published: 6/15/2016

Honolulu Ethics Commission Executive Director Chuck Totto has resigned, effective immediately. Totto’s relationship with Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration was contentious from the beginning with questions about funding by lobbyists for the mayor’s inaugural luau. The rift was furthered with disagreements on the commission’s budget, as well as the validity of city council votes and Caldwell’s support of the rail project in view of contributions to their political campaigns by rail interests. Totto was placed on a one-month leave after an investigation into management procedures, and was hit with a major restriction upon his return.

Nevada – Nevada Bill Kept Legislators from Being Investigated
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Bethany Barnes | Published: 6/11/2016

The Nevada Ethics Commission is set up to police “public officers,” but legislators hold a special standing that grants them some immunity. The idea is that lawmakers need to be free to make decisions without fear of political retribution. As it stands now, politicians can say the ethics panel investigated a complaint and they were cleared, when in reality the commission was simply powerless to take action. League of Women Voters President Sondra Cosgrove said having no Ethics Commission would be better than having one that is essentially a fraud because it can rarely act. “Nevada is ‘Zombieland;’ it looks like we have lots of good laws and enforcement mechanisms, but as soon you try to actually engage with one, you get your brains eaten,” said Cosgrove.

New York – How Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s Problem-Solver, Became a Problem
New York Times – Jesse McKinley and Vivian Yee | Published: 6/13/2016

It was all but impossible to imagine New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo without Joseph Percoco, his closest aide and the mainstay of his life in politics. But it took only a few days to end the relationship. Federal investigators subpoenaed records related to Percoco from a state ethics board. Then, the governor learned federal agents had raided Percoco’s home, looking for evidence he and his wife had improperly received thousands of dollars from companies that had done business with the state. Cuomo has repeatedly named Percoco and another former aide, Todd Howe, as the prime targets of the investigation led by Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

South Carolina – General Assembly Passes Ethics Reform for Lawmakers’ Income Disclosure, Independent Investigations
Charleston Post and Courier – Maya Prabhu | Published: 6/15/2016

The South Carolina Legislature approved two ethics reform bills after years of trying. One bill would require lawmakers and other public officials disclose sources of private income, while another would provide independent ethics investigations of ethics complaints against legislators. Under the bills, ethics complaints against legislators would be investigated by a revamped State Ethics Commission, which would determine if there is probable cause to the complaints and if so would send them back to House and Senate ethics committees to determine guilt and any penalty. Legislators and public officials currently must report sources of government income, payments from lobbyists, and some government contractors but not private sources.

Virginia – Two Years Ago, Eric Cantor Lost His House Seat. Was It Just in The Nick of Time?
Washington Post – Roxanne Roberts | Published: 6/15/2016

As vice chairperson of Wall Street investment bank Moelis and Co., Eric Cantor circles the globe advising companies on how to position themselves in the global marketplace. Two years ago, he was the rising star of the Republican Party, the presumptive heir to the speakership of the House, until he was humiliated in a primary election by a political novice. Cantor was the first sitting House majority leader in history to lose his congressional seat. Some called it one of the greatest political upsets of modern times. It was also a cautionary tale. In hindsight, that contest was not just a GOP primary election, Cantor says. It was a referendum on establishment politics, broken promises, and angry voters’ growing distrust of Washington. He was at the epicenter of a populist uprising.

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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