News You Can Use Digest - June 19, 2015 - State and Federal Communications

June 19, 2015  •  

News You Can Use Digest – June 19, 2015



Jeb Bush Announces Presidential Bid: ‘We will take command of our future once again’
Washington Post – Ed O’Keefe | Published: 6/15/2015

Jeb Bush announced he is running for president, promising to remove Washington as an obstacle to effective government and economic prosperity. Bush is declaring his White House ambitions nearly 27 years after his father was elected president, molding a political dynasty that would propel one son into a governor’s office and another into the White House. But Bush will enter a presidential contest that is unlike any faced by his father, who won the office in 1988, or his brother, who claimed it in 2000.

Neil Young Message to Donald Trump: Stop rockin’
Christian Science Monitor – Jessica Mendoza | Published: 6/17/2015

Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy to the sound of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” but Trump did not have permission to use the song, said Elliot Roberts, Young’s manager. The incident makes the real estate developer the latest candidate to butt heads with a musician about song copyright in a campaign. A spokesperson said Trump, a fan of Young’s music despite their differing views, used the song legally through a licensing deal with the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. But even when a campaign does get copyright permission, artists can still object to the use of their music under other laws that protect their brand or image, or ban implications of endorsement.

Republican Operative Sentenced to 2 Years in Landmark Election Case
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky and Matea Gold | Published: 6/12/2015

A Republican political operative was sentenced to two years in prison after becoming the first person convicted of illegally coordinating campaign donations between a super PAC and a congressional campaign. Tyler Harber said he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway because of his desire to win elections and his belief that the law banning such coordination is routinely ignored. “This shows [the U.S. Justice Department is] willing to venture into areas of criminal enforcement in the 2016 election, beyond what they had done previously,” said Kenneth Gross, a former associate general counsel at the FEC.

Russ Feingold’s PAC Funded Fees, Salaries for Former Staffers, Himself
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel – Daniel Bice | Published: 6/15/2015

Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, co-author of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, founded a PAC that has given only five percent of its funds to candidates and political parties. Instead, nearly half of the $7.1 million that Progressives United PAC has spent since 2011 has gone to raising more money for itself. The data also show the group has paid another sizable portion of money on salaries or consulting fees for Feingold, his top aide, and former staffers. Feingold is taking on U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in 2016 to try to win back his old seat.

From the States and Municipalities:

Illinois – $2M Rauner Donor’s Company Does Business with State, Has Exceeded $50K Limit Past 4 Years
State Journal-Register – Bernard Schoenburg | Published: 6/13/2015

Richard Uihlein, chief executive officer of Uline, a packaging supply company, gave $2 million to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign fund in December. Uihlein’s wife, Elizabeth, is president of the firm, and she donated $25,000 to Rauner in October. The company has done more than $50,000 in business with the state in each of the last four years, which means the contributions may have violated state campaign finance law.

Kentucky – John Schaaf to Head Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission
Connecticut Post; Associated Press –   | Published: 6/16/2015

The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission named current general counsel John Schaaf as its new executive director effective August 1. Schaaf has worked as the commission’s lawyer since 2004, following 16 years as general counsel of the Legislative Research Commission. He helped craft legislation in 1992 that paved the way for ethics reform in the state.

Massachusetts – Lobbyists Were Quick to Donate to Both Baker, Coakley
WCVB; Associated Press –   | Published: 6/13/2015

Lobbyists hedged their bets during the 2014 Massachusetts gubernatorial race, often giving to both Charlie Baker and Martha Coakley. The strategy of contributing to multiple candidates in the same race is not new, according to Pam Wilmot, executive director of Massachusetts Common Cause. “Lobbyists give because they want access – that means access to whoever is elected and the best way to ensure that is to give to both candidates,” Wilmot said.

New York – Education Reforms Spur N.Y. Lobbying ‘Arms Race’
USA Today – Jon Campbell (Gannett Newspapers) | Published: 6/14/2015

Various education interests have spent at least $124 million trying to influence New York lawmakers, officials, and the general public at the state and local level since the start of 2006, including a record of at least $16 million last year. That is in addition to $45.3 million in lobbying expenses reported by the New York State United Teachers union and its New York City affiliate over the past nine years. They are tallied as labor organizations, not education groups, by the state’s lobbying regulator. Add in political spending and the numbers are starker: Education interests and teachers unions have spent $285.5 million on lobbying, campaign contributions, and independent political expenditures over the past decade.

Pennsylvania – Fifth Former LCB Official Accused of Violating State Ethics Laws
Pittsbugh Tribune-Review – Kari Andren | Published: 6/12/2015

A former state Liquor Control Board (LCB) executive was fined for illegally accepting gifts. The Pennsylvania Ethics Commission ordered Timothy Fringer to pay $7,200. The commission said Fringer, the board’s former chief of product management and pricing, accepted gifts from vendors such as meals, golf outings, and tickets to sporting events. Fringer told investigators he was instructed to accept the gifts by Jim Short, the LCB’s former marketing director, and as long as no one complained, “it’s like it never happened.” Short and three other officials in 2014 were fined for a variety of violations stemming from gifts they received from vendors.

Pennsylvania – Some Critical That Officials Caught in Sting Keep State Pensions
Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 6/13/2015

By pleading guilty to violating the state’s conflict-of-interest law, four defendants in a Pennsylvania corruption case are now disgraced. The two legislators in office at the time of their plea had to resign immediately, as required by the state constitution. But former Philadelphia Traffic Court President Judge Thomasine Tynes and the former lawmakers – Michelle Brownlee, Harold James, and Ronald Waters – did not get hit with prison time or have to forfeit their annual government pensions, estimated at $54,000 to $85,000. To critics, the deals seem unduly lenient, especially the failure to go after their taxpayer-financed retirement checks.

Utah – Ex-A.G. Mark Shurtleff Defers Evidence Hearing; Prosecutors Amend Charges
Deseret News – Dennis Romboy | Published: 6/15/2015

Prosecutors amended charges against former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, dropping three bribery counts his lawyer insists were the foundation of allegations that the state’s former top lawyer had operated a “pay-to-play” scheme while in office. Prosecutors say Shurtleff accepted money and gifts like beach vacations and the use of luxury homes and boats while he was attorney general. Seven charges remain against Shurtleff, including accepting improper gifts, obstruction of justice, and a count alleging he tried to bribe a victim to derail an investigation. It appears that prosecutors are tailoring the charges to the evidence, not necessarily scaling back the case, said former prosecutor Kent Morgan. The charge of accepting improper gifts is generally simpler to prove at trial than bribery.

Washington – Lawmakers’ Watchdog Asks for Money
Tacoma News Tribune – Jerry Cornfield | Published: 6/15/2015

The interim executive director of the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has been asking lawmakers for more money in the next state budget to help deal with a backlog of enforcement cases. Under the Senate budget proposal, the job of general counsel would be eliminated and a portion of the savings used to hire a contract lawyer. Also, the Senate approach would axe one position handling requests from the public and another one dealing with the agency’s website and campaign finance database. “This work is important; it is part of that entire ecosystem of good government,” said Fred Kiga, who took over at PDC on June 1.

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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