June 20, 2014 •
News You Can Use Digest – June 20, 2014
New York Times – Ashley Parker and Jonathan Martin | Published: 6/15/2014
For all the talk about how partisan polarization is overwhelming Washington, there is another overlapping force at play: voters who are not deeply rooted in an area increasingly view politics through a generic national lens. It was newcomers from other parts of the country and even abroad to Virginia and Mississippi, more than any other voters, who most crucially rejected two influential Republican incumbents – House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran – in recent primaries.
USA Today – Richard Wolf and Mary Orndorff Troyan | Published: 6/19/2014
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that public employees are protected from retaliation when they testify in court about misconduct they observed on the job. Public employees who are called to testify are protected by the First Amendment just as other citizens are, and should not have to between “the obligation to testify truthfully and the desire to avoid retaliation and keep their jobs,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The decision clarified previous rulings in which the court has said public employees have free-speech rights when they are acting as citizens, not when they are testifying to what they learned in their jobs or are required to speak about because of their specific duties.
Washington Post – Zachary Goldfarb and Juliet Eilperin | Published: 6/17/2014
President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order barring federal contractors from hiring or firing employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Obama is not expected to sign the order for weeks, as the White House finalizes details, including possible exemptions for religious nonprofit organizations. Administration officials said the president decided to act unilaterally in the absence of momentum for legislation with broader protections.
New York Times – Derek Willis | Published: 6/18/2014
A report by Daniel Tokaji and Renata Strause of Ohio State University surveys the state of campaign finance and finds the relationship between candidates and like-minded independent groups is characterized by subtle cooperation, not outright coordination. For campaigns targeted by super PACs and other outside groups, the feeling is often one of helplessness. “It was like a giant poker game and I wasn’t even sitting at the table,” said a Senate campaign manager quoted in the report.
From the States and Municipalities:
Arizona Republic – Cathryn Creno | Published: 6/19/2014
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal said he is the author behind several anonymous blog posts that referred to welfare recipients as “lazy pigs” and Planned Parenthood as the cause of abortions among African-Americans. The comments date back to 2011 and were posted on political blogs. Huppenthal said he wrote them under different pseudonyms so he could have a more open dialogue without his position influencing the debate. Some experts say it is an ethical problem when elected officials do not state their opinions publicly.
Washington Times – Christina Cassidy (Associated Press) | Published: 6/13/2014
The state has settled whistle-blower complaints by three former Georgia ethics commission employees for a total of $1.8 million. The settlements follow a jury verdict that awarded more than $1 million to a fourth employee, former commission Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman. The state will pay $1 million to the panel’s former deputy, Sherry Streicker, $410,000 to former IT specialist John Hair, and $477,500 to former staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein.
Chicago Sun-Times – Sandra Guy and Art Golab | Published: 6/13/2014
Billionaire hedge-fund founder Ken Griffin’s $2.5 million donation to the campaign of Republican Bruce Rauner has been termed the largest single donation in an Illinois governor’s race in the post-Watergate era. The limit on individual contributions is usually $5,300 in Illinois. But the law allows those caps to be lifted when contributions or loans from a candidate or candidate’s family surpass $250,000. Rauner gave $500,000 to his own campaign in November.
Massachusetts – Bill Would Increase PAC Disclosure
Boston Globe – Frank Phillips | Published: 6/18/2014
The Massachusetts Legislature is expected to pass a bill this summer that would increase disclosure requirements for super PACs. The bill would also double the amount of money individuals can give to state candidates from $500 to $1,000 a year, the first change to those limits in 20 years. The disclosure crackdown, also aimed at nonprofit advocacy groups that fund television ads, would go into effect immediately. The new individual donation limits would not take effect until next year.
Columbus Dispatch – Randy Ludlow | Published: 6/14/2014
Ohio Rep. Dale Mallory could face criminal charges for failing to disclose that lobbyist John Rabenold treated him to two meals and a Cincinnati Bengals game. Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said Rabenold agreed to work with the FBI and Legislative Inspector General Tony Bledsoe in ongoing investigations into lawmakers who did not report gifts or accepted illegal gifts. The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee is expected to review the case and decide whether to make a referral to O’Brien for potential charges.
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Sabrina Eaton | Published: 6/16/2014
The U.S. Supreme Court allowed a challenge to an Ohio law banning lies in political campaigns to move forward. The court ruled two advocacy groups could challenge the state law that makes it a crime to make knowingly or recklessly false statements about political candidates that are intended to help elect or defeat them. Lower courts had dismissed the case, saying the organizations seeking to challenge it had not faced imminent harm sufficient to give them standing to sue. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said the groups “have alleged a credible threat of enforcement” of the law and so were not barred from pursuing their challenge to it.
Pennsylvania – Improvements Seen in Phila. Lobbying Web Site
Philadelphia Inquirer – Alisha Green (Sunlight Foundation) | Published: 6/12/2014
The story of Philadelphia’s lobbying website highlights some of the problems that governments face with sharing this crucial data. Providing the information with enough detail and in a format that is easy to analyze and reuse is something few local jurisdictions have been able to accomplish so far. Philadelphia knew what it needed to do to improve lobbying transparency, but finding a way to implement those changes was the problem, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation.
South Carolina – An Ethical Mess in South Carolina
The Center for Public Integrity – Corey Hutchins | Published: 6/17/2014
An ethics scandal involving the House speaker and difficulty in passing reform legislation are raising concerns about South Carolina’s legislatively dominated government structure, the efficacy of self-policing lawmakers, and the integrity of the state’s institutions. South Carolina earned an ‘F’ from the State Integrity Investigation, which graded states on their transparency, accountability, and risk for corruption. But despite calls for substantive reform from media, public interest groups, and the governor, the status quo remains.
The Olympian – Brad Shannon | Published: 6/13/2014
A Thurston County judge rejected efforts by the Grocery Manufacturers Association to squelch a lawsuit in which Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson accuses the trade association of laundering millions of dollars in last fall’s campaign. Ferguson has accused group of setting up a special fund to disguise the source of money spent to defeat Washington’s Initiative 522. But the judge scrap the state’s requirement that political committees collect at least $10 from 10 different registered voters in state before spending in a Washington campaign.
The Olympian – Brad Shannon | Published: 6/17/2014
How often is “infrequent” when it comes to state lawmakers accepting free meals from lobbyists? Washington’s Legislative Ethics Board spent nearly two hours recently taking testimony on the issue and then grappling with the answer. So far, the board has considered several proposals, from as few as three meals annually to as many as 52 per year. It is currently taking comment from the public, lobbyists, and lawmakers before settling on a limit.
Wisconsin State Journal – Mary Spicuzza | Published: 6/19/2014
Newly released documents show prosecutors allege Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of a nationwide “criminal scheme” to illegally coordinate with outside conservative groups. Prosecutors say Walker, his chief of staff, and others who worked for him were discussing illegal coordination with a number of national organizations and prominent figures, including Republican strategist Karl Rove, to fend off recalls targeting the governor and GOP state senators in 2011 and 2012.
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