News You Can Use Digest – June 23, 2017 - State and Federal Communications

June 23, 2017  •  

News You Can Use Digest – June 23, 2017





As Pot Comes Out of the Black Market, Regulators Face Scrutiny
Boston Herald; Associated Press –   | Published: 6/21/2017

Recent cases in Colorado and Washington are the first known instances of current or former marijuana regulators being accused of having improper dealings with the industry. The two recreational marijuana states are the nation’s oldest, approving legal weed in defiance of federal law in 2012. Watchdogs say the Colorado and Washington cases should spur states to beef up ethics commissions charged with monitoring conflicts-of-interest by government employees. Michigan, a medical-marijuana state, passed a 2016 law banning even relatives of its pot oversight board members from having any financial stake in the marijuana industry.

The Not-So-Bitter Rivalry of Dean Baquet and Marty Baron
Politico – Joe Pompeo | Published: 6/19/2017

The Washington Post’s Marty Baron and Dean Baquet of The New York Times are the two most important newspaper editors in America right now, at a time when the news media are tackling the most consequential story of the past 40 years. Donald Trump’s presidency has revved up the competition for news organizations far and wide; big and small; print, broadcast, and digital. In the process, he has sparked a resurgence of storied legacy outlets like The Times and The Post, each of which has struggled with changes in the news business while doomsayers augured its demise. As with the rest of the media, their “Trump bump” has been a boon in terms of scoops and subscribers.


Despite Concerns About Blackmail, Flynn Heard C.I.A. Secrets
New York Times – Matt Apuzzo, Matthew Rosenberg, and Adam Goldman | Published: 6/20/2017

Senior U.S. intelligence officials knew as early as January that former national security adviser Michael Flynn could have been vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Despite officials’ knowledge of the risks associated with Flynn, he continued to sit in on meetings during which President Trump was briefed on sensitive intelligence. It is unclear whether CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who briefed Trump on intelligence while Flynn sat nearby, was aware of officials’ concerns about Flynn. Many of Trump’s political problems, including the appointment of a special counsel and the controversy over the firing of the FBI director, James Comey, can ultimately be traced to Flynn’s stormy tenure.

Trump Says He Did Not Tape Comey Conversations
New York Times – Mark Lander | Published: 6/22/2017

President Trump said he did not record his conversations with James Comey. the FBI director he fired amid the Justice Department’s probe into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia. The president’s Twitter messages left open the possibility the conversations may have been taped without his knowledge. But they largely confirmed the suspicions of outsiders that Trump had been leveling a baseless threat at Comey when he wrote, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Some legal experts have said Trump’s threat could be used in an obstruction of justice case against him, since it could be interpreted as putting pressure on Comey not to discuss their conversations about the FBI’s Russia investigation.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona: Axiom Partners Rename Lobbying Firm as Bribery Case Unfolds
Arizona Republic – Ronald Hansen | Published: 6/21/2017

A month after a federal bribery case shook Arizona’s lobbying community, the firm whose prominent exe features the same staff as Axiom Public Affairs, without lobbyist Jim Norton, said Kelsey Lundy, the firm’s managing partner. Once viewed as among the most politically connected lobbying firms in Arizona, Axiom’s run came crashing down after Norton’s may indictment in a case alleging he was a conduit for bribes paid by developer George Johnson to former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Gary Pierce through his wife.

California: Lobbying Firm Fined $4,000 for Violating Gift Limit Buying Dinner for Former State Sen. Ronald Calderon
Los Angeles Times – Patrick McGreevy | Published: 6/19/2017

Mercury Public Affairs agreed to pay a $4,000 fine for violating the $10 gift limit on lobbying firms when it provided dinners worth $200 to former state Sen. Ronald Calderon and his wife. The violation was found by a random audit by the state Franchise Tax Board. In October, Calderon was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty in a public corruption case unrelated to the Mercury dinner.

Connecticut: Lobbyists, Corporate PACs Help Legislator Pay for His Travels as RNC Member
Hartford Courant – Jon Lender | Published: 6/17/2017

State Rep. John Frey travels all over the country for meetings he attends as one of Connecticut’s two members of the Republican National Committee (RNC). But Frey does not pay for any it – flights, dining, hotel rooms, and sometimes car service to and from the airport – because his costs are reimbursed by a political action committee he set up six years ago called Leadership Connecticut PAC. Its stated purpose is to support federal candidates for the U.S. House and Senate, but its main activities, arguably, have been to stage the annual fundraisers to sustain itself and to pay for the travels of Frey and Patricia Longo, his fellow RNC member until she retired last year.

Florida: The Miami Beach Mystery PAC Is Under State Investigation
Miami Herald – Nicholas Nehamas, Joey Flechas, and David Ovalle | Published: 6/20/2017

A corruption probe is underway into a controversial political group linked to Miami Beach commissioner and mayoral candidate Michael Grieco. At least one donor to the PAC has been subpoenaed by the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, according to a defense attorney representing the donor. The list of donors to People for Better Leaders is stocked with Miami Beach vendors, lobbyists, and developers with business before the city. Investigators with the state’s corruption task force may be seeking to learn if those donations were a quid pro quo for Grieco’s political favor. Grieco may also have broken a city law that bans candidates and elected officials from asking vendors and lobbyists for donations, either directly or through a third-party.

Hawaii: What Honolulu Lobbyists Don’t Tell You
Honolulu Civil Beat – Anita Hofschneider | Published: 6/19/2017

Honolulu does not require lobbyists to provide any details about how they spend money. About 85 percent of the lobbyists who filed reports said they did not spend anything last year. Nearly three dozen registered lobbyists did not submit any reports, even though mandatory forms were due six months ago. Jan Yamane, who took over the city Ethics Commission last fall, said the current lobbying disclosure process is not working. “We need to debrief this thing, hit the reset button and completely overhaul this process,” Yamane said.

Illinois: Emanuel Friend, Alderman’s Husband Both Illegally Lobbied Mayor Via His Personal Email: Ethics board
Chicago Tribune – Bill Ruthhart | Published: 6/16/2017

A close friend of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as well as the husband of a city council member, face fines for lobbying the mayor through his private emails but failing to register as lobbyists. Alan King, husband of Ald. Sophia King, and James Abrams are the latest targets of the reinvigorated city Board of Ethics. Under the law, Abrams could face a potential fine of more than $520,000. King could face a fine of more than $500,000. Board of Ethics Chairperson William Conlon has signaled the board is unlikely to hand out exorbitant maximum penalties. But Conlon argued the fine needs to be “enough to send a message.”

Kentucky: Ethics Panel Appeals Ruling That Allows Lobbyists to Give Gifts, Money to Lawmakers
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 6/21/2017

The Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission will appeal a recent federal court ruling that allows lobbyists to give gifts and campaign donations to state lawmakers. “We thought it too important not to appeal,” said commission Chairperson George Troutman. A lawsuit filed by State Sen. John Schickel and two Libertarian political candidates argued the ethics laws violate their constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection by restricting their access to people who want to help them. State regulators countered that the laws were meant to prevent bribery at the Capitol. The Registry of Election Finance, the other defendant in the case, has yet to decide whether to appeal.

Kentucky: Fired Lawyer to Get Settlement from Kentucky Over Her ‘Whistleblower’ Case About Sex Toys
Louisville Courier-Journal – Deborah Yetter | Published: 6/15/2017

Jacqueline Heyman, a former lawyer with the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet, reached a financial settlement with the state over her claim she was fired in 2015 after reporting two co-workers were running a “sex toy” business out of the office. Heyman began work as a supervising attorney with the department in April 2015. She was fired before she could successfully complete a six-month probation period and gain merit system job protection. Heyman said she discovered the extent of the online, adult product business when she found a box of such items under the desk of one of the employees. Heyman said she got little reaction after she reported it to her boss so she told the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. A week later, Heyman said she was fired with no explanation.

New York: New York Ethics Agency Hit with Harassment Lawsuit
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 6/20/2017

A former financial auditor at the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics alleges she was fired after reporting sexual discrimination by one of her supervisors to the agency’s leadership. Catherine Webb outlined her accusation in a recent civil lawsuit she filed against the commission in federal court. Webb alleges she was repeatedly subjected to abusive verbal conduct that was “severe, pervasive and frequent.”

North Carolina: Is North Carolina the Future of American Politics?
New York Times – Jason Zengerle | Published: 6/20/2017

Ever since 2010, when Republicans seized control of the North Carolina General Assembly for the first time in a century, and especially since 2012, when they took the governor’s mansion, the state’s politics have been haywire. “It’s more polarized and more acrimonious than I’ve ever seen,” said Carter Wrenn, a veteran GOP political consultant. “And I’ve seen some pretty acrimonious politics – I worked for Jesse Helms.”

Wisconsin: Supreme Court to Hear Potentially Landmark Case on Partisan Gerrymandering
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 6/19/2017

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether judges can throw out legislative maps as being so partisan they violate the Constitution, taking up a case that could put a powerful new check on gerrymandering. The justices agreed to hear arguments on a Wisconsin map that a lower court said was designed to keep Republicans in control of the state Legislature even if they did not win a majority of the votes. The Supreme Court has never struck down a legislative map as being too partisan, or told challengers what standard they have to meet to win a lawsuit. The case, which the court will hear in the nine-month term that starts in October, could open the way for a new wave of election litigation.


State 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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