June 24, 2016 •
News You Can Use Digest – June 24, 2016
Courts, Judges Become Top Political Targets in 2016 Elections
Kansas City Star – Dave Helling | Published: 6/17/2016
Experts say that while complaints about legal rulings are as old as the republic, politicians have started turning virtually every race into a referendum on the courts, threatening public confidence in an independent, apolitical judiciary. Not everyone is equally concerned. In a polarized, dysfunctional political climate, some say, making judges more accountable to voters and taxpayers is healthy and inevitable.
The Kochs’ Powerful Operation Isn’t Aimed at Helping Trump – But It Might Anyway
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 6/20/2016
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) launched ground operations on behalf of Republican incumbents in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin, the earliest the Koch brothers-affiliated group has ever begun making explicit political appeals in the field. But AFP and other groups in the brothers’ political network are mute when it comes to Donald Trump. It is an odd situation for the powerful conservative operation, which was expected to harness its sprawling machinery on behalf of this year’s Republican nominee. But Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and inconsistent policy stances have dismayed Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist who leads the network. Koch-backed groups are now training their resources on boosting vulnerable GOP Senate candidates.
Democrats End Sit-In on House Floor While Promising to Continue to Press for Gun Votes
Washington Post – Karoun Demirjian, Kelsey Snell, and Ed O’Keefe | Published: 6/23/2016
U.S. House Democrats ended their sit-in protest after occupying the chamber’s floor for more than 25 hours, vowing to take the push for new gun curbs to their congressional districts. Even after Republicans had departed for a week-long recess, roughly a dozen Democrats held the floor, with more trickling in, after a night of loud confrontations with the chamber’s GOP leaders. The Democrats had demanded votes on legislation to expand background checks to all commercial sales and to prevent suspected terrorists from being able to buy guns. Republicans dismissed Democrats’ demands, saying they would not reward the minority party for trampling over the chamber’s rules.
Donald Trump Starts Summer Push with Crippling Money Deficit
New York Times – Nicholas Confesore and Rachel Storey | Published: 6/20/2016
Donald Trump enters the general election campaign laboring under the worst financial and organizational disadvantage of any major party nominee in recent history, placing both his candidacy and his party in political peril. Trump loaned his campaign $2.2 million in May and collected $3.1 million in donations, ending the month with less than $1.3 million in bank, a figure more typical for a campaign for the U.S. House than the White House. Hillary Clinton raised more than $28 million in May and started June with $42 million in cash. Trump has a staff of around 70 people, compared with nearly 700 for Clinton, suggesting only the barest effort toward preparing to contest swing states this fall. And he fired his campaign manager after concerns among allies and donors about his ability to run a competitive race.
Fattah Convicted of Federal Corruption Charges
Philadelphia Inquirer – Jeremy Roebuck | Published: 6/21/2016
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was found guilty of all charges in a federal corruption trial. He and several associates had been charged with 29 counts related to bribery, money laundering, fraud, and racketeering. Fattah borrowed $1 million from a donor during his unsuccessful campaign for Philadelphia mayor and later repaid part of the loan by using funds from charitable and federal grants received by his nonprofit. Prosecutors said he also used funds from his mayoral and congressional campaigns to help pay off his son’s student loan debt. In addition, the indictment said Fattah accepted bribes while trying to secure an ambassadorship or appointment to the U.S. Trade Commission for former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Herbert Vederman.
The Next ‘Citizens United’ Is Coming
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 6/22/2016
James Bopp, who successfully argued the Citizens United case before the U.S. Supreme Court, is now the lead lawyer in the most prominent of a series of lawsuits attempting to further rescind campaign contribution limits. The case brought by the Louisiana Republican Party addresses restrictions on how state and local political parties use soft money to influence federal elections. Bopp’s clients argue if independent outside groups such as super PACs are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of such money, there is no reason why state political parties, acting independently of federal candidates, should be treated differently. Bopp says he will not rest until there are as few election rules as possible since he believes too many rules lead to more opportunities to game the system.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – California Political Watchdog Targets ‘Shadow Lobbyists’
Sacramento Bee – Taryn Luna | Published: 6/21/2016
The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is considering a regulatory change to draw “shadow lobbyists,” consultants paid to influence legislation, into the public eye. Loopholes in the law can allow consultants to act as lobbyists without officially registering with the secretary of state’s office, disclosing their clients, or their attempts to sway lawmakers. The FPPC hopes the change increases the incentive for consultants and others working in and around the state’s lobbying industry to keep better records of their activities, while giving the agency more freedom to press cases against shadow lobbyists. The commission is expected to vote on the change at its regularly scheduled hearing on July 21.
Colorado – Colorado Supreme Court to Hear Case Challenging State Ethics Commission’s Role
Denver Post – Joey Bunch | Published: 6/21/2016
The Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear issues in a case involving then-Secretary of State Scott Gessler, marking the first time the justices have looked at how the Independent Ethics Commission operates since it was created in 2006. The ethics panel found Gessler violated the public trust when he used money from his office discretionary fund to attend a GOP lawyer’s event in Florida. He extended the trip to attend the Republican National Convention (RNC). Gessler paid for his lodging and meals at the RNC with campaign funds. The Supreme Court will look at whether the commission exceeded its jurisdiction to ban gifts of more than $53 a year to public officials and bar them from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office.
District of Columbia – Close Council Vote Rejects Campaign Contribution Reform
DCist.com – Rachel Kurzius | Published: 6/21/2016
The District of Columbia Council struck down a proposal to ban campaign contributions from city contractors. Council Chairperson Phil Mendelson had included a provision in a bill to reform the city’s procurement process that would have banned donations from people or businesses that have or are seeking city contracts. He argued that doing so would improve the public perception of the city’s elected officials. But Councilperson Vincent Orange introduced an amendment to strike that language, saying it would lead to “dark money” flooding into city campaigns.
Florida – Florida Lawmaker Wants to Give Away an AR-15
New York Times – Mike McPhate | Published: 6/21/2016
Florida Sen. Greg Evers, a Republican who is running for Congress, said he would hold a drawing whose prize would be an AR-15, a gun similar to the one used by Omar Mateen to kill 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12. Evers said he was considering the giveaway since before the mass shooting, intending to burnish his pro-gun credentials in Florida’s conservative western Panhandle, where he is running to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller. But the timing of the announcement, even as funerals for the shooting victims continued, led many commenters on Evers’s campaign site and his Twitter account to express disgust.
Maryland – Here Are the Top Lobbyists in Maryland for the 2016 Legislative Session
Washington Post – Ovetta Wiggins | Published: 6/22/2016
The return of divided government to Maryland has brought about much change in Annapolis. But one thing that has remained the same since the election of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is Gerard Evans’ upper hand in state lobbying. Evans, a longtime fixture in Annapolis, was the top earner among Maryland lobbyists during the recent legislative session. He reported billing his clients nearly $2 million between November and April, which is about $168,000 more than last year, when he was also the top earner. Bruce Bereano came in second both last year and this year, with reported billings of $1.4 million.
New York – 3 New York Police Commanders Are Arrested on Corruption Charges
New York Times – William Rashbaum and Joseph Goldstein | Published: 6/20/2016
Three New York City police commanders and a business consultant were arrested as part of a wide-ranging federal corruption probe that has also been examining Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fundraising. The latest arrests mark an escalation of an investigation that has led to discipline for nearly a dozen police officers and forced de Blasio to answer questions about whether he engaged in inappropriate fundraising. A criminal complaint accused businessperson Jeremy Reichberg of plying Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, Deputy Inspector James Grant, and others with gifts including prostitutes, sports tickets and expensive trips. As a result, Reichberg was able to secure official favors. De Blasio has said he and his administration have acted legally in all respects. He has not been accused of wrongdoing, and the charges thus far are unrelated to his fundraising efforts.
New York – New York Lawmakers Leave Albany Without Big Ethics Reforms
Albany Times Union – David Klepper (Associated Press) | Published: 6/18/2016
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed to an ethics package that aims to strip pensions from public officers convicted of a felony and add disclosure requirements for political consultants who advise elected officials. The session started in January with some bold proposals to fix the state’s porous campaign finance laws, beef up ethics enforcement, and put limits on the pay lawmakers can make from side jobs. But none passed during the six-month session. For good-government groups and officials long bewildered by Albany’s inaction, the resolution was as disappointing as it was unsurprising.
Oregon – Portland Auditor Says Revolving-Door Lobbying Rules ‘All but Unenforceable’
Portland Oregonian – Brad Schmidt | Published: 6/22/2016
A proposed ordinance in Portland would ban elected officials from lobbying the city and bureau directors from lobbying their agencies for two years after they leave office. It would impose a one-year lobbying ban on other city employees. The ordinance is a compromise. City commissioners expressed reservations about a more restrictive version of the bill that was introduced in April. City Auditor Mary Hull Caballero also wants to raise the fine for violating the city’s lobbying rules to $3,000. The new rules would require any group that spends more than $1,000 lobbying in a quarter to disclose a detailed list of each contact with city officials. Right now, that level of transparency is required only for groups that spend at least eight hours lobbying in a quarter, a provision that would continue.
Wisconsin – As the Government Accountability Board Ends, What’s the Future for Wisconsin Campaign Finance Regulation?
Capital Times – Katelyn Ferral | Published: 6/19/2016
Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, born in bipartisanship from a legislative scandal in 2001, was the only nonpartisan model of its kind in the country with six former judges appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. It was armed with a budget unfettered by Legislative oversight to investigate campaign finance, ethics, and lobbying complaints. Its dissolution, which came with a rewrite of the state’s campaign finance rules, is a necessary reform to some but step backwards for others who question whether violations of campaign finance law will be aggressively policed.
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