June 27, 2014 •
News You Can Use Digest – June 27, 2014
Sunlight Foundation – Stan Oklobdzija | Published: 6/25/2014
As prospects for any regulations at the federal level seem murky at best, it appears the fight against clandestine political donors may be leaving Washington, D.C. and entering statehouses around the country. The Sunlight Foundation reported that at least 18 bills introduced during the most recent legislative sessions in various states would impose new disclosure rules or amend existing regulations regarding independent expenditures.
Los Angeles Times – Joseph Tanfani | Published: 6/24/2014
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen disclosed that emails sent by Lois Lerner, the former director of the agency’s division that oversaw tax-exempt groups, were lost when her computer hard drive crashed in 2011. Koskinen told Congress that eight other hard drives from potential recipients had crashed as well. Republicans have seized on the missing emails, alleging in hearings that their disappearance is evidence of a cover-up by the IRS over a scheme to target conservative nonprofits seeking tax exempt status.
New York Times – William Alden | Published: 6/20/2014
TL Ventures agreed to pay almost $300,000 to settle charges it violated the Securities and Exchange Commission’s “pay-to-play” rules. The SEC prohibits investment firms from providing paid services to a government client for two years after a contribution by the firm or an employee to candidates or officials who could influence the management of public assets. The agency said TL Ventures continued to receive advisory fees from the city and state pension funds immediately following campaign donations made by an associate in 2011 to the Pennsylvania governor and a candidate for mayor of Philadelphia.
From the States and Municipalities:
Naples Daily News – Matt Dixon | Published: 6/20/2014
Obscure Florida gubernatorial candidate Yinka Adeshina has received 12 campaign contributions worth $3,000 from an address listed as 400 West Park in Tallahassee. But that address would fall in the middle of Tallahassee’s Old City Cemetery. Another six contributions worth $1,500 came from donors who share an address with a Best Buy. Adeshina lists a total of $182,080 in donations, which would make her eligible to receive nearly $100,000 in public funds for her campaign.
Georgia – Changes Ahead for Ga. Ethics Commission
Macon Telegraph – Christina Cassidy (Associated Press) | Published: 6/21/2014
The Georgia ethics commission has been mired in staffing issues, lawsuits, and allegations of outside influence. Now that the commission has opted to avoid what could have been a lengthy court battle and settle with three former employees, a key question is whether the agency will finally begin to make progress on more than 100 cases that have remained opened for months and sometimes years. The commission hopes to jumpstart the process of resolving cases by hiring up to two staff attorneys in the next month or two.
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 6/19/2014
PRP, an advocacy group for the Hawaii Carpenters Union and contractors, spent more than $3 million in 2012 to dismantle Ben Cayetano’s Honolulu mayoral campaign and keep the city’s $5.26 billion rail project on track. Emails obtained as part of Cayetano’s defamation lawsuit against the group provide an unprecedented glimpse of the behind-the-scenes operations of one of Hawaii’s most powerful independent expenditure committees. Such groups are allowed to receive and spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns.
Washington Times – Carla Johnson (Associated Press) | Published: 6/20/2014
The Roosevelt Group, a lobbying firm with close ties to a key subcontractor hired to promote the nation’s health care law in Illinois, hosted a fundraiser for the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) “honoring Pat Quinn,” according to an invitation that lists suggested sponsorship levels of between $2,500 and $20,000. The DGA formed a PAC last fall to support Quinn’s re-election as governor. Critics said the event raises questions about “pay-to-play” in the state’s highly competitive governor’s race.
Indianapolis Star – Alex Campbell | Published: 6/19/2014
In 2011, Indiana hired the private nonprofit Elevate Ventures to choose startup companies to receive taxpayer dollars. An Indianapolis Star investigation has uncovered possible conflicts-of-interest in the arrangement, which has triggered a federal probe. The newspaper discovered a company run by Elevate founder Howard Bates received $500,000 in state money from an Elevate-run fund. Elevate was authorized to distribute the money to the companies connected to Bates without state approval, despite the fact it was public money.
Massachusetts – House Supports Super PAC Disclosure Bill, Boosts Donation Limits
MassLive.com – Colleen Quinn (State House News Service) | Published: 6/25/2014
The Massachusetts House passed legislation that would require corporations, labor unions, and other entities to disclose expenditures in statewide, county, or local races, as well as the sources of their funding, within seven days. The top five donors to an independent expenditure group would also have to be listed in the organization’s television or newspaper advertisement. House Bill 4226 raises the individual limits on annual campaign contributions for any one candidate from $500 to $1,000.
Mississippi – How Cochran Bounced Back from Disaster
Politico – Alexander Burns | Published: 6/25/2014
Following Mississippi’s June 3 Republican primary, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s staff members were crestfallen at the results of an election that deprived the incumbent of an electoral majority. With Cochran forced into a run-off against an aggressive and energetic challenger, a dark mood shadowed his backers in Washington and Mississippi. Yet almost immediately, the Cochran coalition began bouncing back. One aide paraphrased Cochran adviser Stuart Stevens’ primary-night message: “We’re going to figure this out and it’s going to be something you remember for the rest of your life.”
Lincoln Journal Star – JoAnne Young | Published: 6/20/2014
A report by Nebraska Common Cause said special interests spend nearly $14 million a year to influence state lawmakers. But the watchdog maintains it is difficult to measure the full impact of lobbying money on the Legislature. Senators must report only gifts valued over $100. The companies and organizations that hire lobbyists only report total expenditures; food and beverages are exempt. And golf outings, luncheons, holiday gifts, birthday gifts, wedding presents, and tickets to events are difficult to track to specific senators, said the report.
South Carolina – SC Ethics Reform Bill Dies
The State – Andrew Shain | Published: 6/19/2014
South Carolina’s legislative session ended without the Senate voting on an ethics reform measure that Republicans who took the podium to run out the clock denounced as too watered down. The bill’s key components required officeholders to disclose all of their income sources, though not the amounts, and required third-party groups raising money to defeat or elect candidates to disclose their donors and expenses. An ethics bill can be reintroduced in January when a new session begins.
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella, Matt Zapotosky, and Jenna Portnoy | Published: 6/19/2014
Federal investigators have interviewed officials and sought documents in connection with the resignation of then-state Sen. Philip Puckett, which handed Republicans control of the Virginia Senate at a critical time and was connected to job prospects for him and his daughter. Puckett said there was no quid pro quo but withdrew his name from consideration for a top job with the state tobacco commission. But even some of Puckett’s most prominent critics expressed mixed feelings about a federal inquiry into a matter that many considered unseemly but not criminal.
Wisconsin State Journal – Matthew DeFour | Published: 6/24/2014
A federal lawsuit has been filed challenging a Wisconsin law that limits the aggregate amount of money candidates can collect from PACs. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the political arm of conservative group CRG Network. CRG argues its First Amendment rights to free speech and free association have been denied because of the limits. The institute’s legal team previously won a case challenging the cap on aggregate donations by individuals.
Washington Post – Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger | Published: 6/23/2014
The investigation of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his allies over alleged illegal coordination has been challenged as unconstitutional, and it is unclear if it will proceed. Still, the inquiry is being watched closely by campaign strategists and legal experts as a major test of what practices cross the line in the loosely governed and increasingly murky area of big-money politics. The growing influence of super PACs and politically active nonprofits, which can raise unlimited funds, has eroded the once-thick wall between official campaigns and outside interest groups.
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