June 6, 2014 •
News You Can Use Digest – June 6, 2014
New York Times – John Harwood | Published: 5/29/2014
Surveys have shown past experiences with a product or memories of family and friends using it shaped consumers’ buying decisions. Democrats’ hopes of holding the U.S. Senate this fall rest significantly on the political equivalent of that “brand capital.” In four states that usually lean Republican, Democrats will be running candidates from families with multigenerational records of political success. If at least two of the four legacy candidates can eke out victories, the Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate will be better than even.
U.S. News & World Report – Tierney Sneed | Published: 6/2/2014
Leading up to the last presidential election, the faux conservative host of ‘The Colbert Report” created a super PAC and a secretive “dark money” group on his show. Viewers who saw those satirical segments were significantly better informed about the role of money in politics than viewers of any other news channels, according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Stephen Colbert created Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow with the help of former FEC Chairperson Trevor Potter. “The Colbert Report” was particularly effective because of the detail the show went into, and the narrative arc of its examination that lasted many months throughout the election cycle.
Politico – Anna Palmer and Byron Tau | Published: 6/4/2014
After Patton Boggs’ recent merger with Squire Sanders was finalized, so many lawyers and lobbyists fled the firm that moving trucks lined up in front of its K Street headquarters. One Patton Boggs insider estimated 200 attorneys, lobbyists, and staff, through layoffs, buyouts, and departures, will have left the firm by the time everything settles down. At its peak in recent years, the firm had about 500 lawyers and lobbyists.
Washington Post – Catherine Ho | Published: 6/1/2014
The lobbying industry, once dominated by a handful of big, powerful personalities, has given way to a broader and more grassroots business that has more voices – and must influence more decision makers – than ever before. The Washington Post highlighted some of the lobby firms that are shaking things up, either by starting anew, transforming their structure to do business differently, or experimenting with new ways to broker change through social media and other outlets.
From the States and Municipalities:
Columbus Republic – Philip Rawls (Associated Press) | Published: 6/4/2014
Alabama Ethics Commission Executive Director James Sumner is retiring on October 1, ending more than 17 years as the agency’s top staff member. Sumner made note of his efforts to strengthen the ethics code, which culminated in lawmakers passing legislation that included reducing the amount a lobbyist could spend on entertaining a public official, giving subpoena power to the Ethics Commission, and guaranteeing an annual appropriation to the commission so it would not be subject to legislative whims.
Los Angeles Times – Phil Willon | Published: 6/4/2014
Charges of corruption and gun-running conspiracy notwithstanding, almost 10 percent California voters thought suspended state Sen. Leland Yee should become secretary of state. He was arrested in March and indicted several days later as part of a sweeping investigation into organized crime. Yee had dropped out of the race, but not before a deadline to remove his name from the ballot had passed.
Colorado Independent – Tessa Cheek | Published: 6/4/2014
Political-advocacy group Citizens United is asking for its upcoming film on Colorado politics to be exempt from the state’s campaign finance laws. The group plans to release the film shortly before the upcoming November election, containing images of and messages about Colorado politicians, though it will not expressly advocate a position on races. If the group gains status as a news media organization, it will not be required to disclose its donors or file campaign finance information around the launch and promotion of its film.
District of Columbia – Former D.C. Council Member Michael A. Brown Gets More Than 3 Years in Bribery Case
Washington Post – Ann Marimow and Mike DeBonis | Published: 5/29/2014
Former District of Columbia Councilperson Michael Brown was sentenced to more than three years in prison for taking bribes in an undercover FBI sting, a comparatively stiff sentence from a judge who said “we cannot have city government run this way.” In the sting operation, Brown took $55,000 in cash payments, handed to him in rolls and stacks of $100 bills transmitted in coffee mugs and duffel bags. The undercover FBI agent was posing as a businessperson seeking preferential treatment on government contracts.
District of Columbia – Vultures on K Street? Yes, Birds of a Feather Flock Together
Washington Post – Theresa Vargas | Published: 6/2/2014
Tell people two vultures have made a home at the intersection of K and 11th streets in Washington, D.C. and they will likely ask the same question Charlie Dewitt did. “The bird variety?” he wondered. K Street is renowned for office buildings filled with highly paid, powerful lobbyists who, along with others in the city’s political food chain, are often called scavengers – and worse. “We have vultures and turkeys and other kinds of creatures here,” joked Dewitt, a lobbyist who has worked in Washington for 25 years.
Lewiston Sun Journal – Christopher Cousins (Bangor Daily News) | Published: 6/4/2014
The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices will not enforce the state’s $25,000 aggregate limit on campaign contributions by individuals, based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. The change means anyone can donate as much as they want across a range of candidates, though caps on how much each campaign can receive from an individual remain in place. “The commission has determined that it will not enforce the … aggregate limit … during 2014 unless and until it receives further guidance from the … Legislature or a court …,” according to the opinion.
New York Times – Stephanie Clifford and William Rashbaum | Published: 6/2/2014
A report by New York City’s Department of Investigation accuses former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes of using money seized from drug dealers and criminal defendants to pay for a political consultant. Barry Kamins, the administrative judge for the city’s criminal courts, was also implicated in the case. The report said Kamins violated the judicial code of ethics by advising Hynes on his campaign, offering legal advice, and discussing matters the district attorney’s office was actively prosecuting.
North Carolina – Patrick Cannon Pleads Guilty to Corruption Charge
Charlotte Observer – Ely Portillo and Elizabeth Leland | Published: 6/3/2014
Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. An FBI sting recorded him accepting more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room, and the use of a luxury apartment from undercover agents posing as estate developers who wanted to do business in the city. Cannon was arrested on March 26 and resigned the same day, less than six months after taking office.
The State – Jamie Self | Published: 6/4/2014
A conference committee in the South Carolina Legislature agreed to drop a proposal to establish an independent commission to investigate ethics violations. The compromise reform bill, which is expected to be approved before the legislative session adjourns, raises the annual lobbyist registration fee from $100 to $200. Super PACs would be required to disclose their top five donors and any donor who gives more than $10,000, among other provisions.
Salt Lake Tribune – Robert Gehrke | Published: 6/4/2014
Indicted businessperson Jeremy Johnson told investigators he helped launder tens of thousands of dollars to U.S. Sen. Mike Lee’s 2010 campaign at the request of former Utah Attorney General John Swallow, according to an affidavit. Johnson said gave about $50,000 to other people who then donated to Lee’s campaign, circumventing election law that sets maximum individual donations to candidates.
West Virginia – Ethics Commission Fires Executive Director
Charleston Daily Mail – Dave Boucher | Published: 6/5/2014
The West Virginia Ethics Commission fired Executive Director Joan Parker after a lengthy executive session. Commission members gave no reason for their decision. “If you, commissioners, choose to end my employment, I will leave with my head held high knowing that throughout my tenure I have dedicated my efforts to maintaining the integrity of the Ethics Commission and have done everything within my power, even when it was unpopular, to promote compliance with the ethics act,” Parker said before the vote.
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