March 11, 2016 •
News You Can Use Digest – March 11, 2016
Ben Carson’s Small-Dollar Donors Could Keep Yielding Big Money
Center for Public Integrity – Carrie Levine | Published: 3/3/2016
Ben Carson’s database containing personal information on more than 700,000 donors to his presidential campaign could be a big money-maker if supporters’ information is rented to other candidates, political committees, and even for-profit data brokers, that may, in turn, use it to raise money. Some of the primary beneficiaries of renting Carson’s list would likely be his own campaign consultants and political operatives, who typically oversee marketing such lists and administering what remains of the campaign apparatus. A high percentage of Carson’s contributors has not previously given to candidates, which means those donors are less likely to be on other political lists already in circulation. This makes Carson’s supporter database an even more valuable commodity, to the party and to others who want to raise money.
Lobbyists Plan for Battle over Contractor Fair Pay Rule
Bloomberg BNA – Ben Penn | Published: 3/3/2016
A controversial executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose past employment law violations has trade association lobbyists, worker advocates, and attorneys gearing up for a fierce debate on Capitol Hill and in the courts. The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council and the Labor Department are busy finalizing a regulation and guidance to implement the President Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. It requires businesses to disclose any violations of 14 federal labor and employment laws, as well as comparable state laws, for the previous three years to be eligible for contracts worth more than $500,000. It allows agencies to deny contracts based on the information.
The FEC Just Made It Easier for Super PAC Donors to Hide Their Identities
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 3/7/2016
Political donors hiding their super PAC contributions behind shell companies have effectively been given the green light to continue the practice after the FEC could not agree whether to open an investigation into so-called straw donations. Campaign finance law stipulates that donors cannot make political contributions in another person’s name. This law has tended to be breached by employers who privately instruct their employees to donate to political campaigns, with the assurance that they will later be reimbursed. But in the era following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the practices of disclosure have become even cloudier, and mysterious LLC groups have proliferated.
Trump Cracks Down on Protesters
Politico – Ben Schreckinger | Published: 3/8/2016
Donald Trump’s campaign appears to be ramping up efforts to prevent displays of dissent at his often unruly rallies. New tactics include extended barriers cordoning off the press and plainclothes private intelligence officers monitoring the crowd for protestors. Trump has escalated confrontations with protesters, leaving his podium to stare them down and repeatedly lamenting that his supporters cannot retaliate against them. At a rally in Nevada, he said of a dissenter, “I’d like to punch him in the face.” One member of Trump’s private security team, Eddie Deck, said his duties were now weighted towards intelligence work researching potential protesters and assisting uniformed security personnel under the direction of the candidate’s head of security.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alaska – Legislature Pursues More Big Cuts to Campaign Finance Regulators
Alaska Dispatch News – Alex DeMarban | Published: 3/9/2016
The Legislature last year cut funding to the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) by 43 percent. Now, lawmakers are moving ahead with plans to strike another $200,000, reducing the agency’s budget to $591,000, a 57 percent drop from two years earlier. Heather Hebdon, APOC’s campaign disclosure coordinator, said if the latest round of cuts is accepted by lawmakers, it will be harder for her agency to regulate fundraising and spending during busy state elections this summer and fall. APOC also enforces disclosure requirements for lobbyists, a job handled by one employee in Juneau, as well as disclosure requirements for public officials.
California – California GOP Leader Wants to Reinvent Party
The Desert Sun – Laurel Rosenhall (CALmatters) | Published: 3/9/2016
Chad Mayes, the California Assembly’s Republican leader, takes over as the GOP is fracturing at the national level over the presidential nomination, and dwindling in California, where less than 28 percent of voters are now registered Republican. Mayes believes he can make his party relevant in this blue state by moving away from social issues like gay marriage and abortion, and focusing instead on quality of life issues like housing affordability and the need for middle-class jobs. Fueled by his Christian faith and a pragmatic style, Mayes is trying to make poverty alleviation a key focus for Republicans.
Colorado – Audit: Colorado’s ethics commission rarely helps those filing complaints
Denver Post – Joey Bunch | Published: 3/8/2016
A state audit revealed that the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission does a poor job telling people how to file a complaint, what complaints the commission can review, and what the public can reasonably expect to happen to those who commit a violation. Those failings are among the reasons that 50 of the 57 complaints the commission reviewed from 2012 through 2015 were dismissed because the commission did not have authority or jurisdiction over the case, auditors suggested. The commission, which has a one-person staff and no investigators, found just four violations in four years. The agency’s few powers include oversight of gifts to state and some local officials exceeding $59 a year.
Connecticut – Connecticut Election, Information and Ethics Watchdog Agencies Fear Results of Deep Cuts
New Haven Register – Mary O’Leary | Published: 3/3/2016
Connecticut’s watchdog agencies say any additional budget cuts will leave them unable to function. The state is trying to close a $900 million deficit. The executive directors of the Freedom of Information Commission, the State Election Enforcement Commission, and the Office of State Ethics said their collective mission to keep government honest is being threatened. The directors said a big part of each of their jobs is training people to keep them out of trouble. Carol Carson, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said if they hold fewer training sessions, they will have fewer people seeking advice and there will be more expensive enforcement action against state employees, public officials, and lobbyists. “I’d rather give advice to 1,000 people than enforce against 100,” Carson said.
Indiana – State to Locals: You can’t do that. Or that.
Indianapolis Star – Brian Eason | Published: 3/6/2016
Lately, it seems, whenever an Indiana city even thinks about passing an ordinance the General Assembly disagrees with, state lawmakers strip local officials of the authority to do so. To some, the erosion of local authority is nothing short of an attack on local democracy. To others, the practice known as pre-emption is a necessary protection. The recent proliferation of pre-emption bills can be explained in part by Indiana’s political culture and in part by a national conservative movement.
Massachusetts – Mass. Campaign Finance Regulators’ Office Gets Hip to Memes
Boston Globe – Steve Annear | Published: 3/3/2016
Regulators in Massachusetts are using a social media campaign to educate the public about the state’s campaign finance law. An image posted on the Office of Campaign and Political Finance’s Twitter account explained how much money candidates running for office are allowed to collect from donors. “An individual can contribute up to $50 a year in cash to a candidate,” read the message, which used a picture of an enthusiastic man in a business suit being showered with money to accentuate the point. The goal is to make the complex rules and regulations of running for political office more engaging. It is a dramatic change of tactics from the usually staid office.
Mississippi – No State Officials Enforce Campaign Finance Laws
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Mollie Bryant, Geoff Pender, and Katie Royals | Published: 3/5/2016
No government agency claims responsibility for ensuring candidates and officials in Mississippi follow the state’s campaign finance laws. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said no one reviews campaign finance reports filed with his office, and his office does not have the authority or resources to do so. The only campaign finance enforcement under Mississippi law involves disclosure. State law requires the secretary of state to report the names of candidates and elected officials who have not filed campaign finance reports and to fine them. If candidates and elected officials do not pay what they owe within 120 days, the secretary of state is required to notify the attorney general, who can file a suit.
New Mexico – Transparency Legislation Isn’t Quite as Transparent as Billed
New Mexico In Depth – Sandra Fish | Published: 3/4/2016
House Bill 105, which was signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez, aims to make it easier for the public to access information about campaign contributions and lobbyists’ reporting. But the bill also ends a requirement that lobbyists report cumulative spending on lawmakers, and increases the limit for reporting from $75 to $100 per event. If the law had been in effect during 2015, nearly one-fourth of the 4818,000 spent by lobbyists would have gone unreported. The section on lobbyist reporting takes effect July 1, and would apply to lobbyists reports filed in October and January 2017.
New York – Assembly Democrats Introduce Bill to Increase Public Disclosure Requirements for Groups Who Lobby in New York
New York Daily News – Kenneth Lovett | Published: 3/10/2016
A bill introduced in the New York Assembly would amend lobbying disclosure rules. It would also specifically exempt from the definition of lobbying any communications with news outlets, including editorial boards. The legislation would require organizations registered to lobby in New York and that spend more than $5,000 to disclose the names of all donors who gave them more than $1,000. They would also have to disclose the exact amount donated and how the funding was used.
New York – PR Firms File Suit over ‘Hopelessly Vague’ JCOPE Lobbying Definition
Capital New York – Bill Mahoney | Published: 3/8/2016
A group of public relations firms filed suit in federal court against the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) to stop it from putting into effect a rule requiring disclosure of efforts to get editorial columns written for causes. The suit claims JCOPE overstepped its mandate when it adopted an advisory opinion that reinterpreted the definition of the lobbying. The new standard caused an uproar among many public relations professionals, who argued such disclosure would limit their right to free speech as well as the ability of editorial board members and other journalists to talk with such sources about issues and possible articles.
Pennsylvania – Former LCB Chairman Who Took Gifts Drops Out of Ethics Panel
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – Kari Andren | Published: 3/8/2016
Patrick Stapleton, a former chairperson of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, backed out of a National Alcohol Beverage Control Association meeting on the same day a reporter inquired about his appearance. Stapleton was implicated in a 2014 investigation for accepting gifts from vendors. He and was on the agenda of the meeting as a panelist instructing alcohol regulators about ethical behavior. Stapleton was fined more than $7,250 for accepting gifts ranging from golf outings and meals to Philadelphia Phillies tickets and wine and spirits donations for an annual event he and his then-wife operated. A report painted a picture of officials regularly taking advantage of liquor vendors looking for their piece of the Pennsylvania agency’s $2.1 billion in annual sales.
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