News You Can Use Digest - March 13, 2015 - State and Federal Communications

March 13, 2015  •  

News You Can Use Digest – March 13, 2015



Clinton: It ‘might have been smarter’ to use a State Dept. e-mail account
Washington Post – Anne Gearan and Philip Rucker | Published: 3/10/2015

Hillary Clinton revealed she had deleted about half her emails from her years as secretary of state, saying she had turned over to the Obama administration all correspondence about government business but had erased records of communications about private matters, like yoga routines and her daughter’s wedding. In a news conference about her exclusive use of a private email account while secretary, Clinton sought to squelch the furor about those communications. She acknowledged it would have been wiser to use a government email for official business, but said she had “fully complied with every rule” and was going “above and beyond” what was required of her in asking the State Department to make public much of her email correspondence. Clinton said she had only convenience in mind in choosing to use just a personal email account.

K Street Aims for Global Expansion
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 3/12/2015

After dropping the word “lobbyist” from its name in 2013, the Association for Government Relations Professionals (AGRP) has added hundreds of new members as the group looks to boost its clout and extend its reach, both geographically and in terms of the professionals it represents. Leading the makeover of the organization formerly known as the American League of Lobbyists is Jim Hickey, who was elected as AGRP’s president in December. Hickey wants to break out of Washington and establish an industrywide database that would connect government affairs professionals at the state, federal, and international levels. If a corporation or grassroots firm, for example, needs to find an advocate with a certain policy expertise within a specific state capital, Hickey wants to be able to provide that resource.

Lindsey Graham One of Several in Senate Luddite Caucus
Politico – Lauren French | Published: 3/10/2015

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on “Meet the Press” that he has never sent a single email in his life. Graham’s complete aversion to email might be an extreme case even in the technologically antiquated Senate, where lawmakers still file their campaign finance reports on paper, but he certainly has plenty of company in the Luddite Caucus. The email habits of lawmakers are suddenly in the spotlight after it was reported that Hillary Clinton used a personal email account as her official correspondence while serving as secretary of state and stored the emails on a private server in her home.

Menendez Is to Face Corruption Charges, U.S. Official Says
New York Times – Kate Zernike and Matt Apuzzo | Published: 3/6/2015

The Justice Department is likely to file criminal charges against U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) for allegedly accepting gifts and lavish vacations in exchange for political favors for a longtime friend and political benefactor. Menendez has been the subject of an investigation for two years centering on his relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen, a South Florida ophthalmologist. According to court papers that were mistakenly and briefly unsealed, prosecutors have been examining whether Menendez improperly tried to persuade Medicare officials in recent years to change reimbursement policies in a way that would make millions of dollars for Melgen, one of the country’s biggest recipients of Medicare funds.

Pope Weighs in on Campaign Finance, but Will He Go Before the FEC?
Washington Post – Al Kamen and Colby Itkowitz | Published: 3/11/2015

Pope Francis warned that campaign donations lead elected officials to act against the interests of the people. “In the financing of electoral campaigns, many interests get into the mix, and then they send you the bill,” said .Francis. He also called for transparency in fundraising for political campaigns. His comments caught the attention of Ellen Weintraub of the FEC, who mentioned it before the panel’s most recent meeting. They joked that maybe the pope would like to testify at an FEC hearing when he visits Washington this fall. “I am happy for anyone to recognize campaign finance; this might be even better than Stephen Colbert,” said Weintraub.

From the States and Municipalities:

Idaho – Chastened, IACI Now Looks Inward
Idaho Statesman – Bill Dentzer | Published: 3/5/2015

The head of Idaho’s pro-business lobby has been placed on temporary leave after sending a profanity-laden email criticizing a state senator and suggesting the group introduce retaliation legislation. The board of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry made the decision regarding President Alex LaBeau. “The president of the organization said some very inappropriate things about impacting the process over here just to spite a specific senator, which is completely and absolutely inappropriate,” said Sen. John Tippets.

Indiana – Ethical Dilemma? House Speaker Brian Bosma Has Ties to Indy Eleven
Indianapolis Star – Tony Cook and Mark Alesia | Published: 3/5/2015

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma revealed he has done legal work for the Indy Eleven soccer team for the past two years. But he did not publicly disclose that work until after the House voted in favor of the $82 million stadium funding proposal for the team, and even then, he did so only after being pressed by reporters to comment on the measure. House Ethics Committee Chairperson Greg Steuerwald said he has done legal work for Keystone Construction Corp., which is owned by Ersal Ozdemir, who also owns Indy Eleven. The revelations come as Bosma and Steuerwald lead a push for ethics reforms in the wake of several high-profile scandals involving state officials.

Kentucky – Anthony Wilhoit to Retire as Head of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission
Lexington Herald-Leader – Jack Brammer | Published: 3/10/2015

Anthony Wilhoit is stepping down as executive director of the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, a post he has held since November 1997. Wilhoit, who will turn 80 this year, said “it’s time for new blood” for the agency that enforces ethics laws and regulates conduct by legislators, lobbyists, and employers of lobbyists. He will remain on the job until the commission finds a replacement. It is taking applications for the job until April 1.

New Jersey – N.J. lobbyists may soon have to pay more to lobby: The Auditor
Newark Star-Ledger – NJ Advance Media | Published: 3/5/2015

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), which oversees the state’s 984 registered lobbyists, is proposing to increase the fee they have to pay to register each year from $425 to $575. The fee for lobbyists has not been increased since 2004. The proposed amendment was published in the latest New Jersey Register. The 60-day comment period now begins, and ELEC will hold a public hearing on May 19.

Pennsylvania – 3 More Philly Pols Charged in Revived Sting Probe
Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy | Published: 3/10/2015

Two state lawmakers from Philadelphia and an ex-legislator have been charged with pocketing cash in an influence-peddling case taken up by District Attorney Seth Williams after being dropped by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane. Reps. Louise Williams Bishop and Michelle Brownlee, and former Rep. Harold James, who last served in 2012, face conspiracy, bribery, and other counts. The arrests raised to six the number charged in the case. They are all accused of improperly accepting cash or gifts from informant Tyrone Ali, a lobbyist working undercover for prosecutors. Kane rejected the case in 2013, saying it was flawed by witness credibility problems, entrapment issues, and allegations of racial targeting.

Rhode Island – New Task Force Formed by the Secretary of State Seeks to Overhaul Rhode Island’s Lobbying Laws
Greenfield Daily Reporter – Jennifer McDermott (Associated Press) | Published: 3/5/2015

A task force formed by Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea working to clarify and strengthen Rhode Island’s lobbying laws met for the first time recently. Gorbea said the executive and legislative lobbying statutes are unnecessarily complicated. Her transition committee recommended raising registration fees for lobbyists and increasing fines for those who do not register. Although the Department of State oversees lobbyists, it cannot independently oversee and enforce the laws and charge offenders, said Gorbea. The secretary of state is not granted subpoena powers for administrative hearings, and the penalties for breaking the lobbying laws are minimal. “Stronger laws discourage bad behavior and penalize those who willfully break the law, and renew people’s faith and trust in government,” said Gorbea.

Virginia – McDonnell Appeal Gains High-Profile Supporters
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky and Laura Vozzella | Published: 3/9/2015

A group of 44 former state attorneys general filed an amicus brief supporting ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s appeal of his conviction on federal corruption charges. The brief argues the charges filed against McDonnell set dangerous precedents surrounding corruption law. In particular, the attorneys general argued the case federalized what should be state public corruption charges and sought to criminalize what they believe should be considered innocuous behavior. A jury determined McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, used the governor’s office to help businessperson Jonnie Williams Sr. promote his dietary supplement company in exchange for $177,000 in loans, personal gifts, and luxury goods. McDonnell was sentenced to two years in prison, his wife to a year and a day.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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