News You Can Use Digest - March 20, 2015 - State and Federal Communications

March 20, 2015  •  

News You Can Use Digest – March 20, 2015



Evangelicals Aim to Mobilize an Army for Republicans in 2016
New York Times – Jason Horowitz | Published: 3/15/2015

David Lane travels the country trying to persuade clergy members to become politically active. His hope is the politicized pastors will help mobilize congregations that have been disheartened by the repeated failure of socially conservative candidates, and by a Republican Party that has softened its opposition to same-sex marriage. It is an organizing approach far different from those in the days when larger-than-life leaders could activate evangelical voters simply by anointing a candidate. But close observers of evangelicals and their political involvement say Lane is emblematic of a new generation of leaders who draw local support or exert influence through niche issues or their own networks.


IRS May Broaden Rule to Police Political Nonprofits
Politico – Hillary Flynn and Rachel Bade | Published: 3/18/2015

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said the agency may expand a yet-to-be-released rule governing 501(c)(4) social welfare groups to include political groups known as 527s, which focus on elections. It could require them both, as well as other types of tax-exempt organizations, to operate under the same definition of “political activity.” The law is currently vague, requiring that 501(c)(4)s operate “primarily” for social welfare. It is one of the reasons the IRS found itself in hot water for pulling tea party groups for extra scrutiny between 2010 and 2012.

Rep. Aaron Schock to Resign amid Spending Scandal
Washington Post – Mike DeBonis, Robert Costa, and Paul Kane | Published: 3/17/2015

U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) will resign on March 31 following questions about spending by his office and campaign. Schock has faced a torrent of bad publicity that began when it was revealed he had his office redecorated – for free – in the style of the PBS series “Downton Abbey.” Schock repaid $40,000 for the redecoration, but the initial story set off a series of reports on his lavish spending habits. Subsequent reports detailed a dozen charter flights worth over $40,000 on donors’ planes and $24,000 in campaign funds spent on concerts and events. The Chicago Tribune published a report raising questions about the use of campaign funds to finance the construction and sale of a house that Schock owned in Peoria.

The ‘Moneyball’ Effect on K Street: The influence game gets scientific
Washington Post – Catherine Ho | Published: 3/15/2015

Companies rooted in data analytics are attempting to change the way lobbying is done in Washington, D.C. At least four companies have introduced new ways to sell data-based political and competitive intelligence that offers insight into the policymaking process. They are turning lobbying, which was once based entirely on personal connections, into more of a science, and the idea is gaining traction among the field’s most established power brokers. In some ways, technology is just automating and verifying knowledge a lobbyist may already have, based on instincts and experience. But access to statistics is now key to selling lobbying services to clients, who increasingly want empirical evidence to back up claims about a lawmaker’s reputation.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – Big Money Arrived Too Late for L.A. Election Debate
Los Angeles Times – David Zahniser | Published: 3/15/2015

The campaign behind Charter Amendments 1 and 2, which changed Los Angeles’ election dates and gave some officials an extra 18 months in office, reported its funding from the union that represents most Department of Water and Power employees 90 minutes before the polls closed. That money was part of a larger phenomenon in this year’s campaign season: big contributions that arrived too late to be disclosed on mailers or, in some cases, too late even to be part of the public debate.

Connecticut – Rowland Sentenced to 30 Months, a Decade after Last Imprisonment
New York Times – Kristin Hussey and Marc Santora | Published: 3/18/2015

Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in a political consulting scheme, exactly one decade after he was ordered behind bars in an earlier scandal that forced him from office. Rowland committed the latest crimes as he maneuvered to insert himself in two separate congressional campaigns. He was convicted on charges he conspired to conceal payment for the work, which he knew would bring unwelcome publicity to the candidates because of his criminal history. Prosecutors said Rowland was paid $35,000 to work on the failed 2012 campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley and conspired to hide those payments through a consulting contract with a business owned by her husband. They say he tried to strike a similar deal with another failed congressional candidate.

Florida – Marco Rubio’s House of Horrors
Politico – Marc Caputo | Published: 3/16/2015

A house in Tallahassee jointly owned by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and former U.S. Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) could be a headache for Rubio if he goes ahead with an expected run for president. The property is a stubborn symbol of both a politically problematic friendship and lingering questions about Rubio’s personal finances, which dogged him on the campaign trail in 2010 and may do so again. Rubio’s critics are waiting to make hay of any revelations that may come of the federal campaign finance investigation of Rivera and to point to their status as roommates during the years when Rivera allegedly engaged in illegal campaign activities.

New Mexico – Freshman Lawmaker Determined to ‘Pay My Own Way’ at the Roundhouse
KRQE – Matt Grubs | Published: 3/17/2015

New Mexico Rep. Jim Dines agreed to run for a House seat with the condition that he would not take campaign money from lobbyists or special interests. When Dines got to Santa Fe, he continued his independent streak. He refused to accept all the coffee mugs, jewelry, and free food that normally find their way onto a lawmaker’s desk during the session. Dines does not think a free meal or a stuffed animal or even free golf passes from a lobbyist equate to a promise to vote the way that lobbyist would prefer. But he said that does not really matter. “The perception of the public is … there’s a reason things are being given,” said Dines.

New Mexico – House Democrat Questions Lobbyist Bill Delay, Seeks Probe
Taos News – Steve Terrell (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 3/16/2015

State Rep. Brian Egolf wants an investigation into why the New Mexico House delayed sending a bill on lobbyist disclosure to the Senate. Egolf says the delay in sending the measure to the Senate likely killed it as the legislative session nears its end. House Bill 155 would require lobbyists to disclose what issues or causes they have been hired to represent. It also would extend how long the state keeps lobbyist records. The House approved the legislation on March 7 but did not send it to the Senate until March 13. Normally, bills are sent within a day.

North Carolina – Sex, Romance Would Be a Conflict of Interest under NC General Assembly Proposal
Raleigh News & Observer – Colin Campbell | Published: 3/17/2015

The North Carolina Ethics Commission in February ruled that sex between a lobbyist and state official is not a gift that must be formally disclosed. Some lawmakers now want to make it clear that such relations require officials to step back from governmental action. House Bill 252 says an official must avoid acting if the official is married to a lobbyist and the lobbyist or the company the person works for could gain financially. It also applies if the two are dating or have a sexual relationship.

North Dakota – Lawmakers Say ‘No’ to Letting Voters Decide on State Ethics Commission
Dickinson Press – Mike Nowatzki (Forum News Service) | Published: 3/16/2015

The North Dakota House defeated a resolution that would have allowed voters to decide if a state ethics commission should be established. Assistant Minority Leader Corey Mock, the prime sponsor of House Concurrent Resolution 3060, said the lack of an ethics agency creates a perception problem for the state, and he questioned why lawmakers would want to wait until something egregious happens before creating one. But Rep. Scott Louser said while some states have a culture of corruption, North Dakota has a culture of openness and accessibility.

Texas – In Dallas, Most Ethics Complaints Go Nowhere
Dallas Morning News – Elizabeth Findell | Published: 3/15/2015

The Dallas City Council recently took steps to cut down on the number of frivolous complaints filed with the city’s Ethics Advisory Commission, and to allow the city to reimburse the subjects of such complaints for their defense costs. But ethics complaints, frivolous or otherwise, are rare at City Hall, shows a review by The Dallas Morning News. And when a complaint is filed, the chances are slim that anything will happen as a result. Of the 69 complaints filed since 2001, six were immediately declared invalid because they were submitted incorrectly or related to activities by people not affiliated with the city. Of the remainder, 56 were dismissed by a preliminary panel review.

Vermont – Senate Grumbles about Lobbyist Disclosure Bill
Seven Days – Terri Hallenbeck | Published: 3/17/2015

The Vermont Senate passed Senate Bill 93, which would require registered lobbyists, principals, and lobbying firms to disclose advertisements or advertising campaigns that they spend $1,000 or more on during a legislative session. The advertising report requirement is in addition to lobbyists’ current obligations to file expenditure reports, and the bill would increase the number of times per year lobbyists need to file those expenditure reports from three to five.

Washington – Zombie Lobby Descends on Capitol to Rally for Expanding Film and TV Tax Incentive Program
The Daily Journal – Rachel La Corte (Associated Press) | Published: 3/17/2015

Supporters of Washington’s film and television industry staged a mock zombie apocalypse at the Capitol as part of their lobbying efforts on a measure to expand a tax-incentive program designed to lure more projects to the state. More than 200 people, including actors, crew, and support staff, staged a daylong shoot for a spot they planned to release later in support of Senate Bill 6027, which would increase the amount of money available every year under Washington’s tax incentive program for the industry. Dozens of actors dressed as zombies were part of action scenes where the script included monologues or conversations about the bill.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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