News You Can Use Digest - March 21, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

March 21, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – March 21, 2014







Lobbyist Faces $5 Million Fine for Allegedly Failing to File Disclosure Reports

Washington Post – Holly Yeager | Published: 3/18/2014

Federal prosecutors said Alan Mauk and his firm, Alan Mauk Associates, did not file required quarterly lobbying reports at least 13 times between 2009 and 2013. In addition, they are charged with failing to file semi-annual reports on political contributions on at least 13 occasions, also in violation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act. The law carries a fine of up to $200,000 for each violation. House and Senate officials notified Mauk at least 22 times about the missing reports, according to the civil complaint.

RNC Chair Calls for Reversal of ‘Soft Money’ Ban to Finance Conventions

Washington Post – Matea Gold and Philip Rucker | Published: 3/18/2014

The U.S. Senate approved a House bill that takes $126 million over 10 years out of the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and authorizes it for use in pediatric medical research. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said President Barack Obama would sign the legislation. Republican National Committee Chairperson Reince Priebus said political parties should be able to raise “soft money” to pay for their presidential nominating conventions now that federal funding for the quadrennial events will be cut off.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – Former Fiesta Bowl Chief Sentenced to 8 Months in Prison

Arizona Daily Star – Jacques Billeaud (Associated Press) | Published: 3/13/2014

John Junker, the former chief executive officer of the Fiesta Bowl, was sentenced to eight months in federal prison for violating campaign finance laws. He became the sixth person to be sentenced in a scheme in which bowl employees were reimbursed for donating federal, state, and local candidates. The scandal also exposed the lavish spending and perks the Fiesta Bowl heaped on lawmakers and employees, though no charges were filed involving those perks.

California – Highlighting Democratic Losses, Republicans Block California Campaign Finance Bill

Sacramento Bee – Jeremy White | Published: 3/17/2014

California Democrats’ loss of a legislative supermajority stifled their push to change the state’s campaign finance law. Senate Bill 27, which fell one vote short of passage, sought to lift the veil on outside campaign spending by compelling nonprofits to identify their donors if contributions hit certain thresholds in a given election cycle.

California – San Diego’s Ethics Commission Seeks to Rein in Independent Committees – Joe Yerardi | Published: 3/14/2014

The San Diego Ethics Commission proposed reforms that would restrict the activities of independent political committees in the city. They are permitted to raise unlimited funds from nearly any source but are prohibited from coordinating strategy with candidates’ campaigns. At a recent meeting, the first in a months-long process, the commissioners debated the suggested changes.

Colorado – Investigation: Lobbyists skipped $90K in fines to Colorado

KUSA – Brandon Rittiman | Published: 3/15/2014

Lobbyists in Colorado are required to register and file disclosures stating who is paying them and how much. State law says the fines are charged to the person who registers as a lobbyist, not the organization they work for. This means groups can keep on influencing public officials even if some of the lobbyists who worked for them owe thousands of dollars to the state.

Georgia – Ordinary Citizens Find They Can Have an Impact at the Capitol

Augusta Chronicle – Walter Jones (Morris News Service) | Published: 3/19/2014

Many regular citizens show up at the Capitol and attempt to influence Georgia lawmakers. Angela Bean and Jan Horne, for example, spent a lot of time at the statehouse this year for various causes. “We know our being here is important; if people are going to come down here, the legislators know we’re representing [others] who aren’t here that feel the same way,” said Bean.

Indiana – Lawmaker with Industry Ties Worked to Nix Nursing Home Ban

The Post Tribune – Tom LoBianco (Associated Press) | Published: 3/17/2014

On the surface, Indiana Rep. Eric Turner had nothing to do with a last-minute decision to defeat a proposed nursing home moratorium that would have harmed his son’s business. But behind the scenes, Turner played a much different role, urging fellow Republicans during a private caucus meeting to defeat the moratorium. Last year, The Associated Press reported Turner had pushed a measure to benefit a client of his daughter, who is a lobbyist.

Maryland – Actor Kevin Spacey to Promote ‘House of Cards’ Tax Credit at Annapolis Reception

Washington Post – John Wagner | Published: 3/20/2014

Gerard Evans, an Annapolis-based lobbyist for “House of Cards,” has invited the entire Maryland General Assembly to a local wine bar on March 21 to meet the show’s star, Kevin Spacey. The event is scheduled just a few days after the Senate voted to increase a tax credit that rewards production companies that choose to film in the state. The House has yet to act on the bill. “House of Cards” has been the biggest beneficiary of the credit in recent years.

New Jersey – Attorney General to State Police: Stop photographing protesters at Chris Christie town halls

Newark Star Ledger – Jenna Portnoy | Published: 3/19/2014

After criticism that the action violated civil liberties, New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman banned state police from taking photographs of hecklers and protesters at Gov. Chris Christie’s now-weekly town hall meetings. At least a dozen people were thrown out of a recent town hall after shouting criticisms at Christie. They complained about how his administration is distributing federal recovery money and questioned the governor’s role in a political payback scandal orchestrated by his aides.

North Carolina – Tweak to N.C Law Protected Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Pits

Greensboro News and Record; Associated Press –   | Published: 3/17/2014

In 2013, a coalition of environmental groups sued to force Duke Energy to clean up nearly three dozen leaky coal ash dumps spread across North Carolina. The company turned to the state Legislature for help. Documents and interviews show how Duke’s lobbyists prodded Republican lawmakers to tuck provision in a regulatory reform bill that allowed Duke to avoid any costly cleanup of contaminated groundwater leaching from its unlined dumps toward rivers, lakes, and the drinking wells of nearby homeowners.

Ohio – Cincinnati Lobbyist Pleads Guilty Over Unreported Gifts

Cincinnati Enquirer – Chrissie Thompson | Published: 3/19/2014

John Rabenold, vice president of governmental affairs for Axcess Financial, which runs Check ‘n Go, will be sentenced on May 1 for a pair of misdemeanor counts of filing false lobbying disclosure forms. Authorities said Rabenold failed to disclose meals and gifts he provided to Ohio lawmakers on his filings in 2010, as the payday lenders tried to hold back efforts to pass tighter regulations on the industry.

Ohio – Ohio Case Gets Serious and Satirical Attention before Supreme Court Hearing

Coshocton Tribune – Deirdre Shesgreen (Gannett Newspapers) | Published: 3/17/2014

Weighing in against an Ohio statute that makes it a crime to lie about a candidate, the Cato Institute filed a brief co-written by humorist P.J. O’Rourke with the U.S. Supreme Court using satire to poke fun at what it calls an “Orwellian” law that violates the First Amendment. The justices will not decide whether the law is constitutional but instead examine whether the plaintiffs have standing. Experts say that question, while seemingly technical, is important. And the underlying issues, touching on politics and free speech, are even more vital.

Pennsylvania – City Council Approves Ban on Cash Gifts to Phila Officials

Philadelphia Inquirer – Claudia Vargas and Tony Graham | Published: 3/20/2014

The Philadelphia City Council passed an ordinance that bans the city’s officers and employees from receiving any cash from a person seeking business or official action, while allowing non-monetary gifts up to $99 in value annually per donor. Mayor Michael Nutter is expected to sign the bill into law. City Board of Ethics Executive Director Shane Creamer said his agency would start working on new regulations once Nutter signs the measure.

Pennsylvania – Kane Shut Down Sting That Snared Phila. Officials

Philadelphia Inquirer – Angela Couloumbis and Craig McCoy | Published: 3/16/2014

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane shut down an operation that allegedly showed a handfull of Philadelphia politicians, including four members of the city’s state House delegation, accepting bribes and unreported gifts. The sting has not led to charges against the accused, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The report shows the probe seems marred with political head-butting between Kane and state prosecutor Frank Fina, who led the investigation. Kane called the investigation poorly conceived, badly managed, and tainted by racism, saying it had targeted African Americans.

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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