News You Can Use Digest - March 23, 2018 - State and Federal Communications

March 23, 2018  •  

News You Can Use Digest – March 23, 2018





There’s Never Been a Native American Congresswoman. That Could Change in 2018.
New York Times – Julie Turkewitz | Published: 3/19/2018

There are at least four indigenous women running for Congress, three more are bidding for governors’ offices, and another 31 are campaigning for seats in state Legislatures, from both sides of the aisle. The numbers far outstrip past election cycles, longtime observers of native politics say, and they are only partly driven by the liberal energy and #MeToo declarations that have flourished since Donald Trump’s election. More broadly, they are part of a decades-long shift in which native communities, long marginalized by U.S. voting laws and skeptical of a government that stripped them of land and traditions, are moving into mainstream politics.


Bye-Bye Box Seats? Tax Law May Curb Corporate Cash at Games
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Marcy Gordon (Associated Press) | Published: 3/18/2018

K Street lobbyists who helped craft the Republican tax legislation could now be pinched by it. American companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on entertaining customers and clients at sporting events, tournaments, and arts venues, an expense that until this year they could partially deduct from their tax bill. But a provision in the new law eliminates the long-standing 50 percent deduction in an effort to curb the overall price tag of the legislation and streamline the tax code. The provision is one of the many under-the-radar consequences slowly emerging from the new tax law.

Federal Election Officials Failed to Enforce Campaign Finance Requirements on Outside Group in 2010, Judge Rules
Washington Post – Michelle Ye Hee Lee | Published: 3/20/2018

U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper ruled the FEC did not properly enforce campaign finance laws in the case a “dark money” group that was active during the 2010 midterm elections. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington alleged that certain political ads paid for by the nonprofit American Action Network should be considered “electioneering” activity and therefore subject to disclosure requirements of who paid for the messages. The FEC deadlocked along party lines and dismissed two complaints. Cooper said the dismissals ran “contrary to law” and were based on erroneous and narrow interpretations of federal statutes governing the FEC’s enforcement powers.

Judge Rules Defamation Case Against Trump May Proceed
Washington Post – Mark Berman and Frances Stead Sellers | Published: 3/20/2018

A New York judge rejected a bid by President Trump to dismiss a lawsuit relating to his alleged groping of Summer Zervos, who was a contestant on “The Apprentice.” Lawyers for Trump argued he was immune from the suit in state court while serving as president. “Nothing in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the President cannot be called to account before a state court for wrongful conduct that bears no relationship to any federal executive responsibility,” Judge Jennifer Schecter wrote. The ruling raises the possibility that Trump could be ordered to submit to a deposition about his conduct toward Zervos and perhaps other women, as well.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Etowah Sheriff Pockets $750k in Jail Food Funds, Buys $740K Beach House – Connor Sheets | Published: 3/13/2018

A sheriff in Alabama took home as personal profit more than $750,000 that was budgeted to feed jail inmates and then purchased a $740,000 beach house. And it is perfectly legal in Alabama, according to state law and local officials. The state has a Depression-era law that allows sheriffs to “keep and retain” unspent money from jail food-provision accounts. Sheriffs take excess money as personal income and, in the event of a shortfall, are personally liable for covering the gap. In most cases, the public does not know how much money is involved because sheriffs do not need to report extra income of less than $250,000 a year.

Arkansas – Former Arkansas Legislator’s Name Surfaces in Graft Case
Arkansas Online – Doug Thompson | Published: 3/17/2018

An Arkansas judge admitted to accepting $100,000 in bribes from an indicted lobbyist while the judge was a state lawmaker, federal prosecutors said. Jefferson County Judge Henry Wilkins IV admitted to the FBI in February that he took the money from lobbyist Milton Cranford. Cranford, an executive for the nonprofit Preferred Family Healthcare, pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and accepting bribes. Prosecutors say the nonprofit paid bribes through Cranford’s lobbying firms to win state grants and taxpayer money. Prosecutors said Wilkins received the money in the form of donations to a church where he serves as pastor. In exchange for the contributions, authorities say, Cranford counted on Wilkins’ support while he served in the state Legislature from 2011 to 2015.

California – Imperial County Is a Web of Friends and Family. Is It Too Small to Investigate Itself?
Palm Springs Desert Sun – Sammy Roth | Published: 3/15/2018

When Gilbert Otero said he would investigate the Imperial Irrigation District, he took on a case involving more than $100 million in energy contracts and some of the most powerful people in Imperial County, California, where Otero is the district attorney. But there are close ties between Otero and the individuals he is investigating. The Imperial Irrigation District and the county government wield most of the political power, and top officials at those agencies are often friends or relatives of powerful farmers. Many of them have done business together. For some legal ethics experts, the links between Otero’s office and the people he is investigating are a clear sign he should recuse himself and refer the case elsewhere. They are also a sign that Imperial County may be too small to investigate itself.

Florida – In Miami, MCM Thrives on Big County Contracts. Now It Faces the FIU Bridge Catastrophe
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 3/19/2018

Munilla Construction Management (MCM) has a long record of winning contracts and favors from local officials in South Florida, a legacy now facing its harshest test as the firm was behind the Florida International University pedestrian bridge that collapsed and killed six people. The catastrophe threw a spotlight not just on MCM’s large projects, but on its ties to Miami’s political circles as well. In past years, the company has hired both of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s sons – Julio as an executive and C.J. as a registered lobbyist. The mayor’s wife, Lourdes, is a cousin to the Munilla brothers, and C.J. Gimenez has offered the firm pro bono communications advice after the bridge collapse.

Illinois – Denounced by His Party as a Nazi, Arthur Jones Wins Illinois G.O.P. Congressional Primary
New York Times – Liam Stack | Published: 3/21/2018

A Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi has officially become the Republican nominee for a congressional seat in Illinois. Arthur Jones won the nomination after running uncontested in the GOP primary for the Third Congressional District, which includes part of Chicago and its suburbs. Jones’s campaign website contains a page devoted to the Holocaust, which he said in an interview was “a greatly overblown nonevent” and “an international extortion racket.” The state Republican Party has sought to distance itself from Jones in recent weeks, blanketing the district with campaign fliers and robocalls urging voters to “stop Illinois Nazis.” GOP leaders are in talks with several potential candidates to run as an independent in November.

Nevada – Lack of Transparency Questioned in Campaign Theft by DA’s Aide
Las Vegas Review-Journal – Jeff German and David Ferrara | Published: 3/19/2018

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson was not obligated under Nevada law to publicly disclose the theft of nearly $42,000from his campaign account, the secretary of state’s office said. “Money stolen from a campaign account and then returned within a few weeks does not qualify as a reportable contribution or expense,” said Jennifer Russell, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. But some are questioning that interpretation of the statute, saying it goes against the law’s intent to maintain transparency in the election process.

New Mexico – Avenue for Lobbyist Harassment Complaints Unclear
Albuquerque Journal – Marie Baca and Dan Boyd | Published: 3/20/2018

Lobbyists in New Mexico are regulated by the secretary of state’s office, which oversees their registration and financial disclosures and can refer individuals to law enforcement when they are not in compliance with regulations. But the office does not have the authority to investigate harassment or sexual misconduct complaints that involve lobbyists as either alleged perpetrators or victims. Sexual harassment is illegal under the New Mexico Human Rights Act, which defines it as a subset of sexual discrimination and often forms the basis of harassment-related civil lawsuits. But the avenue for state investigation and discipline as it relates to harassment is unclear when one of the parties is a lobbyist.

North Carolina – Cooper Names 8 to North Carolina Elections and Ethics Board
Durham Herald-Sun – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 3/16/2018

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced his initial choices for a new state board that administers both elections and ethics laws, even as he presses his latest legal challenge against the law that created the combined panel. Cooper, a Democrat, appointed eight people – four Democrats and four Republicans, as the law requires. The law took effect March 16 because Cooper decided to let it become law without his signature. There has not been a board seated since last June, the result of extended litigation between Cooper and GOP leaders. That has led to difficulties for the state board and county boards to carry out their responsibilities.

Pennsylvania – Supreme Court Refuses to Stop New Congressional Maps in Pennsylvania
Washington Post – Robert Barnes | Published: 3/19/2018

The U.S. Supreme Court refused an emergency appeal by Pennsylvania Republicans to block the implementation of a new court-ordered congressional map, a decision that all but assures that new district lines making several races more competitive for Democrats will be in place for this year’s midterm elections. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had ruled the state’s congressional map had been warped by partisan gerrymandering and then imposed one of its own. Republican lawmakers said the state Supreme Court had usurped the Legislature’s role in violation of federal law. Generally, the justices stay out of the way when a state’s highest court is interpreting its own state constitution.

South Dakota – ‘Pay to Play’ Questions Emerge in South Dakota Governor’s Race
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – John Hult | Published: 3/18/2018

South Dakota’s campaign finance laws do little to stop companies and citizens who contract with the state from donating to the candidates who might hire them after the election. Individual donors who own or work for state-contracted companies commonly give to candidates, but state law does not require them to disclose their employer or industry. The FEC requires disclosure of occupation and employer for individual donors giving $200 or more to a candidate committee, and 32 states have similar rules. Attempts in Pierre to tighten the laws have fallen short, however. Lawmakers also overturned a voter-backed ethics law called Initiated Measure 22 last year after a judge issued an injunction against it.

Washington – Wash. Gov Signs Universal Voter Registration Law
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 3/20/2018

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a package of bills aimed at increasing voter access in the state, including a measure to preregister 16- and 17-year-olds and another that allows in-person voter registration to occur the same day of an election. Inslee also signed a bill that requires nonprofit organizations, who are not defined as political committees, to file statements with the Public Disclosure Commission if they make contributions or expenditures on campaigns above a specified threshold and to disclose certain contributors, starting January 1, 2019.


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