March 28, 2014 •
News You Can Use Digest – March 28, 2014
USA Today – Gregory Korte | Published: 3/24/2014
The IRS says a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court or Cabinet secretary should be considered a “candidate” for federal office and is drafting rules to limit how nonprofit groups advocate for or against such nominees. The change in defining a candidate is part of an effort by the Obama administration to clarify how much political activity certain nonprofits can engage in, following last year’s revelation that IRS agents had held up tax-exempt applications for tea party groups.
From the States and Municipalities:
Sacramento Bee – Laurel Rosenhall and Jeremy White | Published: 3/26/2014
California Sen. Leland Yee has been charged with conspiring to traffic in firearms and public corruption as part of a major sting operation spanning the Bay Area. A criminal complaint alleges Yee did favors for an undercover FBI agent in exchange for campaign contributions. Prosecutors said Yee also offered to facilitate a meeting between the undercover agent and an arms dealer, and discussed the types of weapons the agent might need.
Denver Post – John Ingold | Published: 3/21/2014
At least three officials at the state agency in Colorado that regulates marijuana businesses have found work doing cannabis industry consulting after leaving the department. The officials say they adhered to ethics rules in switching from the regulators to the regulated, and an expert said the moves are not necessarily a conflict, noting such public-to-private switches are common in many regulated industries. But the moves do show the increasing legitimization of the marijuana industry. And they have caused concern among remaining state officials, who say the moves could send the wrong message to the public.
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 3/24/2014
Three self-reported complaints were recently accepted by the State Elections Enforcement Commission, all in relation to campaign contributions that donors fear could run afoul of Connecticut’s sweeping ban on donations from contractors. A one-year ban on additional state business is a potential penalty for a principal or employee making a prohibited contribution. Connecticut law places the burden for knowing the statute on the donors, not the campaigns or political committees that are the recipients.
Tampa Bay Times – Steve Bousquet | Published: 3/26/2014
Billionaire Mike Fernandez was co-finance chairperson of Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign, gave $1 million to his re-election effort, and helped raise much more by opening two of his homes to wealthy Republican donors. Fernandez sat near the first family at the State of the State speech before everything fell apart with his resignation followed by leaked e-mails filed with frustration and armchair quarterbacking, a rare public display of campaign dirty linen.
Reno Gazette-Journal – Sandra Chereb (Associated Press) | Published: 3/26/2014
A group that ran hundreds of television advertisements supporting Brian Sandoval for governor in 2010 has agreed to a $40,000 fine for failing to register as a PAC in Nevada. The Alliance for America’s Future, a Virginia group that supports Republican candidates, and the office of Secretary of State Bob Miller reached a settlement on his suit against the organization. Miller said the civil fine is the largest ever imposed for a campaign finance violation in Nevada.
Newark Star Ledger – Ted Sherman | Published: 3/27/2014
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did not know of his top aides’ plan for a politically motivated traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, according to lawyers hired by the Christie administration to investigate the “Bridgegate” scandal. But while clearing Christie and his senior staff, the report urged the appointment of a chief ethics officers within the governor’s office. And it called for a restructuring of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
North Carolina – Mayor Cannon Resigns after Corruption Arrest
Charlotte Observer – Mark Washburn, Michael Gordon, and Jim Morrill | Published: 3/27/2014
Patrick Cannon resigned as mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina after he was arrested on public corruption charges, as federal law enforcement officials alleged he accepted a trip to Las Vegas, use of a luxury apartment, and more than $48,000 in cash in exchange for helping smooth out municipal obstacles for undercover agents posing as investors. Cannon had been in the mayor’s office only since early December.
Philadelphia Inquirer – Craig McCoy and Angele Couloumbis | Published: 3/24/2014
State senators are proposing bills to ban Pennsylvania lawmakers from accepting cash gifts. Lloyd Smucker said the legislation was prompted by stories about an aborted sting investigation by the attorney general’s office that captured five Philadelphia politicians, including four state legislators, accepting cash or money orders on tape. Smucker said he was surprised the state allows lawmakers to accept cash gifts, as long as they report them on their annual financial-disclosure forms.
Columbus Republic – Michelle Smith (Associated Press) | Published: 3/25/2014
Federal and state authorities have refused to comment on the target of their investigation since a raid on Rhode Island Rep. Gordon Fox’s office and home. Fox resigned as House speaker the next day and said he would not seek re-election, but he did not directly address the probe. In his legal practice, Fox performed loan closings and that work got him into trouble with the state Ethics Commission after he failed to report more than $40,000 for work he did for a Providence economic development agency.
Dallas Morning News – David Barer | Published: 3/24/2014
Michael Sullivan is the brash leader of the influential Empower Texans, and he is in a battle with the state Ethics Commission over his influence at the Capitol. The commission could stamp Sullivan as a lobbyist and hem in his political activities, but first, its members want to know the sources of the money that props up his nonprofit corporation. Critics contend Sullivan relies on “dark money,” leaving Texans unable to determine who funds his group’s legislative ratings and endorsements, which can affect Republican primaries.
Wisconsin – Gov. Walker Signs Several Bills into Law
WBAY; Associated Press – | Published: 3/27/2014
A bill signed into law by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker allows lobbyists to start making personal donations the day candidates can circulate petitions for office, which is April 15. Under the previous law, they could not make any donations until June 1. In passing the measure, Republican lawmakers backed off from another change that would have let lobbyists hand over campaign checks from others during the legislative session.
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