News You Can Use Digest - March 30, 2018 - State and Federal Communications

March 30, 2018  •  

News You Can Use Digest – March 30, 2018





Political Lobbyists Are the New Hot Thing in Pop Culture
MarketWatch – Tom Teodorczuk | Published: 3/26/2018

Lobbyists have long been a fixture of movies ranging from “The American President” to “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Now, the process of influencing elected representatives is increasingly taking center stage in plays, movies, and literature. The desperate lobbyist is starting to rival the embattled politician and scoop-hungry reporter as a staple character of pop culture. Sarah Burgess said her inspiration for writing “Kings” was a newspaper story. “I happened to encounter an article about these retreats that lobbyists will attend with politicians at big resorts and that seemed funny to me and so American,” Burgess said.


Fund-Raiser Held Out Access to Trump as a Prize for Prospective Clients
MSN – Kenneth Vogel and David Kirkpatrick (New York Times) | Published: 3/25/2018

After Donald Trump’s election, Elliot Broidy quickly capitalized, marketing his connections to Trump to politicians and governments around the world, including some with unsavory records. Broidy suggested to clients and prospective customers of his defense contracting company, Circinus, that he could broker meetings with the president, his administration, and congressional allies. Broidy’s ability to leverage his political connections to boost his business illuminates how Trump’s unorthodox approach to governing has spawned a new breed of access peddling in the swamp he vowed to drain.

Manafort Associate Had Russian Intelligence Ties During 2016 Campaign, Prosecutors Say
Washington Post – Spencer Hsu and Rosalind Helderman | Published: 3/27/2018

Court documents filed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team reveal that Donald Trump’s former deputy campaign chairperson, Richard Gates, was knowingly working with an individual with ties to Russian intelligence during the presidential campaign. Prosecutors alleged this unnamed person worked for one of former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort’s companies and was in touch with Gates in September and October 2016. The filing identifies the ex-spy only as “Person A.” The description matches that of Konstantin Kilimnik, the Russian manager of Manafort’s lobbying office in Kiev.

Rep. Didn’t Report $50K in Donations as Registered Lobbyist
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 3/28/2018

U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci did not disclose nearly $50,000 in campaign contributions he made while registered as a federal lobbyist. Registered lobbyists are required to disclose all federal political donations of more than $200. His campaign said he was registered as a lobbyist with the consulting firm he helped launch in 2008 only as a precautionary measure. Renacci’s attorney, Laura Mills, provided the Associated Press with a form that listed Renacci’s status as “inactive” as of August 1, 2009. The campaign said only active lobbyists are required to disclose their contributions. But the AP found Mills did not file the companion form required to deactivate his registration until May 2011. Renacci continued to file and digitally sign lobbyist disclosure reports, other than the two he missed, through mid-2011, as an active lobbyist would.

Trump’s Lawyer Raised Prospect of Pardons for Flynn and Manafort as Special Counsel Closed In
MSN – Michael Schmidt, Jo Becker, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, and Adam Goldman (New York Times) | Published: 3/28/2018

The New York Times reported that John Dowd, the former lead defense attorney in charge of managing President Trump’s communications with special counsel Robert Mueller, suggested the possibility of pardons for two of the most critical figures in the Russia investigation at the height of the inquiry. Dowd spoke to lawyers representing former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort last year, as Mueller’s investigation was closing in on both men. The discussions raise questions about whether Dowd was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation. Legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice.

From the States and Municipalities:

Maryland: Supreme Court Again Weighs Voting Maps Warped by Politics
New York Times – Adam Liptak | Published: 3/28/2018

Dealing with an issue that could affect elections across the country, U.S. Supreme Court justices wrestled with how far states may go to craft electoral districts that give the majority party a huge political advantage. But even as they heard their second case on partisan redistricting in six months, the justices expressed uncertainty about the best way to deal with a problem that several said would get worse without the court’s intervention. The arguments the court heard were over an appeal by Republican voters in Maryland who object to a congressional district that Democrats drew to elect a candidate of their own. The Maryland case is a companion to one from Wisconsin in which Democrats complain about a Republican-drawn map of legislative districts. That case was argued in October and remains undecided.

Missouri: An Affair, a Photo and a Felony Charge: Missouri’s governor is waging a campaign for political survival
Washington Post – Sean Sullivan | Published: 3/22/2018

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who once volunteered with Mother Teresa, is aggressively trying to clear his name after allegations he took a naked photograph of a woman without her consent – after taping her hands to exercise rings and blindfolding her. Under indictment for felony invasion of privacy related to an extramarital affair, Greitens is seeking to discredit the Democratic prosecutor who went after him and battling back against Republicans calling on him to step down. Greitens is getting a fierce blowback from fellow Republicans already fed up with his bare-knuckle politics and broken promises of the past year.

New Mexico: New Mexico Outlines Future Limits on Federal Campaign Cash
Modesto Bee – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 3/28/2018

Politicians returning from Washington, D.C. to run for office in New Mexico are likely to find a clear legal path in the future to bring stockpiles of campaign dollars with them under a new agreement signed by state campaign finance regulators and attorneys for U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce. A proposed settlement allows Pearce to use more than $900,000 he raised while in Congress in his campaign for governor as the lone Republican contender. Linked to the settlement are guidelines aimed to prevent federal-to-state transfers from becoming a loophole around New Mexico campaign finance law, said Joey Keefe, a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office.

New York: Corruption Trial Bruises Powerful Law Firm
Albany Times Union – Robert Gavin | Published: 3/24/2018

Todd Howe, a onetime government insider, testified recently against Joseph Percoco, the former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and his three co-defendants in a corruption trial. Howe also inflicted collateral damage to the Albany-based law and lobbying firm Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, where Howe managed to stay employed for six years even after being convicted of bank fraud. Percoco was convicted on three of the six counts against him, including honest services fraud and soliciting bribes. In the wake of the trial, people are “certainly going to connect corruption with that law firm,” said Vincent Bonventre, a law professor at Albany Law School.

New York: De Blasio Donor Says He Steered Thousands in Bribes to Mayor’s Campaigns
New York Times – Brian Rosenthal | Published: 3/22/2018

Harendra Singh testified about his efforts to use campaign contributions funneled to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – as much as $80,000 raised from others, and much more personally by using “straw donors” to skirt contribution limits – to gain better terms from the city during lease negotiations for one of his restaurants. Singh also suggested for the first time that de Blasio not only knew of the illegal arrangement, but the mayor encouraged it and actively helped the restaurateur. Singh was testifying in the corruption trial of Edward Mangano, the former Nassau County executive, and John Venditto, the former Town of Oyster Bay supervisor, both of whom Singh has pleaded guilty to bribing.

Oregon: John Kitzhaber Agrees to Pay $20,000 for Ethics Law Violations
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 3/28/2018

Former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber agreed to pay a $20,000 civil penalty to settle 10 violations of state ethics law, signaling a close to the years-long scandal that forced him to resign. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission will meet to sign off on the agreement. The maximum fine that could have levied was $50,000. The violations stem from conflicts-of-interest involving an overlap between Kitzhaber’s role as governor and his interest in a business owned by First Lady Cylvia Hayes. Hayes had a dual role as an unpaid adviser in the governor’s office and was privately paid to consult on the same issues.

Pennsylvania: Lobbyist, Lawmakers Entwined in Complex Relationship: Is it influence peddling, or essential?
StateImpact Pennsylvania – Susan Phillips | Published: 3/27/2018

There are more than 1,200 registered lobbyists in Harrisburg. Some work for firms, which take on multiple clients and represent different interests. Often, former lawmakers or regulators serve this role, using their old relationships for leverage. Some work specifically for a company or nonprofit. State Sen. Judy Schwank used to work for a nonprofit, and she says they are outgunned at the Capitol. “[Nonprofits] don’t have the dollars necessary to influence legislation the way that some other organizations that are for profit do,” said Schwank.

Washington: Inslee Signs Campaign Finance Bill
Everett Herald – Jerry Cornfield | Published: 3/29/2018

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill transforming how the state administers and enforces its campaign finance laws. House Bill 2938 aims to make clearer for filers how to follow reporting rules and avoid mistakes that can incite a complaint against them. Under the new law, every complaint must first be filed with the Public Disclosure Commission. Staff will have greater ability to deal with minor errors and technical corrections, and authority to refer large and complex cases to Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin GOP Will Aim to Block Judge’s Order to Gov. Scott Walker to Call Special Election
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Jason Stein | Published: 3/23/2018

Wisconsin Republicans refused to accept a court order to hold special elections to fill two vacant legislative seats, calling lawmakers back to Madison to rewrite election laws in an extraordinary session. Legislative leaders said the court order means special elections and regular elections for the open seats will occur simultaneously, confusing voters and wasting tax dollars. The Legislature must reconvene to revise special election statutes, they said. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said Republicans were throwing a “temper tantrum” because they lost in court and fear the open seats could flip to Democratic control.


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