May 11, 2018 •
News You Can Use Digest – May 11, 2018
Tough Choices, and Criticism, for Emily’s List as Democratic Women Flood Primaries
New York Times – Sheryl Gay Stolberg | Published: 5/4/2018
Crowded Democratic primaries, many involving two or more women, have forced Emily’s List, one of the nation’s most powerful PACs, to make difficult choices that have spawned resentment around the nation. For Democratic women, no endorsement is as sought after or powerful as one conferred by Emily’s List, which functions as the political equivalent of the old-fashioned “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval for voters and potential donors. And Emily’s List has bold ambitions this year; its president, Stephanie Schriock, says her aim is to deliver the House to Democrats. So, its endorsement decisions are drawing scrutiny.
EPA Pesticide Settlement Comes Under Scrutiny
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 5/8/2018
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to scale back a pesticide fine on Syngenta has raised eyebrows, highlighting the ethical land mines facing an administration filled with former lobbyist and business executives. Critics noted that Jeff Sands, who was a top EPA agricultural adviser at the time of the settlement, was previously a lobbyist for Syngenta. Sands said he was not involved in the decision to reduce the fine, and there is no evidence he worked on the settlement. Still, ethics experts said Sands’ connection to Syngenta illustrates the difficulties that arise from having so many former lobbyists serving in key positions.
‘I’m Crushing It’: How Michael Cohen, touting his access to President Trump, convinced companies to pay millions
MSN – Michael Kranish, Rosalind Helderman, Carolyn Johnson, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/9/2018
New information shows how Michael Cohen quickly leveraged his role as President Trump’s personal attorney, developing a lucrative sideline as a consultant to companies eager for insight into how to navigate the new administration. The rapid flow of millions of dollars to Cohen shows the rush by corporations – unable to rely on the influence of K Street in dealing with a new, outsider president – to lock in relationships with Trump’s inner circle. Selling access is common in Washington, D.C., but investigators could probe whether Cohen promised specific government actions in exchange for payments, which could cause him legal trouble. If he spent large amounts of time speaking to government officials on behalf of clients, investigators could also explore whether he should have registered as a lobbyist.
Russia’s 2016 Facebook Strategy Exposed in Trove of 3,500 Ads
Bloomberg.com – Anna Edgerton and Sarah Frier | Published: 5/10/2018
Democrats on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee released thousands of copies of Kremlin-linked Facebook advertisements used during the 2016 presidential election, a data dump that provides a greater understanding of a Russian company’s disinformation campaign across social media. The lawmakers released more than 3,500 Facebook ads purchased by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian firm with ties to the Kremlin. Over 11.4 million American users were exposed to these ads between 2015 and 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russian individuals and three Russian groups earlier this year for engaging in “information warfare” during the election, alleging they had used social media and other sophisticated measures to sow discord in the U.S.
‘Scam PACs’ Rake in Millions Under Guise of Charity
Politico – Maggie Severns and Scott Bland | Published: 5/6/2018
Some new PACs have feel-good names like Cops and Kids Together and Americans for the Cure of Breast Cancer. They have succeeded in raising millions of dollars from small donors in a matter of months, and spent most of it just as quickly, without supporting candidates or making a mark on a policy issue. Their activities show political groups often receive less oversight and get more leeway than charities, even though they have to disclose more details about their donations and spending. The FEC has said it is all but powerless to crack down on these so-called scam PACs.
Trump’s Appointees Pledged Not to Lobby After They Leave. Now They’re lobbying.
ProPublica – Derek Kravitz and Alex Mierjeski | Published: 5/3/2018
Days after taking office, President Trump signed an executive order requiring every political appointee to sign a pledge as a condition of taking office, agreeing not to lobby the agencies they had worked in for five years after they left government service. Nor would they lobby anyone in the White House or appointees across federal agencies for the duration of the administration. But at least eight former Trump officials have found ways around the pledge. ProPublica identified at least 184 people who have left the Trump administration. Of those, at least six former officials are now registered lobbyists and several others work at firms in roles that resemble lobbying in all but name.
From the States and Municipalities:
California: An Urgent Debate for California Republicans: How to get back in the game
New York Times – Adam Nagourney | Published: 5/6/2018
There may be no Republican candidate for governor or U.S. senator on the ballot this November in California. That dispiriting possibility is beginning to sink in for Republicans, against the backdrop of a divisive debate among its candidates and leaders on how the embattled party can become competitive again in a state where Ronald Reagan was elected twice as governor. It is no secret the GOP has been in a decline for 20 years in the state. Its challenges have been aggravated by the election of President Trump, as he has pushed tougher policies on such issues as immigration and the environment, running up against strong and often bipartisan sentiment in California. A field of Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and governor is struggling against these headwinds as they seek to end a more than 10-year drought and elect a party member to statewide office.
Florida: Fox News Plays Kingmaker in Florida Governor’s Race
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 5/8/2018
Florida Republican primary voters are largely unfamiliar with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Fox News is helping to change that. The little-known Republican, a vigorous defender of President Trump, is building a campaign around the president’s endorsement and a seemingly endless series of appearances on a news network favored by conservatives, an approach that has taken him from an asterisk in the polls to a top contender for the governorship in the nation’s largest swing state. TV Eyes, a television monitoring service, estimates those appearances equate to $7.1 million in what it calls “national publicity value” – a number that is likely smaller since the value only applies to Florida-specific exposure, but still represents a significant amount.
Hawaii: Why No One Wants to Blow the Whistle on Sexual Misconduct
Honolulu Civil Beat – Anita Hofschneider | Published: 5/3/2018
The recent resignation of a top Hawaii lawmaker who admitted to repeated sexual harassment only scratches the surface of a much deeper problem at the State Capitol, where the local tendency to “no talk stink” is compounded by fear of retaliation from people in power. The result – according to more than a dozen current and former lobbyists, staffers, and lawmakers – is a pervasive culture of silence around issues of sexual harassment. The difficulty speaking up is compounded by policies that discourage victims from filing complaints. Lawmakers are not planning to change these policies until at least next year, citing the need to do more research about the best way to improve them.
Missouri: County Council to Ask Voters to Restrict Campaign Donations
St. Louis Public Radio – Jo Mannies | Published: 5/9/2018
The St. Louis County Council approved a proposal to ask county voters on August 7 to set a $2,600 contribution limit for any county office and restrict contributions from entities bidding on county contracts. The ballot measure was aimed at county Executive Steve Stenger, who has repeatedly faced accusations during his term that donors to his campaign get favorable treatment by his administration. The ballot proposal also would restrict donations when the council is considering contracts.
Missouri: Missouri Lawmakers Agree to Call Special Session to Consider Greitens’ Impeachment
Kansas City Star – Allison Kirte, Jason Hancock, and Bryan Lowry | Published: 5/3/2018
The Missouri General Assembly has taken the historic step of calling itself back into special session to decide whether to impeach Gov. Eric Greitens. The announcement comes as Greitens faces widespread calls to step down amid criminal charges. The governor faces a trial on a felony invasion-of-privacy charge for allegedly taking an unauthorized, nude photograph of a blindfolded woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair. Greitens was also charged with computer tampering stemming from allegations he used a veterans’ charity donor list to raise funds for his 2016 campaign for governor without the permission of the group, which he founded. The special session is set to begin on May 18, just days after the start of the governor’s criminal trial, and will last no more than 30 days.
New York: Eric Schneiderman, Accused by 4 Women, Quits as New York Attorney General
MSN – Danny Hakim and Vivian Wang (New York Times) | Published: 5/7/2018
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned, stepping down hours after it was reported that four women accused him of physically assaulting them. The women said Schneiderman choked and repeatedly slapped them. Two of the women, Michelle Manning Barish and Tanya Selvaratnam, described patterns of emotional as well as physical abuse. Selvaratnam said Schneiderman warned her he could have her followed and her phones tapped. Both women said he threatened to kill them if they ended their relationships with him. Schneiderman denied abusing the women. For several years, his office has published a “Know Your Rights” brochure for victims of domestic violence.
New York: Furthering Split from Cuomo, Senate Passes Reform Bills
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 5/10/2018
The Republican-controlled New York Senate passed an extensive package of reforms, including bills that would increase oversight over state-funded economic development programs, prevent conflicts-of-interest, and improve transparency. In a rare gesture of bipartisanship, Senate Democrats volunteered to move many of the long-stalled bills from the Rules Committee to the floor. Taking aim at the governor’s office, one of the bills would prohibit executive agency appointees and members of their households from making campaign contributions to, or soliciting them for, the same executive who appointed them. Several of the bills have companion legislation in the Assembly and some have even been approved by that chamber. But it is unclear how the Assembly will vote on the entire package.
Ohio: Ohio Votes to Reform Congressional Redistricting; Issue 1 Could End Gerrymandering
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Rich Exner | Published: 5/8/2018
Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that will reform the state’s redistricting process. The measure asked voters whether they wanted to amend the state constitution to require bipartisan support when drawing new congressional district lines. Any new maps would require three-fifths support in the state House and Senate, including support from at least half the members of the minority party. If Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature cannot agree on a map, a bipartisan commission would be assigned to draw new maps. Those maps would have to be approved with at least two votes from the minority party. If the bipartisan commission fails, the Legislature would be allowed to try to draw maps that earn support from one-third of the minority party or a four-year map with only majority support.
Oklahoma: Pruitt’s Coziness with Lobbyists Includes Secretly Buying a House with One
MSN – Hiroko Tabuchi and Steve Eder (New York Times) | Published: 5/3/2018
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt once purchased a house from a top lobbyist in Oklahoma with the help of a shell company. Two business associates involved in the 2003 purchase are now aides to Pruitt at the EPA: Kenneth Wagner is a senior adviser, and Albert Kelly runs the agency’s effort to redesign the Superfund program. According to The New York Times, the home, which was seen as a prime property because of its proximity to the Capitol, was purchased for $375,000 from a retiring telecommunications lobbyist. But that price was $100,000 less than the lobbyist, Marsha Lindsey, had paid for it just a year before. The shortfall was picked up by Lindsey’s company, SBC Oklahoma.
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