May 13, 2016 •
News You Can Use Digest – May 13, 2016
Conservatives Accuse Facebook of Political Bias
New York Times – John Hermann and Mike Isaac | Published: 5/9/2016
Facebook denied allegations from former workers who said the social media site suppressed news about conservative issues on its popular “trending” news feature. The website Gizmodo published a report that included allegations from unnamed former Facebook “news curators” who said employees prevented stories about the Conservative Political Action Conference, as well as stories about Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative issues from appearing in the section, “even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.” The back-and-forth highlights the extent to which Facebook has now muscled its way into America’s political conversation, and the risks the company faces as it becomes a central force in news production and consumption.
Lobbying Groups Descend on Battleground States
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 5/11/2016
With few chances left for face-to-face advocacy in Washington, D.C. as federal lawmakers campaign for re-election, lobbyists are turning to their election-year playbook, which includes heavy spending on targeted advertising in battleground states. Those efforts are more important than ever before, lobbyists say, due to the unpredictability of a presidential race featuring presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. “[State-level advocacy is] a time-honored tradition, and this is the usual time, but there is still so much uncertainty,” said Bruce Haynes, a founding partner at Purple Strategies. “You may need more allies than you’ve ever had when you just don’t know which way the wind is going to blow.”
Women’s Rising Influence in Politics, Tinted Green
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore | Published: 5/7/2016
Female campaign donors in both parties have described cultural and economic changes that were driving their increased participation in political giving, long among the most exclusive men’s clubs in American culture. More women are founding their own companies or rising to lead family businesses, or have already sold or retired from them, a common springboard to the upper reaches of campaign fundraising. Within marriages, they said, women now had more authority to steer family decisions about political contributions. The increase is especially pronounced on the left, with the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton galvanizing female donors.
Hillary Clinton, the First ‘E.T. Candidate,’ Has U.F.O. Fans in Thrall
New York Times – Amy Chozick | Published: 5/10/2016
Known for her grasp of policy details, Hillary Clinton has spoken at length in her presidential campaign on topics ranging from Alzheimer’s research to military tensions in the South China Sea. But it is her unusual knowledge about extraterrestrials that has struck a small but committed cohort of voters. Clinton has vowed that barring any threats to national security, she would open up government files on the subject, a shift from President Obama, who typically dismisses the topic as a joke. Her position has elated UFO enthusiasts, who have declared Clinton the first “E.T. candidate.”
Lobbyists Struggle with Trump Reality
The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 5/6/2016
Republican lobbyists in Washington, D.C. are struggling to come to grips with the possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. Much of the GOP crowd on K Street – lobbyists, consultants, and public relations operatives – built their careers working for so-called establishment politicians. Some who spoke with The Hill mentioned that many lobbyists uneasy about whether to support Trump will just shift back to what they know: Congress. Deciding not to participate in the White House race could free up extra resources to ensure Republicans stay in control of the House and Senate, as the party is set to have to defend a large number of seats in the upper chamber. “K Street is worried about the dominos falling below the presidential race,” said Tom Korologos, a strategic advisor for DLA Piper.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama – Chief Justice’s Suspension Adds to Alabama’s Political Mess
Santa Cruz Sentinel – Jay Reeves (Associated Press) | Published: 5/7/2016
Three top elected officials in Alabama are embroiled in scandal or facing removal from office while a former governor serves time in federal prison on a corruption conviction. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore was suspended from his job and faces possible ouster over his attempts to block gay marriage following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Fellow Republicans tried to remove Gov. Robert Bentley by impeachment over a sexually charged scandal involving a top political aide, and an investigation continues. House Speaker Mike Hubbard awaits a state trial on 23 felony ethics counts. If convicted, Hubbard could join imprisoned former Gov. Don Siegelman, who was convicted on federal influence-peddling charges.
Arizona – Legislature Approves Bills Amending Campaign Finance Laws
ABC15; Associated Press – | Published: 5/7/2016
The Arizona Legislature adopted a measure to reinsert criminal penalties that were left out of a sweeping campaign finance bill that was signed by the governor. Among the changes are provisions that make it illegal for individuals to contribute in the name of another person and prevent candidates from donating to one another. House Bill 2297 now moves to the governor’s desk beside a second measure that borrowed language from the same campaign finance rewrite to relax rules on anonymous political spending ahead of the August primary election. The amendment on House Bill 2296 cedes regulation of “dark money” and other nonprofit groups to the IRS, essentially doubling the amount these groups can spend on ballot measures.
California – California Senate Suspends Lobbyist Fundraising Restrictions
Monterey County Herald – Jonathan Cooper (Associated Press) | Published: 5/12/2016
The California Senate voted to remove a fundraising blackout period instituted in the wake of a corruption scandal two years ago. The Senate reversed the ban on members raising money from lobbyist employers during final budget negotiations and the last month of session, a time when lawmakers are typically voting on hundreds of bills. Because the restrictions were only in the Senate’s internal rules, not state law, they are not subject to approval by the Assembly or the governor and take effect immediately.
Kentucky – Kentucky’s Two Most Recent Governors Are Feuding, and It’s Ugly and Very Public, Too
U.S. News & World Report – Adam Beam (Associated Press) | Published: 5/10/2016
While peaceful transitions of power are a longstanding U.S. tradition, the handoff in Kentucky from Steve Beshear to Matt Bevin has been ugly. The spat has intensified so much that Beshear has taken the extraordinary step of starting a nonprofit group that is paying for ads critical of Bevin and his policies. Bevin, in turn, has launched an investigation of the Beshear administration, using a state law granting him subpoena power and public money to hire a private law firm to determine if the ex-governor violated state ethics and procurement laws.
Missouri – Missouri House and Senate Can’t Agree on Banning Lobbyist Gifts
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 5/12/2016
A compromise that would ban gifts to Missouri lawmakers except for lobbyist-funded meals – which would be capped at $40 a day, per lobbyist – got bogged down in the state Senate. But even though the 2016 legislative session ends May 13 at six p.m., the House is not ready to give up the fight. Republicans in that chamber plan to attach a lobbyist gift ban as an amendment to numerous Senate bills in an effort to force senators to deal with the issue.
New York – Dean Skelos Is Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison in Corruption Case
New York Times – Benjamin Weiser and Vivian Yee | Published: 5/12/2016
Former New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison, making him the second former state lawmaker in recent days to be given time behind bars for public corruption. The judge also sentenced his son, Adam Skelos, to six-and-one-half years in prison following their convictions on charges of extortion, fraud, and bribe solicitation. Prosecutors said Dean Skelos used his public position to obtain jobs and payments for his son with companies that had business before the state. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison in a separate corruption case. The sentences conclude an extraordinary chapter during which two trials held a block apart at almost the same time exposed a culture of kickbacks and secret deals in Albany.
Pennsylvania – Behind the Scenes of an Intricate FBI Sting
Philadelphia Inquirer – Mark Fazlollah, Craig McCoy, and Angeles Couloumbis | Published: 5/7/2016
Records and interviews suggest the FBI sting that ensnared lobbyist John Estey could become the most complex and far-reaching corruption investigation in Harrisburg in a decade. Along with Estey, the probe already trapped former state Treasurer Rob McCord, who has agreed to cooperate in return for leniency and secretly recorded his conversations, according to sources. Federal prosecutors have declined to discuss details of an investigation they only broadly describe as focused on “lobbying in the Pennsylvania General Assembly.”
South Carolina – State Lawmaker Lived at Contributor’s Half-Million-Dollar Property, Ducks Questions
Charleston Post & Courier – David Slade | Published: 5/7/2016
South Carolina Rep. Brian White and his wife sold their modest ranch home for $150,000 and moved to a nearly 3,900-square-foot house more than seven acres with a pool. The $500,000 property was owned by Bradley and Brian Moorhouse, brothers who are both nursing home administrators for National Healthcare Corp., White’s largest corporate source of campaign donations. The White family lived there as tenants for at least five years, paying an undisclosed amount of rent while Brian White collected campaign donations from his landlords and executives with their company. During that time, White chaired a House subcommittee overseeing the state’s health care spending and policies, including those affecting the nursing home industry.
Washington – ‘End Yourselves’: Councilwomen threatened after voting against Seattle’s NBA arena
Washington Post – Stephanie Kuzydym | Published: 5/11/2016
The five female members of the Seattle City Council who provided the votes to defeat a plan to build a new arena to lure a team from the National Basketball Association have received ugly hate mail and threats from disappointed sports fans. Councilperson Lorena González said her personal and private social-media accounts and email were flooded with vitriolic messages. “What was concerning to me about this is I never came into this position with the expectation that I’d be told to kill myself or that I deserve sexual violence,” González said.
Wisconsin – Kevin Kennedy Stepping Down as Head of Embattled Elections, Ethics Board
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 5/10/2016
Wisconsin’s longtime chief elections official, Kevin Kennedy, is retiring on June 29. That is the day before the Government Accountability Board (GAB) he heads is scheduled to be dissolved and reconstituted as two separate commissions. Lawmakers created the GAB in response to a scandal in which lawmakers were convicted of campaigning using state resources. But Republicans came to despise the board, in large part because it participated in an investigation that looked into whether Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign collaborated with conservative groups. Lawmakers last year voted to disband the GAB.
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