News You Can Use Digest - May 2, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

May 2, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – May 2, 2014




States Are Now Targets of ‘Citizens United’

Politico – Byron Tau | Published: 5/1/2014

General Majority PAC, created last year by U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s chief of staff, Susan McCue, has won legal challenges in New Jersey and Pennsylvania over the past year to enforce the Supreme Court ruling permitting unlimited corporate and union spending. The successful lawsuits essentially have created the equivalent of super PACs at the state level and are part of a larger transformation of election law in the past few years as the changes at the federal level eventually creep down into state election law.


Corporations Join the Party

Politico – Anna Palmer and Tarini Parti | Published: 5/1/2014

While presidential inaugurations and party conventions are not what they used to be as fundraisers have struggled with getting corporate donors to act as sponsors, one weekend a year these fears fade away and companies open their checkbooks to join in the fun of the establishment celebrating the establishment: the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Dozens of corporations are sponsoring cocktail receptions and late night soirees, along with an educational event or two, during the weekend of the dinner.

Women Take Power as Lobbyists

The Hill – Megan Wilson | Published: 4/29/2014

Whether they are managing the lobbying operations of Fortune 200 companies, running their own shops, or building up a roster of big-name clients at mega-firms, women are steadily moving into roles once considered part of Washington’s “old boys club.” While men still outnumber women on K Street by a significant margin, the environment has changed dramatically from just over a decade ago, when a prominent lobbyist felt she could not successfully open a firm without a man’s name on the masthead.

From the States and Municipalities:

Illinois – Ex-Ald. Mell Starts Lobbying Firm with Help of Daughter Patti Blagojevich

Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 4/28/2014

Former Chicago Ald. Dick Mell has started a new lobbying firm with the help of daughter Patti Blagojevich. Mell said the venture is something to keep him busy in retirement and also a way to financially help his daughter. Her husband, former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison for corruption. Mell retired before the implementation of a new revolving door policy that as of January 1 bars aldermen from lobbying the city for one year after their last day in office.

Indiana – Ethics Panel: Overhaul needed after Turner actions

The Post-Tribune; Associated Press –   | Published: 4/30/2014

A panel of lawmakers said Indiana Rep. Eric Turner did not violate House ethics rules when he fought legislation that would have cost his family’s nursing home business millions of dollars. But the Ethics Committee expressed concerns that Turner’s efforts to defeat a proposed nursing home moratorium did not achieve the “highest spirit of transparency” and vowed to tighten those rules. Documents show Turner had more than $4 million in profits on the line through his ownership stake in the company.

Kansas – Sources: FBI examines lobbying by Brownback

Topeka Capital-Journal – Tim Carpenter | Published: 4/27/2014

The FBI has been investigating influence peddling involving some of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s top advisers. Of concern were behind-the-scenes financial arrangements related to the privatization of the state’s Medicaid program, which handed exclusive contracts to three for-profit insurance companies to provide services. The inquiry focuses on Parallel Strategies, a lobbying firm founded by David Kensinger, the governor’s former chief of staff. Kensinger quit two months before contracts were signed with the three companies, which reportedly hired a lobbyist who works with him.

Louisiana – Limit on Louisiana Lobbyists’ Spending Edges Up to $58 per Occasion, Starting in July

Columbus Republic; Associated Press –   | Published: 4/29/2014

Starting in July, the amount that can be spent by a Louisiana lobbyist per person for an occasion is increasing to $58. The limit applies to food, drink, and other refreshments purchased for public employees and elected officials. The amount has been steadily rising since the Legislature implemented a $50 spending cap and then allowed it to increase with the consumer price index.

Ohio – Indian Hill Payday-Lender Lobbyist Avoids Jail Time

Cincinnati Enquirer – Chrissie Thompson | Published: 5/1/2014

Lobbyist John Rabenold must pay $2,000 in fines for failing to report gifts of sports tickets and upscale dinners to Ohio lawmakers. He will spend up to three years on probation. Rabenold must also continue to cooperate with an investigation that could result in charges against lawmakers for accepting the gifts and failing to report them.

Pennsylvania – After the Latest Scandals, Pennsylvania Lawmakers Ponder a Gift Ban and Other Tougher Ethics Laws

Harrisburg Patriot News – Jeff Frantz | Published: 4/28/2014

The Senate State Government Committee heard testimony that Pennsylvania’s ethics laws regarding gifts are among the weakest in the country and must be strengthened. The Senate has approved a bill that would prohibit cash gifts, but Committee Chairperson Lloyd Smucker has advocated a wide ban on gifts and hospitality. John Schaaf, counsel for the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, testified about his state, which called a special session after several lawmakers were charged with corruption by the FBI. Schaaf said Kentucky now has some of the toughest ethics measures in the country.

Texas – Nonprofit Groups Using Law to Anonymously Back Candidates

Houston Chronicle – David Saleh Rauff | Published: 4/27/2014

Dark money has been injected into a broad mix of state and local elections in Texas. With the state in the midst of a heated gubernatorial race attracting national attention and national donors, the stream of secret campaign cash from outside groups is expected to steadily increase. The Texas Ethics Commission has put up for public comment proposed rulemaking to address anonymous contributions, and some lawmakers, annoyed after being targeted by dark money, are working to revamp 501(c)(4) disclosure legislation vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry last session.

Vermont – Close to Adjournment, House Democrats Throw $500 Lobbyist Fundraiser

Seven Days – Paul Heinz | Published: 5/1/2014

With just days remaining in the legislative session, Vermont lawmakers and lobbyists took a break to attend a political fundraiser at the Capitol Plaza Hotel. Over the course of two hours, a reporter from the website Seven Days observed nearly two dozen lobbyists and a dozen Democratic lawmakers, mostly committee chairpersons and members of the House leadership team, entering the Ethan Allen room. “… In our business, you trade on knowledge and you trade on relationships,” said lobbyist Joe Choquette.

Wisconsin – John Doe Probe Raises Issue of Potential Conflicts with Justices

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 4/28/2014

Some are questioning whether four of the state’s seven Supreme Court justices can hear one or more challenges to an ongoing probe into whether Wisconsin Club for Growth illegally coordinated with Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign. The group has spent about $1.8 million to help elect the four justices who make up the conservative bloc controlling the court. Wisconsin’s recusal rules for judges says campaign contributions and independent spending, absent other factors, are not enough to warrant getting out of cases.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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