News You Can Use Digest - May 23, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

May 23, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – May 23, 2014




Glass Ceilings in Statehouses in the Northeast

New York Times – Jonathan Martin | Published: 5/18/2014

The Democratic Party has yet to elect a female governor in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, or Massachusetts. Even this year, with women running for governor in three of those states, it is uncertain that any of them will break the pattern. It is no quirk of history, according to a few dozen politicians, scholars, and strategists who have examined or experienced firsthand the difficulties women have had in seeking to become chief executives in some of the flagship states of blue America.

From the States and Municipalities:

Connecticut – Judge Orders Settlement Try in DGA Campaign Case

Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 5/21/2014

U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall ordered settlement talks to begin in a case in which the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) claims the State Elections Enforcement Commission and Connecticut campaign laws restrict its First Amendment right to spend money on behalf of Gov. Dannel Malloy in the coming election. Hall sharply questioned lawyers for both sides in open court, probing the DGA’s legal standing to challenge a statute it is yet to be accused of violating, and testing whether the state law comports with recent court rulings minimizing restrictions on campaign contributions.

Delaware – Markell Ties Benefit from Collections Contracts

Delmarva Daily Times – Jonathan Starkey (Wilmington News Journal) | Published: 5/19/2014

Gov. Jack Markell’s administration has paid millions of dollars to law firms tied to supporters and former staff members that were hired to help collect money from out-of-state businesses incorporated in Delaware. Nothing about the relationships and contracts is illegal. But the contracts raise questions about how Markell, who came into the governor’s office critical of backroom deals that benefit insiders, runs the program that collects so much state revenue. James Browning of Common Cause said the state should require better lobbying disclosures for those seeking public business.

Georgia – Ethics Commission Whistleblower Talks About Trial

WXIA – Catherine Beck | Published: 5/21/2014

In an interview, former state ethics commission Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman recounted the turbulent last three years she has faced. In dealing with an ethics case against Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Kalberman lost her job, her professional reputation, and the Atlanta community she had lived in for more than 25 years. But she won from a jury what she needed the most: vindication.

Illinois – Watchdog Wants Stricter Cook County Lobbying Rules

Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 5/19/2014

Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard issued a report that calls for stricter rules after finding “rogue lobbyists” are ignoring requirements to register or report their activities. He said people selling products to the government escape from all lobbying requirements under a loophole in the county ordinance. County Clerk David Orr, who introduced the county’s lobbyist reporting requirements, said he was open to the reforms that Blanchard proposed.

Indiana – State Giving $345K to Eric Turner Company Project

Belleville News Democrat – Tom LoBianco (Associated Press) | Published: 5/20/2014

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. awarded Mainstreet Property Group $345,000 for the construction of a nursing home that is expected to net House Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner $1.8 million. It was one of many Mainstreet projects that Turner helped save when he defeated legislation that would have banned the construction of new nursing homes. Turner owns 50 percent of a company which owns 76 percent of Mainstreet.

Louisiana – Federal Judge: Ethics gag rule is unconstitutional

New Orleans Advocate – Sara Pagones and Faimon Roberts III | Published: 5/16/2014

A federal judge granted Terry and Laura King’s request to strike down a state law under which the couple was charged with a crime for allegedly making public statements about an ethics complaint they filed against St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan. The Kings filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law, saying it violates citizens’ rights to freedom of speech. U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman agreed that the section of the law used to prosecute the Kings is too broad.

Maine – National Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Group Could Be Fined for Role in 2009 Campaign

Portland Press Herald – Eric Russell | Published: 5/19/2014

A national group that helped defeat a same-sex marriage law in Maine could face more than $50,000 in fines for violating the state’s campaign finance laws. The state ethics commission said its investigators found the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) should be fined for failing to register as a ballot question committee and not filing reports. NOM was the primary donor when it gave nearly $2 million to Stand for Marriage Maine, a PAC, to help defeat the law in a 2009 referendum. State law requires groups to register if they raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence a state ballot question.

Massachusetts – Mayor Walsh Received $1.4M in Gifts for Gala, Transition

Boston Globe – Andrew Ryan | Published: 5/19/2014

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh received $1.4 million in private donations for his inauguration and transition, with most of the contributions coming from corporations, developers, lobbyists, and others who do business with the city. Walsh used no tax dollars for the January inauguration, and he barred money from PACS and organized labor, although unions hosted a private reception for the new mayor. The administration suggested a cap of $25,000 for donors and voluntarily disclosed all contributions and expenditures. Walsh said it did not pose a conflict to accept money from companies with interests before the city.

Minnesota – Federal Court: Minnesota must lift limit on political donations

Minneapolis Star Tribune – Rachel Stassen-Berger | Published: 5/20/2014

Minnesota’s law limiting the amount of money candidates can take from lobbyists, PACs, and big donors is on hold after a ruling by a federal judge. U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank suspended the law while a court challenge plays out. The statute in question says candidates can only accept 20 percent of their contributions from certain types of donors and then must abide by lower limits after that.

New Jersey – National Group Gives NJ Contractors a New Way to Influence Elections

Newark Star Ledger – Matt Friedman | Published: 5/18/2014

Contributions to GOPAC, a Washington-based nonprofit political advocacy group, reveal how such organizations allow contractors to get around state and local laws designed to keep them from making big campaign donations in New Jersey. Some of the candidates and committees were restricted from taking major donations directly from the contractors because of New Jersey’s web of “pay-to-play” laws aimed at keeping political money from influencing the awarding of contracts. But the contractors are free to donate to GOPAC, which is allowed to give money to any candidate.

North Carolina – NC Legislature Adopts New Rules on Protests

Raleigh News & Observer – Craig Jarvis | Published: 5/15/2014

North Carolina lawmakers adopted new rules governing protests at the Legislative Building. The move was prompted by legal concerns over the guidelines cited by judges hearing the cases of some of the more than 900 people who were arrested in last year’s “Moral Mondays” demonstrations at the General Assembly. But the process, rushed through on the second day of session in advance of the anticipated first round of protests this year, drew criticism from Democratic legislators.

Oklahoma – Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin Signs Bill to Change Local Campaign Finance Reporting Law

The Oklahoman – Rick Green | Published: 5/20/2014

A bill signed into law by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin imposes a new disclosure requirement for groups that make independent expenditures to local campaigns. These groups will be required to identify donors who contribute more than $50. The law also designates the state Ethics Commission as the body to enforce local campaign finance statutes.

Vermont – Donor Rules Same for All VT Candidates

Burlington Free Press – Nancy Remsen | Published: 5/19/2014

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell issued guidance saying the state would not enforce different contribution limits for candidates who run in both a primary and general election and candidates running for the same office who have only one election. All candidates will now be allowed to accept $2,000 per donor, even if they do not have a primary. This policy applies through December 31, 2014, after which new donations limits take effect for the next election cycle.

Wisconsin – Lobbyists to Be Allowed to Make Campaign Donations during Legislative Session

Wisconsin State Journal – Mary Spicuzza | Published: 5/22/2014

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board said lobbyists can pass along campaign contributions made by others, such as PACs, at any time of the year. A new campaign finance law raised questions about what the rules for lobbyists were. The board decided that timing limitations for lobbyist donations to candidates apply only to personal contributions, and not those they are delivering on behalf of others.

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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