May 27, 2016 •
News You Can Use Digest – May 27, 2016
Getting a Photo ID So You Can Vote Is Easy. Unless You’re Poor, Black, Latino or Elderly.
Washington Post – Suzi Horwitz | Published: 5/23/2016
In November, 17 states will have voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. Supporters say everyone should easily be able to get a photo ID and the requirement is needed to combat voter fraud. But many election experts say the process for obtaining a photo ID can be far more difficult than it looks for hundreds of thousands of people across the country who do not have the required photo identification cards. Those most likely to be affected are elderly citizens, African Americans, Hispanics, and low-income residents.
A Growing Concern in Cleveland: Chaos off the convention floor
Washington Post – Ed O’Keefe | Published: 5/25/2016
Fears of chaos inside the Republican National Convention have subsided as Donald Trump has tightened his grip on the party’s presidential nomination. But outside the arena, an assortment of planned demonstrations and marches is raising safety concerns about what happens when protesters, police, and convention participants converge on the streets of Cleveland. Many are increasingly worried the city is ill-prepared to deal with the tens of thousands of people that are expected to descend on Cleveland in July.
As Donald Trump Pushes Conspiracy Theories, Right-Wing Media Gets Its Wish
New York Times – Jonathan Martin | Published: 5/25/2016
Ever since talk radio, cable news, and the Internet emerged as potent political forces on the right, Republicans have used those media to attack their opponents. Political operatives would secretly place damaging information with friendly outlets like Fox News and with radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, and then they would work to get the same information absorbed into the mainstream media. Candidates themselves would avoid being seen slinging mud. Yet by personally broaching topics like Bill Clinton’s marital indiscretions and the conspiracy theories surrounding the suicide of Vincent Foster, a Clinton White House aide, Donald Trump is again defying the norms of presidential politics and fashioning his own style. Trump has begun a real-life political science experiment: what happens when a major party’s nominee is more provocateur than politician?
Despite Recommendations, FEC Won’t Pursue Charges that Murray Energy Coerced Campaign Donations from Employees
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Sabrina Eaton | Published: 5/23/2016
Despite the fact that FEC staff found “reason to believe” Robert Murray and his company violated federal law by coercing employees to donate to and support Republican candidates, the agency will not pursue charges. During the 2012 election, Murray Energy workers said they were required to attend a rally for Mitt Romney. Other employees later said they were pushed to donate to Romney. An FEC report states “the record suggests Murray solicited employees for contributions to individual candidates in a manner that further elevated the pressure to contribute, including the implicit threat that potential job-related reprisals may follow for not doing so.” The FEC’s three Democratic members released a statement expressing fear the precedent would let corporations “feel they may ride roughshod over the rights of their employees.”
Hillary Clinton Is Criticized for Private Emails in State Dept. Review
New York Times – Steven Lee Myers and Eric Lichtblau | Published: 5/25/2016
The State Department’s inspector general criticized Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, saying she had not sought permission to use it and would not have received approval if she had. The report sent to members of Congress undermined some of Clinton’s previous statements defending her use of the server. The report, as well as an FBI investigation and other legal challenges seeking information about her emails, is certain to keep alive a controversy that has shadowed Clinton’s campaign for president.
Lawmakers’ Dues to Party: ‘Extortion’ or team effort?
USA Today – Deirdre Shesgreen and Christopher Schnaars | Published: 5/25/2016
At the start of each two-year election cycle, the Democratic and Republican campaign committees set up elaborate contribution programs, in which the U.S. House leaders, committee chairpersons, veteran lawmakers, and even relative newcomers are given fundraising goals. Lawmakers get credit for paying their so-called dues when a donor they have contacted gives to the campaign committees, or when they transfer money from their own accounts to the committees. Those who make or exceed their expected dues are considered “team players,” a label that lifts their chances of landing plum committee assignments. Senators do the same thing, although the quotas appear to be more loosely enforced. “It is clear that political party fundraising has been moved directly into Congress, at levels never imagined by the Founders,” said U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur.
NFL Tried to Influence ‘Unrestricted’ Research Gift, Congressional Report Says
Washington Post – Rick Maese | Published: 5/23/2016
When the National Football League (NFL) agreed in 2012 to donate tens of millions of dollars to concussion research overseen by the National Institutes of Health, it was widely seen as a positive turning point in football’s long history of playing down the long-term effects of brain injuries on players. At the time, the league said it would have no influence over how the money was used. But the NFL and its head, neck, and spine committee worked to improperly influence the government research, trying to steer the study toward a doctor with ties to the league, according to a congressional committee.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama – One-Time Rising Star Hubbard to Stand Trial on Ethics Charges
AL.com – Mike Cason | Published: 5/22/2016
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard is on trial on charges he used his political position to make money and obtain financial favors from lobbyists and company executives with business before the Legislature. Hubbard faces 23 felony ethics charges accusing him of steering Republican campaign work to his media companies and using his office to obtain employment, investments, and benefits for his companies. Prosecutors have painted him as a politician consumed by greed as he climbed to the top of the state’s political hierarchy and desperate to obtain work when being laid off by his primary employer, Auburn University’s IMG Sports Network.
Florida – Facing Bribery Charges, Opa-locka Commissioner Rams SUV into Tree, Killing Himself
Miami Herald – Charles Rabin, Jay Weaver, David Ovalle, and Michael Sallah | Published: 5/24/2016
Days before Opa-locka Commissioner Terence Pinder was ordered to turn himself over to prosecutors on corruption charges, he agonized to a friend over the shame of his imminent arrest. He fretted over the ordeal of fighting bribery charges for a second time in his political career, and wondered how he would ever be able to pay the legal costs. Hours later, he revved up the engine of his city-leased Chevy Tahoe, sped across several hundred yards of a grassy field, and rammed into a towering banyan tree. The impact killed him instantly. Pinder’s suicide represents another crisis for a city on the verge of a financial takeover by the state over massive debts and a corruption scandal that has led to a sweeping FBI investigation into its most powerful leaders.
Hawaii – Hawaii Lawmakers Again Balk at Ethics, Lobbying Reform
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nathan Eagle | Published: 5/23/2016
The Hawaii Ethics Commission tracked more than 16 bills related to ethics and lobbying this past legislative session, which ended May 5. Each one died, many without a public hearing. “I think it sends a bad message to the people about the Legislature’s commitment to open and responsible government when nearly all bills related to ethics and transparency just die a non-transparent death at the end,” said Rep. Matt LoPresti, who introduced a measure to restrict lawmakers’ use of their official position for personal benefit.
Missouri – Impact of Missouri’s ‘Revolving Door’ Lobbyist Law Questioned
Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 5/23/2016
Under a new law in Missouri, legislators must wait six months after the end of their term before they can return to the Capitol to lobby their former colleagues. That would delay a lawmaker’s lobbying career until after the next legislative session. Bu opponents of the legislation said it was just window dressing. After a year marked by scandal, including the resignations of two lawmakers over inappropriate conduct with interns, the reform that ultimately was accomplished will do little to change the culture in Jefferson City, said Sen. Jason Holsman. “We concoct these solutions that don’t do anything but make us feel good, and someone can write a story saying we’ve addressed the problem,” Holsman said.
Montana – Term Limits Have Weakened Legislature, Some Observers Say
Helena Independent Record – Jayme Fraser | Published: 5/23/2016
Term limits have weakened Montana’s Legislature, shifting power to governors and lobbyists as well as contributing to divides within parties and a decline in bipartisan collaboration, many political observers agree. Under term limits, the Legislature lost the encyclopedic knowledge of people who worked sometimes decades on environmental regulation, taxation, or other complex topics, said Bob Brown, who served 30 years in the Legislature before being elected secretary of state. He said the lost veterans frequently offered guidance to legislators from any party.
Pennsylvania – Pa. Officials, Lobbyists Split on How to Vet Business Propositions
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – Brad Bumsted | Published: 5/22/2016
FBI agents and operatives for decades have gone undercover as developers, racetrack lobbyists, and Arab sheiks to snare dozens of elected officials and lobbyists in corrupt transactions. Pennsylvania has been no exception, but some state officials and legal scholars question whether offering bribes to legislators is an effective way of fighting public corruption and are divided over how lawmakers should vet the validity of business propositions. “How would you know a company is flimsy?” asked Stephen Miskin, spokesperson for House Republicans. “Are we at the point where lobbyists have to hire private investigators to do background checks?”
Rhode Island – R.I. House Unanimously Approves Lobbying Bill with Stricter Penalties
Providence Journal – Jennifer Bogdon | Published: 5/24/2016
The Rhode Island House unanimously approved changes to the state’s lobbying law. The bill clarifies the definition of lobbying and strengthens penalties for those who fail to register, allowing for fines of up to $5,000 and a revocation of registration for up to three years. It also requires monthly reporting from January through June and quarterly reporting from July through December, among other reforms. An identical version of the legislation is scheduled for a full vote of the Senate.
Virginia – Inquiry Highlights Terry McAuliffe’s Ties to Chinese Company
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore and Stephanie Saul | Published: 5/24/2016
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and prosecutors from the Justice Department’s public integrity unit, officials briefed on the probe say. Investigators are examining the relationship between the Dandong Port Group’s wealthy and connected chairperson, Wang Wenliang, and the governor. A federal law enforcement official said the inquiry included $120,000 in contributions that a New Jersey construction firm controlled by Wang made to McAuliffe’s 2013 campaign and inaugural committee. The investigation also encompasses McAuliffe’s role as a board member of the Clinton Foundation, to which another company linked to Wang pledged a $2 million contribution in 2013.
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