May 30, 2014 •
News You Can Use Digest – May 30, 2014
Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 5/29/2014
Several prominent pro-Republican advocacy groups say they are benefiting from a burst of cash as some donors, fearful of harsh public attacks such as those aimed at the billionaire Koch brothers by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, turn away from political committees required under federal law to reveal their contributors. Reid has escalated his criticisms of the Kochs and their influence within the GOP in recent months, lodging sharply personal attacks against the brothers, often from the Senate floor. “We’ve heard from donors that they don’t want to get ‘Koched,'” said one Republican operative who works with outside groups.
New York Times – Nicholas Confessore | Published: 5/22/2014
The IRS is rewriting new rules intended to clarify how the agency defines political activity and how much nonprofit groups are allowed to spend on it and still keep their tax exempt status. The IRS will delay a public hearing it planned to hold this summer until the controversial regulations are revised. The agency said it made the decision after receiving 150,000 comments about the changes, the biggest public response to any proposed rule in its history. The delay means new rules will not be in place before Election Day.
Washington Post – Catherine Ho and Holly Yeager | Published: 5/23/2014
Patton Boggs, a Washington, D.C. lobbying and legal powerhouse for decades, is merging with a larger firm, Squire Sanders, in a move that saves Patton Boggs from drift or dissolution. The new firm will be named Squire Patton Boggs. The merger is expected to take effect by June 1. The end of Patton Boggs as a standalone firm is a tale of a changing industry, where a firm’s ability to influence a few key powerbrokers is giving way to the need to sway larger groups of lawmakers and the public as a whole.
San Gabriel Valley News; Associated Press – | Published: 5/22/2014
The Republican National Committee sued for the right to raise unlimited funds for independent expenditures that advocate for a candidate’s election. The suit seeks to eliminate an annual $32,400 per person limit on contributions to the party, making its independent spending similar that of a super PAC. The committee did not challenge limits on contributions made directly to campaigns.
From the States and Municipalities:
The Times Record; Arkansas News Bureau – | Published: 5/23/2014
The Arkansas Ethics Commission said a national organization that accepts campaign contributions electronically does not have to require Arkansas donors to submit personal information each time they make a donation if the information is already recorded. The commission issued an advisory opinion at the request of ActBlue, a PAC that raises money for Democratic candidates across the country.
San Francisco Chronicle – Marisa Logos | Published: 5/27/2014
Proposed changes to San Francisco’s lobbying ordinance seek to close loopholes that critics say have allowed some of the city’s most prolific lobbyists to avoid registering. Current law exempts licensed attorneys from registering as lobbyists, even if they are not actually acting as a lawyer. The legislation also changes the definition of a lobbyist, basing it on the number of times a person contacts city officials instead of how much he or she is paid for lobbying activities.
California – Guiding Voters to Candidates with the Right Wallets
Los Angeles Times – Evan Halper | Published: 5/27/2014
Like so many other Silicon Valley startups, a project from two Stanford University professors, www.crowdpac.com, is rooted in an algorithm. This one is fueled by campaign money. The academics view campaign disclosure reports as a treasure trove of data that can be used to connect neophyte politicos with like-minded candidates. Crowdpac’s motto: “It turns out the best guide to what a politician will do is not what comes out of their mouth, but what goes into their wallet.”
Portland Press Herald – Steve Mistler | Published: 5/28/2014
The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices fined the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) more than $50,000 and ordered it to file a report that would reveal the donors behind the group’s 2009 effort to repeal the state’s gay marriage law, a decision that could affect how nonprofit organizations attempt to influence elections. The commission ruled NOM failed to properly register as a ballot question committee and file campaign finance reports in the referendum that struck down same-sex marriage before it was legalized by voters in 2012.
Minnesota – Ritchie Cuts out Immunity Cards for Legislators
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Abby Simons | Published: 5/22/2014
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie will no longer distribute “Get Out of Jail Free” cards to Minnesota lawmakers. The decision brings an end to the wallet-sized cards that say lawmakers “in all cases except treason, felony and breach of the peace, shall be privileged from arrest” while the Legislature is in session. Historically, the cards were issued to keep adverse interests from arresting lawmakers to prevent them from voting, but have raised concerns among some who fear they literally put legislators above the law, including getting them out of drunken driving or other arrests.
New York Times – Jonathan Weisman | Published: 5/28/2014
Mississippi politics has always had a rough edge under the veneer of Southern gentility, but the race for the U.S. Senate between incumbent Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel has reached another level. The race represents the last chance for tea party activists to topple an incumbent senator, and it appears that little is off limits in the campaign.
Bergen Record – Melissa Hayes and John Reitmeyer | Published: 5/27/2014
New Jersey’s “pay-to-play” law makes it clear that executives and their employees working on the state’s pension fund investments cannot donate to candidates and political committees. But those venture capital firms and hedge funds often take the state pension dollars and invest them in other companies whose executives do not have to disclose their campaign contributions. The complex nature of those investments, the inability of the law to cover all their financial relationships, and the lack of any public database like the one for state contractors make tracking political connections difficult.
The Tribune – Michael Virtanen (Associated Press) | Published: 5/27/2014
The New York Board of Elections ruled the state’s $150,000 annual limit on aggregate campaign donations by individuals will no longer be enforced. The contributions would be restricted only by how much a politician, party, or group can receive under various limits set in election law. For example, a statewide candidate can accept no more than $41,100 from a single donor. The board agreed the $150,000 limit is unenforceable following recent court rulings.
Pennsylvania – How Philly’s Most Powerful Ed Reform Group Broke the Law
Philadelphia City Paper – Daniel Denvir | Published: 5/23/2014
The city ethics board levied a fine of $1,500 against the Philadelphia School Partnership for failing to register as a lobbying principal and not filing required disclosure reports. The partnership, a local nonprofit raising millions of dollars in a bid to improve public, private, and charter schools, said it was initially unaware that the city’s definition of lobbying was broader than those used by the state and federal governments.
Washington Post – Jenna Portnoy | Published: 5/26/2014
Under a new law, the public should be able to scrutinize a wide variety of Virginia officeholders’ financial data and gifts they receive with a quick check online. But unanswered questions about how the electronic clearinghouse will be set up could make it harder, not easier, to see the information. Officials are struggling with the difficult and potentially expensive reality of carrying out the law. As a result, they are considering a simpler, less searchable system that would make it more difficult to scrutinize the records.
Richmond Times Dispatch – Olympia Meoli | Published: 5/23/2014
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed identical ethics reform bills limiting certain gifts to him after the General Assembly rejected amendments he proposed to place that limit on lawmakers. The bills aimed to ban the governor from soliciting or accepting gifts worth more than $50 from those seeking grants or no-interest loans from a state economic development fund.
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