News You Can Use Digest - May 8, 2015 - State and Federal Communications

May 8, 2015  •  

News You Can Use Digest – May 8, 2015



Campaign Coverage via Snapchat Could Shake Up the 2016 Elections
New York Times – Jonathan Mahler | Published: 5/3/2015

Snapchat, America’s fastest-growing smartphone application, hired Peter Hamby, a political reporter for CNN, to lead its nascent news division. Snapchat has said little about its plans, but with well over 100 million users, a huge swath of whom are in the U.S. and between the ages of 18 and 31, its potential to shake up the next election is considerable. “There is no harder riddle to solve in politics than reaching young Americans who are very interested in the future of their country but don’t engage with traditional news,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. “Snapchat may have just made it a whole lot easier to solve this riddle.”

F.E.C. Can’t Curb 2016 Election Abuse, Commission Chief Says
New York Times – Eric Lichtblau | Published: 5/2/2015

FEC Chairperson Ann Revel has given up on trying to stop abuses in the 2016 elections and will focus on transparency. “People think the FEC is dysfunctional – it’s worse than dysfunctional,” said Ravel. There are six members on the FEC, and any decision requires that at least four vote in favor. By law, however, there can be only three people from each political party in the group. While the requirement was meant to encourage nonpartisan action, it has recently caused a deadlock in decision-making. Ravel said the party divisions have made it nearly impossible for members to agree on new measures to enforce spending rules, and instead she plans to simply make the spending information public.

Hillary Clinton Embraces a ‘Super PAC,’ Trying to Erode a Republican Edge
New York Times – Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Confessore | Published: 5/6/2015

Hillary Clinton, who has emphasized campaign finance reform in the early stage of her latest White House bid, has apparently already decided the modest approach alone will not be enough. Clinton will be pushing the boundaries of campaign finance law further than any Democratic presidential contender ever has by directly asking donors to give to a friendly super PAC that can raise unlimited amounts of money from donors. Candidates avoided such activity in the 2012 race, adhering to a law that says they cannot coordinate directly with the groups. But the increasingly permissive nature of the FEC is leading the candidates to take ever bolder approaches.

From the States and Municipalities:

Florida – Politicians Send Millions to Charity of Lobbyist’s Daughter
Miami Herald – Francisco Alvarado ( | Published: 5/6/2015

Lauren’s Kids, a non-profit whose mission is to raise awareness about child sexual abuse, has become one the Florida Legislature’s favorite charities, collecting nearly $7 million in taxpayer funds. It was founded Lauren Book, the daughter of Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book. Critics say Ron Book’s political clout gives Lauren’s Kids an unfair advantage over hundreds of applicants vying for state discretionary funds. Lauren Book said her non-profit is on the same playing field as others seeking state funds.

Georgia – For Ga. Board, Common Cause’s ‘Different Path’ Leads to Protest
WABE – Jonathan Shapiro | Published: 5/5/2015

Common Cause ousted two members from the Georgia chapter’s board. Two more board members resigned in protest. Nationally, Common Cause has long been nonpartisan in name but left-leaning in practice. The state chapter, however, for years had more independence. Common Cause Georgia’s board, balanced among Republicans, Democrats, and independents, worked with the group’s mission of “holding power accountable” but did not endorse everything the national organization did.

Minnesota – Gov. Mark Dayton Vows to Veto GOP Campaign Cash Changes
St. Paul Pioneer Press – Rachel Stassen-Berger | Published: 5/4/2015

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he would veto a budget bill if it includes several provisions he and Democratic lawmakers see as undermining the disclosure of special interest spending to influence elections. The state government finance omnibus bill, which the Republican-controlled House passed in late April, would effectively end campaign spending limits for statewide candidates and in legislative races. It would remove limits on the number of total donations that could be received by lobbyists and PACs, and end public subsidies for campaigns. It also would cut state funding for the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board in the next two years. The move would reduce the board’s budget by about 10 percent.

Minnesota – Minnesota House Floor Can Be a Theater of The Absurd
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Patrick Coolican | Published: 5/5/2015

The chaotic Minnesota House stands in stark contrast to the staid Senate, with its strict dress code and a rule prohibiting eye contact between senators during floor debates. Sen. Dick Cohen was elected to the House in 1976 before moving to the upper chamber. “When I was in the House, I would come over to the Senate floor and I thought I was walking into a church, it was so quiet,” said Cohen. “Now I walk onto the House floor, I think I’m walking into a circus.”

New Jersey – Key Christie Ally Pleads Guilty to Role in Bridgegate, Two Others Indicted
Washington Post – Rosalind Helderman and Robert Costa | Published: 5/1/2015

A judge unsealed indictments against two people close to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, outlining a conspiracy made with a third confidant to exact political vengeance against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich. Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Anne Kelly, a former deputy chief of staff to Christie, were charged with nine counts, including conspiracy to commit fraud by “knowingly converting and intentionally misapplying property of an organization receiving federal benefits.” David Wildstein, who as an official at the Port Authority had ordered the closure of two of George Washington Bridge’s toll lanes to snarl traffic in Fort Lee, said he did so to punish Sokolich, who declined to endorse Christie’s re-election bid.

New York – Big Names in New York Real Estate Figure into Skelos and Silver Cases
New York Times – Charles Bagli | Published: 5/6/2015

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son are facing charges of fraud, extortion, and solicitation of bribes. Taken together with the charges filed earlier this year against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the two cases provide a glimpse into the seamier side of politics, power, and real estate in New York. Real estate executives have long said they contribute heavily to state and New York City legislators’ election campaigns in the hopes of gaining access to those who make policy in a state where tenants hold considerable voting power. But the criminal cases describe behavior that goes beyond mere campaign donations and lobbying and involve some of the biggest names in real estate.

New York – Dean Skelos, New York Senate Leader, and Son Are Arrested on Corruption Charges
New York Times – William Rashbaum, Thomas Kaplan, and Susanne Craig | Published: 5/4/2015

New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, were arrested on charges of conspiracy, extortion, wire fraud, and bribe solicitation. The accusations stem from a federal investigation focused on Adam Skelos’ business dealings, including payments to him by an environmental company, AbTech Industries. The senator was accused of taking official actions to benefit AbTech and a prominent real estate firm, Glenwood Management, a politically influential developer that had financial ties to AbTech. Dean Skelos agreed to do so, according to the complaint, as long as the companies paid his son. In one taped conversation, Adam Skelos acknowledged he got the job with AbTech even though he “literally knew nothing about water or, you know, any of that stuff.”

Tennessee – Out-of-State Groups Seek Influence in Tennessee
The Tennessean – Tom Humphrey (Knoxville News Sentinel) | Published: 5/4/2015

Outside interests are trying to influence public policy in Tennessee, engaged on such controversial issues as Gov. Bill Haslam’s Insure Tennessee proposal and gun laws, all the way down to less-noticed matters such as experimental drugs and state subsidies to parents of children with specified disabilities. These groups set up shop in Tennessee fairly recently and started building a grassroots network of residents, although much of their funding still comes from outside the state.

Texas – Antagonist-in-Chief Stickland Faces His Foes
Texas Tribune – Morgan Smith | Published: 5/3/2015

A legislative ethics panel said it planned to investigate “possible irregularities” in the registering of supporters and opponents of bills at committee hearings after allegations that Texas Rep. Jonathan Strickland had falsely filled out registration forms, a violation of House rules. Colleagues say Stickland’s tactics – tying up floor debates with questions and delaying legislation with parliamentary maneuvers – are doing nothing more than holding up the House’s business while rubbing Democrats and Republicans alike the wrong way.

Vermont – House Oks Bill Limiting Lobbyist Contributions during Session – Erin Mansfield | Published: 5/6/2015

The Vermont House agreed to prohibit lobbyists from contributing to leadership PACs until after the Legislature adjourns at the end of each state biennium. The restriction was added as an amendment to Senate Bill 93, a bill expanding lobbyist disclosure requirements. The bill would require lobbyists to make monthly expenditure reports while the Legislature is in session. Lobbyists also would have to file reports within 48 hours of running mass media campaigns and disclose themselves as funders in a conspicuous place within each advertisement.

Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 60 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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