November 18, 2016 •
News You Can Use Digest – November 18, 2016
Political Divide Splits Relationships – and Thanksgiving, Too
New York Times – Sabrina Tavernise and Katharine Seely | Published: 11/15/2016
The election is over, but the repercussions in people’s lives may be just beginning as families across America contemplate uncomfortable holidays – or decide to bypass them – and relationships among friends, relatives, and spouses are tested across the political divide. Democrats in some cases are refusing to sit across the table from relatives who voted for President-elect Donald Trump, a man they say stands for things they abhor. Many who voted for Trump say it is the liberals who are to blame for discord, unfairly tarring them with the odious label of “racist” just because they voted for someone else.
Rights Groups See ‘Unprecedented’ Support in Wake of Election
Washington Post – Sandhya Somashekhar | Published: 11/15/2016
Perhaps the most concrete action to follow the end of the divisive election season has been a surge in donations to various organizations whose agendas counter those proposed by President-elect Donald Trump. In recent days, groups that champion causes like civil liberties and women’s health, as well as focus on immigration rights and anti-discrimination initiatives, have seen record responses to the election in the form of contributions and volunteer applications. Left-leaning organizations say they are being forced to regroup in the wake of the election that gave Republicans control of both the White House and Congress for the first time in a decade.
Why Facebook and Google Are Struggling to Purge Fake News
Washington Post – Nick Wingfield, Mike Isaac, and Katie Benner | Published: 11/15/2016
Google and Facebook announced they would ban fake news sites from using their respective advertising platforms, a strategy aimed at cutting off some of the revenue sources for the sites, which have been under fire for stoking fears during the campaign. Facebook will bar all fake news sites from its Facebook Audience Network, while Google will ban them from using its AdSense ad-selling software. The move has raised new questions about long-standing claims by Facebook, Google, and other online platforms that they have little responsibility to exert editorial control over the news they deliver, even when it includes outright lies, falsehoods, or propaganda that could tilt elections.
Former Illinois Congressman with ‘Downton Abbey’ Office Is Indicted
Washington Post – Matt Zapotosky | Published: 11/10/2016
Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, whose taste for first-class travel and a “Downton Abbey”-themed office design led to questions about his judgement and adherence to spending rules, was indicted by a federal grand jury on 24 counts, including wire fraud and theft of government funds. Ethics questions arose after The Washington Post reported on his opulent Capitol Hill office in 2015, which prompted a government investigation into whether he had improperly accepted pro bono interior design services. Schock personally paid back $40,000 for office renovations, which included a crystal chandelier and a plume of pheasant feathers. A New York Times article described the office as being decorated like a drawing room from “Downton Abbey.”
How Federal Ethics Laws Will Apply to a Trump Presidency
New York Times – Steve Eder | Published: 11/11/2016
A theme of Donald Trump’s presidency is likely to be the clash of his duties running the country with the remnants of his decades as a businessperson. But federal rules and precedent make a couple of things clear. Trump will have no immunity from lawsuits involving his corporate ventures, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving Paula Jones, one of former President Bill Clinton’s accusers. And nothing will stop Trump’s family from continuing to run its vast international web of businesses. Federal ethics laws and conflict-of-interest statutes that apply to other federal employees and cabinet members do not apply to the president.
Trump Draws Sharp Rebuke, Concerns Over Newly Appointed Chief White House Strategist Stephen Bannon
Washington Post – Jose DelReal | Published: 11/13/2016
Critics denounced President-elect Donald Trump for appointing Stephen Bannon to a top White House position as chief strategist. Civil rights groups, senior Democrats, and some Republican strategists have said that Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, will bring anti-Semitic, nationalist, and racist views to the West Wing. Bannon has said while there are fringe elements associated with the right-wing nationalist movement, his critics are painting with too broad a brush. “These people are patriots,” he said. “They love their country. They just want their country taken care of.”
Trump Team Sets Broader Limits on Lobbying by Former Staff
New York Times – Michael Shear and Eric Lipton | Published: 11/16/2016
President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team announced it will require incoming officials to terminate their lobbyist registrations and agree not to lobby again for five years after leaving the administration. The sweeping post-employment restrictions could make it difficult for Trump, whose transition team has struggled to get off the ground, to attract experienced professionals in policy circles where lobbying is a common revenue stream. The policy is in some ways far more rigid than President Barack Obama’s groundbreaking lobbyist ban.
From the States and Municipalities:
Alabama – Strange’s Office Asked Groups for Input on Ethics Law
Montgomery Advertiser – Brian Lyman | Published: 11/15/2016
A few months after securing the conviction of House Speaker Mike Hubbard under the state ethics law, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange’s office solicited input about the law and its application to groups covered by it. The main point of unease grows from the Hubbard jury’s application of the ethics law to individuals and organizations who hire lobbyists, known as principals. The state’s ethics law forbids legislators from asking for or receiving any “thing of value” from a lobbyist or a principal. The Hubbard trial also led to questions about how state employees could find employment in the private sector without violating the ethics law.
Florida – Toll Board Lobbyist Accused of Foiling County’s Push for Transit Funds
Miami Herald – Douglas Hanks | Published: 11/11/2016
The private lobbyist Miami-Dade County hired to push transit legislation had another client on the issue that paid more: the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority. A report from the county’s ethics board criticized the lobbyist, Fausto Gomez, for not disclosing the “potential conflict” and recommended that the county commission ban his firm, Gomez Barker, from county lobbying contracts for up to three years.
Illinois – Red Light Cameras Figure Given 2 1/2 Years in Prison for Massive Bribe Scheme
Chicago Tribune – David Kidwell | Published: 11/10/2016
The former chief executive officer of Chicago’s longtime red light camera vendor was sentenced to two-and-one-half years in prison for her role in a $2 million cash-for-cameras bribery scheme with a top City Hall manager who rigged the contract for a decade. In addition to imposing the prison sentence, the judge ordered Karen Finley to pay $35,000 up front in restitution and then 10 percent of whatever net income she makes for the rest of her life. The sentence will run concurrent with the 14-month prison term given to Finley in federal court in Ohio for her role in a smaller bribes-for-contracts scheme there.
Massachusetts – Federal Prosecutors Open Criminal Grand Jury Probe of Thornton Law Firm Donations
Center for Responsive Politics – Andrea Estes (Boston Globe) and Viveca Novak | Published: 11/15/2016
Federal prosecutors have opened a grand jury investigation into potentially illegal campaign contributions from lawyers at the Thornton Law Firm, a leading donor to Democrats around the country. The U.S. attorney’s office is one of three agencies now looking into the Boston-based personal injury firm’s practice of reimbursing its partners for millions of dollars in political donations. The law firm has insisted the donations were legal, but soon after the media revealed the firm’s practice, politicians began returning hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations. Federal prosecutors, as well as state and federal campaign finance regulators, are investigating whether Thornton and its lawyers violated the law by paying “bonuses” to firm partners in the exact amount of their political donations and often on the same day. The firm’s attorney acknowledges the payments went on for a decade.
New Jersey – GWB Scandal Puts a Light on the Benefits of Lobbying
Bergen Record – John Reitmeyer | Published: 11/14/2016
Wolff & Samson is one of the top “go-to” law firms in New Jersey, continuing the tradition of others that reap benefits when a particular political party or close ally is in power. Public records show the law firm headed by David Samson, who was legal counsel for Gov. Chris Christie’s 2009 campaign and led his transition team, also has earned millions of dollars doing legal work for numerous government agencies during Christie’s tenure. Wolff & Samson also employs lobbyists who have represented major corporations seeking favorable outcomes from state government.
New York – Cuomo, Stung by a Scandal, Offers Ethics Reforms
New York Times – Vivian Yee and Jesse McKinley | Published: 11/16/2016
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is taking a number of unilateral steps designed to reduce potential conflicts-of-interest and fraud in the annual awarding of billions of dollars in state contracts. Cuomo said he will ban his political campaign and the state Democratic Party from accepting contributions from companies as they bid for state contracts. He will also create new watchdog positions to oversee the executive branch and the state’s higher-education system, among other reforms.
Tennessee – Legal Loophole Allows Donors to Obscure State Campaign Contributions
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 11/14/2016
Andy Miller, one of the most significant Tennessee Republican Party donors in recent history, has used more than a dozen names, addresses, and job descriptions when giving as much as $550,000 in state contributions, making it difficult to track the money. The obfuscation of the donations to state PACs, incumbent state lawmakers, and legislative candidates illustrates a loophole in campaign finance law that helps wealthy donors skirt contribution limits, according to an analysis of more than a decade of campaign finance reports.
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