News You Can Use Digest - November 20, 2015 - State and Federal Communications

November 20, 2015  •  

News You Can Use Digest – November 20, 2015



Inside the Clinton Donor Network
Washington Post – Matea Gold, Tom Hamburger, and Anu Narayanswamy | Published: 11/19/2015

The Washington Post identified donations from roughly 336,000 individuals, corporations, unions, and foreign governments in support of the political or philanthropic endeavors of Bill and Hillary Clinton. The investigation found many top patrons supported them in multiple ways, helping finance their political causes, their legal needs, their philanthropy, and their personal bank accounts. The Clintons’ fundraising operation – $3 billion amassed by one couple, working in tandem for more than four decades – has no equal. The donor network is now serving as both a prime asset and liability for Hillary Clinton as she seeks the Democratic presidential nomination.

One Slogan, Many Methods: Black Lives Matter enters politics
New York Times – John Eligon | Published: 11/18/2015

Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag and grew into a protest slogan – after prominent police killings of blacks over the past year – and became an Internet-driven civil rights movement. The phrase is as much a mantra as a particular organization, with the general public lumping numerous groups under the Black Lives Matter banner, even if they are not officially connected. Yet amid the groups’ different approaches has been a swirl of political activity. Local affiliates of the Black Lives Matter organization have disrupted numerous Democratic presidential campaign events, pushing the candidates to support policies to end mass incarceration and police brutality. That organization now has 26 chapters that largely set their own direction. Yet the young and sometimes cacophonous movement is struggling to find its voice, as the activists who fly its banner wade into national politics.

Republican Governors: A winning machine
Politico – Kevin Robillard | Published: 11/18/2015

While Democrats have reshaped the federal government under President Barack Obama, Republicans have methodically taken over state after state around the country, swelling the number of GOP governors from 19 to 31 and enacting conservative priorities from budget cuts to new restrictions on unions and abortion. Behind each of those policy and political victories was the Republican Governors Association (RGA), planning, funding, and executing the GOP’s state-based resurgence. The RGA has avoided congressional Republicans’ problems, especially in hard-to-win blue states, by playing a relentless but “quiet” role in recruiting candidates that fit their states, said former RGA Director Phil Musser.

The Koch Intelligence Agency
Politico – Kenneth Vogel | Published: 11/18/2015

An operation that is part of the Koch brothers’ political network conducts surveillance and intelligence gathering to try to thwart liberal groups and activists, and to identify potential threats to the network. The intelligence team has a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst. It sends regular emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking, and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups, and their allies. The team utilizes high-tech tactics to track the movements of liberal organizers, including culling geo-data embedded in their social media posts. “We were caught off guard by what the left was doing in 2012, and we’d be foolish to be caught in that position again,” said Marc Short, president of Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the network’s central group.


Clinton, Bush Lawyers Square Off in FEC Proxy War
Politico – Isaac Arnsdorf and Theodoric Meyer | Published: 11/11/2015

Requests to relax limits on coordination between candidates and super PACs left the FEC divided recently. The often-deadlocked commission only managed to agree on five of the dozen questions that were raised at a hearing. They were unable to reach a majority decision on whether a potential candidate could form a super PAC before announcing his or her campaign, or whether a potential candidate could share advance plans with a super PAC before jumping into the race. They also could not agree on whether super PACs could film footage of potential candidates with an eye toward using it in ads. Four of the six commissioners did vote to let candidates attend fundraisers with as few as two donors.

From the States and Municipalities:

Arizona – Lobbying Records Only Disclose Recipient for $1 Out of Every $8 Spent
Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting – Justin Price | Published: 11/13/2015

Lobbyists in Arizona are required to report their expenditures in quarterly reports. But loopholes and minimal regulatory oversight leave room for them to spend without reporting who benefited. Lobbying records for 2015 include a beneficiary for one dollar out of every eight dollars spent. A report by the Center for Public Integrity gave Arizona’s lobbying disclosure an “F” grade. Reporting exemptions exist for both large- and small-dollar expenditures and lobbyists face minimal threat of being audited for filing reports incorrectly or incompletely.

California – California Ethics Panel Targets Vague Lobbying Payments
Sacramento Bee – Jeremy White | Published: 11/18/2015

Under current California law, anyone who spends at least $5,000 to sway legislation or administrative rulemaking must file quarterly reports. But much of the spending falls into a nebulous category called “other payments to influence,” a designation that can include the cost of mounting advertising campaigns, paying office overhead, and retaining political consultants. Seeking more clarity, the Fair Political Practices Commission is pushing an amendment that would have lobbyist employers break down expenditures that exceed $2,500 into an array of categories that include paying employees other than lobbyists, advertising, and public affairs work. They also would have to disclose the recipients of the payments.

California – Inside California Lawmakers’ Paid Trips to Maui
Sacramento Bee – Alexei Koseff | Published: 11/18/2015

The California Independent Voter Project’s annual conference has once again arrived, bringing together 21 state lawmakers and dozens of corporate sponsors for five days in Hawaii. This type of travel is nothing new for California legislators, who have been venturing overseas for decades at the expense of business groups, labor unions, foreign governments, and their campaign donors. Yet the Independent Voter Project conference, with its luxurious setting, has become something of a lightning rod for criticisms about the cozy relationship between lawmakers and special interests. “… If the purpose of the trip were to educate lawmakers about the problems of California, they would go to Fresno,” said Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.

Florida – County Ethics Commission Sues Hialeah Mayor for Trying to Pay $4K Fine with Pennies
Miami Herald – Brenda Medina | Published: 11/18/2015

The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust sued Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez for trying to pay a $4,000 fine with 28 buckets of pennies and nickels. The commission also doubled the fine imposed on Hernandez, saying he intentionally broke its regulations by sending the 360,000 coins even though he knew the panel accepts only checks.

Illinois – Feds Seize Computers, Files on Chicago Officials from Outgoing Inspector General
Politico – Natasha Korecki | Published: 11/16/2015

The FBI seized documents and computers from legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan’s office on his last day overseeing Chicago elected officials. Kahn said the office was working on several investigations. In the past four years, the inspector general’s office has had a tumultuous relationship with City Hall. While the office had jurisdiction over aldermen and support staff, it could not launch investigations based on anonymous complaints, and required the notification of any subject under investigation. Khan spoke about his disbelief both with the mayor’s office and with the city council over their resistance to oversight. “Thirty aldermen over 40 years have gone to jail. … I would describe to you that the oversight in Chicago is comparable to the Wild West – anything goes,” Kahn said.

Montana – Committee Fails to Block New Campaign Rules
Flathead Beacon – Matt Volz (Associated Press) | Published: 11/17/2015

New rules affecting Montana’s campaign finance law will take effect after a legislative committee failed to delay the changes. The regulations will be adopted by Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl in the coming days after a final review. They will become effective once they are published by the Montana secretary of state, which will likely happen in February, and will apply to the 2016 primary elections in June. The guidelines will require more reporting by candidates and organizations, tighten restrictions on candidate coordination, and require same-day electronic reporting of contributions.

New Mexico – Acting SOS Plans to Clarify Lobbyist Contributions
New Mexico in Depth – Sandra Fish | Published: 11/18/2015

Acting Secretary of State Mary Quintana intends to clarify rules on how lobbyists report campaign contributions to candidates in New Mexico. Lobbyists often contribute on behalf of their clients. But some list the clients as the donors in their reports and others do not. Some of those listings are also unclear about who the recipient is – a candidate or a candidate’s PAC.

Ohio – Ohio Probes Whether Wright University Violated Lobbying Laws
Washington Times; Associated Press –   | Published: 11/19/2015

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is investigating whether Wright State University and its consultant, Ron Wine, violated lobbying laws when the university paid him nearly $2 million without prior approval from the state Controlling Board. State law since 2011 has mandated that public universities get Controlling Board approval for any lobbying contracts that exceed $50,000 in a calendar year. Employees paid to advocate for their clients’ interest are required to register as lobbyists if that part of their job exceeds five percent of their workload for legislative lobbying or 25 percent for executive branch lobbying. Ohio Legislative Inspector General Tony Bledsoe gave the university 15 days to register Wine as a lobbyist or explain why he is not one.

Texas – Travis County Has No Rules for Registering Lobbyists
Austin American-Statesman – Sean Collins Walsh | Published: 11/15/2015

Lobbyists are not required to register with Travis County, and firms do not have to disclose who is being paid to advocate for them. The city of Austin’s and the state of Texas’ lobbying disclosure systems are often criticized for loopholes and poor enforcement, but they still provide a level of transparency that Travis County’s procedures do not address. Advocates for lobbyist registration say it enables the public to monitor who is influencing government decisions and reduces the likelihood that insider deals will go undetected, or at least makes it easier to figure out what happened if a transaction is later scrutinized.

Wisconsin – Assembly GOP Approves Rewritten Campaign Finance Laws, GAB Overhaul
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 11/16/2015

The Wisconsin Assembly gave final approval to a pair of bills that would alter the flow of money to campaigns and change oversight of ethics laws. Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign them into law. One bill would replace the Government Accountability Board, which is comprised of retired judges, with two separate panels consisting of partisan appointees. The other bill would make clear that candidates can coordinate political activity with issue advocacy groups that do not have to disclose their donors. It would also double allowable individual campaign contribution limits, do away with a requirement that donors giving more than $100 to campaigns disclose who they work for, and allow corporate contributions to political parties and legislative campaign committees for the first time.

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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