November 22, 2013 •
News You Can Use Digest – November 22, 2013
The Center for Public Integrity – Alan Suderman and Ben Weider | Published: 11/14/2013
Nonprofits, super PACs, and other non-candidate groups reported spending at least $209 million to influence elections in 38 states in 2012, according to the Center for Public Integrity. More than one out of every two dollars spent originated from groups funded primarily or entirely by out-of-state donors. Even seemingly local entities, like state parties, were recipients of huge influxes of outside cash.
San Diego Union Tribune – Jack Gillum (Associated Press) | Published: 11/21/2013
The FEC said bitcoins cannot be used for contributions to political organizations at this time. Bitcoin is a cybercurrency that is relatively anonymous and is created and exchanged independently of any government or bank. Some retailers accept it, and the currency can be converted into cash after being deposited into virtual wallets. But the FEC is not yet sold on allowing bitcoins to funnel into the accounts of campaigns and outside groups supporting them.
New York Times – Christopher Drew | Published: 11/20/2013
Leonard Francis, a wealthy Malaysian contractor, is at the center of a widening investigation into an overbilling scheme in which federal prosecutors say he used cash, prostitutes, and gifts to bribe U.S. Navy officials to help him defraud the service. Despite red flags over his business practices, the Navy awarded Francis $200 million in contracts, giving him control over providing supplies and dockside services for its fleet across the Pacific.
From the States and Municipalities:
California – What a Day for Political Ethics in California
Sacramento Bee – Laurel Rosenhall | Published: 11/16/2013
On the same day, the Democratic leader of the California Senate addressed the latest allegations in an FBI corruption probe, a state senator took the witness stand to testify he had not engaged in money laundering, and the Fair Political Practices Commission handed down fines to one current and two past lawmakers who admitted campaign finance violations.
Denver Post – Lynn Bartels | Published: 11/19/2013
A legislative committee said there is not enough evidence to settle an ethics complaint against Joe Neville, a lobbyist for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. He allegedly threatened state Rep. Cheri Gerou with political retribution if she did not oppose all of the Democratic bills aimed at strengthening gun laws earlier this year. Neville could still face disciplinary action including a two-year suspension of his lobbying privileges at the Capitol.
District of Columbia – Capital Gains: Spending on contracts and lobbying propels a wave of new wealth in D .C.
Washington Post – Greg Jaffe and Jim Tankersly | Published: 11/17/2013
Tens of thousands of the nation’s best-educated workers have flocked to the Washington, D.C. region, some for contracting jobs, and some simply to be part of the newly energized business climate. The avalanche of cash that made Washington rich in the last decade has transformed the culture of a once staid capital and created a new wave of well-heeled insiders.
New Orleans Times Picayune – Lee Zurik (WVUE) and Manuel Torres | Published: 11/20/2013
A review of Louisiana’s campaign finance system by The New Orleans Times Picayune is prompting calls for reform. The analysis found individual donors and special interests can legally bundle corporate and personal contributions to exert outsized influence. It also discovered politicians who collected large amounts in over-the-limit, and apparently illegal, contributions, yet went undetected by the state Board of Ethics.
Detroit Free Press – Paul Egan and Kathleen Gray | Published: 11/14/2013
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said she intends to expand Michigan’s campaign disclosure rules to include issue ads, but the state Senate promptly passed a bill that would slam the door on her proposal. An amendment was added to a bill doubling the state’s campaign finance contribution limits that would allow sponsors of ads not specifically urging a vote for or against a candidate to remain anonymous.
Las Vegas Sun – Cy Ryan | Published: 11/18/2013
A judge levied a fine of $109,560 against the Alliance for America’s Future over advertising that supported Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval. The PAC did not register in the state as required by law and never filed any reports detailing its expenditures. District Court Judge James Wilson rejected the group’s claim that the law was unconstitutional.
NJ.com – Darrel Isherwood | Published: 11/19/2013
Approximately 18,000 officials will attend the annual League of Municipalities convention in Atlantic City this year. The event is more well-known for parties than its training sessions. “I’ve gone to the [convention] for the past 15 years and I’ve only paid to attend the sessions twice in that time,” said one prominent lobbyist.
Columbus Dispatch – Doug Livingston (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 11/17/2013
At least four state school board members in Ohio have business and private interests that compete directly for education money. They maintain there is no problem with this activity as they police themselves, abstain from voting as necessary, and file statements with the Ohio Ethics Commission. While state lawmakers cannot lobby while in office, Ethics Commission Executive Director Paul Nick said the lobbying law does not address the state school board.
Norman Transcript; Staff – | Published: 11/19/2013
State Rep. Mike Reynolds criticized the Oklahoma Ethics Commission for its proposed changes to lobbyist reporting and registration rules, along with other reforms. Lobbyists’ employers are now prohibited from spending more than $100 per calendar year per lawmaker. But the commission would allow principals to provide $500 for meals and other gifts, among other changes. Reynolds said will introduce a resolution during the upcoming legislative session to disapprove the proposed rules.
Pennsylvania – Officials, Others Slam Proposed City Ethics Rule
Philadelphia Inquirer – Claudia Vargas | Published: 11/20/2013
Many witnesses at a Philadelphia Board of Ethics hearing criticized a plan to place specific limits on the city’s vague gift rules. The proposed caps, meant to better define the current law, would allow city officers and employees to accept gifts of up to $200 in value per year from any single source, including cash payments of up to $50.
Deseret News – Lisa Riley Roche and Dennis Romboy | Published: 11/21/2013
Utah Attorney General John Swallow is expected to resign in the face of mounting investigations and a report from the lieutenant governor’s office that recommended charging him with three misdemeanors. His departure would allow Swallow to avoid any effort by a special counsel to seek his removal for multiple violations of election law. It also could bring to a close a months-long fact-finding investigation by the state House that could be laying the groundwork for his potential impeachment.
Chippewa Herald – Dee Hall | Published: 11/18/2013
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and more than two dozen conservative groups were recently subpoenaed by a special prosecutor, according to the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Mike McCabe said based on the report, the investigation appears to be zeroing in on whether issue ad groups illegally coordinated with campaigns during the effort to recall Walker and legislative leaders.
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