News You Can Use Digest - November 7, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

November 7, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – November 7, 2014



Cell Phones, Social Media and Campaign 2014

Pew Research Center – Aaron Smith | Published: 11/3/2014

The Pew Research Center found social media platforms and cell phones are playing an increasingly prominent role in how voters get political information and follow election news. Republicans and Democrats use social media in this way at similar rates. When asked about some reasons why they might follow political figures on social media, Republicans and conservative-leaning independents express a greater desire to be the first to find out about breaking political news, and to get political information that has not passed through the traditional media “filter.” Voters from both parties place a similar emphasis on the deeper connections that social media allows them to form with the candidates they support.

Hard-Nosed Advice from Veteran Lobbyist: ‘Win Ugly or Lose Pretty’

New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 10/30/2014

A veteran lobbyist told the oil and gas industry that, if it wants to continually expand drilling operations, it must be ready to “win ugly or lose pretty,” according to a secretly taped recording of the comments. Consultant Richard Berman, founder and chief executive of the Washington D.C.-based firm Berman and Co., made the comments during a speech to industry executives in June. He said executives must be willing to get dirty and dig up embarrassing information about environmentalists and liberal celebrities. And if the oil and gas executives solicit help from Berman’s firm, he said he would be able to hide their role in funding certain campaigns. One executive took issue with Berman’s comments and secretly recorded the speech, which he then gave to The New York Times.

How Political Donors Are Changing Statehouse News Reporting

Governing – Daniel Vock | Published: 11/1/2014

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity is deploying reporters to cover state and local governments around the country. Its ultimate ambition is to have bureaus in every state. But they are not news bureaus in the way many traditional journalists understand them. They are being paid to cover government from an unabashedly ideological perspective. In a study of statehouse reporters released this summer, the Pew Research Center found 33 ideological outlets with state Capitol reporters across the country. Some who are affiliated with such groups wonder why citizen journalists, including those who are advocates of one cause or another, should be treated differently than traditional journalists who see themselves as objective.

In States Seen to Be Tilting Left, Voters Defy Democrats’ Forecast

New York Times – Jonathan Martin | Published: 11/5/2014

More striking than any Republican gains in red-state America on November 4 were the party’s U.S. Senate victories in Colorado and North Carolina and the near miss in Virginia. All are states that both parties believed were trending Democratic, and that Democrats boasted would before long be out of reach to Republicans. But demographic shifts that are gradually reshaping the American electorate, making it more racially diverse and younger, cannot overcome a difficult political environment and a weak message in a nonpresidential year. And the Democratic edge in sophisticated technological voter mobilization and targeting is eroding, as Republicans adopt similar techniques and catch up.


Capitol Book Club, with a Bonus

New York Times – Ben Protess and Eric Lipton | Published: 11/2/2014

A book club gathers every month for lunch inside a private room at the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill. Unlike a local library’s book club, this event doubles as a political fundraiser. For the book club’s members – an A-list of lobbyists from banks and insurance companies – the main attraction is access to the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. The cost of admission is a campaign donation to whichever committee member is playing host. Each month, attendees say, the lobbyists typically donate $1,000 to $5,000. “It is a $50,000 fundraiser, without a sweat,” said one lobbyist.

Election 2014: A new level of collaboration between candidates and big-money allies

Washington Post – Matea Gold | Published: 11/3/2014

Just a decade ago, candidates shied away from being too closely associated with money raised by independent groups for reasons of appearance and for fear of running afoul of election laws. But the rapid spread of super PACs and politically active nonprofit organizations that followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has dramatically altered the climate. Political operatives are also taking advantage of the hands-off approach of a divided FEC, which has not re-examined coordination rules in the wake of the 2010 ruling. In that void, candidates and independent groups have sought to bring their operations in alignment as much as possible this year.

How to Waste 10 Million Dollars

Politico – Kenneth Vogel and Byron Tau | Published: 11/6/2014

Mayday PAC burst onto the political scene in the spring of 2014 with grandiose designs to elect a pro-campaign finance reform majority to the U.S. Congress by 2016. The 2014 cycle was a test run of sorts, with the group spending more than $10 million on a slate of candidates ostensibly united only in their belief in curbing the influence of big donors, lobbyists, and money in the political system. But voters cast their ballots for business as usual, leaving Mayday and its founders facing questions about the contrast between its bold predictions and results.

Republicans First Step was to Handle Extremists in Party

New York Times – Jeremy Peters and Thomas Hulse | Published: 11/5/2014

Republicans’ impressive showing on November 4 – marking the first time the GOP will have a majority in both the U.S. House and Senate since 2006 – was in large part the result of methodical plotting, careful candidate vetting, and abundant preparation to ensure the party’s candidates would avoid repeating the same devastating mistakes that cost them dearly in 2010 and 2012. In the end, the disciplined approach worked: no Republican imploded with the kind of fatal campaign gaffe that crushed the party’s hopes in the last two elections, and every established candidate prevailed in the primaries.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Firebrand Alabama Republican Collides With Ethics Law He Espoused

New York Times – Campbell Robertson and Alan Blinder | Published: 10/31/2014

State Rep. Michael Hubbard was arrested after a grand jury returned a 23-count indictment, partly on the basis of an ethics law he had championed, accusing him of using his positions as Alabama GOP chairperson and House speaker to steer thousands of dollars’ worth of business to companies in which he had a financial interest. Hubbard has denied the charges. Though they have not been accused of wrongdoing, some of Alabama’s most prominent executives appeared in the indictment, as did Bob Riley, a former two-term governor. This was unexpected, though perhaps it should not have been: Hubbard has been as strong a center of political gravity as the state has had in decades.

Arkansas – Arkansas Voters Approve Extended Term Limits

Governing – J.B. Wogan | Published: 11/5/2014

A ballot measure that would tighten ethics laws and change term limits passed in Arkansas. Issue 3 prohibits legislators and constitutional officers from taking gifts from lobbyists, with some exceptions; bans candidates from accepting campaign donations from corporations; increases the period that a former legislator must wait before registering as a lobbyist; and allows a lawmaker to serve up to 16 years in either chamber instead of the current limit of three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate.

California – California Lawmakers’ Campaign Credit-Card Spending Often Lacks Disclosure, Sacramento Bee Review Finds

Sacramento Bee – Jim Miller | Published: 11/2/2014

A review of California lawmakers’ credit-card spending by The Sacramento Bee found many provided only the barest of descriptions of their expenses on state-required campaign reports, despite a 2008 rule meant to improve disclosure. The lack of detail makes it difficult to determine whether legislators are using their campaign accounts to help them win re-election or do their jobs, or whether some have found an easy way to live a more luxurious lifestyle. Overall, lawmakers racked up more than $4 million in campaign credit-card charges during the first 18 months of this election cycle.

Florida – City Ethics Amendment Passes by Wide Margin

Tallahassee Democrat – Jeff Burlew | Published: 11/5/2014

Tallahassee voters overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment beefing up the city’s ethics program. It will create a seven-member ethics board with the power to investigate complaints and levy civil penalties; lower the maximum contribution that can be given to candidates from $1,000 to $250; and allow donors to receive rebates from the city of up to $25 if they give that much or more to candidates. The city commission has six months to enact an ethics code with jurisdiction over all officers and employees, including elected and appointed officials.

New York – 4 Indicted N.Y. Pols Win Re-election

Politico – Lucy McCalmont | Published: 11/5/2014

New York voters overwhelmingly re-elected four lawmakers – one to Congress and three to the state Legislature – who are under federal criminal indictments. U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm was re-elected to his House seat despite a 20–count indictment on tax related and other charges. Assemblyperson William Scarborough has been accused of misusing campaign funds for personal expenses. Sen. John Sampson could be sentenced to prison on charges including obstruction of justice, and witness and evidence tampering. Sen. Thomas Libous faces trial in 2015 following an indictment on charges of lying to federal agents.

Ohio – State Rep. Sandra Williams Found Guilty of Profiting from Ohio State Football Tickets

Columbus Dispatch – Jim Siegel | Published: 10/31/2014

State Rep. Sandra Williams pleaded no contest to charges she illegally sold Ohio State football season tickets purchased with campaign funds and did not report it to the state. She faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. The four 2010 tickets, worth a total of $2,255, were sold to lobbyist Ed Hogan. But Hogan made a money order out to Williams herself instead of to the campaign. Williams then deposited the money in her personal account and did not reimburse her campaign until FBI investigators discovered the error.

Pennsylvania – Harrisburg Lobbying Costs on the Rise

Citizens Voice – Robert Swift | Published: 11/2/2014

Lobbyists spent $116 million to influence Pennsylvania lawmakers last year, a 10 percent increase over 2012, with the top areas of lobbying interest in energy, the state budget, and healthcare issues. The lobbyist disclosure law requires corporations and trade associations that spent more than $2,500 in any quarter to register, broadly categorize how the money is spent, and identify general issues on which they lobby. Revelations that four House members allegedly accepted cash gifts from a confidential informant during a sting operation led the House and Senate to adopt rules banning lawmakers from accepting cash gifts. But bills to enact a total ban on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers and public officials did not make much headway.


Jim SedorState and Federal Communications produces a weekly summary of national news, offering more than 80 articles per week focused on ethics, lobbying, and campaign finance.

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