News You Can Use Digest - October 10, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

October 10, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – October 10, 2014



Wave of Ethics Complaints Hits Top Races

National Journal – Sarah Mimms | Published: 10/8/2014

With Election Day approaching, the closest races in the country have become magnets for ethics complaints. Watchdog groups and political parties have filed dozens of complaints against Republicans and Democrats in tough contests, questioning fundraising tactics and accusing campaigns of improper coordination, among other allegations, just as voters begin to tune in to the election-year fight. Regardless of their merits, the likelihood that any of these ethics complaints will be acted on before Election Day is slim. But for many of these groups, the result of a complaint is not nearly as important as filing the complaint itself.

Who is Donating to Political Campaigns Now? Big Pot.

Raleigh News & Observer – Kristen Wyatt (Associated Press) | Published: 10/6/2014

The U.S. marijuana industry is making campaign contributions to support cannabis-friendly candidates and ballot questions that could bring legal pot to more states. Medical marijuana businesses have been giving to candidates since the late 1990s. With the arrival of recreational pot in Colorado and Washington, the industry and its political influence are expanding rapidly. Marijuana measures will be on the November ballot in Oregon, Florida, Alaska, and Washington, D.C, so many donations are being funneled into those campaigns and the candidates who support them.


A Campaign Dollar’s Power Is More Valuable to a Challenger

New York Times – Lynn Vavreck | Published: 10/7/2014

Political scientists have found the relationship between campaign spending and election results is problematic. The difficulty stems from a general pattern in U.S. House and Senate elections. In congressional elections from 1992 to 2012, challengers who spent more money won more often than those who spent less. The opposite was true for incumbents, but correlation does not always imply causation. The question is not just whether spending affects election outcomes, but how spending might affect different kinds of candidates differently.

FEC Votes to Relax Campaign Finance Rules

The Hill – Benjamin Goad | Published: 10/9/2014

The FEC moved to formally relax campaign finance restrictions in response to a pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The commission agreed on language that will amend its rules to conform to the Citizens United ruling, which struck down restrictions that previously barred corporations and unions from spending money from their general treasury funds to support or oppose candidates. The agency also approved of a second set of regulations in the form of an interim final rule responding to the ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC. The decision eliminated aggregate contribution limits for individual donors in a single election cycle.

Nationals are Champs for Fundraisers

Politico – Byron Tau and Kevin Robillard | Published: 10/3/2014

Candidates, parties, and PACs have spent at least $245,000 on Washington Nationals tickets, gear, and seats during this election cycle. Most of that money went to hosting fundraising events at Nationals Park or buying tickets for donors, constituents, and lobbyists. Even more political cash goes to the Major League Baseball team in the form of corporate skybox rentals that often used to host members of Congress for fundraising events, money that is not always identified in campaign finance reports. The Nationals are in a league of their own when it comes to collecting political dollars; according to CQ Moneyline, the other seven teams in this year’s playoffs barely merit a mention as venues to collect political money or host wealthy donors.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alaska – As Energy Boom Ends, a Political Identity Crisis in Alaska

New York Times – Kirk Johnson | Published: 10/8/2014

Economic anxiety in Alaska is roiling an already sharp-edged political season, focused on one of the most competitive U.S. Senate races in the country: an endangered Democratic incumbent, Mark Begich, against Republican challenger, Dan Sullivan, a former state attorney general and natural resources commissioner. Alaska might appear politically conservative, and measured by election results, especially on the presidential level, it is. But many Alaskans say ideology is in fact a shallow measure of the political climate, and hard-nosed practicality – what does Alaska need from Washington and who is best at getting it – can often hold as much sway.

Colorado – Republicans Win Super PAC Lawsuit

Law Week Colorado – Hannah Garcia | Published: 10/2/2014

A District Court judge sided with the Colorado Republican Party in its efforts to establish its own Super PAC, while a local watchdog group is decrying the ruling as an erasure of state law surrounding political contributions. The GOP argued it was entitled to form the PAC because independent expenditures made by any person is permissible under the state constitution, and those expenditures are not subject to contribution limits and are permissible as long as there is no coordination with the party. Colorado Ethics Watch argued the committee is controlled and coordinates with the Republican Party, and because of that, is subject to the same contribution limits as political parties.

Illinois – When Interests Overlap for Durbin, Lobbyist Wife

Insurance News Net – Katherine Skiba and Kim Geiger (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/5/2014

A Chicago Tribune investigation found instances in which Loretta Durbin’s lobbying clients have received federal funding promoted by her husband, U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, raising questions about whether the power couple have done enough to avoid inherent conflicts-of-interest as they go about their jobs. Sen. Durbin acknowledged occasional “overlap” in which his wife’s clients received his help, but both insisted she limited her lobbying to Illinois and never sought federal funds. The couple said once the decision had been made not to lobby the federal government, Sen. Durbin was not consulted when she considered new clients.

Missouri – Gifts to Missouri Lawmakers Are Not Always Easy to Track

Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 10/6/2014

Seven lobbyists, representing businesses ranging from Hallmark to Peabody Energy, paid the lion’s share of the $3,000 cost of an evening for Missouri lawmakers at an expensive Dallas steakhouse this summer and reported the gifts as going to “the entire General Assembly.” The dinner was part of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual convention. Critics of Missouri’s ethics laws have long complained that reporting gifts to groups instead of individuals violates the spirit of the disclosure requirements by making it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to tell who is getting gifts from whom.

Nevada – Judicial Candidate Resigns from Nevada Ethics Commission

Reno Gazette-Journal – Emerson Marcus | Published: 10/6/2014

The executive director of the Nevada Commission on Ethics has resigned amid a complaint that she used her office to advance her campaign to become a Washoe County Family Court judge. Caren Cafferata-Jenkins stepped down on October 9. Former commission investigator Michael Lawrence filed a complaint against her in June, saying she turned the commission office “into her own personal Kinko’s” for her campaign. Cafferata-Jenkins has denied the allegations and said Lawrence is bitter after losing his job in April. She said she is resigning because the complaint is bringing negative attention on the commission.

New Jersey – N.J. Lawmaker Tries to Limit New Bills … by Introducing a New Bill

Newark Star Ledger – Matt Friedman | Published: 10/6/2014

New Jersey Assemblyperson Anthony Bucco, who has looked on as his colleagues have introduced thousands of bills, sometimes on seemingly frivolous subjects and usually with little chance of passage, says he has had enough. And to come up with a solution, Bucco introduced a bill. Bucco, proposed legislation that would limit state senators to being the top prime sponsor on just 25 bills or resolutions per two-year session, and keep Assembly members to just 15 bills. At the end of the term, each bill would have to include an estimate by the Office of Legislative Services of how much it cost to draft it, process it, and consider it.

Pennsylvania – Fattah Nonprofits Paid Millions to Ex-Staffers

Philadelphia Daily News – William Bender | Published: 10/7/2014

Between 2001 and 2012, nonprofits founded or supported by U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah have paid out at least $5.8 million to his associates, including political operatives, ex-staffers, and their relatives, according to The Philadelphia Daily News. Three people who had ties to the organizations were later convicted of federal crimes. For the past seven years, criminal investigators have been looking at Fattah and the cottage industry of mostly taxpayer-funded nonprofits run by his political allies.

Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh’s Campaign Finance Law Called Flawed

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Chris Potter | Published: 10/5/2014

One of the key enforcement mechanisms of Pittsburgh’s campaign finance ordinance is defunct; other provisions are contradictory. In an apparent oversight, the law omits mayoral and city controller races from the definition of races it covers. “The law is completely meaningless; this is what you tend to get when you approach public policy from the position of public relations,” said city Controller Michael Lamb. Across the state, efforts to rein in political spending appear to have met with more success.

South Carolina – State and Federal Investigation Focuses on Political Action Committee Money, State Contracts

Charleston Post & Courier – Jeremy Borden | Published: 10/8/2014

Investigators from the State Law Enforcement Division and federal agencies have launched a broad inquiry into the actions of several members of the South Carolina House, focused at least in part on some members of the Ways and Means Committee. Sources in a position to know about the investigation said the probe revolves around allegations that lawmakers sold their votes, funneled money from the state budget into their own pockets, and misused money from a PAC.

Virginia – McAuliffe Aide Suggested Job for Senator’s Daughter If He Remained in His Seat

Washington Post – Laura Vozzella | Published: 10/2/2014

Virginia Sen. Phillip Puckett abrupt exit from the Legislature, which flipped control of the chamber to the GOP and thwarted Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s goal of expanding health coverage, came amid accusations that Republicans had enticed him to leave with job offers for himself and his daughter, triggering an ongoing federal investigation. Now, a voice-mail message suggests Puckett fielded a similar overture from Paul Reagan, McAuliffe’s chief of staff, if he stayed in the Senate.

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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