News You Can Use Digest - October 14, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

October 14, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – October 14, 2016



Coke and Pepsi Give Millions to Public Health, Then Lobby Against It
New York Times – Anahad O’Connor | Published: 10/10/2016

Despite the fact that America has an obesity problem, fueled in part by the overconsumption of sugar, several prominent public health groups (including some that are government-run) have accepted money from soda companies in recent years. In a new study, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine report that between 2011 to 2015, 96 national health organizations accepted money from Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, or both companies. There has been increasing scrutiny in recent years of the soda industry’s influence over the public health debate, especially over soda’s link to obesity, and legislative efforts such as soda taxes and bans meant to curb its influence. The researchers looked at lobbying efforts by the companies and found both actively oppose legislation that targets soda and is designed to prevent obesity.

Gerrymandering Helped Republicans Take Control of Congress, but Now It’s Tearing Them Apart Over Trump
Los Angeles Times – Lisa Mascaro | Published: 10/11/2016

Across the country, Republicans in contested races face a terrible bind: they have to run from Donald Trump to hold onto swing votes, even if that angers some core supporters. But in secure, heavily conservative GOP districts, Republicans face the opposite pressure: to cleave fast to Trump, who remains popular despite statements that have alienated many voters. The crisis sparked by the Trump campaign has split the Republican Party in two, and ironically, the gerrymandering of districts that helped build the GOP congressional majority is now working to make that fracture worse.


Donald Trump Finds Improbable Ally in WikiLeaks
New York Times – Patrick Healy, David Sanger, and Maggie Haberman | Published: 10/12/2016

Donald Trump, his advisers, and many of his supporters are increasingly seizing on a trove of embarrassing emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign that WikiLeaks has been publishing – and that U.S. intelligence agencies said came largely from Russian intelligence agencies, with the authorization of “Russia’s senior-most officials.” The Trump campaign’s willingness to use WikiLeaks is a turnabout after years of bipartisan criticism of the organization for past disclosures of American national security intelligence and other confidential information. The accusation that Russian agents are now playing an almost-daily role in helping fuel Trump’s latest political attacks on Clinton raises far greater concerns, though, about foreign interference in a presidential election.

Filmmaker Says Lobbying Firm Tried to ‘Thwart’ Screening of Documentary Critical of Herbalife
Washington Post – Emily Heil | Published: 10/10/2016

The Washington, D.C. screening of a documentary scrutinizing controversial multilevel marketing company Herbalife had 173 empty seats because Herbalife’s lobbying firm bought them out. The documentary, Ted Braun’s “Betting on Zero,” focuses on activist investor Bill Ackman’s quest to portray Herbalife as a pyramid scheme and profit from shorting its stock. Ten staffers of Heather Podesta + Partners, which lobbies for Herbalife, bought half the tickets and never picked them up, according to organizers of the film festival. At $15 a seat, the ruse cost more than $2,500. The company paid the firm $70,000 last quarter, lobbying disclosures show.

Trump Reels as More Accusers Emerge
Politico – Louis Nelson | Published: 10/13/2016

Multiple women have come forward to accuse Donald Trump of uninvited kissing or groping. The stories, which have been told to different news organizations, come after Trump denied during the most recent presidential debate that he had ever sexually assaulted a woman. He has also denied the latest reports in The New York Times, The Palm Beach Post, and People, calling them fabrications and threatening lawsuits. The women who spoke to The Times, who are both supporters of Hillary Clinton, said they felt compelled to speak out after Trump said he had never done the things he was caught boasting about on a 2005 videotape.

WikiLeaks Hack Reveals Cozy Relationship between Clinton Campaign, Super PAC
The Hill – Jonathan Swan | Published: 10/10/2016

A top attorney for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign sent a memorandum to campaign aides teaching them how to legally communicate with a pro-Clinton super PAC, emails released by WikiLeaks show. While Clinton has claimed her campaign has nothing to do with the super PAC Priorities USA, a leaked email from the personal account of Clinton’s campaign chairperson, John Podesta, suggests differently. In the email, Clinton attorney Marc Elias outlined what is basically a strategy for steering large campaign donors to the super PAC without breaking the law.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alaska – Lobbyist Bankrolled PAC Run by State Lawmaker Is Legal, APOC Staff Says
KTUU – Austin Baird | Published: 10/10/2016

Lobbyists bankrolling a PAC run by a sitting state lawmaker, an unconventional approach to financing campaigns that started happening this year, is not a violation of state law, according to an Alaska Public Offices Commission staff opinion. The source of the cash is at the core of the complaint against the group run by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, which alleges wrongdoing on three fronts centered around the fact that several lobbyists who live outside of LeDoux’s district contributed $500 apiece. Alaska law allows paid lobbyists to contribute to legislative campaigns but only to candidates running in their own district.

California – State Lawmakers Got about $873,000 in Freebies Last Year, but the Gifts Can Be Difficult to Track
San Louis Obispo Tribune – Matt Fountain | Published: 10/8/2016

California lawmakers reported receiving about $873,000 in meals, entertainment, travel, and other gifts last year. Public officials across the state are required to file financial disclosure forms that are the public’s way of ensuring officials are making decisions based on the public interest and not their own financial gain. But the primarily paper-based system is inherently messy, with little consistency in how gifts are reported, making it cumbersome to verify some vague and incorrectly reported gifts. Legal loopholes regarding what constitutes free travel and degrees of separation between lobbyists and gift-giving render key aspects of the laws essentially toothless.

Hawaii – How Hawaii Companies Pay to Party It Up with Public Officials
Honolulu Civil Beat – Chad Blair | Published: 10/11/2016

Those attending and sponsoring the Hawaii Congress of Planning Officials included some of the most powerful business interests in the state who had the chance to hobnob with the kind of government officials who have influence on issues that affect them. State and county laws have strict rules about government officials receiving gifts, particularly if it appears those gifts could have an influence on their actions. But conferences like the recent three-day planning retreat on Kauai show how special interests are still able help pay to entertain an array of public officials.

Illinois – Chicago Politicians Warned on Use of Coveted Face-Value Cubs Playoff Tickets
Chicago Tribune – Hal Dardick | Published: 10/9/2016

Aldermen and city officials who take advantage of the Chicago Cubs’ offer to purchase playoff tickets at face value must accompany their guests to all games at Wrigley Field and be publicly announced to the crowd or risk violating the city’s ethics ordinance. Chicago Ethics Board Executive Director Steve Berlin noted the law prohibits city employees and elected officials from accepting gifts worth more than $50 and the difference between the face value of Cubs playoff tickets and the “commonly understood fair market value” exceeds that limit. But the ordinance does allow officials to attend events “in their official capacity,” he added. “It could be construed as a prohibited gift to the city official if they are not announced or if they give away or resell all tickets they purchased at this special price,” Berlin wrote.

Michigan – Secretive Funds Allow Michigan Lawmakers to Accept Corporate Cash – Craig Mauger (Michigan Campaign Finance Network) and Emily Lawler | Published: 10/11/2016

It is illegal for a corporation to give directly to a candidate’s campaign account in Michigan. But there is a difficult-to-trace and rarely discussed form of legal fundraising where many donations do not have to be disclosed. An investigation found at least 50 of Michigan’s House and Senate members, about one in three, are connected or have been connected to a nonprofit or administrative account. From 2013 to 2015, about $12.8 million flowed to more than 100 accounts connected to political parties, elected officeholders, and their consultants. Finding who runs these lawmaker-connected organizations, who gives to them, and what the contributions are used for can be extremely difficult.

Missouri – Aldermen Pass Legislation Limiting Campaign Contributions to $10,000 in St. Louis Elections
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Koran Addo | Published: 10/7/2016

Members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen passed a pair of reform bills, one intended to keep wealthy donors from unduly influencing local elections and the other meant to keep elected officials honest about the gifts they receive. The first bill would limit campaign contributions in city elections to $10,000 per election cycle. It also would the Municipal Officials and Officers Ethics Commission to investigate campaign finance violations. The board also passed a bill requiring elected officials to report within 30 days any gift or travel expense valued at $375 or more given to them or an immediate family member. Violating the reporting requirement would result in docked pay.

New York – At Graft Scandal’s Center, a Lobbyist with a Long History in the Cuomo Orbit
New York Times – Vivian Yee | Published: 10/7/2016

For New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the corruption scandal that threatens to inflict lasting harm on his political career and his family’s legacy is a betrayal of multiple dimensions. It is a betrayal of his plans to revitalize the economies in western and central New York, and of the Cuomos’ political self-image, built by his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, on clean, competent, accountable government. And if anyone made it all possible, it seemed to be one of their own: Todd Howe, who has implicated himself and helped federal prosecutors charge eight other Cuomo advisers and donors in a wide-ranging bribery scheme surrounding the governor’s office.

New York – Disclosure Law for Outside Income Often Ignored, Rarely Enforced
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/11/2016

The recent spate of corruption charges in New York has sparked calls for closer scrutiny of state officials’ outside jobs. But a law already on the books that addresses the issue does not appear to be rigorously enforced. A 2011 law requires lobbyists or their clients who pay a state employee more than $1,000 in a year to submit a form detailing the exact amount every six months. It also requires a description of the nature of the state employee’s outside work. Since the law was passed, only 24 lobbying clients and 11 lobbyists have submitted paperwork detailing the hiring of state officials. Joint Commission on Public Ethics spokesperson Walter McClure said he did not know of someone ever been fined for failing to file this kind of report.

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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