News You Can Use Digest - October 17, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

October 17, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – October 17, 2014



Campaign Finance Forty Years Later

New York Times; Staff –   | Published: 10/13/2014

Forty years after Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act, many of the provisions have been struck down as unconstitutional and U.S. Supreme Court rulings have paved the way for outside groups to raise and spend more money. The New York Times, in its “Room for Debate” feature, asked seven experts on the issue to give their opinions on the state of campaign finance reform today.

FEC Votes Suggest Gridlock Is Easing

Politico – Byron Tau and Kyle Cheney | Published: 10/9/2014

After some five years of ties and gridlock, the FEC approved several measures as part of a compromise brokered between its two newest members: Republican Chairperson Lee Goodman and Democratic Vice Chairperson Ann Ravel. Goodman and Ravel were both appointed at the same time by President Barack Obama in 2013, and they have forged a bipartisan alliance to help the commission function better. The FEC has long been a bastion of gridlock, and the recent votes have no practical impact on campaign finance laws. But the FEC’s action suggests further movement is possible on what has been seen as a hopelessly dysfunctional panel.

Secret Money Fueling a Flood of Political Ads

New York Times – Nicholas Confessore | Published: 10/10/2014

Fifty-five percent of broadcast advertising in the midterm elections has been paid for by groups that do not fully disclose their donors, compared with 45 percent from super PACs, which are required to file regular financial disclosures, according to an analysis by The New York Times. The preponderance of secretly funded advertising defies one of the assumptions of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed outside groups to raise and spend more money, so long as they did not coordinate with candidates and parties. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy envisioned campaigns in which unlimited independent spending by unions and corporations would be paired with robust real-time disclosure.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – Kevin de León Becomes State Senate Leader in $50,000 Event

Los Angeles Times – Seema Metha and Patrick McGreevy | Published: 10/15/2014

Kevin de Leon was sworn in as the first Latino to head the California Senate in more than a century with an expensive soiree. The event at Walt Disney Concert Hall with an estimated price tag of $50,000 resembled a presidential inaugural more than the low-key affairs at the Capitol held by past Senate leaders. The California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation, which receives donations from special interests seeking influence in the Legislature, picked up the tab for the event. Some suggested it was an inappropriate extravagance at a time when the state Senate is struggling to shake off the taint of corruption scandals and regain public trust.

Colorado – Citizens United Can Make Movie without Disclosing Donors, Court Says

Denver Post – Joey Bunch | Published: 10/14/2014

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Citizens United can air a movie it has produced about Colorado politics without identifying its donors. Citizens United sued after Secretary of State Scott Gessler said the movie fell under Colorado’s campaign finance laws. A federal judge agreed the movie was electioneering that required disclosure. But Citizens United argued the film deserved the same free-speech protections as traditional media. The appeals court said while the movie is exempt from disclosure, the secretary of state’s office could require it for ads if the ads name a candidate and make a case for support or defeat.

Georgia – Once Again, a Carter Aims to Govern in Georgia

New York Times – Richard Fausset | Published: 10/15/2014

The most famous name in Georgia gubernatorial race belongs to state Sen. Jason Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. But rather than a referendum on the Carter legacy, the contest remains focused to a large extent on the record of incumbent Nathan Deal. One hurdle for Deal, said Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University, is the possibility that conservative voters, soured by continuing ethics controversies tied to Deal’s 2010 campaign, may see him as “a candidate that they cannot get really excited about,” and sit out the election.

Illinois – Campaign Contribution Limits Off in Chicago Mayor’s Race

Chicago Tribune – John Byrne | Published: 10/14/2014

William Kelly gave $100,000 of his own money to his Chicago mayoral campaign. In doing so, he has also lifted the cap for campaign donations in the race. State law mandates that the $5,300 individual campaign contribution limit be lifted in a municipal race in one of two instances: a candidate donates at $100,000 or more to their campaign fund or an outside organization puts that much into a race to support or attack a candidate in the race.

Kentucky – Top Lobbyists Make More than Governor – a LOT More

Louisville Courier Journal – Tom Loftus | Published: 10/16/2014

Through the first eight months of 2014, Kentucky’s top lobbyists have made more money in fees than Steve Beshear will make in salary all year as governor. Lobbyist Bob Babbage, for example, has been paid $562,433 through August 31. Beshear is paid an annual salary of $138,012.

Missouri – Ethics Complaint Filed over Lobbyist Gifts to Missouri Lawmakers

Kansas City Star – Jason Hancock | Published: 10/15/2014

A complaint was filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission over a $3,000 dinner held at a Dallas steakhouse in August for five state legislators during the American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual convention. While five lobbyists reported the gifts to the commission as going to the individual lawmakers who attended, seven other lobbyists reported the gifts to “the entire General Assembly.” Missouri law states that a gift can be reported to a group – such as a committee, legislative chamber, or the entire Legislature – if all of the members of that group are “invited in writing.”

North Carolina – Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon Sentenced to 44 Months in Federal Prison

Charlotte Observer – Mark Washburn, Michael Gordon, Ames Alexander, and Rick Rothacker | Published: 10/14/2014

Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon was sentenced to 44 months in prison after admitting to using his public positions in North Carolina’s largest city for personal financial gain, including taking at least $50,000 in bribes. A nearly four-year investigation resulted in his arrest and resignation in March. Prosecutors said Cannon accepted bribes from a strip club owner and two undercover federal agents posing as investors in exchange for helping them navigate city government and zoning issues through his elected positions. Prosecutors said he took cash, paid travel to Las Vegas, and use of a luxury apartment from the undercover agents.

Oregon – Oregon’s Embattled First Lady Faces Ethics Probe over Business Activity

Washington Post – Jose DelReal | Published: 10/14/2014

After admitting to a sham marriage to help an immigrant remain in the U.S., Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber’s fiancée said she lived on a property in 1997 that was intended to be used for a marijuana growing operation. Cylvia Hayes issued a statement saying the plan “never materialized” on the remote property. She is also under fire for earning money as a consultant from organizations seeking to influence state policy. Kitzhaber asked the Oregon Government Ethics Commission for a formal opinion on whether Hayes is subject to state ethics laws and, if so, whether she has broken them in the consulting matter. It is not clear how much damage the reports about Hayes could do to Kitzhaber’s re-election campaign.

Pennsylvania – Phila. Ethics Board Tightens Campaign-Finance Rules

Philadelphia Inquirer – Chris Hepp | Published: 10/15/2014

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics approved a series of amendments to the city’s campaign finance law, the most significant aimed at tightening restrictions on what constitutes a third party’s support of a candidate. The board approved an amendment to address the reuse of campaign materials produced by a candidate, but then picked up and distributed by an individual or PAC independent of the candidate. Under the new rule, such reuse would be considered an in-kind campaign contribution and would fall under the city’s donation limits.

Texas – An Ad with a Wheelchair Shakes up the Texas Governor’s Race

New York Times – David Montgomery | Published: 10/13/2014

Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis defended her campaign television ad that highlights opponent Greg Abbott’s use of a wheelchair, denying it exploits his disability while attacking his record. The 30-second ad begins with a shot of an empty wheelchair. It criticizes Abbot, the state’s attorney general, for receiving millions from a 1984 lawsuit after a falling tree injured his spine, then working to limit the legal rights of other victims. The spot has provoked a nationwide debate over its tone and the boundaries of political attack ads.

Washington – Ethics Panel Votes to Limit Number of Free Meals Lawmakers Can Accept from Lobbyists

Columbus Republic – Rachel LaCorte (Associated Press) | Published: 10/14/2014

Beginning January 1, Washington lawmakers could accept as many as a dozen free meals from lobbyists each year under a new rule adopted by the Legislative Ethics Board. The rule also defines a meal as a sit-down meal such as breakfast or lunch, even if the meal is served at a private residence. Receptions hosted by lobbyists would not count as a meal. The board planned to meet again before the end of the year to consider draft legislation to change the current law that only requires meals worth $50 or more to be reported to the state Public Disclosure Commission.

Wisconsin – Federal Judge Orders State to Stop Enforcing Anti-‘Coordination’ Law – Dee Hall | Published: 10/14/2014

U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa blocked enforcement of a Wisconsin election law that is at the center of an investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign and more than two dozen conservative organizations. The ruling allows candidates to coordinate and work closely with independent groups that do not explicitly tell people how to vote. State prosecutors cited the coordination law in launching a so-called John Doe investigation into Walker’s campaign. A federal appeals court overturned a ruling from Randa in May that stopped the probe, but also said the issue needs to be resolved in state courts.

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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