News You Can Use Digest - October 21, 2016 - State and Federal Communications

October 21, 2016  •  

News You Can Use Digest – October 21, 2016



Companies Used Clinton Fundraisers to Lobby State Department
USA Today – Kevin McCoy | Published: 10/18/2016

While it is widely known that some companies and foreign governments gave money to the Clinton family’s foundations, perhaps in an effort to gain favor, one of the key parts of the puzzle has not been reported: at least a dozen of those same companies lobbied the State Department using lobbyists who doubled as major Clinton campaign fundraisers, according to a USA Today analysis. Those companies gave as much as $16 million to the Clinton charities. At least four of the lobbyists they hired are “Hillblazers,” the campaign’s name for supporters who have raised $100,000 or more for her current White House race.

Dems Use Loophole to Pump Millions into Fight for the House
Politico – Scott Bland | Published: 10/18/2016

The Democratic Party is directing millions of extra dollars to its House candidates this fall by way of a legal loophole that has helped them bypass the typical limits on coordinated spending between parties and candidates, all while linking some vulnerable Republicans to Donald Trump. Typically, FEC regulations limit parties to just $48,100 of spending in direct coordination with most House candidates. But under a decade-old precedent, candidates who word their television ads a certain way can split the cost of those ads with their party, even if that means blowing past the normal coordinated spending caps.

Do Campaign Ads Matter? Donald Trump Gives a Rare Chance to Find Out
New York Times – Lynn Vavreck | Published: 10/19/2016

Since June, there have been roughly 300,000 television commercials on behalf of presidential candidates. Most of them have been in Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina, but a small number have been on national networks. Eighty percent of the ads to date were run by or on behalf of Hillary Clinton, while only 18 percent were shown by or on behalf of Donald Trump. Nearly everywhere the race is competitive, Clinton has run far more ads. Trump prefers a different style of campaigning, with rallies and the free media coverage of them, along with his frequent Twitter posts. Fundraising has taken a back seat. This year is a chance to find out whether Trump’s method is a good substitute for a conventional ad campaign.

Ripples from the ‘How Low Can They Go’ Campaign
New York Times – Patrick Healy and Farah Stockman | Published: 10/16/2016

For voters across party lines, the presidential race was already considered ugly and exhausting, dominated by two candidates many voters find deplorable. And yet it somehow managed to tip into something worse in recent days: a twilight zone of politics where sexual assault accusations have become consuming issues in the final weeks of the campaign. Among many Democrats, despair is setting in that the next president could be, in their minds, a sexual predator. Among many Republicans, disgust is widespread that the next president could be married to a man who was, as they see it, a serial adulterer at best. The election result now seems guaranteed to feel like a violation of the body politic for one half of the country or the other.

From the States and Municipalities:

California – How the Federal Government’s Bribery Case Against 2 Brothers Unraveled
Los Angeles Times – Joel Rubin | Published: 10/17/2016

Last October, FBI agents arrested Sukhbir Singh and his brother Jimmy Sandhu, the owners of a tow truck company. The men were charged with bribing a member of the Huntington Park City Council in an effort to buy his support for higher towing fees. The lead agent in the case laid out in court papers seemingly irrefutable evidence against the men: for more than a year, the council member had been working as an informant and secretly recorded his conversations with the brothers. The recordings appeared to show the men offering money in exchange for the councilperson’s vote. The case, however, was anything but open and shut. Since the arrests, the government’s case against Singh and Sandhu has all but unraveled.

Federal Judge Asks: Is DiMasi benefiting from political connections?
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia and John Ellement | Published: 10/17/2016

The federal judge tasked with deciding whether to grant former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi early release from prison demanded to know if DiMasi is benefiting from political connections that have survived his corruption conviction. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf ordered federal prosecutors and attorneys for DiMasi to provide him with more information justifying his early release from prison on compassionate grounds. Wolf expressed concern that releasing a state official convicted of corruption could be seen as prosecutors assisting a politically-connected individual, while lesser-known prisoners with similar health issues do not get the same relief.

Lawmakers Weigh Call for Special Panel to Review Ethics Laws
Boston Herald; Associated Press | Published: 10/18/2016

A legislative committee held a public hearing on Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s resolution to create an 11-member Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government. If approved, the task force would review the state’s conflict-of-interest and ethics rules, and campaign finance and lobbying laws. It would also look at the feasibility of extending state lobbying laws to cities and towns. DeLeo began floating the idea of the ethics panel after reports surfaced of a federal investigation into whether state Sen. Brian Joyce had used his official position to boost his private law practice.

Amendment 2 Could Bring Campaign Donation Limits Back to Missouri
KWMU – Jason Rosenbaum | Published: 10/14/2016

There is a good chance that Missouri’s system of unlimited campaign contributions may be coming to an end. The ballot measure that would make the change, Amendment 2, has little organized opposition. And a prior ballot initiative in the 1990s that capped political donations passed without much trouble. But even if the measure passes and survives an expected court fight, opponents of the proposal say it may not actually stem the flow of money into Missouri politics. Instead, they contend it may steer a deluge of cash into other types of committees that would not be affected by the amendment.

New York – JCOPE Releases Draft Lobbying, Funding Regulations
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/13/2016

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) proposed new regulations for lobbying in New York. JCOPE is seeking public comments and plans to hold a hearing before it formally considers the proposal drafted by its staff. Changes that follow legislation enacted this year call for lowering the filing threshold for total lobbying expenditures from $50,000 to $15,000 and reducing the minimum contribution amount that requires source disclosure from $5,000 to $2,500. The draft rules would formally expand lobbying to include efforts such as setting up a meeting between a lawmaker and lobbyist, not just directly lobbying a lawmaker. They also clarify the definitions of “grassroots lobbying.”

New York – Lobbyist Todd Howe: $85,000 from Cor Development was a bribe, not a loan – Tim Knauss | Published: 10/17/2016

A lobbyist with ties to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a novel argument why he should not be forced to repay a company $85,000: it was meant to be a bribe, not a loan. Cor Development is suing its former lobbyist Todd Howe for the money. Howe has already pleaded guilty for his role in a massive “pay-to-play” scandal involving a number of the governor’s upstate economic development initiatives that led to the arrest of nine Cuomo associates or donors. Among those arrested were two top Cor executives.

Ohio – Former Red-Light Camera Exec Sentenced for Role in Bribery Scheme
Columbus Dispatch – Rick Rouan | Published: 10/19/2016

Karen Finley, the former chief executive officer of Redflex Traffic Systems, was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison for her role in a bribes-for-contracts scheme in Ohio. Investigators said Finley was part of a scheme to funnel $70,000 in bribes through campaign contributions to elected officials in Columbus and Cincinnati to bring red-light cameras to the cities. Lobbyist John Raphael was the middleman in the scheme, according to investigators. Finley and others provided the campaign contributions to Raphael by paying him false invoices for “consulting services,” they said, and Raphael then made personal contributions to the campaigns of elected officials or to the state and local Democratic parties.

South Dakota – National Groups Spar over South Dakota Ballot Measure
Center for Public Integrity – Liz Essley Whyte | Published: 10/13/2016

South Dakotans in November will be asked to vote on a measure that would initiate public financing of campaigns, expand disclosure of political donors, and creating an ethics commission to police legislators’ behavior. Both sides in the debate are planning to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get what they want. But neither side hails from South Dakota. It is a twist on the notion that all politics is local. When it comes to statewide ballot measures, most politics is actually national.

Tennessee – Mark Cate, Former Bill Haslam Top Aide, Registers as Lobbyist
The Tennessean – Dave Boucher and Nate Rau | Published: 10/15/2016

The day after The Tennessean published an August investigation into the activities of Mark Cate, Gov. Bill Haslam’s former chief of staff, Cate registered with the state as a lobbyist. The investigation noted Cate’s relationship with several prominent entities and the services he provided during a one-year waiting period, during which elected officials and high-ranking staff members are not allowed to serve as lobbyists. Cate denied lobbying for those companies. In one case, the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. (CVC) said Cate was helping with legislation, then later clarified he was not lobbying. Cate has since registered as a lobbyist for the CVC and eight other companies.

Texas – Plagued by Corruption Allegations, Dallas County Now Has Formal Purchasing Rules
Dallas Morning News – Naomi Martin | Published: 10/18/2016

Dallas County commissioners approved a new purchasing manual that leaders hope will strengthen the county’s contracting process, which has long been plagued by allegations of political meddling. Overhauling the troubled purchasing department has taken years. A 2009 outside report first identified 25 shortcomings in the county’s process for managing its hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of contracts. Commissioner John Wiley Price was indicted in 2014 on federal charges of rigging bids and taking kickbacks, charges he denies, but that highlighted the lack of official oversight.

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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