News You Can Use Digest - October 24, 2014 - State and Federal Communications

October 24, 2014  •  

News You Can Use Digest – October 24, 2014



Corporations, Advocacy Groups Spend Big on Ballot Measures

The Center for Public Integrity – Liz Whyte | Published: 10/23/2014

Voters may not know it, but the millions of dollars paying for ads on ballot measures they will consider on November 4 come from large companies and national advocacy groups. Many of the messages are tailored to defend or expand the business interests of companies such as Coca-Cola and Monsanto, yet few have their names in the ads. Through October 20, television ad spending on ballot issues totaled roughly $119 million. Four of the five most expensive ballot initiatives feature at least one corporate patron.

How Judicial Campaign Ads May Be Affecting Legal Decisions

Washington Post – Niraj Chokshi | Published: 10/22/2014

A new study found that the more ads aired during state Supreme Court campaigns, the more likely justices are to rule against criminal defendants, potentially from fear of appearing “soft on crime.” That finding is the result of an analysis of 3,000 state Supreme Court criminal appeals from 2008 to 2013 and is the latest in a string of recent research that suggests increased campaign spending, by pro-business groups in many cases, may be distorting judicial rulings. The report also shows outside spending in judicial races has been on the rise in recent years and such groups tend to buy more attack ads than candidates or parties.


How Billionaire Oligarchs Are Becoming Their Own Political Parties

New York Times – Jim Rutenberg | Published: 10/17/2014

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 effectively blew apart the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s (BCRA) restrictions on outside groups and their use of corporate and union money in elections. That same year, a related ruling from a lower court made it easier for wealthy individuals to finance those organizations. The result was a power shift, from the party bosses to the rich individuals who ran super PACs. Individuals with the wherewithal can start what are in essence their own political parties, built around pet causes or industries and backing politicians uniquely answerable to them. “Suddenly, we privatized politics,” said Trevor Potter, an election lawyer who helped draft BCRA.

Why House Republicans Alienate Hispanics: They don’t need them

New York Times – Nate Cohn | Published: 10/21/2014

Republicans would stand little, if any, chance of winning the presidency in 2016 if they do not do more to appeal to Hispanic voters. Yet the party’s congressional leaders show little sign of doing so, blocking an immigration overhaul and criticizing President Barack Obama for his plan to defer deportation for undocumented migrants. There is a simple reason that congressional Republicans are willing to risk alienating Hispanics: they do not need their votes, at least not this year. The GOP would probably hold the House, and still have a real chance to retake the Senate, if they lost every single Hispanic voter in the country.

From the States and Municipalities:

Alabama – Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard Indicted

USA Today – Brian Lyman (Montgomery Advertiser) | Published: 10/20/2014

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard was indicted on 23 felony counts in a months-long investigation into allegations of political corruption. According to the indictment, Hubbard used his position as chairperson of the state Republican Party and as a House member to secure business for his companies. He is also accused of soliciting help with his business from some of the most prominent names in the state, including former Gov. Bob Riley, who is now a lobbyist. As part of the wider probe, Rep. Greg Wren pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of using his office for personal gain and resigned his seat. Rep. Barry Moore pleaded not guilty to perjury and giving false statements, and his trial is scheduled to start soon.

California – Campaign Cash Crackdown OK’d

San Diego Union Tribune – David Garrick | Published: 10/21/2014

San Diego City Council members unanimously adopted a series of new campaign finance regulations. The rules would force PACs to disclose their largest contributors earlier in a campaign. They would also make it harder for a political committee to reproduce and distribute the exact same advertisements and campaign literature used by a candidate the committee supports.

Illinois – Reporter Resigns Following Rauner Complaint

Belleville News Democrat – Sara Burnett (Associated Press) | Published: 10/22/2014

Dave McKinney quit his job at The Chicago Sun-Times and accused the newspaper of bowing to pressure from gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner by removing him from the campaign beat. McKinney, a 19-year veteran of the newspaper who covered the state capital, said The Sun-Times reassigned him after the Rauner campaign accused him of a conflict-of-interest, which he denies. McKinney said the paper stopped assigning him to cover the gubernatorial campaign after publishing an article by him and two other reporters that alleged Rauner made bullying statements to a person who had threatened to sue one of his companies. The newspaper recently reversed a three-year policy of not endorsing political candidates; its lone endorsement of the 2014 campaign was of Rauner for governor.

North Carolina – Charter School Power Broker Turns Public Education into Private Profits

ProPublica – Marian Wang | Published: 10/15/2014

Businessperson Baker Mitchel has started four charter schools in North Carolina. His model for success embraces decreased government regulation, increased privatization, and, if all goes well, healthy profits. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through his chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls. Over six years, Mitchell’s companies have taken in close to $20 million in fees and rent, some of the schools’ biggest expenses. The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Unlike traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there is no competitive bidding.

South Carolina – Donors Use Loophole to Pour Money into Governor’s Race

Charleston Post & Courier – Jeremy Borden | Published: 10/17/2014

Chowdary Yalamanchili, a Houston real-estate investor, has maxed out campaign contributions to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for himself and at least 16 business entities. Haley’s opponent, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, has received tens of thousands in donations from several different entities affiliated with the South Carolina Association for Justice, a trial lawyer’s trade group. In both cases, the organizations and people involved were within the state’s $3,500 maximum contribution limit but were able to give more by creating separate but similar business entities. Under South Carolina law, each business or corporate entity is considered a separate person, able to contribute the personal maximum of $3,500.

South Carolina – SC House Speaker Harrell Pleads to 6 Misdemeanor Finance Violations; Gets No Jail Time

The Daily Journal – Meg Kinnard (Associated Press) | Published: 10/23/2014

South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty to six counts of misconduct in office and will immediately resign his seat. Harrell was sentenced to six years in prison, which will be suspended as long as he completes three years of probation as part of the plea agreement. He also agreed to help prosecutors in any other investigations into wrongdoing involving the Legislature. He must pay a $30,000 fine and reimburse the state $93,958, and cannot to seek or hold public office for three years. Harrell was indicted in September on ethics and misconduct-related charges, including illegally using campaign money for personal expenses and filing false disclosure reports.

Vermont – Court Finds Republican Governors Association Violated Vermont Campaign Finance Law

Columbus Republic – Dave Gram (Associated Press) | Published: 10/22/2014

A Vermont judge ruled the Republican Governors Association (RGA) violated campaign finance law when it set up a PAC – Green Mountain Prosperity – that the state said was designed to get around a $2,000 campaign contribution limit. Green Mountain Prosperity was active during the close 2010 gubernatorial race won by Peter Shumlin over Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie. The RGA argued Green Mountain Prosperity was an independent expenditure PAC, not coordinating with a party or campaign. The court found the RGA and Green Mountain Prosperity had no separate board, no separate staff, and no separate fundraising apparatus.

Washington – Some Lobbyists Play Key Role in Washington Campaign Finance

KUOW – Austin Jenkins | Published: 10/20/2014

Unions and business interests may be among the top political spenders in Washington this election year, but there is an influential group that does not necessarily show up in the campaign finance reports – lobbyists. So far in 2014, lobbyists have reported nearly $6 million in political donations. But that does not capture the whole picture. Lobbyists only have to report their clients’ contributions if they deliver the checks themselves, or if they are the ones who make the decisions about political giving. Simply advising clients on where to give and how much to give does not trigger the reporting requirement. That means this aspect of the lobbying business happens largely behind-the-scenes.

Wisconsin – Campaign Coordination Suit Filed in a Way to Get Favorable Judge

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Patrick Marley | Published: 10/17/2014

When a conservative organizations filed a lawsuit over Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws, its attorneys filled out court paperwork in a way that all but guaranteed they got a judge who has already ruled groups and candidates can work closely together. Two weeks after Citizens for Responsible Government Advocates filed its suit, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa issued an order limiting how the campaign finance law could be enforced, opening the door for groups and candidates to team up in the weeks before the November 4 election.

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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